Eroicaverse: Plus Ultra

May 26, 2012

This is yet another article looking at From Eroica With Love supplemental material. For the index, go here.

Since I made it through all of the From Eroica With Love spinoffs and the series still hasn’t been license rescued, I’m going to move on to the artbooks and supplementary volumes. I could do this for years. Someone had better step in and stop me.

Plus Ultra is more or less the Yasuko Aoike artbook. As you will find out, there are dozens of others, but this is the coffee table book, the largest one with the most pages, covering the largest number of series and the longest time period. Two editions of this book exist. The earlier one features a cover image of a rainy BMW hood, and comes with a CD-ROM with the images on it. The one here is a later edition issued a little less than 10 years later, and as far as I know the only difference is the cover and CD-ROM.

There are eight sections in this book. The first and largest, at 62 pages, covers Eroica, and the second largest covers Alcazar, Aoike’s other major work. The other sections are for Z, Sons of Eve, El Halcon, and all the other things I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about these illustrations that I haven’t said elsewhere. One of the best things about Aoike’s comic art is that she always brings a sense of place to it, and there are a lot of illustrations like this one that are clearly supposed to be somewhere specific. And that’s nice, given most shoujo color art has ambiguous backgrounds.

The types of images are also a mix. The one above was probably just a magazine illustration, but you can also find the cover illustrations to most/all of the volumes, images that were probably used on the cover of Princess over the years, and smaller, gag-looking illustrations that were likely used on giveaway goods.

I’m partial to the Klaus illustrations, because Dorian is usually wearing something hideous. But some of these also show Klaus in a more peaceful setting than we would normally see, which is also nice.

See what I mean?

One of the more interesting things about this book is that it’s one of the only places you can find the post-hiatus From Eroica With Love illustrations. I prefer the character designs of the older illustrations, but they tend to look more like shoujo glamour shots than the later stuff, which are usually quiet moments in some sort of setting. These are undated, which is a shame, but the one above is definitely a more recent illustration, and I believe the other two are probably both from the last 15 or so years. The Dorian one only has a stage backdrop, but even that is a more complete and realistic scene than one usually finds in shoujo color illustrations.

Dorian isn’t always dressed hideously, though. This is an older illustration, from around the time Seven Days in September was running. The shorter hair gives it away. But you can also see that the setting is more ambiguous here.

Another from that time period, but with a setting. There are plenty of illustrations of both Klaus and Dorian together. Some of them are boring, some of them are double-page illustrations (and thus I can’t scan them), but plenty of them are bizarre, like this. Dorian taking a bite out of Klaus’s newspaper. The two playing with a giant chess set in a park with dozens of Russian spies in the background. An especially strange one where Klaus is yelling at little kid versions of several of the main characters. You know. Weird stuff.

This is an early illustration that’s pretty consistent with the newer stuff, though. The illustrations in the new chapters of Princess Gold always have both of them like this, though the settings are usually a bit more concrete.

Here’s a page of illustrations that were probably used on giveaway items. You can tell because they’re mostly very simple illustrations with no backgrounds. All of these are old or very old, but Lawrence is on there, and that’s the important part. Also, Volovolonte, who I am inordinately fond of as well. He appears later in the series, for what it’s worth, but was last seen in English in volume two.

Two more for the road. Here’s one of Klaus on a horse that I like, also from around Seven Days in September…

And one of Dorian, from the cover of volume… 31, maybe.

One thing that disappointed me a little is that this isn’t comprehensive. There are 62 pages of Eroica illustrations, and while some pages may have 3 or more illustrations on them (mostly for the cover and simple giveaway illustrations), the series has been running for over 30 years, and there are hundreds of illustrations. Not even all the current ones to date appear in here, and it’s a real shame. But what does appear is probably the best of them, and there’s still plenty to like about this book.

Chapter 1-II covers illustrations from Z, with sixteen pages of illustration total. I’m skipping these for now, but there’s plenty here that is missed both in the Z artbook I’m going to talk about later and the Z Complete volume that I talked a bit about last month. Plenty of color illustrations there, but not all of them. Z Complete also has some images that don’t appear in Plus Ultra.

Chapter 2 is 42 pages of illustrations from Alcazar, a series about the life of Don Pedro de Castillo. It’s Aoike’s second-longest series, and was recently completed at around 13 volumes and a gaiden. I haven’t read it, so I can’t offer additional commentary. But she was drawing this while Eroica was on hiatus, and you can see her illustration style is very similar, right down to the fact that Don Pedro looks like Klaus. NSFW – I’ve featured him before, too.

Chapter 3 is 22 pages long, and covers the Sons of Eve. These illustrations are very old, and are mostly background-less glamour shots, as I mentioned before. This one was one of the only ones with a setting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feature my favorite thing about all these Sons of Eve illustrations, chest hair on very bishounen character designs, but I had to include it. Love those legs.

Chapter 4 includes 18 pages of illustrations from naval-themed short works, including Seven Seas, Seven Skies, El Halcon, and an unrelated series called Trafalgar (that has characters that look an awful lot like Tyrian and Benedict). I was disappointed to learn that none of the illustrations from El Halcon or Seven Seas, Seven Skies are actually The Man in Purple, the painting in From Eroica With Love. Some of them are close. But! That illustration does exist! It appears in another book, though.

Chapter 5 is four pages long, and covers illustrations from medieval-themed series. This particular illustration is two of the four pages, from a series called Brother Falco. Monks are a hard subject for shoujo manga.

Chapter 6 is simply called gallery, and includes 20 pages of images that don’t fit anywhere else. I suspect a handful, like the one above, are fantasy-themed magazine illustrations and don’t go with a particular series. There are also several crossover images, mostly with the main characters from Eroica, Eve, and Seven Seas Seven Skies. Those are mostly of the giveaway illustration ilk, with no background and drawn very simply. I’m not sure what they would have been used for (other than other artbooks), since the series ran at different publishers.

And Chapter 7 is called “origins,” and contains a lot of illustrations from her very early shoujo work, mostly with several per page. A more typical page looks like this, but the one above has those two that are actually illustrations. That is from a series/short story, though I can’t recall which one at the moment. I’ve always liked those illustrations and that ambiguous character. There are six pages total.

Availability: This book is still in print and can be bought from most major Japanese online bookselling sites new. ISBN 4835441869. It is expensive though, and a new copy will run you around $55-$60. You can find it used on eBay and other places for cheaper, though it will still be around $35-$40. The older edition starts around that price as well, though sometimes the prices creep up on that one.

One Response to “Eroicaverse: Plus Ultra”

  1. BlueLobster Says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’m familiar with the older cover and wasn’t sure if this version contained the same material or was the same size (sans the CD). I couldn’t find info or reviews anywhere, so this has been most helpful! Looks like between this and all the other “Eroicaverse” offerings my wish-list has grown exponentially.


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