Kaba – Otomo Katsuhiro Art Book Review

Posted By yonghow on September 11th, 2009

“Kaba” (meaning Hippopotamus in Japanese ) is renowned manga artist and anime director Otomo Katsuhiro’s first published illustration book, a compendium of artwork he created from 1971 to 1989.

While a couple of other books by Otomo, like the superb Akira Club and the more recent Viva Il Ciclissimo ( a collaboration with the equally amazing Terada Katsuya ) have since been published, Kaba stands unique because of its smorgasbord of eclectic illustration work that precedes Otomo’s rise to fame after the phenomenal success of Akira. As such, it is a rare peek into the budding creative mind of the genius at work, allowing us, albeit vicariously, to follow Otomo’s progress as his illustration and narrative style evolved slowly over time to become what it is today.

Many of the featured art work in the book come with bite-sized Japanese and English production notes, and Otomo gives us insights and background information on the various projects he undertook. Otomo was also a big fan of  legendary French comic artist Moebius, and in many of his early works the influence can clearly be seen, in particular his use of harmonious, muted tones and light pastel colors.

Kaba was first published in 1989 and unfortunately is no longer in print anymore. Folks who are keen to get one however, can still find 2nd hand copies, in good condition on Amazon Japan marketplace sellers.

“Kaba – Otomo Katsuhiro Artwork” Art book details :

– Dimensions – 11.3 x 11.1 x 0.9 inches
– 178 pages, hardcover
– full color / black and white

You might also be interested in these items :


15 Responses to “Kaba – Otomo Katsuhiro Art Book Review”

Bitter Lix

I’m more and more amazed by your stock. Cheer-ya!

Daniel Zelter

“Kaba was first published in 1989 and unfortunately is no longer in print anymore.”

Unfortunately, just like the Marvel color Akira hardcovers. ;-; Seriously, I’m still wondering why Kodansha doesn’t use that version in a re-release, because it’s literally like “watching” an anime. Or does Otomo not really like that version, and only agreed, because he thought it would help expand his work here?


what a great artist Katsuhiro Otomo is!
i love the ilustration with the huge white whale stuck in the city, very surreal, also his cyber punk draws.

I wasn´t familiar with his pre-Akira period, indeed a style that it´s recognized inmediatly. i can see a tribute to M. C. Escher in the b/w draw of the sphere reflecting the whole room.

Agree with BitterLix, you must have a whole furniture just for books, ages ago i want to grab my hands with “Xenogears perfect Works” or “Slam Dunk 10 days after Cardboard cards set”. Any sugestions? expensive ones both things 🙁

Greetings! ñ____ñ


That’s a very good book, nice post man. I am wondering when Otomo will have new work publish again. May be a new movie or new comic. We need to see more from him out there.

Al T

Thats a great looking book. Otomo is one of my favourite artists, and I’d love this book, but it looks too pricey for me. I love that Eischer piece on the left page in the 11th photo.


I just ran across your blog in a google search and now I think I’m in love! Your blog is awesome. It really made my day!


I bought Kaba many years ago just after I had seen Akira (which was already out for at least a decide haha).. I stumbled upon it in the famous comic shop Lambiek in Amsterdam. They were pretty proud to have that book, but I basically put down all the money I had at the time (teen, always strapped for cash) and bought the book. I never regretted it, and it’s still one of my most cherished books..
I’m not a collector or anything, but there’s just something in his works that utterly compels me. Since then I managed to find a couple of small color Akira volumes from Epic (US) and even one of the colored big volumes (volume one 🙂 ). Only years later I was finally able to read Akira in its entirety after Dark Horse republished it. Still, Kaba is an amazing book, if you have any doubts if you should buy it, just do it ok? 🙂


I own this book. It is by far one of my favorites. Kaba is not easy to find these days, so if any of you see it out there grab it. Highly recommended!!


I own Kaba. It was published during the run of Akira here in the united states. I can say that the way Otomo creates stories about the way our mundane lives intersect with the devine and surreal shaped my entire consciousness as a writer (you guys are watching re runs of my work and have no idea I wrote them! Hee hee!)

Kaba has some short work in it, particularly a short story about soldiers fighting off mechanized killer robots that absolutely blew my mind. it’s called “A Farewell to Arms” and culminates with a lonely absurd shot of an unarmed man demanding the attention of the killer bureaucratic robot that just dismissed him as a threat because he no longer has a weapon. The robot just
walks away from the man, rendering his outrage completely impotent, and more tragic.

There is simply too much awesome work in Kaba to describe. There are MODELS of his artwork made in plastic and resin and fur! It’s one of my prized possesions, along with the Original red bound Disney book The Illusion of Life.

Otomo shaped me in incredible ways. Will always be grateful.


Has there ever been counterfeit versions of this book?

Bob Homes

Whoa, what a great artist! I especially like the hover bikes…so much freakin’ detail!


Yes, I’ve seen a pretty high quality counterfeit from a HK source running US$40-ish in the mid 2000s. Looking at details it’s clearly photographed from the original and cleaned up. Black type on colored backgrounds is soft and 4 color. The paper and print quality is neither typical Japanese nor circa 1990 in age.

Cobalt 60

Kaba 1 is available at Otomo’s exhibition at the price of 5000 yen, its original price. More interesting and less expensive than Kaba 2. I wonder if it’s a reprint.


  1. Katsuhiro Otomo: Kaba | Cheshirecat Blog
  2. Halcyon Realms – Animation.Film.Photography and Art Book Reviews » » Posters – Otomo Katsuhiro X Graphic Design Book Review