The coming New Year sees the release of the Bishoujo New Year Collection 2011, a collection of gorgeous New Year themed images from 50 of Japan’s premier illustrators which conveniently allows the reader to ogle usamimi bishoujo under the guise of picking which to send off as a greetings card…
A wide variety of top artists are featured ranging from mangaka and ero-mangaka to eroge artists, illustrators and the cream of Pixiv. The illustrations are divided loosely into themes – Japanese-themed images, usamimi moe (with a number of loli-mangaka contributing) and ero (with a significant yuri quotient).
Along with the original A4 illustrations on their own pages (without the New Year text), the facing page contains a preview of the greeting card, a design sketch and a brief profile and interview with the artist about the work
In addition to the actual book, the collection also comes with a CD containing all 50 illustrations in proper Japanese New Year greeting card (年賀状, nengajō) layout, as shown in this article, at a high resolution suitable for printing straight onto cards for friends and family. Hikikomori can always print the cards for themselves and pretend someone nice sent them.
Some mention should be made of the New Year (正月, shōgatsu) symbology embedded in most of the images; the significance of shrines and shrine maidens (miko) should be obvious enough, but the intense focus on rabbit ears (usagi-mimi, usamimi) is of especial importance this year.
Most obviously, 2011 is the year of the hare in the Chinese zodiac; also, in Japanese tradition the cratering of Earth’s moon is associated with the scene of a rabbit using a wooden mallet to pound mochi, a sticky rice cake traditionally consumed on the new year (which was historically the Chinese lunar year, although it is now January 1st due to Japan having adopted the western calendar completely).
Of course, most of the food featured in the illustrations (including plenty of mochi) is also traditional Japanese New Year’s fare.