Review: The Art of Grasshopper Manufacture


Enter the mind of SUDA51

Grasshopper Manufacture, to put it simply, is a Japanese game company. Their games are surreal and weird. Each one looks, sounds, and plays differently. And it's all from the mind of video game auteur Suda51. Art direction plays an extremely important role in making a Grasshopper Manufacture game a Grasshopper Manufacture game so it is no surprise that The Art of GrassHopper Manufacture was produced to celebrate the imagery that accompanies the each game. Narrated by Suda51, this book acts as a creative biography giving development insights and meaning behind the eye candy.

 Art direction is extremely important in a GrassHopper Manufacture game to help create the feel of an unique game world and now all those worlds are packaged into one book; The Art of GrassHopper Manufacture.

The Art of GrassHopper Manufacture: Complete Collection of SUDA51
Published By: PIE International + PIE Books (Website)
Written By: SUDA51
Released: June 2015
MSRP: $28.95 (Amazon)

First impressions are good. It's filled with pretty pictures with a clean layout for easy browsing and has a good sense of weight in your hands. Grasshopper Manufacture is an eclectic developer never settling on just one style or just one motif and thus this book is filled to the brim with a variety of illustrations and styles. It documents the entire developer's catalogue from the games still in production Let it Die to their first attempts as a developer The Silver Case. Only the absolutely hardcore fans will notice omissions and not all the games have art assets to contribute, either because of licencing issues or otherwise. This isn't a massive downside though as the title has enough original content to keep your visual cortex engaged throughout. 

There is a great selection of art on display here. It ranges from concept art to promotional material to art assets seen in-game. There isn't an even distribution of pages per franchise as games that had an international release like Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes take up a lot more pages than smaller titles like Sine Mora and Michigan. However, I never felt like I wanted to see more from one particular game. This book places an emphasis on character and monster design so be prepared to see a lot of humanoid shapes and faces. There are a handful environmental pieces to help readers get a feel for the game's visuals and provide some diversity to the title. Western fans of the Fatal Frame series will be happy to see a small section dedicated to the Japanese only Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. This title tries to cram in as much as possible and goes as far as to include the various renditions of the company logos through the ages. 

The text is peppered throughout the book, mainly in Japanese with a fully translated section at the back. It's clear the book wasn't designed to have English text so it had been included all in the back causing a lot of flipping back and forth to connect the two paragraphs together. The formatting of the text is good opting for a clear monochrome sans-serif font, but the size is on the small side requiring piercing stare to decipher. The inclusion of a complete translation is a highly welcome addition allowing westerners to enjoy this book regardless of purchase location. 

The book's subtitle: Complete Collection of Suda51 should not be discounted as the book reads like a creative biography. The words guide the reader through each game as Suda51 recounts his experiences, design philosophy, and development insights. I found myself being more and more absorbed into the companies history through his recollections after multiple viewings of this book. They give each game more personality and depth than just looking at the pictures. Skipping over the written portions of this book is missing half the brilliance of the title. I was especially impressed by the way Suda was able to convey his personal struggles as the head of a game company with the creative hardships of matching visuals to game design. It helped me grow more attached to the art as a result and understand the philosophy behind every game this company had produced. 

The book is a 224-page softback with a soft sleeve giving it a bit more class than a typical trade paper back. The size is just a bit shy of an A4 sheet, but the pictures are printed big and bold with the pieces showing off the most colour benefitting the most. The front cover is a mess. A collage of black and white art from various Grasshopper games with the uniform book title lined up across the whole thing. The actual title looks like it was formatted on WordArt as the font colour is slightly transparent making it difficult to read. The paper is a thick grainy stock giving the book weight and thankfully doesn't give off an excessive amount of sheen when viewed directly under the light. 

Grasshopper Manufacture once had a slogan 'Punk not dead' exclaiming the idea of a punk subculture within the video game industry. Their individual and unique nature towards video games can be seen in their art by never lingering on the same thing and subverting the norm to be uniquely interesting. The Art of Grasshopper Manufacture is a title with lots of character, colour, and creativity. Suda's dialogue through the title injects some human personality amongst the images of monsters, demon hunters, and assassins. If you've ever found yourself being drawn to a Grasshopper Manufacture game then I highly recommended this book. It's a must have for anyone that has been bewitched by the visual callings of a Suda51 game. 

[This review is based off a review copy provided by the publisher]

Game Art: Art from 40 Video Games and Interviews with Their Creators 
Published By: No Starch Press
Written By: Matt Sainsbury
Released: September 10, 2015
MSRP: $39.95
ISBN-13: 978-1593276652

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The Art of GrassHopper Manufacture reviewed by Anthony Redgrave



A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide


Anthony Redgrave
Anthony RedgraveContributor   gamer profile

Born in the 90's, Anthony was raised on Anime and cultivated a strong passion for Japanese culture and paraphernalia. He has dabbled all manner of web shenanigans; from webcomics to game developm... more + disclosures



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