As a fan of Azumanga Daioh I was obviously quite interested when I came across an artbook of the series in Japan. I bought the book of course but was quite surprised at the content as it is very different from any other artbook I own.
I know that the words 'Animation Line Art' on the cover should have given the game away, but nonetheless I was still surprised that this book contains only line art. I expected the book to have something else in it, an interview or random colour picture for example, but - for once - the book delivered exactly what it said on the front. It is simply a reproduction of all of the anime staff's line art character production sketches, completely unembellished, in book form.
Luckily I quite like line art so I was really happy with this book, but I can imagine that many would not be. On the plus side, there is a lot of line art on display here, covering not only major character like Chiyo and Sakaki but also minor ones like Mr Tadakichi. Each character is depicted in a variety of costumes, from every conceivable angle and with several facial expressions, whilst all of the artist's scribbled notes are left untouched. It really gives you a feel of looking into the creative process and is a visual lesson in anime character design, simple lines on a page yet full of life and detail. The simplicity of the drawings is the book's strength, but the simplicity of the book itself is probably it's downfall.
The thing is that this book is probably the purest artbook I have seen, all it contains is line art, there are no text pages at all - not even a title page. On the plus side this means that it is packed with art, but on the minus side there is nothing to explain it or put it into any kind of context. There are scribbled notes on many of the pages (in Japanese of course), but other than that there's nothing. The paper the art is printed on is also quite low grade, which leads to the biggest problem - each page is only printed on a single side. This means that effectively there are 90 pages of actual art in a 180 page book, and considering the cost of importing artbooks this may be a step to far for many people.
At the end of the day if you are interested in drawing your
own fan art images or are just interested in the simplicity of anime or manga
character design, then you would no doubt find this book useful and possibly
intriguing. There are no artbooks that cover a single subject so
comprehensively, but many artbooks do contain line art alongside colour pictures
and background information. On these counts this book really falls down,
there is no context for anything, just a wad of line drawings that would
probably hold little interest for those unfamiliar with the series. One
for Azumanga Daioh fans and budding artists only.
Absolutely nothing more than a few scribbled notes from the artists in Japanese, which probably don't tell you anything of interest.