When running things through a machine translator from Japanese to English, some ideas are more obvious than others – a consistent one on the Shinra Bansho Kanpeki Taizen (Perfect Encyclopedia) was that it’s a nice book, but rather expensive for what you get.
I’ve already covered the Shinra Bansho Card Encyclopedia (6/2006) and found it to be pretty nice, not to mention cheap, although it ends rather awkwardly at Chapter II, Volume 1. The Perfect Encyclopedia, released 4/25/2008, covers Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, and Fugakuden – it’s more of a complete feeling guide.
So what’s in it exactly, and is it worth the money?
Once again, click each image for its full size.
First off, some size comparisons.
As you might imagine, it’s larger, although that thickness isn’t just from the addition of more card catalogs – you’ll see shortly.
Something I forgot to do with the last book, although probably more necessary for this one anyway: It’s a big book, although in all honesty I was expecting something as huge as one of these hulking Akira volumes. Not that that means it’s tiny – and it’s actually a bit heavier.
The back and a crummy photo of the side. As suggested by the earlier comparison photo though, this is only the book’s sleeve, a nice hard board one.
And here’s the actual thing – it looks faaaaantastic, very classy. The reflective gold looks as impressive in person as you might imagine.
For the curious, the back is blank – it’s that classy.
The Card Taizen included one card – the Kanpeki Taizen actually includes two, tucked into packets in the front and back of the book. Once again, I’m not sure if I want to open mine, so to see what they look like check out Palsuke.com’s scans of the two cards.
The texture there is a good preview of the paper quality throughout the volume – they really went all out. (And yes, that indent there is of the card inside of the pack)
The book opens with some very impressive full color pages, including a world map, and going right into Chapter I, Volume 1.
In case I haven’t reiterated the word of the day here enough yet, the inside is rather classy too, with the nice marble backgrounds and all. Much like the Card Encyclopedia, most images are smaller or slightly smaller than an actual Shinra Bansho Chocolate card – but in this, certain ones, especially of important characters, are actually significantly bigger.
And there we go, Chapter II, Volume 2 – and as you can see, here too, the cards are laid out in different ways, in different sizes, throughout the book. The large main character art at the opening of each volume looks nice too.
Here’s some more examples further in. You’ll also see some occasional side notes with small illustrations.
And with that we segue into Fugakuden, a good place for the guide to end (and brand new at the time of the publication, released only 11 days before). Coming after the end of the numbered “Chapter” installments and the last to feature a blue haired protagonist, it was only one volume, and was kind of a “best of” compilation, featuring mostly reprints of cards from the previous series. The following saga, Shingoku no Shou, was only three volumes (rather than the usual four) in order to squeeze this in.
As such, the new cards of the volume fit handily on three pages with large art, with the reprinted cards being listed off in small form as they’ve of course all been included earlier in the book anyway.
After that comes one of the most interesting sections of the book, a brief few pages of early production art! It shows some of the various holographic effects toyed with, and the format transition to the front of the cards essentially becoming the quasi-Bikkuriman with background patterns that we know today.
Things are rounded out with this small preview of Shingoku no Shou, and we come to the end of the color pages. By now, it’s only a little over a hundred pages – which is a mere one third of the total book. So what have they stuffed into the much larger black and white section?
It appears to be full on, straight out written versions of the stories of each volume included in the book – whether these are written in more of a summary overview fashion or a novelized form (or, errr, both), I’m not really sure. Of course, one thing is clear: These sections are of little use to the Japanese illiterate…
Chapter II, Volume 1 is an exception, as after its opening page it instead features some gag manga starring Zepel and his robot Crip, with guest appearances by (bigger robot) Orion.
The other exception is Fugakuden, which has a nicely illustrated full-on manga story.
I like how they include the card by the character’s first appearance.
Here’s a page with a girl on it, in case the non-fujoshi audience was feeling neglected.
And this leads into one of the most interesting parts of the book to me: An interview with what appears to be the production staff! I’ve been curious about this for a long time, but I wasn’t even sure if there would be any leads on that if this book didn’t have anything, so it’s something of a relief. I’m not sure what the break down here is though, if they’re all the illustrators, if they’re the only creative project staff, or what…it’s something, though!
As for that mystery man in the corner…is that Wafer Man!? I’ll get into that soon…
It’s a few pages long, and has some little bits of unused art, like the one in the lower left corner. It’s fascinating to see…although, ultimately, another bit of the book that isn’t actually all that useful if you can’t read it.
And yes, apparently bulging, gleeful muscle man was one concept for the stubby little mascot we now know as Wafer Man. Riveting stuff.
Another glorious shot – did I mention this book is classy?
I got my copy brand new from Amazon.co.jp – it’s still in print as of this writing. Although you could potentially order it directly from the site using an existing Amazon account from another region, the shipping cost (at least to the US), is completely outrageous, about as much as the book itself. Even if it does have a nice heft to it, that doesn’t make sense, and it’s actually cheaper to use a middle man service of some sort, even if it does have handling fees.
Brand new, it costs 3,000 Yen – in better times, that’d be closer to 30 dollars USD, but with the weak dollar and strong yen as of this writing, that puts it in the 38 dollar range.
You can also get it used from a marketplace as well, sensible enough since you’ll have to use a middle man anyway, although it varies as to whether or not it’ll include one or both of the bonus cards, of course.
Bottom line: Is it worth the cost? Some pros and cons:
+ Pricey as it may be, it’s still significantly cheaper and easier than tracking down the actual cards.
+ Absolutely gorgeous book inside and out, a very nice display piece.
+ Has a “complete” feeling to it, as it includes from Chapter I to Fugakuden in full.
– Still expensive for what you get, considering the main course is only 1/3rd of its length, with the rest being black and white “filler” which is even less useful for those who can’t read Japanese.
– Does not have any original art or visual supplements (relationship charts, etc) like the Card Encyclopedia.
– Despite being in print, it may still be a pain to get due to issues with strange shipping costs and such as described in Amazon.co.jp’s case above.
I got it and the Card Encyclopedia in the same shipment with the help of a friend in Japan, so if you can find a way to package it together with something else you wanted anyway, it helps increase the value of the whole shipping cost angle (although that’s often the case when importing).
When it comes to imported knick knacks though, sometimes the biggest, prettiest ones are the most fun to own and show off, and in that respect, this book is a pretty good buy.