One Piece is a long running series that is only just starting to become popular in the UK, where the anime series is now showing on TV (albeit in heavily edited form) and the first volume of the manga is released this month. It was believed by some US distributors that Eiichiro Oda's highly stylised art was just too cartoony for Western audiences, and that the franchise would never take off. However, they were wrong, the series has been a hit in mainland Europe for years, and now is emulating that success in the UK and US.
Color Walk 1 (excuse the American spelling, that's how it's spelled on the book) features cover art and promotional images painted by Oda between August 1997 and April 1999, roughly equating to the first eight volumes of the manga, and some of his concept art. The layout and design of the book is absolutely faultless, with the images presented in chronological order and divided into chapters by date, and the artwork given the space it truly deserves. Many of Oda's bright and cheerful compositions take up entire pages or double page spreads and the printing quality is excellent, really bringing out the vibrant colours used throughout. Also, some pages feature chapters of the manga presented in full colour, which makes for a really interesting comparison with the monochrome art in the manga books themselves.
Eiichiro Oda's art is unusual, whereas manga art is famous for using big eyes to convey emotion he uses big mouths, which gives his artwork a more childish look. His use of bright, bold colours and incredibly surreal elements (dancing pirate penguins anyone?) also enhances this child-like feel, but he packs in a lot of detail and occasional darker elements too. The book allows his artwork to take centre stage, and unlike many artbooks there is very little padding. Many artbooks will squeeze lots of pictures onto a single page, add lots of monochrome sketches to lower production costs or pack the space around the images with text, but One Piece Color Walk 1 doesn't do this. Instead, with the exception of six pages of production sketches and early images, each picture is given it's own page and the comments are brief and unobtrusive. Also, pretty much the whole book is in colour, and this combined with the generally cheerful tone of the images really gives it a breezy and enjoyable air.
What you end up with is a collection of big, bright, and often
bizarre images that is a joy to look at. Although the artwork may not be
to everyone's taste, One Piece Color Walk 1 is exactly what an artbook
should be, it gives priority to the images and cuts no corners on the
presentation. It is common for Japanese artbooks to cram themselves with
line art, black and white drawings and text because it is cheaper to print and
can be printed on cheaper paper, but this book gives you exactly what you want
and for a great price. Now the book is also available in English (courtesy
of US distributor Viz Media) there is little excuse not to pick it up.
One Piece Color Walk 1 is one of the best artbooks I have seen and is a
book that I would recommend to anyone.
Quite a bit. The slipcover is printed on both sides with the reverse side displaying a map of the East Blue sea, and the book itself has a cover image of the characters' footprints in the sand. There is a contents page at the front and an index of all the images at the back, whilst there are also small comments printed on the reverse of some of the larger images. However, the most interesting thing is a four page interview with Eiichiro Oda and Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama, unfortunately as I have the Japanese version of the book I can't read this, but presumably it is translated to English in the US release.