Japanese photo guidebooks

Marc J. Frattasio

without a doubt the Japanese have been the best and most prolific source of books on the works of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Over the years publishers from that country have produced a steady stream of high quality books on Thunderbirds and the Anderson's other TV and film productions. Though written in the Japanese language, the text of these books has been of less importance than the almost overwhelming degree of photographic and artistic content. Most of these books contain hundreds of still photographs and film frame blow-ups. For this reason, they are highly prized by collectors and model makers around the world.

The Japanese photographic guide books are generally found in two sizes. There are large books which measure approximately 11" tall by 9" wide and small ones which are about 7" tall by 5" wide. Most of these books are paperbacks but some are hardbound. Many are covered with a separate glossy cover. Generally the quality of the paper and binding used in these books is not the best. Over time, great care must be exercised when opening them to keep the pages from being torn from the binding.

Most of these books contain a large selection of black and white photographs, in many cases hundreds of them, followed by a short section of color photographs. These photographs consist of stills, behind the scenes material, and actual film frame blow-ups. Often there are representative photographs of toys, model kits, and other similar collectibles. Many of the books contain artwork, plans, and cut-away diagrams of popular Anderson vehicles.

What follows is a listing of the most important Japanese guide books in rough order of publication. I have included the title, sometimes translated from Japanese, and where possible the ISB number, original price, publisher, year of publication, and a brief description.

Thunderbirds Final

Cover of Thunderbirds Final
A medium sized book that falls between the typical large and small sized volumes on this list. This is a good general photographic guide to Thunderbirds. The 143 numbered pages contain a wide variety of photographs but are weak on 'guest' vehicles and machines. Many photos pertaining to the 'fan' scene and a good section on recent Japanese Thunderbirds merchandise.

Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds SFTV

Cover of Thunderbirds SFTV
The largest of these books. Without a doubt the best photographic guide book to all the Anderson productions ever published. 369 numbered pages containing thousands of high resolution photos pertaining to all aspects of the Anderson productions from Supercar to Terrahawks. Lots of photos of toys and other merchandise from Japan and around the world. Even a section showing some of the common model kit parts used to build a lot of the original studio models. A very high quality hard cover 'coffee table' type book with a special protective slipcase. The one 'must have' book on this list.

Thunderbirds Plastic Model Kits Catalog

Cover of Thunderbirds Model kits
A high quality large format paperback with 202 numbered pages containing photos of nearly every Thunderbirds model kit ever made in Japan. The book includes a special 'sticker' sheet of reproduced markings which can be applied to many of the reissued Imai Thunderbirds model kits.

Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds and International Rescue

Cover of Thunderbirds IR
A large format paperback with 152 pages of photographs pertaining to Gerry Anderson and Thunderbirds. This book has better than average paper quality. A bit more Japanese text than usual for this sort of book but it is still a good photographic reference.

Thunderbirds Best Book

Cover of Thunderbirds best book
A small format paperback with 111 pages. A good general photographic guide to Thunderbirds with an unusually high percentage of color photographs. Better than average paper quality but very small photos. A good selection of photographs at the end showing most of the recent Japanese Thunderbirds merchandise.

Thunderbird 1

Cover of Thunderbird 1
Not really a photographic guide but actually a children's photo novel for the Thunderbirds episode Trapped in the Sky. The 25 pages are filled with high quality color film frame blow ups from this episode. For what it is, it is a very good quality small format hard cover book.

Thunderbird 2

Cover of Thunderbird 2
Not really a photographic guide but actually a children's photo novel for the Thunderbirds episode Pit of Peril. The 25 pages are filled with high quality color film frame blow ups from this episode. For what it is, it is a very good quality small format hard cover book.

Thunderbird 3

Cover of Thunderbird 3
Not really a photographic guide but actually a children's photo novel for the Thunderbirds episode Sunprobe. The 25 pages filled with high quality color film frame blow ups from this episode. For what it is, this is a very good quality small format hard cover book. (According to information on the inside cover of these three Thunderbirds episode photo novels, Media Books was supposed to have produced three more books in this series. Unfortunately, they were canceled.)

Encyclopedia of Thunderbirds

Cover of Thunderbirds Encyclopedia
This is a large format paperback with 148 pages. Not an especially good photographic reference but it does come with a large fold out poster of Thunderbird 2.

Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds and ITC Machine Library

Cover of Thunderbirds Machine library
An excellent quality large format hardback book containing 111 pages of photos and scale diagrams of major Anderson vehicles from Supercar to the Space 1999 Eagle Transporter. This book was produced with the model maker in mind. Of special interest is the section of official fonts and typefaces used on the actual studio models over the years. Overall, an excellent book.

Thunderbirds Superguide

Cover of Thunderbirds superguide
A large format paperback containing 104 pages of photos from Thunderbirds. A very good photographic reference with a good balance of photos. Also includes a section on Japanese toys and model kits.

Thunderbirds 1 Entertainment Bible 10

Cover of Thunderbirds bible 1
This is a small format paperback which is part of a large series of TV guide books done by Bandai. Not the greatest photographic reference but it includes some good diagrams. 143 numbered pages.

Thunderbirds 2 Entertainment Bible 11

Cover of Thunderbirds bible 2
This is a small format paperback which is part of a large series of TV guide books done by Bandai. Not the greatest photographic reference but it includes some good diagrams. 145 numbered pages.

ITC SF Mecha Graffiti

Back Cover of Mecha graffiti
A large format staple bound softcover book with 82 numbered pages. This is a superb photographic reference to all major Anderson vehicles from Supercar to Terrahawks. Many front, rear, side, top, bottom views of the most important Anderson vehicles. A bit weak on 'guest' vehicles but there are some in this book. Overall, very good.

It's Thunderbird Century Modeling Manual

Cover of Thunderbirds Modeling manual
This is a large format softcover book which contains 128 pages of photos of fan built replicas of Anderson vehicles and characters from Supercar to Space 1999. Comes with a few pages of color artwork depicting major vehicles seen in Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe90, UFO, and Space 1999. Also has a small selection of photographs of the Anderson Dinky toys. Probably of interest only to model makers since nearly all of the photographs in this book are of fan built replicas. An excellent book.

It's Thunderbird Century Perfect Modeling Manual

Cover of Thunderbirds Modelling manual
A large format hardcover book containing 159 pages of photos of fan built replicas of Anderson vehicles and characters from Supercar to Space 1999. Some nice color artwork pages of vehicles from various Anderson TV programs. Probably a book of great interest to model makers only since all or nearly all of the photos inside are of replica models. This is a follow on book to the previous softcover item of similar title but with different photographs. An excellent book.

Thunderbirds Supermarionation Graffiti

Cover of Thunderbirds graffiti
A large format paperback with 48 pages of mostly black and white photographs. Not a great reference book but better than nothing.

Captain Scarlet Supermarionation Graffiti

Cover of Scarlet graffiti
A large format paperback with 48 pages of mostly black and white photographs. Although Captain Scarlet is featured, there are photos from all the other Anderson SF series included in this book too. Not a great reference book but better than nothing.

Thunderbirds

Cover of Thunderbirds
A small format 238 page paperback with an unusually rich variety of photographs from Thunderbirds. Photos are small and of poor quality but this is more than compensated for by the sheer volume of photos.

Captain Scarlet

Cover of Scarlet
A small format 238 page paperback with an unusually rich variety of photographs from Captain Scarlet. Photos are small and of poor quality but this is more than compensated for by the sheer volume of photos.

Thunderbirds Complete Visual Guide Book

Cover of Visual Guidebook
A large format paperback with 104 numbered pages. One of the best all around photographic references to Thunderbirds. Contains hundreds of small photographs, many in color.

The Roman Album Extra Thunderbird Complete Visual Guide Book

An excellent photographic guide to Thunderbirds with several hundred photographs and cut-away drawings of all major International Rescue vehicles. 48 pages.

TV Land Pack 31 Thunderbirds Encyclopedia

Cover of TV land pack 31
A small format paperback which is truly an excellent photographic reference to Thunderbirds. There are 179 photo packed pages and a small color section. Small photos, but great volume and variety.

TV Land Extra Color Graph 4 Thunderbirds SOS

Cover of SOS special Final
Large format staple bound paperback containing 44 full color pages of photos and artwork pertaining to Thunderbirds. Not very many photographs compared to similar books but what is there is of very high quality. Great color photo of the Red Arrow jet in profile.

Tanoshi Yochien TV Picture Book 46 Thunderbirds

A 22 page hardcover book containing a few color photographs and color cut-away drawings of the Thunderbird machines.
Other references of possible interest that are not exactly Anderson guide books are listed below:

The Artwork of S. Komatouzuki

Cover of Artwork
The publisher and serial number of this book are unknown. They are not printed in or on this book in English. This book was readily available through Japanese bookstores in the USA during 1992 and possibly later. This is a large format ¥3800 softcover book of artwork by Japanese artist S. Komatouzuki. This man produced much of the artwork used on the covers of Imai model kits over the past 30 years. He also produced Anderson oriented artwork used on book covers and on other products in Japan. Consequently, this book features a great number of Anderson oriented artwork. Though I must stress that it is not an Anderson book, it is a book worth having because of the unique Anderson content.

Model Graphix Volume 96 October 1992

Cover of Model Grafix
This issue of the popular Japanese model making magazine contains a large color photo section highlighting Thunderbirds. Many photos are included of Thunderbirds model kits, toys, and other merchandise which was available in Japan at that time. There is a special section on the model kit candy premium toys offered by Morinaga and Furuta.

Hobby Japan Number 282 November 1992

Cover of Hobby Japan
This issue of the popular Japanese model making magazine contains a large color photo section highlighting Thunderbirds. Many photos are included of Thunderbirds model kits, toys, and other merchandise available in Japan at that time. There is a special fold-out section depicting old Popy die-cast Thunderbird toys and the recent Bandai products.

Jaguar Thunderbirds paperback

Jaguar produced a small paperback in the same series as their Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and UFO volumes around 1981 which was a photographic guide to Japanese science fiction model kits. This book featured small poor quality photographs of nearly every Anderson related model kit produced in Japan. Believe it or not, I once had this thing but foolishly gave it away.

Where can these books be obtained today? Short of breaking into a home like mine, that could be a problem. The sad fact is that until recently such books were not distributed outside of Japan. Another factor in their scarcity is that the Japanese seem to produce this kind of book in limited numbers and they do not remain on the bookshelves for very long. Once sold out, Japanese publishing houses do not usually issue reprints. They generally move on to other projects.

In print books can be obtained through Japanese bookstores in the USA and other locations. A Kinokuniya Japanese bookstore is usually located at any Yaohan Japanese shopping mall and such malls are located in many large cities in the USA. Most large cities in the USA have one or more Japanese bookstore and these places can order directly from Japan.

On occasion these books turn up at comic book shops and similar places in the USA though in my experience this has been rare.

Comet Miniatures and Thunderbooks over in the UK, addresses listed in the Anderson FAQ, may have small stocks of the more recent Japanese photo books remaining. Specialists in Japanese SF products, as listed in toy collector publications such as Toy Shop (USA) and Model Mart (UK) may be able to find older books but at very high prices.

For those interested in learning more about the books that were produced around the world pertaining to the Anderson productions, I suggest you buy a copy of Dennis Nicholson's Australian book, The Gerry Anderson Memorabilia Guide. This book, which was published in 1994, is pretty much the 'bible' of books, toys, model kits, and other Gerry Anderson memorabilia.

This page published originally at the Supermarionation sfx WebSite
text ©1996 Marc J. Frattasio; not for reproduction for profit without his express permission
Edited and limited to Supermarionation