Sunday, 20 November 2011

Kurogin/D.S.B.'s "Archive Illustrations 2006-2009" (Doujinshi)

Statistics indicate I possess a predisposition to neglect art book reviews. This is unacceptable. Jenn is steady in nature and doesn't engage in that sort of favourism! Great art is my second love after great figures and great literature (that would technically make it my third, I guess), but I absolutely dread photographing art books. They're predilected towards horrible light refractions, and awful stiff spines.

Thankfully, the arrival of a batch of doujinshi lit a flame under my butt. So get ready, folks, here comes a well-needed artbook review!

My love for mecha girls is long public. My love for fantasy is less known, but I have a crush on fantasy so strong it belittles all other romances. So when Kurogin's Archive Illustrations promised a fushion of delicious sci-fi and dreamy fantasy I absolutely had to make it mine.

The doujinshi is a bit larger than A4, and 32 pages long. It's quite floppy, and only held together by staples. The pages are glossy, but also textured, which helps disperse its shine (it also makes the paper interesting to touch, in case you're the type who likes to fondle paper).

It starts off well, with a mecha girl so decorated in metallic bits she's more Transformer than girl.

But there's an extra surprise.

The cover unfurls into a magnificent 3-page spread featuring beautiful red-black mecha wings. She's a bit disproportionate, and chunkier than the streamlined mecha girls I usually go for, but you can't go wrong with black and red and snot nuclear green. Oh ho! We're off to a good start!

Another surprise! On the back is a lighter picture featuring a girl and her dragon. It's a pleasant foil to the dark cover. The tones are softer, and shading is flattened, but it lends the picture a refreshing ethereal air. The cute little witch shows up several times throughout the doujinshi.

Archive Illustrations covers Kurogin's work from 2006-2009. I'm not too familiar with Kurogin's art, and haven't followed his work to any great extent. It strikes me as too generically "anime" to really set itself apart. That being said, there are many aspects of Kurogin's style that I enjoy. Many of his pictures have a heavy sci-fi/fantasy influence (although there are quite a few "normal" works as well), and he draws settings. A well executed background is always worth applause. 

Archive Illustrations is broken into three parts. The first is World Wide and spans pages 1-15. This section is most heavily sci-fi/fantasy influenced, with bright colours and distinctly atmospheric backgrounds.

The picture below was also featured in Pixiv Girls Illustrations 2009. The sun-moon theme is overdone in every way, but Kurogin manages to keep it both discreet and fresh.

World Wide is definitely my favourite section. Shiny mechanical gimmicks bits plus whimsical fantasy? Can you say win-win? Many of his works give me a "Final Fantasy" vibe (which is good, since I happen to like the world of Final Fantasy...not so much the games, but the concepts are beautiful).

Buffalo girl won't you come out tonight—ahem—There's nothing that quite gets the heart racing like unabashed use of contrast.

Those eyes...
Kurogin's backgrounds (when present) are beautifully detailed. They can get incredibly complex.

Excuse the grainy reflections. These pages are shiny.
The next section is aptly named Girls Cute and is filled with, well, cute girls. Granted, they're not as cute as they are girls, but I guess girls are always cute to a certain extent. This section spans from page 16-25. Backgrounds are generally lacking for this section, which is a bit of a disappointment after the visual grandeur of the first section.

This page, while adorable, seems especially empty compared to the prior section.

Several girls retain sci-fi-esque properties.


Mind you, not all the girls are "cute". There are some girls absolutely drenched in gore. Well, on second thought, I guess the gore doesn't stop the girls from being cute. They're just less aww and more American Psycho.

Have I mentioned I adore the way Kurogin colours hair? I do. It's got a wet, glassy quality that's deliciously ohm nom nom. It's more apparent in his recent works. 

Surprise! Amidst all the mecha and fantasy comes a page of Rosen Maiden fanart. Unfortunately, they're not very striking, being puny all. I would have preferred to see one or two blown-up pictures rather than wrestle with eight puny ones, but I guess optimization of space and art is always an issue with doujinshis.

Lastly comes Monochrome. It's the shortest section, ranging only from page 26-29.

Black-and-white is a different beast than colour entirely. It's not at all unattractive, although it tends to give off an unfinished feel despite its sharp lines and clean render. Not that I don't enjoy monochrome art, I do. It just has to be judged within its own parameters.

Her pendent's not really glowing...that's just a reflection.
 Kurogin's Archive Illustrations are a good introduction to his work. I wouldn't have minded seeing some of his World Wide art on an even larger scale.

Which brings me to the only grouse I have against this doujinshi: arrangement.

The two-page spreads look amazing, but I would have been happier if the remaining pictures didn't have a strange 1.25/2-0.75/2 page ratio. Because of this, some detailed pieces get squashed down to less than a page, and some pictures get seam lines running through awkward areas. Take a look at the "Journey of a Wich[sic]"'s seam. My copy of this doujinshi happens to have a stapling error, and a slice of another picture can be seen at the seam. Yikes. Hopefully this is an isolated problem and only I got shafted along the way (yes, I would make that sacrifice, in the name of science).

Would I recommend this doujinshi to others? If only for the World Wide section, yes. It's quite spectacular despite its odd page allocation. Kurogin has a pleasant style, and the doujinshi's relatively substansial compared to others in its field. Being published at Comiket 77, it might be difficult to find, but pick it up if you spot it at a decent price. It'll be worth your while (and hopefully worth your money too).

Check out more of Kurogin's work at his Pixiv account.

Size: Slightly larger than A4
Pages: 32 pages
Price: ???
Purchased from: Yahoo Auctions


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