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With 5 minutes of reading will guide you some best manga art books
Anime is an art form that originated in Japan in the 1960’s. It is characterized by a visual style with big round or very sharp eyes, an almost inexistent nose and mouth, stylized figures, and curious, sometimes striking hair shapes that border the impossible.
Each new anime has its own style, however behind the art and animation lies the essence of any successful anime and that is the story. The adventures of the characters are what captivate the hearts of anime fans, though sometimes the art and animation are not the best, the success of any anime series lies in the interactions and development of the characters, their view of their world, and how they approach and resolve conflicts be it in fantastical adventures or their daily lives.
Although there are some exceptions, most animes are based on a story that has already been told (or that is currently ongoing), and in most cases, those stories are in a printed format called “manga”. Manga is what Japanese comic books are called, though the style is completely different from western comic books as well as the format and length, mangas are the source from where most animes come from.
Published by big editorial houses on weekly or monthly formats, mangas tell stories through chapters and arcs using beautiful art and stories to captivate their public, and it is well known that if you want to know everything about a certain anime, the manga is the most complete source of information about it.
At the end of the day, anime always leaves us wanting more. And if our favorite show is over and we already finished reading the manga and yet, we still want more, we can always buy the art book. In contrast with other media artbooks that feature interviews, designs, inspirations, and parts of the creative process, anime art books usually have gorgeous page spreads of art, shots that weren’t included on the show, and some extras and commentaries from the creators.
Anime art books are not only for die-hard anime fans but for anyone that enjoyed the show and wants to have a small piece of it at home, and that’s why here we bring you the list of what we consider the best anime artbooks.
The following list contains not only the best anime art books but also amazing art books from recognized anime movies, independent artists, and character designers that have left a significant impact on the anime industry and shaped the concept of anime that we have nowadays.
Many other anime art books are not included on the list mainly because of the language since most of them are usually not translated from Japanese or are very hard to get, however, this list will not disappoint since it has some of the best art books available online.
Every anime fan has watched or at least heard about Dragon Ball, being the first anime for many fans around the world, this anime by Akira Toriyama has a set place in the heart of many, even if you’re not a die-hard anime fan, this art book will take you down the memory lane, filled with amazing illustrations of this beloved classic, this book has also commentary from the author as well as shots from the show and the manga.
The iconic anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion marked the life of not only anime fans but of the whole animation industry, setting a clear reference in storytelling and visual development, Evangelion has always been considered a masterpiece.
This very affordable high-quality art book is full of fantastic art, not only illustrations but sketches and it also includes the art of other projects like games and anime towards the end. More than worth the inexpensive price and is a must-have for anime artists and anime fans.
Bleach is an extraordinary anime series that has not only a great plot but many well-developed characters that are loved by the fans. This art book focused on the characters has a lot of pages full of information, beautiful art, an interview with the author, and also a one-shot of the series that is available only on this book.
Another great perk of this artbook is the stickers that come with it and a mini-poster. A must-have for bleach fans and anime stans that want to have a piece of this series at home.
Tokyo Ghoul is an anime that leaves a heavy impact on anyone that watches it. The trama, the gore, the suspense, and the character’s development through the series along with the amazing art style are what make Tokyo Ghoul an animated gem.
This artbook has the beautiful art of Shui Ishida’s manga along with commentary, character sketches, and some rejected designs that complement the series. Amazing art book not only for Tokyo Ghoul fans but also for anime artists and art geeks.
Death Note is a world-level popular anime series, the very intriguing plot, the moral struggles of the characters and the intellectual rivalry between the protagonists along with the gorgeous art style are some of the reasons behind the immense popularity of this series.
This artbook collects the best art of Takeshi Obata in the form of illustrations and posters. The size also helps with the image quality since this art book is larger than usual. The commentary and extra content of Obata’s other works only add to the reasons this art book is a must-have.
Full Metal Alchemist is a very rich story, an inspiration for fellow creators and aspiring artists. The two amazing anime adaptations that this manga got are incredibly popular and loved by the fans.
This artbook has the complete collection of the manga’s illustrated covers along with some extras, including a step-by-step illustration tutorial by the great Hiromu Arakawa.
The Promised Neverland is one of the most popular series nowadays, the unique and beautiful art style captivated the hearts of many fans, though the story is what made this series a hit.
And as usual with hits, fans seem to never have enough of them, so this beautiful art book is a must-have if you want to know more about the story, the creators, and the characters of this anime.
This book includes lots of commentary and interviews with the creators of this series, though it is yet to be released in June, it is advised to pre-order before it’s too late.
Makoto Shinkai has a well-established name in the anime industry, his work is well known and loved by many, and this art book is a significant source of inspiration and knowledge for fellow artists and anime fans.
Including pieces of his best works, like Kimi no Na Wa, 5 Centimeters per Second, and Voices of a Distant Star along with very insightful commentary and design advice, this art book is another must-have for artists and anime fans.
This artbook is a collection of the best works of the worldwide recognized artist Yoshitaka Amano, including illustrations from the famous Final Fantasy series along with fine art, other commission works from his years as an independent artist, and the best of his most recent works under Dark Horse Comics, this book is a great source of inspiration for any artist.
The quality of the book and the included lithographs is amazing, making this artbook another work of art from Amano.
Having worked in series like Kill la Kill, Promare, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Gurren Langan, Imaishi’s work is considered an inspiration in the animation industry.
This artbook is a big collection of illustrations, sketches, and designs. Great for aspiring anime artists, animators, and character designers.
We couldn’t finish this list without including the works of the great Hayao Miyazaki, the name of Studio Ghibli speaks for itself, having a set place in the heart of millions of fans and artists all around the world, and the numerous movies produced by Miyazaki is and will always be considered as a work of art.
The following list contains the art books published after the movies and there is no need to say that owning even one of them is a privilege not only for fans but for animators and artists.
All of these art books include not only gorgeous spreads of art and illustration but the process behind the films, commentary from Miyazaki and artists from the studio, early designs, and storyboards as well as the insight behind the world-building and narrative from the movies.
The entire Ghost in the Shell series is just over 20 years old and it’s one of the most beloved animes/OVAs to ever come out of Japan.
You can find a bunch of weird art books for this series but many of them feature postcards or semi-popular art you can find everywhere. But Ghost in the Shell Original Collection is the artbook for this series.
It’s absolutely massive with 288 pages and well over 1,000 illustrations/concept designs. The artwork is organized in chronological order based on the film and snippets from the anime.
You’ll find character sketches, storyboards, animation cels, and tons of visual development ideas.
Definitely, a great buy if you love Ghost in the Shell or if you want a peek behind the scenes at the production side of anime.
If there’s any Japanese animator that every artist should know it’s Hayao Miyazaki. He created a number of popular films and my personal favorite is Howl’s, Moving Castle.
That’s why I was thrilled to get The Art of Howl’s Moving Castle and dig in. For an art book this one’s pretty thick with 256 pages of character sketches, full digital paintings, backgrounds, illustrations, and even animation cels.
Throughout the book, you’ll find various interviews with team members of the movie’s production staff and the key animators. But I do think it’s the artwork that truly shines here.
I love the background paintings because they show just how much detail goes into creating a believable anime world. These should offer plenty of inspiration for aspiring background painters or artists working to create their own works.
The artwork in this book is like nothing else and it’s a true gem in the world of anime art.
One of Miyazaki’s older films is Kiki’s Delivery Service, a classic fantasy film made in 1989. On the fifteenth anniversary of the movie, Ghibli released The Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service.
This hardcover 200-page art book offers a glorious look into the creation of this classic anime film. There’s so much rare artwork here that you might make yourself dizzy flipping through pages!
You’ll find a ton of concept ideas and variations on character outfits, hairstyles, props, and environments. Most of the artwork is from other animators & artists outside of Miyazaki so this book really celebrates the entire film as a whole.
Fans of the movie will naturally love this artbook. But it’s also great for aspiring artists trying to pick up the anime style.
Uzumaki Naruto: Illustrations is a small yet voluminous art book featuring designs from the Naruto anime & manga.
It totals 104 pages with a few sections on characters and environments from various illustrators. But much of this book focuses on poster art and production/promo pieces from the mangas.
All of this artwork is still gorgeous and follows the classic Naruto style. It’s an excellent art book for anyone who adores manga and wants a deeper look into the creative process.
But admittedly this is an illustration book, not so much a concept art book. So far I have not found any Naruto books with behind-the-scenes artwork but hopefully, something like that will pop up in the near future.
The Art Works of Lupin the Third is a sizable 8.5×11 A4 print artbook full of rare production art from the anime. This is by far one of the most detailed art books I’ve found with real concept production art overflowing each page.
It totals 128 pages and most of the book is full of real Lupin the Third artwork. Just note that technically this is a Japan-only release so it was never translated into English.
Thankfully you don’t need to reach much Japanese because the visuals are more than enticing. This is primarily an animator’s art book with tons of storyboards, x-sheets, animation cels, and rough sketches from the days of traditional animation.
This book actually prints complete storyboards for scenes from the anime and they’re all incredibly high-quality prints. You can learn so much just from skimming this artwork and it’s easily one of the best anime art books out there.
If you can justify the cost this will prove an amazingly valuable asset for art/animation inspiration.
The Art of My Neighbor Totoro is, once again, a Miyazaki special. This guy has quite a track record of hit films and it’s no wonder he’s Japan’s most revered animator.
This book catalogs the concept art from the 1988 film My Neighbor Totoro. It is printed in English and it offers some deeper insights into the film with character designs and backgrounds for their personalities.
Artists share their thoughts on the process and how they came up with the designs for each character. Many pages even have side-by-side comparisons with rough sketches compared to the final design.
And most of these concept sketches have never been released in any other book so this is a rare treat for all Miyazaki lovers.
If you liked this movie and wanna dig deeper into the anime production art then grab a copy of this book.
Makoto Shinkai has worked on many different features and video games with a very distinct art style. Perhaps his most well-known anime is 5 Centimeters per Second but he has released many other animated features.
One thing that stands out about Shinkai’s art style: is the level of background detail. It’s gorgeously rendered and pushes anime artwork far beyond what most other animators have done.
A Sky Longing for Memories: The Art of Makoto Shinkai curates all of his artwork into one amazing book. This features hundreds of rare background paintings which are the cornerstone of his films. Every single painting is a work of art and they really set the scene well.
This book is a huge curation of his beautiful backgrounds and the work that went into all of them. If you’re looking for real anime art inspiration this is a must-own resource.
One of the oldest animes out there with a huge fanbase is Future Boy Conan. This first aired in 1978 and features a post-apocalyptic sci-fi plot that’ll grab anyone’s attention.
Future Boy Conan Art Book celebrates the wondrous artwork from this series and how unique art styles were used in the anime’s production. Over 150 pages you’ll find character models, rough sketches, x-sheets, storyboards, and tons of classic artwork from the days of traditional animation.
Unfortunately, a small portion(maybe 25%) of this book just still shots from the anime. This may not be as useful since you can find a lot of those shots online.
But the rare production artwork more than makes up for this and the book itself is really fun to look through. If you’re into Miyazaki or the Conan series then you’ll adore this book.
Baccano! started as a light novel with illustrations but slowly gained popularity with its own anime series in 2007. The Baccano! Illustration Art Book shares a bunch of rare artwork from this series and from the original print publications.
This is all in Japanese so there’s no way to read the captions unless you’re semi-fluent. But the artwork is really the prize here and there’s so much to go around.
You’ll primarily find artwork from color illustrations and manga-style character designs. Many of these illustrations do come from the anime while others were used in print production. But they’re all full-color prints on very firm stock paper.
This art book comes with 112 pages which is a bit on the lighter side, but it’s still a really cool look into the Baccano series.
Fans of Cowboy Bebop will treasure this rare piece of anime history. The Cowboy Bebop Art Book comes straight from Japan with 200 pages full of rare anime production art.
This book is the real deal with dozens of sketches featuring characters, props, environments, vehicles, costumes, you name it.
All of this stuff is incredibly valuable for aspiring animators because you get to peek behind the scenes with character designs and storyboards from the TV show’s production.
But concept artists will get a lot from this book too since the character designs follow a similar structure. You get to see how the Cowboy Bebop artists designed and presented characters to the production team from raw sketches to finished illustrations.
The only pain point here is ordering directly from Japan since you’ll have a hard time finding it elsewhere.
But if you can snag a copy then you’ll find yourself skimming this artbook constantly as an inspirational resource and a look into the Cowboy Bebop production cycle.
The Gundam series has a huge following with a bunch of different anime shows & movies. If you search around you can find a ton of different art books based on this series and they all have different styles.
I personally recommend the Mobile Suit Gundam Illustrated 2013 artbook for its size and level of detail. This is another Japan-only release so you probably won’t be able to read anything in this book.
Thankfully you’re probably getting this book for the pictures and those won’t disappoint. The book features a ton of Gundam designs with raw sketches to showcase the concept process. It really is a design book focused on the Gundam world and the many different anime series.
You might pair this with the Gundam Complete Works guide which is a bit longer and comes with a larger variety of concept artwork.
They both come straight from Japan so they may be tough to find in stock. But Gundam fans will find a whole heap of inspiration from these never-before-seen visuals.
The Death Note Illustrations Art Book is absolutely gorgeous and it’s exceptionally well put together.
Inside the book, you’ll find 160 pages of Death Note illustrations and finished paintings from Japanese artist Takeshi Obata. A small portion of this book goes beyond just Death Note so it really feels like more of a collection of Obata’s works.
But I’d estimate close to 80% of the book is solely Death Note from the manga to the anime and various illustrations along the way.
This would make a great coffee table book if you like the Death Note style or Obata’s style. But for anyone else this book doesn’t have enough rare artwork to justify the import from Japan.
Yu Yu Hakusho is one other anime series that most western audiences know about. It first aired in the early ‘90s and built up a cult following over many years.
The Yu Yu Hakusho Art Book has some of the most varied artwork I’ve ever seen with watercolors, sketches, rough character designs, and completed pieces all packaged together. It’s a fairly short book with only 100 pages but thankfully every page is full of artwork.
It covers a 50/50 split between the anime and the manga so there it is plenty of variety. But it’s all Yu Yu Hakusho art and there are tons of rare pieces scattered throughout the book.
In my opinion, this is a must-own for any Yu Yu Hakusho fans. But since it doesn’t have many production pieces I wouldn’t recommend this for artists who have never seen the show.
And either way, I hope there are at least a couple of anime art books on this list to pique your interest.
I know everyone has different tastes and some art books focus more on animation while others cover illustrations or concept art. But if you’re a huge fan of anime and the Japanese art style in general then you’ll find plenty of inspiring books in this collection.
If you’re also into JRPGs and Japanese gaming then take a look at my picks for the best Japanese game artbooks as well.