Back in the latter part of 2002, Uppers Magazine began running a series of special Shirow art inserts, "Gun & Action Booklet Posters," as they were called on the pieces themselves, later had the name Galgrease associated with all of them(which is what they should probably be called), and have generally come to be known as simply the posterbooks outside of Japan. As the series progressed, it quickly became apparent that these inserts were quite erotic in nature, and, coupled with limited availiblity in the first place, demand for the posterbooks went through the roof, with just the foldouts themselves fetching as much as $50 apiece on eBay. As these posterbooks are his most recent works, it is the best place to look at to see where his art skills are at. His coloring remains top notch as always, seeming to be completely comfortable with it on his computers. Additionally, his 3D skills seem to have come a long way from early renders found in Intron Depot 2.
As they came out, it became apparent that Shirow was actually doing a few short stories in a staggered rotation. Over the entire run of inserts, Shirow ended up doing two sets of these short stories - Wild Wet West, Hellhound, and Galhound in the Series 1, and Wild Wet Quest, Hellcat, and Galhound 2 in Series 2. These inserts were published in every other issue, and as I said, came out in a sort of rotation. First came a booklet for Wild Wet Quest, then Hellhound the next time, onto Galhound after that, and then starting the cycle once again with the next Wild Wet West booklet. As it worked through the first set and then the second, some fans became hopeful that this would just keep going, and others bemoaned it, hoping Shirow would move on to one of his other projects, like Appleseed or Dominion. As it were though, it seems Uppers Magazine has been ended as a whole, so unless higher-ups somewhere decide to bring Shirow on for more, it seems to have finally come to an end.
Both series ended up with 12 inserts apiece, devoting 4 to each short storyline. In addition to that though, there were some other booklets that came out too, an extra set of 4 that came out(one at a time, of course) after the second series completed its run. The first three of these were devoted to more Hellhound bits, and then back to Galhound for the final extra. Additionally, Shirow drew up a gorgeous winter insert called Chrism, and a 'Rainy Season' insert known as Vianca, which both came as the 'centerfold' to special seasonal booklets in Uppers that had a variety of artists contributing artwork. Neither insert opens to full poster size, but instead just a two-page spread with similar dimensions along those lines to that of the inner pages in the other posterbooks. Along with all of that, each insert came with a pair of telephone cards(or offer for them, I never had opportunity to find out which for sure), or teleka as they are known in Japan, featuring some sort of variation of the art from that particular insert. These were apparently hard to get over there, and as such, there wasn't even a chance for me to get ahold of them here in the US.
The construction of the posterbooks is something I regularly get asked about, so let me see about describing what they are a bit better. The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that each posterbook is a single sheet of paper, the size of a small poster, and found in the magazine folded over twice, first top-to-bottom, and second, right-to-left, so that it will fit inside the cover of the magazine. When you look at it closed, you get a sort of cover shot with the character to be found inside and some titling information. Open it like a book and you're greeted with a 2-page scene playing out, either as one large panel, or divided up into a few smaller ones. Unfold again and you're get to see the full poster image on the inside. Fold it back up and look at the back side and you'll get one last image as a closure for the booklet. Much of the time there will also be blocks of text accompanying these images, though it is usually reserved for that back panel, and near as I can tell, it all tells some sort of story related to what is going on in the art panels, but I can't read Japanese, so I don't know.
Since their initial runs, the posterbooks have become availible in small collected sets devoted to each short story, being packaged in a custom slipcase containing all four booklets from a particular short, along with a pack of 8 random Galgrease trading cards with art and variations from the particular set of shorts. As an extra little bonus, each of the Second Series posterbook sets came with a postcard with a variant piece of art from their respective set, very lovely bits. For each series, Kodansha also issued a _very_ limited edition Galgrease binder for the storage of the trading cards that also contained some Galgrease sketches, unfortunately the timing and price range involved have kept me from pursuing the binders or cards for myself.
Binder aside, you can still get ahold of these collections if you dig around a bit, J-List has a bits of the Galgrease 2 collections still, and may be able to special order the others for you. I've seen the collections at other shops, like Animebooks.com and Akadot Retail, but I'm not sure what they've got in stock now.
In November 2004 Alpha Toys released a Galgrease statue, and almost as if they were reading my mind, it was my favorite girl from my favorite piece in the entire series, the silver haired 'officer' from the second Galhound 1 booklet, and now there's a repaint version out and about as well. Many thanks go out to my roomate who nabbed this for me as an early birthday present, it looks absolutely fantastic. Additionally, bits of the Galgrease series, namely some of the Galhound stuff, has found its way into Intron Depot 3, the 2003 Thrilling calendar, and Dark Horse's 2005 calendar. There also seems to be some sort of Galgrease-related art project in the works, though no one seems to know for sure what it is, sTwo seems to have the best scoop on it for the moment, just one of those things that has to be waited upon for further information.
Interestingly, I found these news bits, in a sort of chain, at the end of March, and I really hope that this comes to fruition and reaches the US:
From Anime News Network, March 28, 2003:
New Masamune Shirow Anime in 3D CG (2003-03-28 13:00:23): Hyakki Shou, one of a series of pin-up posters done by Masamune Shirow, is going to become a fully 3D computer generated anime. An online game is also reported to be in development. No word on if Shirow will produce a manga. Source: Natsume Maya [ No More ]
From Natsume Maya, March 27, 2003:
More news on Shirow Masamune projects: Fuushin Shou may be published in a similar format to an artbook. The creation of a full 3D CG anime Hyakki Shou/Buden is under consideration. Hyakki Shou is the name of one of the series of booklet posters featured in Uppers magazine, the other two being Wild Wet West and Galhound. There's also possible work on a network game which has been in the works since last year. There are no present plans about working on manga. Source: Ace Tokunoh magazine.
Below you'll find a complete collection of cover art from all 28 posterbooks, along with the first poster from each series. Just to cover my ass, the images marked with an asterisk(*) contain nudity, so if you're underage, it's illegal where you live, etc, don't look at 'em. If you are of legally able to, then go hog wild, and as always, feel free to fire questions my way.
Galgrease Series 1 -
Wild Wet West - 01 Cover, 01 Poster, 02 Cover, 03 Cover, 04 Cover
Hellhound - 01 Cover, 01 Poster, 02 Cover, 03 Cover, 04 Cover
Galhound - 01 Cover, 01 Poster, 02 Cover, 03 Cover, 04 Cover
Galgrease Series 2
Wild Wet Quest - 01 Cover, 01 Poster, 02 Cover*, 03 Cover, 04 Cover*
Hellcat - 01 Cover*, 01 Poster*, 02 Cover, 03 Cover, 04 Cover
Galhound 2 - 01 Cover, 01 Poster*, 02 Cover, 03 Cover, 04 Cover
Extras - HH 01 Cover*, HH 02 Cover, HH 03 Cover, GH 01 Cover, GH 01 Poster