In May this year, the Eshi 100 Gallery Exhibition opened in the Akihabara UDX building and ran for a brief 5 days showcasing new illustrations by some of the most recognized artists in Japan. The gallery exhibition theme was the very open-ended idea of 'Japan', allowing for amazing creativity from the artists along with many different conceptual representations. This gorgeous exhibition was collected as a book, Eshi 100 - Contemporary Japanese Illustration and sold during the event.
Eshi 100 is a heavy-weight 232-pages and A4-sized. Everything is translated in both Japanese and English, including artists' comments, which are included on the page adjacent to each illustration. There isn't any cover art, which is nice in that it shows a kind of equality for the artists included. And every artist receives the same display for their work; one full page illustration and one profile page.
It's rare to say this about a various artist collection, but you're probably going to be able to recognize just about all 100 artists included. This is intentional, as the artists selected are supposed to be modern-day eshi, loved and admired for the work even among their peers. Reading each artist's individual comment about the illustration adds to the experience of exploring this collection, and in many cases allows you to evaluate the art work in a different context. Above are illustrations from Katagiri Hinata, Kantaka, Ginta, and KeG.
There is a general bright and optimistic mood about the illustrations, which several artists commented on in regard to the recent tragic events in Japan. Other artists commented that they wanted to evoke a feel of precious memories with their illustrations, and chose to illustrate beautiful scenes that were relatable. Above are illustrations from Koume Keito, Coffee Kizoku, G Yusuke, Tsuji Santa, Mai Nanaca, and Hiiro Yuki.
I was surprised (in a good way) by this illustration by PutiDevil, with a very refined style and non-chibi character. It's a turn away from her usual work, but beautiful nonetheless. Unfortunately, she's also one of the few artists in the book that didn't provide a comment ^^;
Eshi 100 is the kind of collection where it really feels like each artist gave it their all on the illustration. Itoh Ben's illustration included several of the motifs about Japanese art he loves, such as sword wielding girls (a popular theme throughout the book), pigtails (mentioned by a few artists as a Japan feature), ninjas (more than a few in here), and mecha (surprisingly not much).
Suzuhira Hiro and Nishimata Aoi, having near iconic status on the eshi scene, both really gave it their all in their illustrations. The wa lolita style dress and coloring in Suzuhira Hiro's art work "simultaneously creates an image of Mt. Fuji." Interestingly, Nishimata Aoi's piece also centers around Mt. Fuji, "in the hope [of] capturing the flavor of this symbol of mysterious Japan."
I could easily write so much more about this book, but Eshi 100 - Contemporary Japanese Illustrations is just as much about having one-on-one time with each art work as the gallery exhibition was. Reading the artist's insights while mentally tracing the details in each illustration is the true value of owning this collection. To find out all of the participating artists, as well as links to where you can purchase this, check out the Eshi 100 website. I whole-heartedly recommend this, it's easily the best art book I've purchased in years.