Wednesday 13 March 2013

Fuji Choko's "Fuji Shiki 2012" (Doujinshi)

How long as it been since we last threw up a doujinshi review? Too long, way too long. Shame on us! 

But art isn't dead on Poke the Merch, not yet anyway! It's been a while since we last reviewed a doujinshi, so forgive me for my artistic rustiness. Here I go:

If I were to describe this doujinshi in one sentence, it would be, "Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?" and yes, Fuji Choko can.

I spent a long time hunting for Fuji Choko's work. Ever since I happened to stumble upon one of their pieces while surfing the ever-expanding realm of the interwebs, I've been obsessed with possessing one of their collections. With good reason. I mean, just look at it! There is art, then there's Art, and then there's ART.

Fuji Shiki 2012 is substantial for a doujinshi. At 88 pages, it's one of the longest self-published collections I have. The paper is glossy, but not overly so.

I find art inherently interesting, but a surefire way to catch my attention is to overwhelm my optical senses with colour, and Fuji Choko's work screams, look at me. Look at the cover. Just look at it. All the glorious blue! That punctuating splash of magenta. That dizzying angle. Visual. Cortex. Overload.

There are no chapters in Fuji Choko. It's just straightforward, mind-numbing, delicious art. In many ways, Fuji Choko's work reminds me of Nao Tsukiji's. It doesn't quite go into the same level of detail, but both have the same bold rainbow-indulgence that I love.

Not only is Fuji Shiki 2012 stuffed with gorgeous character designs and bright colours, it's also filled with incredibly detailed backgrounds. Yeah, way to hit both of my weaknesses at once. Colour and detail. It's super effective. Excuse me while I keel over and foam at the mouth.

You'd think with a doujinshi so polished, I'd have nothing to critique, but you'd be wrong. Jenn will always have suggestions for improvement, even when no real improvement is needed!

I'm nitpicky about page optimalization in self-published books. After all, when I'm paying about a dollar per page, that page better be brimming with pure, aesthetic energy. Nothing sears my corneas like gratuitous white/black space, and unfortunately, Fuji Shiki 2012 is guilty of just that. After a few pages of glorious eye candy, it hits us with pages of unfulfilled space. Look at the size of those borders. Empty space, with one small piece of art plopped in the middle, like some lonesome island in a sea of desolate sea of white ash. It goes on like this for 12 pages. Surely the two pictures below could have been shunted onto one page. Surely the pictures could have been turned 180 degrees and displayed horizontally. The fact that they didn't jump on the opportunity to fully actualize these pages is a big disappointment to me.

So it's not all bad. The neat picture, cubic picture of the house below is nicely stylized and works well with a white background. But the girl? Oh no, she could have an entire art studio behind her. What's she doing fluanting a pencil crayon in empty space? I would never call a work of art a waste of space (that requires a dismissive, philistine attitude beyond my current sensibilities), but the girl with the pencil crayon feels unfinished to a certain extent. It's like the artist really needed something to throw on the page, reached into their sketch folder, and whipped out whatever they could find.

But you know what gets me? Redemption. Fuji Shiki 2012 quickly recoverys by thrusting rainbow sheets of aesthetic prowess in our faces. Take that, visual cortex! I'm particularly fond of the flat, patterned style of the two pictures below.

When Fuji Choko goes for it, they really go for it (I'm sorry, Fuji Choko, I don't know you're gender, so I'm referring to you as "they"). The amount of detail they put in their backgrounds is nothing short of spectacular. Imagine how long it takes to sketch, let alone colour all the little, refined bits? Way more dedication and love than I could ever muster, I suspect, and that alone is enough to warrant my admiration.

Of course, no doujin is complete without some Vocaloid love. I'm super happy Fuji Choko included the lesser known/newer Vocaloids. Like Kiyoteru (rock-star math sensei? Lemme at him).

Given my mini-lecture on page optimalization before, you'd think I damn all white space, but I don't. I damn wasted space Take the two pictures below. There's ample white space, but there is nothing about them that feel unfinished to me. Sure, the girl in the swirling globe of computer screen goodness could be floating through a matrix of program coding, but it's no big loss that she isn't. She can stand alone. Waste not, want not, I guess, is the adage I was going for.

Most of Fuji Choko's art is to be commended for its full, vibrant backgrounds, usually with incredible depths. The risk with such all-enompassing backgrounds is losing your characters, but Fuji Choko manages it just fine.

It's clear Fuji Choko's had art training, or spends a lot of time staring into the distance. Their perspectives are spot on.

And that stag looks a bit like James Potter. Patronus form. Don't tell me it ain't so.

In longer collections, there is a chance of getting bored after a certain number of pictures (call it burnout, see Huke's BLK). After all, it takes variety to hold attention. Variety is to art as action is to film. No one wants to see the same image over and over again.

On the bright side, Fuji Shiki 2012 never becomes boring. Although the style never really changes, there is enough diversity to keep me interested. Take the two pictures below, for instance. The girl with the paper stands out to me. In the entire collection, it's the only one that uses mainly one colour (blue). Move one step to the right and we're assaulted with a dramatic, rainbow burst. Sweet.

Some Touhou fanart. Again, with the steep borders. Maybe the pictures would have been stretched had they tried to scale it to the page, but I would have loved to see both these pictures a little larger. Maybe the spine would eat too much of it. Maybe it won't be as visually appealing, in terms of arrangement and spacing. What do I know? Book binding works in mysterious ways.

Fuji Shiki 2012 has both original and fanart, although there is much more original than fan. Besides Touhou, there is also fanart of Fate/Zero somewhere in the mix.

I said earlier that this collection doesn't have chapters, but I was wrong (to a certain extent). There are 15 pages of manga near the end. Fully-coloured and vibrant, they almost feel like pieces of art rather than story. Take a look for yourself. There is at least two pages that look more like full spreads than scenes from a story.

If anyone is fluent in Japanese, I'd much appreciate a quick translation. I'd love to get a glimpse of the storyline.

There are scarcely any black and white pictures in this collection. This is one of them. Smooth, shaded, very nice. Looks like the smudge tool had a grand old time zipping all over the pages (if smudge tool wasn't used at all, forgive me, I know almost nothing about Photoshop except that it's supposed to shop photos, whatever that means). It's soft, and pleasant to the eyes. I almost wish there were more full-page black and white spreads than the 12 pages of mostly-border earlier in the doujin.

I've only shown you a tiny fraction of the incredible art in this collection. As I flip through it now, I'm still astounded by how many gems Fuji Shiki 2012 contains. All of Fuji Choko's collections are filled with heart-stopping gorgeous art. Nothing explicit. Only beauty. Getting your hands on any of Fuji Choko's collections is worth it.

That being said, Fuji Choko's works are difficult to find. I managed to snag this collection after months of stalking Yahoo Auctions, and it didn't come cheap either. If you're lucky, proxies will find some for you. If you're really lucky, you'll manage to catch their releases on doujinshi shops that ship internationally, like Alice Books. If you're unlucky, well, my condolences, but don't give up. I believe in you.

Title: Fuji Shiki 2012
Author: Fuji Choko (藤ちょこ)
Circle: Retro Choko (>ちょこれとろ)
Size: A4 (8.3 x 11.7 in)
Pages: 88
Price: 1500 yen
Purchased From: Yahoo Auctions Japan



  1. Ah yeah I know a few of her works, the ones you showed were all new to me though ^^

    The detailed sceneries she creates are just amazing and so full of vibrant colors, I've rarely seen such elaborated illustrations.

    I don't mind the white areas of pencil girl, I sometimes like the characters cut from background, but she could have scaled the character larger.

    88 Pages for 1500 Yen! seriously? thats really cheap.

    1. 1500 yen for 88 pages is a REALLY nice retail price. It definitely beats paying the same price for something that's 24 pages. I spent a bit more since I snagged it off auctions (it was closer to 2500 yen when the auction ended), then paid proxy fees + shipping. The collection's worth it though. Her art is gorgeous.