More than just beautifully painted pictures of landscapes and skies, background art is an integral and crucial component of anime, setting the stage for the performance of all characters in the film. A skilfully painted background plate can really accentuate the mood and atmosphere of any given scene, at the same time elevating the aesthetic quality of the film.
Here are 8 books featuring the background art from various anime films that I highly recommend :
1) Memories Of The Sky – Makoto Shinkai
A compilation of plates from Makoto-san’s earliest short films like Memories Of A Distant Start, The Place Promised In Our Early Days, and his first animated feature 5 Centimetres. There’s A LOT to like in here.
2) Tekkon Kinkreet White (Shiro) Book
Michael Aria’s anime rendition of Taiyo Matsumoto’s manga of the same name. The film is a dizzying display of art director Kimura Shinji’s astounding background art from start to finish, and is a must see for anyone remotely interested in anime, film or illustration.
Note : Two art books were published for Tekkon – White (Shiro) features the background art, while Black (Kuro) covers image boards and concept art. Both are excellent.
3) Kazuo Oga Animation Artworks
A veteran background artist with Ghibli, Oga-san has created countless pieces of mesmerizing art for many of the studio’s most iconic films. In 2007 his solo Background Art Exhibition was held at the MOT and was exceptionally well received.
4) Of Light & Darkness : Ogura Hiromasa Background Art Book
Dark and moody background plates are Ogura’s forte, as seen in his work for Mamoru Oshii’s films like Ghost In The Shell and Innocence, and Hiroyuki Okiura’s Jin-roh – The Wolf Brigade.
5) The Background Art Of Yamamoto Nizo
Yet another Ghibli veteran, Yamamoto-san has also created background art for Madhouse’s hugely popular The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
6) The Art Of Steamboy
Art director Kimura Shinji (Tekkon Kinkreet) flexes his artistic muscles in Otomo’s epic Steamboy. While the film was not quite what we had hoped it’ll be, the staggering amount of gorgeous background art generated for this film is just mind-blowing.
7) The Art Of Children Who Chase Lost Voices
Art book for Makoto Shinkai’s 2nd animated feature. Personally the film wasn’t to my liking, but the quality of the background art in this one is truly exceptional.
8) The Background Art Of Wolf Children
I really enjoyed Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children, and this whopper of an art book is one of the best I’ve seen this year. While many of the background plates are still painted in traditional (2D) style, CG now plays a bigger and bigger role in anime films and the book elaborates on this as well.
In addition to the books that I’ve listed above, all of the “Art Of” books by Ghibli also contain a substantial collection of background art created for each film. Take for example, the Art Of Arrietty, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Ponyo.
I also recommend the series of background art books published by Studio Kusanagi, here, here and here. When I was working on Freedom Studio Kusanagi painted background plates for us regularly and I was always impressed by the quality and speed of their turnovers.
I’m sure there must be other great background art books out there – if you know of any worth picking up, please share with the rest of us here. :]