by Yoshitoshi ABe
Japanese artist Yoshitoshi ABe is probably best known in the West for his work on the sublime anime Serial Experiments: Lain. The new collection of Yoshitoshi Abe’s art, entitled Essence, gives a deeper look into the artist’s understated, beautiful style. The ultra-cartoony look of the stereotypical manga or anime characters is not found in Abe’s work. The eyes may bit a bit more pronounced than is fashionable in the West, but it is a far cry from Dragonball Z. The drawings are deceptively simple, yet manage through a few well-placed lines to evoke a great deal of character.
Essence is broken down into five sections. The most interesting of these is the “Charcoal Feather Federation,” which is an intensive study of angels, from a decidedly Japanese point of view. Included are ads for angel’s clothing and cartoons depicting angels getting their halos caught in the subway doors. There are also color plates and a true sketchbook section where you can still see the measuring lines. The pencil sketches may be the most impressive, as you can still see part of the path taken to create the drawings. There is an intimacy to these pages that is quite captivating. The reproductions in the book are quite impressive for a 72-page book that costs under eight dollars. Essence is an impressive volume that gives the West a better look into the artwork of Yoshitoshi ABe. I, for one, was left with a yearning for more from Yoshitoshi ABe.