Naoko Takeuchi's Recent Artwork

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MementoNepenthe

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Mar 8, 2012
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#1
So, I thought it was about time someone started a thread where all of Naoko's recent artwork (i.e. since 2012, the start of the 20th anniversary celebration) could be compiled and discussed. How has her art evolved, how has it devolved, how has it stayed the same, etc.



Released as the first phase of the franchise's 20th anniversary project, the perfect edition of the manga was aimed at original fans of the series, now adults (mostly women) in their mid- to late-twenties and thirties. Hoping to appeal to that demographic, Naoko created cover art that gave the manga the feel of something sophisticated and luxe, and firmly established Sailor Moon's "Now Look" aesthetic, which I've dubbed "Solemn in Sequins" (or, if you prefer, "Bittersweet and Bedazzled"). The Sailor Guardians have a more mature look about them, each illustration tinged with a mix of mystique and melancholy (setting the covers in stark contrast with the cuter, more brightly colored shinsouban covers, obviously aimed at young readers). Their chokers are now bedazzled metallic strips, their tiaras, earrings, chest bow ornaments, and other details likewise done with paste-on jewels and metallic cut-outs. Though the character artwork otherwise looks to have been hand drawn in pencils, the backgrounds and effects are obviously digital creations.

Now that we've established the basics of Naoko's recent style, let's see how her new artwork compares to her old.

Let's start with the cover for volume one and its companion image, used in the La Reconquista pamphlet and for the 20th Anniversary Memorial Tribute Album:




With respect to the poses and general composition, these images feel reminiscent (at least to me) of the unused cover art for the first volume of the tankobon, and the cover art for the Infinity art book:




To me, the newer pieces shows definite growth on Naoko's part as an artist: the anatomy is better, and the art has more detail. The older art is definitely lovely and charming, but I think the newer work outshines it.

Now let's compare the cover for volume 9 with one of the illustrations from the first art book:




Here I feel that, though the newer work is beautiful and more polished, the older piece is more effective at conveying the tragedy and depth of Serenity and Endymion's romance. Its simplicity and roughness imbues it with a certain quality that feels lacking in the newer illustration.

Lastly, let's look at the cover for volume 10, which feels generally reminiscent of a handful of older pieces with respect to concept/composition, so I'll use the first page of Stars 1 as an example:




I think the cover art is beautiful, but there are obvious issues: the weird hand, the weird decision to write "Sailor moon" in the corner, Rei's profile, and something looks off about Chibiusa's face. The stuck-on jewels are also a little tacky-looking here, which takes away from what otherwise would have been a very elegant piece (the pasted on metallic nails are particularly unfortunate). The illustration from Stars is more coherent, has no tacky embellishments, has a bold stylization choice, features a variety of facial expressions, etc. It's a stronger piece in my opinion.

And since I don't want to go on boring you with my analyses of each recent bit of Naoko's artwork, I'll simply add them below alongside older pieces they remind me of so you can do your own comparisons:




(I really love the bolder color use in the new image, along with how Chibiusa's hair looks. It's nice to see an illustration from this era that isn't so muted. But I also love all the different hairstyles the girls are rocking in the older piece.)







 

MementoNepenthe

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#2














Her most recently released artwork, of course, is the poster for the upcoming Sailor Moon Museum event:



There's already been some discussion of this image in the Sailor Moon Museum thread, so I won't rehash that here. The event is supposed to feature more new artwork by Naoko, but I expect it to just be a series of portraits of each of the Sailors (and maaaybe Tuxedo Mask too) done in the same "trapped in a gemstone" style. Maybe we'll get a group image or one of Princess Serenity, but I'm not expecting new artwork of the girls in regular clothes, or of the villains, or of any other characters like the Starlights or Cosmos (though with the movies coming out next year, maybe Naoko will surprise us as all) because, as we've seen, that just hasn't been Naoko's MO over the past 10 years.

I think Naoko's recent artwork is beautiful. In certain respects, it shows that she's grown as an artist. But in other respects, it also shows how she's lost her mojo. Most of her art over the past ten years has played it very safe: the poses are usually simple and stiff, the expressions wistful, the compositions echoing earlier pieces, the girls always in their Sailor uniforms (though at least in Usagi's case, she gets to be Princess Serenity once in a while; as for Mamoru, he only appears once as Prince Endymion, not even as Tuxedo Mask!). What made Naoko's classic artwork so vibrant and iconic was how she employed Art Nouveau and various other references, how she played with fashion, how she played with materials and poses and told stories in her pictures. Those key elements are largely absent in her newer stuff, and while that newer stuff is beautiful, it is less charming in the end.
 
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#4
I think a lot of it has to do with the colors she uses nowadays. It’s all very pastel or subdued hues whereas back in the 90’s she wasn’t afraid to experiment with color. A good example is the Serenity/Endymion picture you posted. In in the original the contrast between the red, white and black are really complimentary and make the piece eye catching and aesthetically pleasing whereas in the newer illustration the background almost feels muddy in comparison. Sometimes less is more.

A lot of her artwork nowadays feels a little uninspired. It’s not hideous by any means, just a little by the numbers. I loved how in her past work she wasn’t afraid to play with different materials to create her pieces. Now it feels almost airbrushed. I’m not sure what medium she uses nowadays but just like anime, digital mediums can often take away that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that traditional mediums provide.
 

Rika-Chicchi

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#6
I see her recent artworks as her own tributes to her old ones, basically not unlike manga writers drawing characters of manga written by another manga writer, as a tribute, birthday or New Year messages, etc. to that manga writer, only that here she's paying tribute to herself, or more precisely, the present-day her to the yesterday her. :)
 
#7
Most of her art over the past ten years has played it very safe: the poses are usually simple and stiff, the expressions wistful, the compositions echoing earlier pieces, the girls always in their Sailor uniforms (though at least in Usagi's case, she gets to be Princess Serenity once in a while; as for Mamoru, he only appears once as Prince Endymion, not even as Tuxedo Mask!).
I agree that the poses are quite stiff in her newer artwork, and this is coming from someone who draws in a similar manner.
 
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sapphire91

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#8
For me there is an obvious overall improvement in her art - it is more polished, detailed and well composed - especially her faces. What I miss from her older art is the more dynamic poses - she used to be really good at conveying movement in a static image, but the overall quality of the art as a whole is getting better and better these past years. Of course it is a matter of taste, so this is pretty subjective.
 

Lady Pen

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Mar 12, 2021
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#9
I've always said it: Naoko DOES have a great sense of colour, she's really good at that. Except her most recent artwork where the Olympics one is ugly as hell, even the colours and the new illustration of Usagi & Chibiusa's birthday, where her colour choices were odd.

Looking at her 90's artwork, even though she couldn't (can't) draw, at least she was braver making dynamic illustrations, trying different sort of papers, pencils, among other incredible techniques. When I see one her 90's artwork, I see something alive, with a lot of heart, very dreamy, ethereal, I see Naoko telling me a story, and I appreciate that over another superior artist.

What's the matter with the new art? Let's see: Colour-wise are great, Naoko's got a gift. The shinshouban covers are cute, and they're dynamic.
As for the kanzenban and promotional ones I see something off. Same faces, same hands, same expressions, same poses, and so on, and they're not telling me nothing, there's no any story behind.

Then we've got the medium. Naoko uses Photoshop to make her new artwork, but the problem is not the software, it's the way she utilises it. She can use other software to imitate traditional painting and again to be bold by trying different ways of illustrating as she did in the past. But she's stuck with Photoshop and its easy digital textures that don't go with that imitation of watercolour she applied to the characters. They're eye-catching because of the colour choices, that's all.

And I must say, Naoko would be capable of learning a new software that allows her to imitate traditional painting and do great things. She proved she could do it in the 90's, she can do it now, even though she's not telling us stories through the pictures anymore.
 
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Umino

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#10
Thank you for making this thread! I actually forgot how much "new" art she's done in the last decade. Still not enough to satisfy my needs, but it's a decent amount. Doesn't quite feel as constant as back in the PGSM days, though.

I'll say this, she's polished up her style quite a bit. It's cleaner, her anatomy is better, overall everything is much less exaggerated. Though as you mentioned, she's playing it safe with her newer stuff. The poses aren't as dynamic, backgrounds are minimal, and there's a lack of all the iconic fashion inspiration. She's given us five illustrations of Sailor Moon holding the Moon Stick. You'd think she'd switch it up a bit, and use the Cutie Moon Rod or something. Maybe draw Usagi as Super Sailor Moon? Throw in some villains?

I think her coloring is still great, and IDK why everyone is coming at her photoshop skills. Maybe it's because I'm terrible at Photoshop, but I think she's doing fine in that department.

EDIT:

Also, can I just say... the new image for the museum is awful. It's boring, stiff, and her skirt is huge. :P
 
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MementoNepenthe

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#11
She's given us five illustrations of Sailor Moon holding the Moon Stick.
Six: it's cut off in the picture I used, but she's holding it in the ad illustration for the new art book we're never getting. Seven, if you count the birthday picture where it's lying on the table. :lol:
 

foenyanko

Aurorae Lunares
Sep 21, 2010
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#18
I would say one place where Naoko has really improved is in how flat her illustrations look. The image of Serenity + Endy from the 90s, for example, is gorgeous. But it looks like a drawing on a piece of paper. The newer arts have more depth and shading to them that give them a sense of fullness, even if the art isn't necessarily as nice looking in all.

I never minded her figure-skating-esque drawings (the legs being cut off doesn't matter to me so long as the image is entered in a way that you can't see where they cut off) and some derpiness with the faces in certain covers aside, I like the newish covers. But the new museum image is just... odd. The skirt is too big and 'dorito-y' as I've heard it referred to with Crystal, her limbs arer noodley, long, and shapeless, and her hair strands are too fat rather than changing width over the length of the tail. Really stands out among all her other art.(but not in a good way)
 

Rika-Chicchi

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#19
And I must say, Naoko would be capable of learning a new software that allows her to imitate traditional painting and do great things. She proved she could do it in the 90's, she can do it now, even though she's not telling us stories through the pictures anymore.
I guess it may not be about her technical capability, but her age, or more precisely, her mentality at her current age - she may've become more conservative & risk-avoiding nowadays, as compared to the more adventurist & curious her in her younger days back then. :)
 
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#20
I guess it may not be about her technical capability, but her age, or more precisely, her mentality at her current age - she may've become more conservative & risk-avoiding nowadays, as compared to the more adventurist & curious her in her younger days back then. :)
I wonder if at home she has a bunch of crazy doodles and surprising directions she takes her art she never publishes?

Personally, I love most of the new art. It does lack something the old art had but the heart is still there in some of it, especially group scenes and ones where she shows emotion.
The watercolors are really nice and I am glad we get to see a new style from her. However...
Those trashy jewels make it come off as so amateur and overdone. I wouldn't mine hand-drawn jewels, but just sticking on nails and jewels is awful.
Hopefully she's out of that phase.

My least favorite stuff is probably the covers from the Naoko collection. The poses are weird, the angles are weird and she always finds an excuse to chop off the hands (I can relate and I understand...but I'm also not out here making merchandise for a huge franchise).

I hope we see more new stuff as I always enjoy seeing her art, it's so ethereal.