Art is a source of inspiration for every artist. While some digital artists are drawn to concept art for video games, others are more drawn to Disney artwork.
The world of Anime art, on the other hand, has a distinct aesthetic. If you’re a fan of anime, you’ll love these art books, which have a distinct Japanese flavor.
Given that there are many of books to choose from, I’ve narrowed this list down to my top twenty favorites. However, this still provides a wide selection of anime art from well-known programs in the West.
1. Duel Art: Kazuki Takahashi Yu-Gi-Oh! Illustrations
My introduction to Yu-Gi-Oh! came in the early 2000s, when it first made its way to the United States. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows, and Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged is a laugh-a-minute.
Kazuki Takahashi It’s a newer book that focuses more on the original Yu-Gi-Oh! art. There are just 128 pages in this book, but it has a slew of previously unseen artwork by the series’ creator Kazuki Takahashi!
The anime’s concept art is all here, including finished pieces as well as unfinished sketches and storyboards. The quality of the prints is excellent, and each piece of art is stunning.
Rare concept art depicts not only the cards but also the show’s creatures and characters. Additionally, you’ll see a few interviews with various artists, as well as Takahashi himself, who explore how Yu-Gi-Oh! has become such a global sensation.
This art book is a must-have for fans of the original YGO cartoon series. This collection of anime art is by far the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen, and many of the pieces have never been published before.
2. Dragon Ball: The Complete Illustrations
Dragon Ball is another successful Americanized anime series. In the beginning, it was a manga series that spawned an animated television series and a spinoff series called Dragon Ball Z.
A celebration of the whole Dragon Ball franchise, Dragon Ball: The Complete Illustrations features artwork from all of the Dragon Ball anime. Inside you’ll find rare concept art from the mid-80s, when Dragon Ball was initially launched in Japan, which dates from inside.
From Goku to Piccolo, there’s a wealth of fantastic concept art. It’s not just characters that are sketched out in production art; it also includes buildings, cars, and even action shots.
For every concept design and sketch, there is a little annotation indicating where it came from and when it was made.
In this art book, you’ll find more than just images from the DB/DBZ universe. As so, it serves as a window into the rich history of this remarkable television series.
3. Pokémon Adventures 20th Anniversary Illustrations
Pokémon is well-known by everyone and their grandma. A global phenomenon, it has quickly risen to the top of the list of most-played video games, mangas, and animes ever made.
There are no particular anime art books dedicated to the Pokémon series available on the market now. But a new book, named Pokémon Adventures 20th Anniversary Illustrations, features 170 pages of concept art and previously unseen artwork.
The Adventures mangas featuring characters other than Ash Ketchum are included in this art collection. Since the artwork in all of these mangas is similar and they all feature the same beloved Pokémon, this book may be considered nothing more than a massive collection of previously unpublished Pokémon concept art.
Because it’s less expensive, it’s a great option for series fans on a budget.
Only one other art book has been published on Ken Sugimori’s style, and it focuses primarily on the manga series Pokémon. That’s why this updated Adventures 20th Anniversary artbook is a must-have for any Pokémon aficionados.
4. The Art Of Fullmetal Alchemist
On their enigmatic quest to locate the philosopher’s stone, Edward and Alfonse are the focus of Fullmetal Alchemist. In the same way, this series began as a manga but swiftly became a hugely popular anime with the same name.
These volumes, on the other hand, aren’t solely devoted to concept art. As an alternative, they show off the series’ finalized drawings and character designs.
All the important characters, including Lust, Winry, Mustang, and Scar, are represented in the drawings. The artwork is printed in full color on glossy paper with a hardback style that is both sturdy and elegant.
The book’s small size is my only gripe. When compared to other artbooks, this one has only 90 pages, which leaves something to be desired. It’s true that there is a second artbook for FMA, but buying two books just to have all the artwork in one place may not be worth it.
I’d still recommend getting both if you’re looking for a coffee table book and an FMA type reference at the same time.
5. Der Mond: The Art of Neon Genesis Evangelion
It’s another anime that’s well-known among anime aficionados. An in-depth look at this series’ story and characters is provided by Der Mond: The Art of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Color prints fill 120 pages of this hefty tome. Prints with characters, postcard designs and even marketing/promotional art make up the majority of this collection’s offerings.
It’s possible that this collection of prints could be mistaken for a jumble of artwork because so few of them have subtitles. Finished illustrations must have a ratio of no less than 4:1 to concept art.
For fans of the anime series Evangelion, this is a must-have art book. However, there isn’t as much production art displayed here as you might think, making it less comprehensive than you may imagine.
6. Steins;Gate Art Works Imaginations of Huke
If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out on some of my favorite anime art. Whatever your prior knowledge of the series, you will be awestruck by this piece of art.
If you’re an artist who wants to draw your own manga or enhance your anime drawing skills, you’ll find this helpful. You’ll need to practice a lot, but you’ll also want to look at other people’s work to see how far you’ve come.
There are hundreds of full-page spreads in HQ print quality in this Steins;Gate art book. Awe-inspiring digital paintings that will keep you riveted for hours.
This book is a must-have for any fan of anime who wants a definitive look at the style’s visual elements.
7. Ghost in the Shell Original Collection
One of Japan’s most beloved anime/OVA franchises, Ghost in the Shell has been running for little over two decades.
There are a lot of bizarre art books for this series, but many of them showcase postcards or semi-popular art that you can easily acquire at your local art supply shop. The series’ artbook, however, is Ghost in the Shell Original Collection.
More than 1,000 images and idea designs cram the book’s 288 pages. A timeline based on the movie and anime samples is used to arrange the artwork.
Among other things, you’ll find character sketches, storyboards, animation cels, and a slew of visual ideas.
If you’re a fan of Ghost in the Shell or just curious about how anime is made, this is a must-have.
8. The Art of Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki is the Japanese animator that every artist should know. My particular favorite of his is Howl’s Moving Castle, one of several critically acclaimed films he directed.
The Art of Howl’s Moving Castle was exactly what I needed to get my hands on. Character sketches, digital paintings, background images, and even animation cels fill 256 pages in this art book’s hefty format.
Interviews with the film’s production staff and key animators are scattered throughout the book. But I do believe that the artwork is what really shines in this game.
The background paintings fascinate me because they display the meticulous attention to detail that goes into creating a convincing anime universe. All of them might serve as excellent sources of inspiration for budding backdrop painters and other artists.
This book’s artwork is unlike anything else I’ve seen, and I consider it a priceless piece of anime art.
9. The Art of Spirited Away
Spirited Away is another popular Miyazaki picture. A few years after the film’s debut, this art book was initially published.
The print quality, on the other hand, is superb and easily competes with more recent art books. All in all, there are 240 pages of artwork to be found in Spirited Away: The Art of Spirited Away.
Here you’ll find concept art for nearly every character and set piece in the film. It’s easy to admire these art prints because the pages are thick and the color spectrum is wide enough.
With this addition, you’ll get a lot of information about the film’s production, including insights from the cast and crew. An in-depth look at the process of creating Japanese animation in Studio Ghibli’s style is provided in this book.
10. The Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service
A classic fantasy film by Miyazaki is Kiki’s Delivery Service, which was released in 1989. The Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service was released on the fifteenth anniversary of the film Ghibli.
In this 200-page hardback artbook, you’ll get a fascinating glimpse at the process that went into making one of anime’s most enduring classics. When it comes to uncommon art, you could get dizzy just looking at it!
Lots of concept ideas and variants on character clothing, haircuts, props, and settings. Lots of ideas. A lot of ideas. This book is a celebration of the entire film, not just Miyazaki’s work, as the majority of the artwork comes from various animators and artists.
This artbook is a must-have for fans of the film. If you want to learn the art of anime, this book is an excellent resource.
11. Uzumaki Naruto: Illustrations
Artwork from the Naruto anime and manga may be found in Uzumaki Naruto: Illustrations, a small but extensive art book.
Characters and environments by diverse illustrators fill out the 104-page tome. But the bulk of this book is devoted to manga-related promotional graphics and posters.
Despite being a few years old, all of this artwork is still beautiful and faithful to the Naruto style. It’s a great art book for manga fans who want to learn more about the creative process.
A concept art book, on the other hand, isn’t really what this book is about. While searching for Naruto books with behind-the-scenes artwork, I’ve so far come up empty-handed.
12. The Art Works of Lupin the Third
Print artbook The Art Works of Lupin the Third is an 8.5 x 11 A4 print artbook containing rare production art from the anime. This is one of the most comprehensive art books I’ve ever across, with true concept art filling every page.
There are 128 pages in all, with the most of them devoted to actual Lupin the Third artwork. Just keep in mind that this is a Japanese-only release, hence no English translation exists.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know any Japanese to enjoy the graphics. There are numerous storyboards, x-sheets, animation cels, and rough sketches from the old days of conventional animation in this book particularly for animators.
The storyboards for the anime’s sequences are all printed in this book, and they’re all of the highest quality. You can learn a lot just by looking at this artwork, and it’s one of the best anime art books available.
If you can afford it, this will be an invaluable source of inspiration for artists and animators both.
13. The Art of My Neighbor Totoro
Once again, Hayao Miyazaki delivers a masterpiece with his latest film, The Art of My Neighbor Totoro. You can see why he’s Japan’s most acclaimed animator by looking at his impressive track record.
My Neighbor Totoro concept art is featured in this book. It’s in English, and it gives you a better understanding of the film’s characters and their backstories.
Each character’s creators discuss the creative process and the inspiration for their work. Even the rough sketches and the final design are shown side by side on many pages.
Even more unusual for Miyazaki devotees, many of these idea sketches have never been published before.
Get your hands on this book if you’re a fan of this film and want to learn more about the art of anime creation.
14. A Sky Longing for Memories: The Art of Makoto Shinkai
With a particular flair, Makoto Shinkai has worked on numerous films and video games. 5 Centimeters per Second is probably his most well-known animation, but he has made a slew of other films as well.
It’s the level of detail in the background that sets Shinkai apart from other artists. It’s a stunning piece of work that pushes the boundaries of anime art to a new level.
There is a beautiful book containing all of Makoto Shinkai’s paintings, entitled A Sky Longing for Memories: The Art of Makoto Shinkai. His films are based on a collection of hundreds of unique background paintings. All of the paintings are masterpieces and create the scene well.
All of his magnificent backgrounds and the time and effort that went into creating them are shown in this book. This is a must-have if you’re a fan of anime art in general.
15. Future Boy Conan Art Book
Conan is one of the oldest animes on the market, and it has a large following. A post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, this first aired in 1978 and is sure to catch the eye of any viewer.
Art from the Future Boy Conan anime is shown in this book, which showcases a variety of the show’s distinctive visual styles. More than 150 pages are devoted to classic animation artwork from the golden period of the medium, including character models, rough sketches, and x-sheets.
It’s unfortunate that around a quarter of this book is made up of only still images from the anime. Since there are so many of these images available for free on the internet, this isn’t as beneficial as it once was.
It’s a shame, but the rare production art makes up for it and the book itself is a lot of fun to peruse. It’s a must-read for fans of Hayao Miyazaki, as well as the Conan series.
16. Baccano! Illustration Art Book
Baccano! began as an illustrated light book, but in 2007, it was adapted into an anime series and quickly became a hit among anime fans. There is a lot of rare artwork from this series and the original print editions in the Baccano! Illustration Art Book.
Because the captions are only in Japanese, anyone who doesn’t speak the language fluently will be unable to follow along. That being said, there’s plenty of artwork to go around.
Color illustrations and manga-style character designs make up the bulk of the artwork here. Many of these images are taken from the anime, while others were utilized in the printing of the comics. The only difference is that they’re all full-color prints on heavyweight stock.
Even though it only has 112 pages, this art book offers a fascinating peek into the Baccano series.
17. Cowboy Bebop Art Book
Rare artifacts like this one from Cowboy Bebop are treasured among anime fans. The Cowboy Bebop Art Book is a 200-page collection of rare anime production art from Japan.
In this book, you’ll find a plethora of sketches depicting anything from characters to locations to vehicles to clothing.
Aspiring animators can learn a lot from these materials, which include character designs and storyboards from the show’s production.
However, because the character designs follow a similar format, this book will be extremely useful to concept artists as well. Cowboy Bebop’s artists were able to show the production crew how they came up with their characters, from initial sketches to finished images.
The only issue is that you’ll have to order it directly from Japan because it’s so hard to come by elsewhere.
For inspiration and an inside look at how Cowboy Bebop came to fruition, this art book is worth hunting out if you can.
18. Mobile Suit Gundam Art Book
The Gundam franchise has a large fan base, with a variety of anime productions and movies based on it. It is possible to obtain numerous art books based on this series, and each one is unique.
Because of its size and amount of detail, the Mobile Suit Gundam Illustrated 2013 artbook comes highly recommended by me. There’s no way you’ll be able to read anything in this book because it’s another one that’s exclusive to Japan.
Fortunately, the graphics in this book are what will draw you in, and they do not let you down. Raw sketches of the Gundam designs accompany the finished models in this book, which shows how the designs came to be. Gundam and its many anime series are the centerpiece of this design book.
Alternatively, you might use this guide in conjunction with the Gundam Complete Works guide, which is a bit more extensive and includes more concept art.
Both are direct imports from Japan, thus they may be hard to come by. There will be plenty of new ideas for Gundam enthusiasts in these never-before-seen images, however.
19. Death Note Illustrations Art Book
The Death Note Illustrations Art Book is stunning in every way, and it’s been put together with great care and precision.
160 pages of Death Note illustrations and final paintings by Japanese artist Takeshi Obata can be found inside the book’s pages. Obata’s works aren’t limited to Death Note in this book, thus it’s more like a compendium of his work.
However, I’d say that the manga and anime, as well as numerous illustrations along the route, account for close to 80% of the book.
A coffee table book in the Death Note or Obata style would be a terrific addition to your collection. There is not enough rare artwork to justify the cost of shipping from Japan to anyone else.
20. Yu Yu Hakusho Art Book
Another anime series that is well-known to western viewers is Yu Yu Hakusho. Early in the 1990s, it debuted and quickly became one of television’s most popular shows.
You may find watercolors, drawings, rough character designs, and finished pieces all in one place in the Yu Yu Hakusho Art Book. Even though the book is only 100 pages long, every one of those pages is crammed with beautiful illustrations.
There is plenty of variation because it covers both anime and manga equally. But it’s all Yu Yu Hakusho art, and the book is littered with a slew of incredibly uncommon images.
It’s a must-have for lovers of Yu Yu Hakusho. Artists who have never seen the performance may find it difficult to follow along because there aren’t many examples of the production elements.
In any case, I hope this collection of anime art books has piqued your interest at least a little bit.
I understand that everyone’s tastes in art books vary, and some focus on animation while others cover illustrations or concept art. But if you’re a huge fan of anime and the Japanese art style in general then you’ll find plenty of inspiring books in this collection.
If you’re a fan of JRPGs and Japanese gaming in general, you might be interested in my selections of the best Japanese game artbooks.