Artbooks are a true collecting obsession. Once you've fallen in love with an anime, manga or game, the artbook is the final destination for those that want to absorb absolutely everything a title has to offer. It can be a mixed bag, as many have more impenetrable Japanese text or background sketches than they do colourful, glossy promo pictures, but they're big, beautiful and look fantastic on any shelf.
More Heroes and Heroines, the sequel to 2011's Heroes and Heroines book, provides an artbook for everyone. Featuring a mix of the very best artwork from over 60 artists across 208 pages, it's a coffee-table book that offers a range and value few others can hope to match. I loved the original volume, but what's on offer here?
Rather than just list my favourites, which would be tremendously one-sided, I thought I'd go over those illustrations that caught my eye based on genre and variety.
Starting with futuristic sci-fi, the book mines many areas. The ultra cute and glossy Hyper Dimension Neptunia speaks to my personal tastes, featuring sharp and colourful designs with a Tron-vibe. This is nicely offset by more muted imagery from Knights of Sidonia, Caladrius BLAZE and the future-retro of Gargantia on the Verderous Planet. Then back to glossy fare such as Expelled from Paradise :)
Fantasy is equally well served, ranging from the extremely cute PS Vita devil-girls of Makai Shin Trillion, the tech-meets-RPG's UCMM and Kadenz Formata, idol-style fashions with OMEGA Quintet and contemporary assassin thriller Akame ga KILL!
Probably the most varied genre is the modern day series - Ping Pong has a decidedly distinctive style all its own, but Yozakura Quartet Hana no Uta, Persona 4 and Short Peace make the modern-day ultra-stylish. I loved the more stylised fare on offer too - The Eccentric Family is now on my must-find list and I may take some fashion ideas from the ultra-swish and highly fashionable Uta no Prince-sama.
On top of the above, you also have artwork on hand from the big hitters - Gundam, Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan and Girls und Panzer all get a look in too.
My personal favourite? 7th Dragon 2020-II. I love the variety in the designs here, I'd happily stare at them all day - lucky for me then that it's also on the cover!
In short, this really is a book with a little something for everyone. Each selected series comes with a bilingual description, helping you to find new favourites and read up on old ones. There's an interview with Miwa Shirow (artist for the aforementioned 7th Dragon) and you can look up information by series or by artist.
If you have any appreciation for Japanese artwork, grab this book. The previous volume sold out very quickly, so scour Amazon and nag your favourite book retailer for a copy, but for under £20, you won't find better.