Not too long ago I decided I wanted to start doing Artbook reviews on my youtube channel.

This had been on my mind for a while, I just hadn’t felt comfortable enough with my set up to do it…

However, after setting up my new studio (check out the tour here!), and getting a proper tripod, I decided it was time to get on with it!

You see, I haven’t seen that many artists do reviews of artbooks.

Most of them just mention them in a “let’s show my artbook collection”, so I felt this was something that could help or simply inspire artists out there.

Many of us like artbooks, so I feel this way I can help you know a bit more about them so you can decide if it’s for you or not.

Or just simply to find out about artbooks you didn’t know about!

I felt the Spirited Away Artbook was the one to start out this series, not only Studio Ghibli artbooks are awe-inspiring but Spirited Away is also one of my favourite movies from them, the first one I watched, so it was only fitting!

Alright, let me tell you more about this awesome artbook!

reviewing the spirited away artbook by studio ghibli
reviewing the spirited away artbook by studio ghibli

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Introducing the Spirited Away Artbook & movie

Well, it’s impossible to introduce this artbook without talking a bit about the movie first!

First of all, if you haven’t watched it, this movie is a gem, so I wholeheartedly recommend it. (Available on Nexflix now)

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

Spirited Away it’s a Japanese animated movie from 2001, created by the acclaimed animation studio Studio Ghibli. The story is from the studio director, Hayao Miyazaki, who has also written and directed many other movies from the studio. – Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Castle in the Sky (1986), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) & Princess Mononoke, amongst many others.

He even worked in world-known series Heidi – raise your hands if you’ve seen this in your childhood 🖐🏼before he co-founded Studio Ghibli.

Spirited Away is often considered one of the best animated films ever made on a lot of rankings you can find online. It’s also received plenty of awards and it was the highest-grossing film in Japanese history for 19 years!

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

Thanks to John Lasseter, Pixar animator, friend and fan of Miyazaki, Disney bought the distribution rights on the USA and that helped the film reach even larger audiences.

See any reason why this artbook could be any less than awesome?

Cause I don’t!

Before moving on, I thought I’d link the video review, cause I feel it’s much more enjoyable to see me skim through this beautiful artbook than just reading. I also tell a lot of facts & curiosities I learned in the artbook!

I tried to make it really relaxing, but if you’re not feeling the video right now, keep reading, I promise I’ll add plenty of pictures!

Why I love this artbook

Well, some of these reasons will apply to another Studio Ghibli artbooks in general…

I have four so far counting with this one, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke (another fav!) and My Neighbour Totoro. – I’ll also review them in the future, let me know in the comments if you’re looking forward to one in particular!

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

And in all of them there’s a huge percentage of traditional art! – I just love that they keep doing it mostly the traditional way.

But also, have you seen those background paintings? It’s done with gouache & watercolours!

I love to bookmark my favourite scenes to do small gouache studies later, it’s such an awesome way to learn.

gouache study spirited away studio ghibli
One of my studies from this very same book.

But there’s also a lot of traditional sketches, in this book in particular there’s a lot of concept art from Miyazaki himself, most times pencil + watercolours, that portray different scenes and characters, as an initial guide for animators & artists later.

As Studio Ghibli still works mostly traditionally, all the backgrounds are traditional paintings and there’s a lot of cel art as well.

However, they do add some cg to the movies, to create particular effects that would be harder to do by hand.

As I said before, I can’t help but have a special love for the Spirited Away artbook, because as the first Studio Ghibli movie I saw, it’s simply wonderful for me to see how it was created.

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

And from my now artist standpoint, I have a deeper appreciation for the work behind it than the first time I saw the movie.

What you’ll find in this Artbook – general

Let me show you a bit of what you can expect from the Spirited Away artbook.

First of all, you find an introduction to the movie and the book and then you’ll start seeing concept art sketches, initial designs, cel art, character designs & more.

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

Of course, all of this comes accompanied by footnotes by Miyazaki or the rest of the team, where they give you small explanations, curiosities and other notes/decisions from the film and development.

Things like how they intended to do something but later it had to change, like for example Yubaba & Zeniba’s design, that was supposed to be different characters but later in the movie only one character design was used for both. (More about that in the book)

Now, it wouldn’t be an artbook from Ghibli if it wasn’t filled with background paintings for the movie, both sketches & final rendered paintings!

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli
spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

There’re pages dedicated to the character development of the main characters and a brief look at some supporting characters development as well. All of this supported with notes about decisions, traits & other inspirations.

There’s also sequence artwork of certain scenes throughout the book. – I’m not sure they’re officially called that, but they’re scenes from the final movie, like tiny frames of key moments (key frames?) to explain a sequence of actions.

I thought I’ll show you an example so you can see what I mean:

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

At the end of the book, you’ll also find a chapter dedicated to explaining how they add the CG with a few examples.

What you’ll find in this Spirited Away Artbook – more specifically

ost of the things I just told you are basically the structure of all the Studio Ghibli artbooks that I own. However, I wanted to add a few things that make this artbook more unique.

Apart from the art from Spirited Away, of course…

A difference with some of the other artbooks is that this one features much more interior art than the others. – Not so surprising considering that the others are more nature themed movies.

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

But not only any interior art, the bathhouse is probably one of the most luxurious places you find in Studio Ghibli movies and the architecture of the place is quite particular.

So, if you’re a fan of cool architecture and interiors, this book might interest you more than others from the collection.

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

If you’re more into landscapes (like me), then maybe the Princess Mononoke or My Neighbour Totoro artbooks are more in your line.

Lastly, this is not particular to this artbook but I haven’t seen it in all the Ghibli ones so I’ll mention it as a more “unique” thing.

It has the script of the movie at the end of the book!

Now, if you’re wondering – like me the first time I saw it – what was this for, I found out this can be quite useful.

Maybe if you’re interested in storyboarding or in training/study comic panels, you can use parts of the script to recreate it with your own panels or storyboards.

Victoria Ying recommended this exercise in one of her lectures at Lightbox Expo.

That’s all!

Well, I believe I gave you a good insight into what you can find in the Spirited Away artbook, but if you have any doubts, please don’t hesitate in asking in the comments!

spirited away artbook review by studio ghibli

And let me know if there’s any artbook you want to see reviewed like this – both in here and in video – for my future reference!

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See you in the next one 😉

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