yoshitoshi ABe lain illustrations - ab# rebuild an omnipresence in wired

Distributor:  Wanimagazine

Artist:  yoshitoshi ABe

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  ¥3500 (approx. £20)

Number of Pages:  144

ISBN-10:  4-8982-9487-1

SKU:  978-48982-94871

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


The creepy Serial Experiments Lain anime series was a bit of a hit when it was released in America a few years back.  The 13-episode series drew critical plaudits and sold pretty well in the US, whilst in the UK it was one of the first titles released by MVM as part of a deal with the now defunct anime distributor Geneon.  Its complex and multi-layered plot was one of the reasons for its success, but the main thing that set it apart was the eyecatching and extremely unusual character designs of Japanese artist yoshitoshi ABe.

Back when the series was released in Japan a couple of artbooks were released alongside it, the main one was called An Omnipresence in Wired.  The book featured promotional artwork and cover illustrations from the Serial Experiments Lain anime and PlayStation game, as well as rough sketches and previously unreleased images.  However, this isn't a review of that book.  This is a review of a more recent one called yoshitoshi ABe lain illustrations - ab# rebuild an omnipresence in wired.  I mention the original book because of the subtitle of this one, yes, despite the new title this book is basically a re-issue of the original Omnipresence in Wired artbook, and this is both a plus and a minus.

You may have noticed that the Japanese price of this book is unusually quite high, so to start with what do you get in the book?  Well, much like the original book lain illustrations is a well presented hardback tome featuring glorious full-page Serial Experiments Lain artwork.  Unlike many artbooks there's no screenshots from the anime or storyboard/script pages to pad the book out or reduce printing costs.  This book oozes quality, with high grade paper used throughout and clean, crisp printing that brings the most out of ABe's unique art.  The book is split into several sections and reads right to left like most Japanese art books.  The first section features several full-page or double page full-colour images interspersed with the

original pencil sketches ABe drew before colouring them.  This may sound like a cop-out but it's not, the clarity of the pencil sketches often highlights detail overlooked in the colour images, and make for an intriguing comparison.  This section is followed up with the short (and very creepy) Lain manga The Nightmare of Fabrication, an 18-page full-colour story from ABe which is the only manga incarnation of Serial Experiments Lain.  This manga was included in the Omnipresence in Wired artbook as well, and most of the content after this point is the same as the earlier book with a few minor tweaks and additional images. 

The next chapter features ABe's beautiful cover illustrations for the various releases of the anime series, including the DVD and Laserdisc cover art alongside the CD soundtrack artwork.  Again these images are interspersed with several pencil sketches, often with the colour and pencil images side by side on two-page spreads.  Following this is a section showing artwork used in the Serial Experiments Lain game on the Sony PlayStation, ranging from cover art and artwork used in the game itself to concept sketches and designs.  This section also includes a couple of poster images and the

bizarre little comedy drawings included as easter eggs on the Lain DVDs.  However, it is the following section that's the most interesting, as it combines fourteen pieces of ABe's art with text from Lain scriptwriter Chiaki Konaka to create images themed to each of the anime series' thirteen episodes and one to the game.  These images are visually striking and beautifully composed, with the text combining with the artwork to brilliant effect.  It's also worth pointing out that the text is in both English and Japanese, and ties in well with the deep and dark themes of the series.  This section is one of the most intriguing and impressively artistic I have ever come across in a Japanese artbook, and really sets it apart as an accompaniment to the series rather than a cash in.  After this the book rounds off with a section of pencil sketches (including several that weren't in the original book) and a collage of photos taken by ABe of random objects and scenery.

 This book is truly exceptional.  It's a perfect companion to the Serial Experiments Lain anime series, but more than that it is simply a stunning artbook.  The only complaint that can be levelled against it is that it is pretty much identical to the original Omnipresence in Wired book, and the additional or revised content is hard to justify shelling out the cash for if you own the original.  Also, as the book comes sealed and in a slipcase box featuring new cover art, you may not know that until you have bought it (trust me, as I own both).  This could be pretty expensive considering the import cost of the book would be well over £50 if it wasn't for one thing - Digital Manga Publishing translated it and released it in America!  This is notable not just because it's in English, or because US import prices are far less than Japanese ones, but also because the original book was not released in the West, so you won't have the double-dipping dilemma.  The American edition also features brand new sketches and content not included in the Japanese one, which is pretty much unheard of.  yoshitoshi ABe's artwork is stunningly original and his artwork for Serial Experiments Lain is amongst his best work.  The fact the book is available in the West makes it an essential purchase - no self-respecting anime fan should be without this book, and any Lain fan who hasn't got it needs to rectify that immediately!


The Japanese book has a nice embossed black cover and comes in a sturdy slipcase box, which was only included with the special edition of the book on its US release.  Inside there is a page of thick tracing paper at the start and end of the book with colour pictures of Lain printed on them, these sheets overlay a background image giving you the opportunity to see the background art without Lain on it.  A bit pointless admittedly, but interesting nonetheless.  The book also features the usual appendix listing all of the featured artwork with production information for each one, alongside a résumé-style list of yoshitoshi ABe's professional works.  Pretty good stuff


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