Type-Moon fandom always feels like the fandom for a popular band in a niche musical genre. If you meet someone who is into the genre you would be surprised if they did not know the band. But anyone outside of fans of the genre is more likely not to know them then to recognize them. If anime and manga fandom is rock, and visual novels are progressive rock, than Type-Moon is Pink Floyd. With that analogy it says a lot about the release of Type-Moon merchandise in English. At first if you wanted anything Type-Moon it was all through word of mouth and bootleg trading. They were a popular enough company in Japan that the hardcore English fandom was aware of them but it was really the Tsukihime anime, and more importantly the Fate/Stay Night anime, that made them more of a well-known name. (I will admit it was mainly Ayako Kawasumi being in the Fate/Stay Night anime as Saber that interested me in the series.) Over the years as the fandom has grown the amount of legitimate material available in English has increased. Type-Moon anime mostly gets licensed outside of Carnival Phantasm which is even too niche for anyone outside of Japan. The main manga series seem to get licensed but the more esoteric manga falls into Carnival Phantasm territory. With Fate/kaleid liner Prisma ☆ Illya Drei 3!! even being simulpubed on Comic Walker and Fate/Zero streaming it seems like while you can’t assume you will get everything from Type-Moon legitimately it does seem like there is little that is off the table.
But two of the crown jewels have always seemed completely out of reach. The visual novels that spawned everything are the grand prize but any conversation with companies that license games makes it clear that they are far to expensive and risky to license. So unless there is a major shift your just going to have to learn Japanese if you want to buy a copy of Fate/Stay Night. But the much more reasonable dream was getting the Type-Moon art books. They are loaded with original information and are not outside of the realm of profitable licensing. Thankfully UDON Entertainment recently released the first Fate/Stay Night art book. Fate/Complete Material Artbook 1: Art Material is not their first foray into video game art books. If anything they seem to be picking up quite a few titles lately. But Udon is wisely just dipping their toe in the water with this book and letting sales determine if they pick up more Type-Moon art books.
This post is mainly going to look on if UDON Entertainment is a good fit for the license. Should we be secretly hoping that this is the last Type-Moon artbook they do or are they going to deliver what we have always wanted?
In many ways the Art Materials book is the least interesting book in the series. It is basically a big pretty book in which 78.48% (186 out of 237 pages) is just CG from the game. This is some nice artwork from the game mind you. Nice artwork on big glossy pages. But it is nothing you have not seen before if you played the visual novel. The last 51 pages are promotional materials like original art, comics, and CD jacket illustrations. All the concept art, unused material, interviews, and world building information is in later books. This is the most classical art book. All the juicy stuff if yet to come. World Material is probably the densest book in regards to information but the other books are overflowing with new insights into the characters and universe. So if you are looking for game supplement your going to have to wait for the later books.
On the other hand this is probably the best book to see right out of the gate. It is fairly hard to mess up. The text is minimum but there is enough of it to get a sense of the translation. You also get to see the care they put into the printing of the book and the fidelity (or lack there of to the original.) If Udon messes this one up then it is a good sign that later books will be even shoddier but if this book is well produced then it gives some good hope for later iterations.
The book itself is nice. The transfer seems good and the art seem crisp and clear. The paper feels like it is of good quality. They don’t have the separate wrap around covers like the Japanese versions but they did add flaps to the cover to simulate the effect. Thankfully they did not cut the original cover image or shrink it to fit the book. Physically there is nothing to complain about.
There are two things about the book that might draw it a bit of flak. The first is the translation. Technically everything I saw seemed correct. But some of the word choices are not the standard “fan approved” choices of wording. Case and point: Gilgamesh calls Shiro a mutt instead of a mongrel. Neither is incorrect. It is just the standard fan translation would be mongrel. I frankly don’t care. As long as core concepts are correctly conveyed then the translation is doing its job well. I only bring this up because I have seen other fandoms FLIP THEIR LID when the official version does not pay homage to the fan concept of how things should be. I think anyone who would not buy the book because of this is petty but I felt it worth mentioning.
On a related note on page fifteen Saber is referred to as Altria. At first I assumed I had found the first major error. They had mistranslated Arturia as Altria. Apparently I was the ignorant one. Depending on what you read Saber’s name is romanized as Artoria, Arturia, or Altria. In fact in Character Materials book she is called Altria. So once again the book does fly in the face of conventional fan wisdom but I did not see any place where it was flat out wrong.
The other thing is the fact that the book is censored. Not completely censored but the most graphic pages have been removed. So this means that incidentally nudity is still in the book. Saber in the bath, Sakura being stabbed with Rule Breaker, and a rather titillating telephone card are all still in the book. Just any art from the Adult Scene section has been removed. So any art from the sex scenes are gone. This makes the book R but not X or PG-13. That is not deal breaker for me but it is worth mentioning. I feel like the nudity alone drives away enough of an audience. It would greatly reduce where and how the book could be sold to keep that in. The Adult Scene section would pretty much require it to be fully ghettoized as porn.
Is it personally what I would have liked? No. Do I think it was a good choice? Probably. You don’t really lose that much and it gives the book a broader appeal.
Overall I am happy with the product that has been released so far. I brought up what people might object to but I think they are more minor quibbles as opposed to deal breakers. Overall I am happy to get a book of the sexy green-eyed knight and her friends in English. Hopefully this book does well enough that we can get the other 4 books in the series. World Materials alone is like a masters class in the mechanics of the universe of the Holy Grail wars. Who does not want that? (And is named Alain Mendez.)
Also it could mean that we get the other Fate art books (like Fate/EXTRA material and Fate/Prototype Tribute Phantasm) and maybe even some of the Tsukihime art books. That MIGHT even get the Tsukihime fans to be happy for a few brief seconds until a new property with Saber comes out.