August 20, 2008
I've been looking forward to writing about the Ōkami Art Book since it arrived on my doorstep recently. It's the most remarkable book I've ever seen devoted to video game art.
I've written here before about how much I admire Ōkami, and this lovely book only serves to deepen my respect for the extraordinary care and artistry lavished on this game by its designers. Even if you disliked Ōkami; - heck, even if you hated it - I still believe you would find this an exceptionally interesting book.
The book's actual title is Ōkami: Official Complete Works, and it is a gorgeous 288-page collection of concept sketches, character art, location designs, and bestiary - all inspired by Japanese watercolor paintings that serve as the visual framework for the entire game.
Aside from the sheer beauty of the illustrations, the book also contains illuminating and often humorous commentary by the artists who created the various characters and locations. Included are many early renderings that provide a glimpse into the iterative process of collaborative brainstorming, sketching, revising, and finally producing final full-color designs.
The Ōkami Art Book also functions as a compilation of the image scrolls and ancient manuscripts that tell the Ōkami story from its origins in mythology. As the preface states (and remember, this is a Japanese book, so the preface appears at the place westerners would normally call the back of the book):
The text was first translated into modern Japanese and then into English for this book, but the format and layout of the original documents have been preserved.
The book exudes quality with stunning layouts, well-organized features, and a perfect balance of decorative calligraphic and easily-readable fonts. These may seem like small things, but in an art book like this, the presentation matters almost as much as the art itself. My only complaint: I wish it was available in hardcover.
I'm obviously crazy about this book, and I encourage you to give it a look and add it to your collection if you're a gamer who cares about video game art design...or simply art, period. The Ōkami Art Book serves as exemplary documentation of the care and devotion that go into the visual design of a major video game. If you decide to pick it up, consider buying it from your local bookseller if you're lucky enough to have one. They may not have it in stock, but they'll be happy to order it for you, and I promise it will be worth the wait.
Many thanks to Matthew Gallant who was the first to tell me about the Ōkami Art Book.