Monday 11 June 2012

Ar Tonelico Visual Book (Enterbrain)

Ah, Ar full of pretty girls and elaborate environments (that you can never actually see full 3D renditions of unless you're playing the third game).  I never actually managed to finish Ar Tonelico III because it was lacking in several areas, including gameplay and characterization, but I've always appreciated the artwork.  In fact, I picked up the first game because I was attracted to the artwork I happened to discover online.  Only later did I learn that the game was crammed with sexual innuendos and then some.  But I digress. The Ar Tonelico visual book covers artwork from all three games in the series.  So let's take a look at what's inside this 192-pager!

I know I've reviewed the first Ar Tonelico Materials Book in the past, but this book is quite different from it.  The difference between the Ar Tonelico Visual Book and the three Materials/Settei Books is that the Visual Book only carries artwork and a few interviews.  The Materials Books share far more information about the games' environments, songs, and characters.  In fact, the songs from the Ar Tonelico series are translated in each Materials book.  And by translated, I mean from Hymnos (the song language in Ar Tonelico) to Japanese characters, so don't expect English translations.  We also get to see the original concept sketches for the main characters in each Materials book.

So, now that we know what the Ar Tonelico Visual Book is like, I'll break it down into chapters.

The first chapter of the visual book is known as "Chapter_1 Gallery".  In this section you'll find all the full-page art pieces discovered at the beginning of every Materials book.  It's definitely my favourite section in the entire Visual Book.  Not only do you get to see old pictures from the Ar Tonelico series, but for once they were generous enough to provide a few new pieces by Nagi as well.  One for each game, one for the Tower Administrators, and one for Jakuri to be more precise. Oh, joy!  And of course, they would insert a sexy picture of the main female protagonists of the first Ar Tonelico game!  I think that was a nice treat for a lot of fans out there.  Personally, my favourite of the three was the brother/sister shot of Chroah and Cocona because it's quite adorable.  I also appreciate the fact that these pictures have a background.  I know they're nowhere near fancy, but it definitely beats pure white.

It seems that some anthology covers were included as well.  That's probably because Nagi designed them, but I'm quite happy they were included in this book.  I didn't pick up the anthologies themselves, but I did like the cover art for each book.

Additionally, Enterbrain provided smaller, less colourful versions of the drama CDs from each series, with the exception of Ar Tonelico III.  When this book was came out, not all of the drama CDs had been released.  When I say less colourful, I don't mean the artwork itself.  Just the backgrounds.

Having played two and a half Ar Tonelico games, I'm sad to say I don't know some of the characters displayed on the covers of each drama CD.  From what I've read, some of the characters are introduced only in the CDs because they enter the series after each game.  It's a shame I can't understand a lot of Japanese.  Otherwise I'd try to give these CDs a listen.  On a brighter note, all the characters look pretty!

Overall, I love the artwork, and I feel that Ryou Nagi made good use of white space in each piece, with the exception of the single shots of some characters.  I don't see any environments in these images, but I'm sure they would look fantastic if Nagi did some pieces where his characters were standing in their cities.

So after 56 pages of official and promotional artwork, we move onto the following chapter: "Chapter_2 Character".  Like the first chapter, this one is broken into three sections.  The first one is SOL_CIEL which is what the first world/tower/land is known as in the first game.  Then Ar Tonelico II's META_FALSS comes in.  And finally, you'll get to take a look at SOL_CLUSTER from the third game.


Unlike the Material books, the Ar Tonelico Visual book only features a single shot of each character.  You can find the facial expressions later on in the book, but they're very tiny.  Like the size of your thumbnail.  But you can enjoy each image anyway.  Don't be surprised if you have to squint for a few of them though.

In this chapter you'll get to see the full name of each character, learn about their age, weight, height, and then some.  This whole section shows off basic profiles for each character in the Ar Tonelico series.  At the end of each section, you'll find event shots from their respective games...which means SPOILERS.  If you haven't played through the entirety of each game, I don't recommend browsing through each section too thoroughly.  Unless you don't care about spoilers, then it's all right.  However, I felt the need to warn those of you who wish to purchase this book in case you wanted to play through your games without looking at spoilerific images.

The following section is known as "Chapter_3 Special". This is where all the interviews come in.  I'm personally in it for the art.  That, and I can't read enough Japanese to make sense of each interview, so I can't really make a proper comment on this section.  For those of you who understand Japanese, I think you'll enjoy the 10 - 12 pages of interview material.  In addition to the reviews, this section shows off various character costumes.  If you've played Ar Tonelico before, you'll know that successfully clearning Cosmospheres will earn you costumes, which can be used in battle to increase certain stats on your female characters.  Except maybe the girls from Ar Tonelico III.  Apparently stripping grants them more power.  Don't ask.  I didn't make these weird rules.  But you won't really find unique costumes for the Ar Tonelico III in this book.  You'll just see the same characters with less clothing.  Somehow I think some of you will like that. In any case, I can guarantee you'll find an interesting selection of costumes in this book.  It ranges from bathrobes to wedding dresses to dominatrix outfits.  It's quite funny when you see it all broken into sections.

Finally, I'll talk about the quality of the book.  Unlike the Materials/Settei books, the pages within the Visual book aren't at all glossy.  The pages in the Ar Tonelico Visual Book are very easy to flip through, but I think it makes the book itself seem a bit more flimsy.  Somehow I still like it.  I suppose the pages just feel nice between my fingers.  The sleeve over the cover is very smooth, but the cover itself is glossy, and the lovely Jakuri is printed on it!

So that, my dear readers, is all you'll find in this visual book.  If you're an Ar Tonelico fan, or just a fan of Ryou Nagi, I recommend picking this up.  Otherwise, I'm not sure it's really worth your time.  Like many game-related art books/scenario books/material books, the Ar Tonelico Visual book could use more colourful,  full-page art pieces.  You should really expect character profiles, concept sketches, a few pieces of actual art work, some event shots, and maybe if you're lucky, some new content in most game-related art books.

I mean, Chapter 2 of the Ar Tonelico Visual Book, which is approximately 100 pages,  is filled with profiles. You only get so many event pictures, and even then there are spoilers.  Sure Nagi's artwork is very lovely, but there aren't many full-page spreads.  He has an art book, and even though I love his style, I don't think I would pick it up.  Too many risque images for me to own in a family home.  I think Ar Tonelico is as far as I go, and I have to say I'm very happy with my visual book!

Extra shots:
Here are some more images from the Ar Tonelico Visual Book that I wanted to include in this review.

Company: Enterbrain
Number of Pages: 192
Purchased From: eBay

On a side note, the Ar Tonelico Visual Book has been licensed by Udon Entertainment, meaning all the character profiles and interviews will be in English if you purchase their version! You can order it on Amazon or at BookDepository! However, if you want to import the original Japanese version, you can pick it up at CDJapan.

Thanks for checking out the review!


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