© Kimiya Masago / Kensin
These sombre fantasy images by Masago Kimiya portray characters from the old Chinese story of the Three Kingdoms. This is based on the true history of the split in the Chinese empire around 1800 years ago, and the original record of events was written not long after, but the various later adaptations as novels have considerably embellished the true facts. The fourteenth-century Chinese novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is the version best-known in English translation, but there have been a number of independent adaptations in Japanese, most notably by the novelist Yoshikawa Eiji (1892-1962), which has probably been a major influence on these images and the current round of role-playing games based on the story. Somewhat confusingly, Yoshikawa used the title of the original historical record (Sangokushi, or Sanguo-zhi in Chinese), instead of the "Romance" title of the Chinese novel.
More background information: start with Sanguo-zhi at Wikipedia.
The image is presented within a wide black margin, with the character's name in gold Chinese characters at the centre bottom, and the romanised (Pinyin) form underneath in dark grey. Don't be confused (as I was) by the legend 'ART OF WAR' in crimson in the lower left corner: this is not a reference to the (completely different) Chinese history book, but appears to be a brand name of the company licensing Masago's work.
Born in 1960 in Okayama, western Japan, Masago followed graduation from university in physics by working for the manga artist Terasawa Buichi, a pioneer of computer graphics in manga illustration. Masago went solo in 1989, and has made a career as an illustratore specialising in Chinese historical themes. His latest role is that of costume designer for the blockbuster movie "The Promise" (2006) by the Chinese director Chen Kaige.
Masago is his family name, so he is also known as Kimiya Masago.
An Artbox puzzle: 1000 pieces; 50 x 75 cm (20" x 30")
Code: N1029 (1000-29 on box)
Retail price ¥3000
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