Barrage - Rei Hiroe Artworks

Distributor:  Shogakukan

Authors/creators:  Rei Hiroe

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  2,000 (16 approx.)

Number of Pages:  168

ISBN-10:  4-0919-9890-9

ISBN-13:  978-4091998903

Date Reviewed:  28th December 2009

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


Anyone who has read my reviews of Black Lagoon on Animetion will know that it was one of my favourite series of recent years.  As well as the action the design and art in the series and Rei Hiroe's original manga was superb, so an artbook choc full of it would definitely be worth buying right?  Well it would, but despite the cover this isn't exactly the Black Lagoon artbook I expected.

Things start well though, the first portion of the book is packed with Hiroe's superb full colour artwork of the various femme fatales of Black Lagoon, many of which were used as the cover images for the manga volumes.  Hiroe's computer-coloured artwork is stunning, and the images of Revy, Balalaika and Roberta really stand out.  I especially liked the double page spread which showed two identical images of Roberta in her maid outfit, one normal and the other spattered from head to toe with blood.  There are far more pictures of the ladies of Black Lagoon (well, 'ladies' may be a bit too nice, homicidal maniacs is closer to the mark) than the men, not that it's a bad thing but there could have been more characters covered.  This said the Black Lagoon artwork is everything you would want from a Black Lagoon artbook - big, bold, full-colour images taking up whole pages and printed cleanly on high quality paper.  However, the big problem is that the Black Lagoon section only makes up 26 pages of a 168 page book.

The next section of the book covers Hiroe's artwork for one of his other series and promotional art he has done for other people's series.  Some of this is extremely good, especially the artwork he has done for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Hollow Ataraxia, but even this section is only 36 pages long.  In fact the remainder of the book - over half of its length in fact - is taken up by the first four chapters of a manga called Phantom Bullet.  In black and white.  Whilst the artwork is good and the story looks interesting it is (unsurprisingly) completely in Japanese, and this is a problem.  The majority of Western fans of Black Lagoon will be unable to read much Japanese, and to be honest would be hoping for an book of Black Lagoon artwork.  Whilst the other artwork is excellent the majority of it is for series that have not been released in the UK or US, and it's disappointing that a self-proclaimed book of Rei Hiroe's artwork is half-filled by a story instead.

It is likely that the story is rare in Japan, or maybe it's exclusive to the book, but for Western fans the language barrier takes a lot away from it.  Barrage: Rei Hiroe Artworks is an awkward book as far as a western

audience is concerned, and the title is somewhat misleading.  On the one hand you have the kind of artwork you were hoping for and expecting for about half of the book, whilst the rest is a well drawn story which makes little sense unless you have a decent level of Japanese reading ability.  It's a shame as the art on show is superb, and a book full of it would be a very easy recommendation.  However, as it stands and with today's exchange rate you'll have to decide whether half an artbook and half an unintelligible story is worth 16.  Much as I love Black Lagoon and the artwork on show here, I can't see that it is.


The final pages have the usual index of images and an interview with Riroe...in Japanese.  It also comes with a dust jacket that hides an alternative cover image.  Would be a lot better in an English translation, but as it stands it's below average.


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