Girl power This Russian artist gives an added sense of depth and maturity to his depiction of manga characters
The work of über-popular manga artist Ilya Kuvshinov is collected in one volume – we assess whether it’s a must-buy.
The lush, deep colours and tones of his illustrations really do jump out of the page
Author Ilya Kuvshinov Publisher PIE Books Price £23 Web www.pie.co.jp/english Available Now
Momentary is the first art book by the talented and popular Ilya Kuvshinov. The Russian-born artist, who now lives in Tokyo, has become a mainstay of the manga scene and is a huge name on social media, too.
At first glance, all the genre tropes are carefully adhered to, from wide, expressive eyes and young girls to sweeping Japanese landscapes, both urban and suburban.
On closer inspection, however, Ilya is no copyist, but has forged a style that’s all of his own. Characterised by pinpoint precision and attention to detail, his art – which ranges from cartoonish to near-photoreal – has an honest depth to it that makes it stand out from other manga artists’ work. And this lovingly curated, softback book brings together the best of his work from the past three years.
The vast majority of these depict women on the young side, but nowhere is there any sense of impropriety. Far from voyeuristic, Ilya’s art is not about physical attributes, but instead is firmly focused on evoking personality and back story. As he himself says in the introduction to the final chapter, his goal is “narrative driven art…. characters that connect with [the audience] on an emotional level.” In that aim, he’s succeeded.
You don’t need to buy a book to enjoy Ilya’s art: you could simply join his near-one million followers on Instagram and check out his work there. But, perhaps mindful of this, the publishers have lavished attention on the print quality of this book. And so the lush, deep colours and tones of his illustrations really do jump off the physical page, in a way that they don’t on screen. And there’s an extra treat in store: a significant number of work-inprogress sketches that reveal a rare insight into Ilya’s artistic process.
On the downside, there’s not a lot to actually read in this book: just a few paragraphs introducing each of the six chapters, which appear in both English and Japanese. But it’s still interesting to hear the artist’s brief comments about his past few years of creativity, such as why he uses a square-shaped canvas (“it’s the perfect way to capture people’s emotions”). Given the amount of art on show, it’s astonishing that he’s produced so much in so little time. We can’t wait for volume two. Ra ting ★★★★
Ilya’s figures are often seen in the most mundane of environments, which introduces a sense of contrast.
Big eyes – check. Button nose – check. Delicate jawline – check. But Ilya’s art is manga with a difference, as his book testifies.
The artist aims to capture “casual gestures” in his work.