Artbook Spotlight: Poison
February 10, 2012
You Higuri – Seishinsha – Japanese – 100pgs – ISBN 487892194
You might remember that I’m a big fan of You Higuri. I’ve featured her before, and since then, I’ve read Gorgeous Carat, so my admiration has only grown. What can I say, I have a weakness for books that are both BL and Indiana Jones. I didn’t even think that was possible, but I find that I like it quite a bit.
She writes wonderful period pieces. The stories are great, and very well-researched as well, which is one of my favorite parts, of course. Ludwig II and Angel’s Coffin are both quite interesting because they include so many facts on historical figures now mostly lost to history, overshadowed by the events that transpired after their deaths. Granted, their lives didn’t have much to do with demons, but Angel’s Coffin in particular had quite a bit of history I was unaware of, and reading it was far more interesting than it would have been had the story been about a generic prince rather than Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria.
But along with her research, Higuri draws wonderful, wonderful period illustrations. She puts a lot of work into researching clothing and setting, and she draws it all in a lot of detail. It really helps bring her stories to life that much more, and makes the fictitious lives of Cesare Borgia, Mary Vetsera, or even her actual fictional characters like Ray and Florian a pleasure to read, whether the setting is historical Italy, Austria, or France.
Thus, I was very interested in seeing her artbooks. She has two. Poison is the older of the two, and the newer is called Jewel. I badly wanted the latter, as Higuri’s artwork becomes more polished and elaborate with age, but I thought I would snap up Poison while I could.
You can’t tell from the scan, but the title is printed with a kind of strange, shimmery foil. The bondage guy on the cover is a little uncharacteristic, as far as what I’ve read, but this does show you the level of detail and elegance you’ll find inside. There are a lot of buckles and chains on that outfit, that’s for sure.
Unfortunately, this book is short, and difficult to scan (the page size is slightly larger than my scanner, and the binding is brittle), so I have less to show you this time around.
The first 35 or so pages cover Seimaden, Higuri’s first series. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill 90s shoujo fantasy, comparable to RG Veda by CLAMP and Gestalt by Yun Koga, both of whom are contemporaries. It’s got angels, demons, doomed love, backstabbing, crazies, and about everything you could want from this type of story in it.
The Seimaden illustrations are pretty, but they definitely lack a certain amount of elegance and polish that Higuri brings to her later work. You can see the difference in the new covers she drew for the series, which make me crazy jealous of how pretty they are. The hair in particular is very early 90s in these older Seimaden illustrations, and she uses a lot of details in jewelery and costume that she simplifies and streamlines later. But they’re still very good illustrations, and a lot of them feel a bit Mucha-esque with background patters and things like that.
If crazy setting detail is what you want, Ludwig II has you covered. I was surprised when I found out that this was such an early work, because the art in the series proper is very polished and quite stunning. Looking at the color artwork here, I can see that it is fairly consistent with her work at the time, with the same type of character designs and color pallet and whatnot, but the period detail is what sets this apart from the earlier Seimaden illustrations. I mean… that chair. That wall. It looks even better in the comic.
This is from a one-volume series called Lost Angel. There are several illustrations included in the artbook for Lost Angel, which surprised me given the length. The illustrations are also shocking X-like, but again, CLAMP and You Higuri are contemporaries, so both share a kind of elaborate 90s dark fantasy style. This came out about a year or so after X, before the movie and likely before the series was very popular, so I think the similarity is just a product of the time. I have no idea what the plot of Lost Angel is, but I’m guessing it probably has something to do with demons, which is a running theme in Higuri’s work.
This contemporary-looking illustration stands out in a book full of period and fantasy work. I was fooled, though, since Cutlass is actually about a pair of brothers that get dragged off to an alternate dimension to be pirates, or something. Cutlass was a Higuri series I wanted to read very badly, but it apparently was truncated, and a sequel died when Biblios went bankrupt.
This is from a book called “Cain,” I think, but I can find no information about it. Cain might also be the name of an imprint at Gakken, and maybe this is a one-shot illustration she did for something else? But this is another example of a strangely CLAMP-ish illustration, but it might only make me think of X because of the swords, cityscape, and big blowing cloaks. I’m obviously partial to this kind of illustration, though, and I really like this one.
And I can’t think of a better person to end on than Noir. This book came out in 2000, which was about a year after Gorgeous Carat: Virtue of Darkness started running. Again, as pretty as the illustrations in this book are, Higuri’s art keeps getting better with age, and her recent covers for the re-release of Virtue of Darkness make me jealous again. This particular Noir image is actually a double-page spread with Florian, and as lovely as the Florian portrait is, my scanner isn’t big enough to get both. I love the art in Gorgeous Carat in particular, since I feel like the late 19th century Paris setting lends itself to Higuri’s artistic strength, but it’s a step removed from the lavish palace settings of some of her other work, and I admire the stripped-down elegance in the art here.
I really, really like this book. I picked it up on a whim, but I was really shocked when it arrived and I realized how gorgeous it really is. And this is from her very earliest series! Higuri’s had twelve years to hone her skills since this book came out, and as I said, her current illustrations, especially new covers for old work, make me want her second artbook very badly. Jewel came out in 2006, and I suspect it might be a lot of Gorgeous Carat and Cantarella illustrations. Which is exactly what I want, actually. You’ll probably see it featured here sometime in the near future.
One last thing that I found interesting. There was a note in English from Higuri in the very back of the book, suggesting that she’s much more popular internationally than I first suspected. This is especially strange given that the book was published in 2000. I’m glad for it, because we have had so much of her work published in English, and all of it is wonderful in its own way.