I’m a big fan of the manga Death Note. Not only because the story questioned morality, but because the art was vivid and at times spectacular. The story was intriging too as it showed us what could happen if a common teenager had the power to kill and be influenced by a god. That required a hell of an artistic prowess to pull off with gangly weird gods hanging over people’s shoulders. Out this week, we look at Takeshi Obata’s art book which displays much of his Death Note covers and full pages in their original size.
blanc et noir: Takeshi Obata Illustrations (Viz Media)
The official summary reads:
Collects bestselling artist Takeshi Obata’s work from 2001-2006, which contains illustrations from popular series Death Note and Hikaru no Go. This gorgeous artbook is encased in a silver-gilded slipcase and is stuffed with 132-pages of full-color art, several massive fold-out posters, special papers and 12 pages of artist commentary including a “how to draw” section. It also includes three large double-sided laminated posters and a postcard. This incredibly special artbook is being offered as a limited edition print run of 10,000 copies.
This book is made with great materials.
Why does this book matter?
On top of the foldout pages and full pages this book also contains an interview with Obata and breaks down his approach to a page in four steps.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I’m no expert when it comes to materials, but I can safely say there are a few different types in this book which help increase its value. Much of the book is printed with glossy paper, but a few, particularly the foldout pages, are made with a thicker textured paper that’s going to hold up to repeated unfoldings. There’s also a see-through paper used here and there that adds a layer to the image behind it which is quite nice too. Since we’re talking about materials, the book slides into a nice thick cardboard sleeve with a circular cutout displaying one of the laminated posters that come with it. The laminated posters are thick and quite sturdy. The cover of the book itself has a raised logo and raised text on its spine. Viz went all out with the materials of this book–just touching it reminds you of that.
The commentary pages are fantastic.
The images within are gorgeous of course and this is a nice sized book that would go well on a larger coffee table. There are quite a few iconic pages within and a lot I’ve never seen before as well. Fear not though, as there’s a handy index in the back detailing which manga each page appeared in, including the page it was on! That helps make this book feel definitive, especially when compared to other art books where the art is organized, but there’s no context in where it came from.
The artist commentary near the back of the book is incredibly interesting for artists and manga enthusiasts alike. Obata not only details how long each step in creating a page takes, but also the pencils and markers he used to make it. Artists who respect and admire Obata’s work will most likely appreciate that detail. The four steps start with the process of making a rough draft, then move on to inking, coloring figures and finally coloring the background. Obata details what inspires him, fears that run through his head during each step, and how he and his team function. To draw one page Obata estimates it takes 46 hours! You also get photographs of Obata working on a single image of the course of the four steps and it just so happens said page is one of the laminated pages that come with this book (which you can see below).
There’s also an interview with Obata in the back of the book too. The questions (there are 26 of them) range from asking about his personal life, the differences between drawing game characters and manga characters, and what influences his work. After reading all this you get a good sense of who Obata is and what has motivated him to get to where he’s at now.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The artwork is gorgeous throughout this book, especially in the larger format, but I wish there was more commentary throughout. A few notes on each image from what inspired it to what he was thinking about when he made them would have made the art connect with the artist a bit more. That makes a lot of the art stand on its own sure, but aside from the great commentary near the back it makes you wish there was more commentary from the artist himself.
A gorgeous page that’s broken down in the “How to Draw” section.
Is It Good?
This is a gorgeous book made from high quality materials with a fantastic breakdown of the artist’s craft in the back. If you love Obata’s work this is a no brainer, but artists should check it out too so that you might steal some of his secrets!