Chogokin Chronicle: Selected by Katsushi Murakami is hands-down the glossiest (and, at more than $50, the most expensive) coffee table book on Chogokin ever produced. The presentation is stunning. It’s large-format — at 8 1/2 by 12 inches, it’s even larger than the previous heavyweight, THE Chogokin. It’s hardcover and slip-cased. And it also contains a DVD packed full of interviews, old Chogokin commercials, and an oddly alluring video gallery of the toys featured in the book set to (kinda lame) music.
The scope of the book is quite small: the evolution of the Japanese robot as seen though the eyes of Popy’s head designer Katsushi Murakami. As such, it focuses on just 22 of the Chogokin character lines, each selected to illustrate the sense of evolution and personal one-upmanship within Popy. (The last few pages of the book contains a “thumbnail” gallery of every Chogokin toy, arranged in chronological order, but it’s all in black and white.)
Visually, there isn’t a whole lot of new information here. (In fact, if anything, the photographic style echoes that of Tim Brisko’s work.) The twist comes from getting to read a personal take on the design process for each of the featured toys. (A full seven are dedicated to the hallowed Chokinzoku Tetsujin 28, which Murakami designed himself.) Perhaps the most fascinating aspect is realizing just how much of a fundamental role Popy played in creating many of the classic robot character designs. According to the book, Murakami and his design staff either proposed or finalized the specific layout and color scheme of nearly every giant robot character that Popy produced in toy form.
Do you need Chogokin Chronicle? To answer that question, you’ve got to know thyself. Are you an inveterate, obsessive completist? Or a laid-back sort who only enjoys the occasional ogle of shiny robo-porn? If you’re looking for a visually-oriented field guide, Igarashi’s Encyclopedia of Chogokin and Popinika is a better bet. And if you’ve already got THE Chogokin, you may find yourself disappointed in the narrower scope. Then again, Chogokin Chronicle does feature superior photography, interesting (albeit totally Japanese) commentary, and that nifty DVD of vintage Chogokin commercials. Pick yer poison!