MABOROSHI NO HANA YOI NO TSUKI — Matsuri Akino Artbook
Asahi Sonorama, 2006, 100 pages, Paperback, Japanese Language
In 2004, and pretty much every year since then, I made it a point to complain that Matsuri Akino (of Pet Shop of Horrors and Genju no Seiza) did not have an artbook of her own. This, for me, was a travesty as I have a particular affinity for her art and wanted a full color collection to go along with the other numerous art books that I have on my shelf (well, shelves, actually).
Last October I discovered that this had finally come to be. At last, I could have my very own copy of a Matsuri Akino artbook — as soon as I tracked it down on a website I could actually read and then pay the import price, which was, as most Japanese artbook collectors will know, rather steep. But I managed to do that, though it took several months, and now I have it here to show off to other Matsuri Akino, or Japanese manga art, fans.
It’s my understanding that the title of the artbook is Maboroshi no Hana, Yoi no Tsuki. Now, can I swear to that? Not really. I can tell you that the words “Maboroshi no Hana Yoi no Tsuki” are on the book, as I can read that bit, but I don’t read kanji and, even if I did, I don’t yet know the rules of title layout on Japanese books. For instance, what do the very large gradient-filled kanji mean? It could be the artist’s name, or it could be something else. I really don’t know. One day I’ll find out. But in any case, every place I’ve looked notes this as the title. Even Wikipedia, so it must be true.
(As it occurs to me that someone might unwittingly take me seriously, I’ll just point out — that was a joke)
The dustcover itself is made of a thick paper that has a metallic cast. It’s really quite lovely and a very pleasant weight.
I won’t go through each image in the book, as I don’t have the time, and that would essentially be reproducing it, which is, you know, illegal. But since it is mine, I can at least post a couple of the images I like the most.
Now, the majority of the artbook contains illustrations from Pet Shop of Horrors, most notably images of Count D (to my delight). Some of them, however, are images from other series the artist has done. I don’t know what these series are by name, as the only other two Matsuri Akino titles I’ve read are Kamen Tantei and Genju no Seiza. Of course, I’m biased, and I’m going to say that I find the PSoH illustrations superior, but that actually has nothing to do with the art and everything to do with the fact that I love Count D to bits. Though, in fact, I do like this picture quite a bit. Tattoos!
What I love about getting an artbook, in addition to getting larger images of illustrations I already like, and getting to see some black and white images in color, is having the chance to see new work. This one, for example, I had never seen but particularly like because of the obvious art nouveau presentation. It’s a different look, and it works well for Count D just as much as some of the other, vaguely creepy images work for him.
Matsuri Akino doesn’t hold back when it comes to ornamenting the characters in her illustrations. Some of my favorites involve scrollwork jewelry or incredibly detailed cothing. You have both of those things here, in addition to the bold colors that typify much of the Pet Shop of Horrors art (a feature which I especially love). And the theme of D’s connection with the creatures he keeps about him is defintely present. You’ll see, as I go on, this same sort of adoring and loving interaction between them in many of the other illustrations.
This is one of my favorite between-chapter illustrations from the manga. But, if I’m not mistaken, I first saw it in black and white. Seeing it in color does it proper justice (though seeing it in person does it even more so than viewing it on the computer screen). I could go on and on about why I like it, or I could just point you to the image and tell you to look at it…which I think says enough.
(This is the part where anyone uninitiated to Pet Shop of Horrors or manga art in general should be saying — But haven’t you been referring to Count D as “he?” Isn’t he wearing a dress here? What’s that about? And what’s with his fingernails? —. To which I must reply — he’s not fully human. I don’t know. He’s pretty, just go with it.)
Incidentally, Matsuri Akino has designed some of my favorite costumes of all time for Count D.
Which brings me to Count D in a kimono. This isn’t a usual look for him, as he’s Chinese and dresses more in that fashion, but I was very happy to see this portrait. It’s also the first time that I had ever come across this image, in color or otherwise, so I was quite excited. The colors go perfectly with the cranes in this picture, and my only complaint is that, possibly, the top crane’s beak blends in too much with D’s hair. But in all other respects, this image is gorgeous and one of my favorites.
Yet another of my favorites, the decision stemming largely from the bold colors and D’s profile I mean, call me crazy, but D looks great in fuschia. And there’s something about his facing looking down at that kitsune that makes me go “aawww.” Yet another example of the interactive theme between D and the animals.
I’d never seen this image, either, before flipping through the artbook. I was taken by it not only because of its pale, watery appearance (appropriate given the underwater theme — and, really, how often do you get to see manta rays in an illustration?), but also because D looks so boyish. It’s quite possibly the most male he’s ever looked (and, yeah, okay, the fingernails throw it off, I get that…). I’ll admit, I like this version of D. But in all seriousness, I really enjoy the style of this painting. I want to say that it’s definitely done in watercolors, but I can’t make that claim for certain. Regardless, it has a very watercolor look that I like.
This is too cute, and that’s really the only reason I included it.
Some may recognize this image as one of the cover illustrations for Shin Pet Shop of Horrors (or for some, Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo), the continuing story of Count D in Japan (rather than in America, which is where the original PSoH series is set). Learning of the new series was yet another startling and joyous discovery that I made a little over a year ago, in addition to Count D’s brief and mysterious appearance in Genju no Seiza, which was incredibly fun and amusing (and speaking of Genju no Seiza, what on earth is delaying book eight over at Tokyopop, I have to wonder). When I saw this image in the artbook, it struck me as a little more sinister than it did on the cover of the manga. Mostly because D looks quite intimidating, and if someone gave me this look in real life, I think I’d wonder what monster was about to pop out of the wall and eat me.
This is a very intriguing illustration for those who know anything about Count D’s background, and the background of his species (whatever that is…). I’m taking a guess here and saying that the second person is his father, or at least an ancestor of some kind (and I only reference male ancestors because I’m under the impression, due to the story, that there are only male descendants of the species…but if I’m wrong, I’d love for someone to point it out). The symbolism here is pretty obvious, what with the red cord of fate and all. But just on an artistic level, I like this image, not only for the enigmatic feeling that it conveys, but also the dark color scheme and the lace effect.
This is quite possibly one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen. I mean, take a good look at it. But I love masque themes, and I love costumes, so, naturally, I love this image. I get the distinct impression that the figures surrounding D are supposed to represent legendary animals, but that doesn’t explain the figure in the blue, who seems to represent…flora in general? I’m not quite sure about that. I mean, I suppose you could make the argument that they represent beasts, birds, reptiles, and plant life. But who knows. Maybe they’re just supposed to look pretty.
Another image where what catches my attention is the eerie color scheme and the costuming. This certainly isn’t D’s normal wardrobe, though it does have elements of it. The very sparse use of red against an otherwise pale (almost monochrome, really) palette is wonderful. And, of course, setting the cold colors against a green and yellow background really sets it apart and makes it stand out. I could argue that I might have liked a darker background better, but it really does the job well enough the way it is.
There’s that theme again. Adoration, ornamentation, and enigma all thrown into one illustration. And, is it just me, or are the color schemes of the four figures here very much like those of the four figures in the masque image? Even D is decked out in black again.
And here we are, ending on a non-Petshop image. I have no idea who this individual is or what role he plays in his story, but the illustration is an interesting one, and I like to take guesses based on what I see. Maybe you will, too.
Overall, this is a wonderful artbook. Is every picture perfect? No. There are one or two that aren’t quite up to Matsuri Akino’s usual standard, but they aren’t prominent illustrations and don’t detract from the book in the least. For buyers who don’t read Japanese, don’t worry. With the exception of an index and a small drawing from the artist in the back of the book, there’s absolutely no text in this artbook that you’ll need to have translated. That’s perfect for those of us who are only interested in the visual aspect and don’t care to wonder what else the page is trying to tell us (not that having explanatory text in your artbooks is ever a bad thing — it’s just frustrating not to be able to read it).
But if there’s anything that I wish this artbook had, it’s the following: 1.) a color image of the “Count D in Snake Outfit” that I’ve loved since the moment I saw it, and 2.) a portrait of T-chan, just because it would have been the best thing in the world.
Those two things aside, this book is everything I was hoping for.