Many of you already know that I’m a big fan of Aoi Nishimata, so it should come as no surprise that when preorders for her Vivid artbook came up, my credit card was already out of my wallet. Aoi Nishimata is a female artist who has worked on characters for visual novels including Shuffle!, Ore-tachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai, Final Approach, Tick! Tack!, and Really? Really!
Released back in December 2010 by Kadokawa Shoten, Vivid is a collection of Aoi Nishimata’s illustrations stretching back to 2001. The book contains 144 pages, mostly of full colour illustrations, a bargain for 3000 yen.
Vivid comes with one very exquisite dust jacket. I don’t think I need to describe now gorgeous the dust jacket is, just look at it yourself. The gold lettering in the title gives it a sense of sophistication, and the red string tied to the girl’s finger actually runs through the entire book (a very nice touch in my opinion).
The actual front and back covers of the book are more simple, with a checkered pink/white pattern and Aoi Nishimata’s trademark cats. You’ll also notice that the book is hardcover, which helps protect the pages.
The first illustration is an extremely large (poster-size) fold out of a beautiful woman in her wedding gown. I should point out that this isn’t an actual poster, it’s meant to stay in the book. The paper used is very thick and heavy, this book was made to last.
On the reverse side is a bikini girl more suited for a dakimakura cover.
Now we get into the actual book. As I mentioned earlier, the red string from the dust jacket goes through the book, and the first instance is on a piece of wax paper protecting the inside cover illustration.
Here is the illustration without the wax paper in front. Hearts and flowers are major themes in Aoi Nishimata’s works, so this is an excellent introductory illustration.
On the second page is a blue variant of the same image that was on the dust jacket. Before I go any further, I should mention that Aoi Nishimata is famous for “recycling” her illustrations, just look at the gif below.
Is that a bad thing? No, I think it is done intentionally because it works. If you have a style that people like (even if it’s just the same face), then stick with it, even variants of the same thing can look completely different, which we will see later.
The book is split into 5 different sections: Colorful, Rouge, Cerulean, Scarlet, and Peach. The illustrations in each section are mainly the colour of their title (ie: rouge = red, cerulean = blue, etc.) and I will be going through them in order.
I felt like including this image because I liked the girls from Ore-tachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai.
Here is an illustration of the girls from Shuffle Essence+. If you look closely at Kaede’s dress, you’ll notice that the pattern on it doesn’t change at the folds. This is one of the unique aspects about Aoi Nishimata’s illustrations, patterns on clothing are never broken by folds or layers. You could argue that it’s being lazy, but I find the patterns actually draw your attention to the clothing more if they’re unbroken.
Here is an excellent example of Aoi Nishimata “recycling” an image to make something even better. Besides the colour contrast, subtle changes like the facial expression and flower petals make it look like two different girls rather than a mirror image.
Like I said, flowers are a major theme in Aoi Nishimata’s illustrations.
While I don’t like finding fault with one of my favourite artists, I can’t deny that there aren’t any. Aoi Nishimata draws beautiful girls and beautiful dresses, but comparitively, her skill at drawing hands and clear liquids is horrid (but still better than anything I could do). The girl on the right holding the wine glass shows both of Aoi Nishimata’s weak points. Fingers are often deformed and/or disproportionate, and liquids never seem to refract light properly.
Primula is probably one of Aoi Nishimata’s most-drawn characters, probably because she loves cats too.
These are some of the older illustrations that Aoi Nishimata has done. I remember having a couple of them on my computer before the great hard drive failure of 2003. Since then, Aoi Nishimata’s style has changed to include more attention-grabbing dresses and detailed backgrounds.
Here is another colour variation illustration. The thing they are holding is a heart. One of the downsides of this book and many others is that there is no white space left between the binding and the start of the images. This means that illustrations spanning two pages will always have a section through the middle that you will never see.
You can probably guess that we’re in the cerulean section of the book now.
The red string continues its way through the book. Looking at it now, I think it’s supposed to connect all of the “princesses” in the book.
The scarlet section of the book featured a number of illustrations from the visual novel Really? Really!
It’s not often you see cat girls in Aoi Nishimata’s illustrations. I love how she made the tails and ears look furry rather than solid. In the same illustration, you can also see the obvious difference in size between the fingers on the blonde’s left and right hands.
I had to include this illustration because I simply love Kaede, and I think her bikini’s cute. Unfortunately, it appears Aoi Nishimata’s struggle with fingers also applies to feet.
Some of you may recognize this illustration from the Maid Cookie review I did a while back.
More colour variants.
The final illustration is a princess with the red string tied to her finger. There is also a message here, but I have no clue what it says.
After flipping through Vivid several times, I have to say that it is one of the most impressive artbooks I own. The book itself was assembled with quality in mind, and the sheer number of illustrations made me feel like it was money well spent. Aoi Nishimata may not be a perfect artist, but her character designs and magnificent use of colour more than make up for the areas where she lacks. I think Vivid is worth getting even just for the princess illustrations with the red string. They are definitely the highlight of the book and the way it ties all of the sections together was very creative.
If you’re interested, the book is still in stock at Hobby Search.