Former god of futanari doujinshi, current god of anime character design Uno Makoto presents his first compiled volume of illustrations in the newly released UNO! artbook. When the news first came to us at the beginning of November I was overjoyed at the prospect of getting a book that would include not only his past material but also work on the currently airing Dragonaut series; with its pretense to comprehensiveness I was hoping that this would be a volume similar in scope to other artbooks we’ve recently reviewed here, but after looking it over I’m sorry to report decidedly mixed results:

Title: UNO! ~ Uno Makoto Artworks
Author: Uno Makoto
Release Date: November 30th, 2007
Pages: 88 A4 (full color) + one A3-size poster
Publisher: Shueisha
ISBN 13: 978-4087821604
Price: 2,800 JPY (tax included)
Availability: Amazon.co.jp, Mangaoh, Book1, BeNippon, Nippon Export, HLJ


Heisei Democracy Artbook Review: UNO! ~ Uno Makoto Artworks

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About the Artist

Uno Makoto first came to my attention in 2001 as “Macha” (まっちゃ), the artistic prodigy behind some of the most evocative futanari art on the internet at the time. His site had only recently closed, and his work was still in plentiful circulation online; in the six years between now and then all traces of his former website and his doujin circle “OZONE” have vanished from the web, with a single exception: a lone [ERO] illustration sent to fellow artist Sirius☆ in April of 2000 that marked the closing of his site, and represents the only piece of futanari art by Macha that remains online in an official capacity.

The closure of his site and his cessation of doujin activity coincided with his employment as character design lead for the Love Hina TV anime (I didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight that’s probably what attracted me to the series). His career from that point has consisted of character design work for Gravion (2002), Uchuu no Stellvia (2003), Witchblade (2006), and Dragonaut (2007), with stints keyframing for various other shows in between. He also drew a monthly comic strip for Newtype magazine for two years (April 2003 – March 2005), which is compiled for the first time in this book.

Book Contents

The pages of UNO! contain promotional artwork from the four shows Uno designed most recently (Dragonaut, Witchblade, Stellvia, and Gravion) with a heavy emphasis on Witchblade. The aforementioned Newtype comic strips are included as well, along with two pieces of original art first published in other settings.

In total there are three new images created exclusively for this book: the cover, the fold out poster, and this two page spread of the Dragonaut heroines. The bulk of the other material is drawn from promotional illustrations and posters found in magazines, DVD and CD cover illustrations, and limited edition extras distributed with past DVD releases.

If you think 88 pages is too few to claim comprehensive coverage of the art from four anime series, you’re right. Uno’s Dragonaut artwork is still coming in full force (as we saw in this month’s Megami), and there is much more official art for Stellvia and Gravion out there than is represented in the book. Of the four series only Witchblade can lay some claim to comprehensive coverage.

My initial impression after surveying the contents was “… this is it?”. After looking through it more closely my dismay was tempered by the realization that I had just received all of the cover art from the R2 Witchblade DVD releases without buying the DVDs, which was a good feeling, but with this review coming right after a look at INO’s Velvet Skin I can’t help but feel I didn’t get my money’s worth – no matter how you slice it, UNO! contains less than half the content at nearly the same price.

Obviously when it comes to ones favorite artists a cost/benefit analysis such as this doesn’t really enter the picture, but I can’t help wishing this had been a bit more substantial volume. Goodies such as character design development sketches are no doubt reserved for the official fanbooks of the respective series, but they would’ve been appreciated here; more text from the artist would have been nice as well, instead of just the briefly annotated entries in the bibliography.

I don’t regret the purchase of this book in the slightest, but from a purely objective standpoint it doesn’t have the same value for its price as some similar items currently on the market.

As a final note, it’s interesting to see the developent of Uno’s artistic style from Gravion through Stellvia and now Witchblade and Dragonaut. There is definitely a resemblance that ties them together, but it strikes me that the gap between Stellvia and Witchblade is a wide one indeed in stylistic terms, with his two most recent Gonzo series clearly standing apart from his earlier work. Also interesting to note is his recent experimentation with gradients in his coloring work (instead of cel shading). This can be seen here in the cover, the pinup poster, and his recent Megami offering; I’m not sure which style I prefer, but it’s good to see that he’s still experimenting and growing as an artist.

My biggest Uno-related dream is to see him branch out from anime into other media (even back into doujinshi) so we could see more of his work first hand. The job of an anime character designer isn’t one that really lends itself to massive volumes of polished work suitable for publication in artbooks, alas.