“The Otaku Encyclopedia” is a very enjoyable, well-researched and well-written encyclopedia crafted for the otaku in mind. Definitely recommended!
TITLE: The Otaku Encyclopedia
BY: Patrick W. Galbraith
PAGE COUNT: 248
RELEASED: October 1, 2009
Otaku: Nerd; geek or fanboy. Originates from a polite second-person pronoun meaning “your home” in Japanese. Since the 1980s it’s been used to refer to people who are really into Japanese pop-culture, such as anime, manga, and videogames. A whole generation, previously marginalized with labels such as geek and nerd, are now calling themselves otaku with pride.
The Otaku Encyclopedia offers fascinating insight into the subculture of Cool Japan. With over 600 entries, including common expressions, people, places, and moments of otaku history, this is the essential A to Z of facts every Japanese pop-culture fan needs to know. Author Patrick W. Galbraith has spent several years researching deep into the otaku heartland and his intimate knowledge of the subject gives the reader an insider’s guide to words such as moé, doujinshi, cosplay and maid cafés. In-depth interviews with such key players as Takashi Murakami, otaku expert Okada Toshio, and J-pop idol Shoko Nakagawa are interspersed with the entries, offering an even more penetrating look into the often misunderstood world of otaku. Dozens of lively, colorful images–from portraits of the interview subjects to manga illustrations, film stills and photos of places mentioned in the text–pop up throughout the book, making The Otaku Encyclopedia as entertaining to read as it is informative.
Back in the ’90s, a lot of us would learn Japanese slang from Todd & Erika Geers “Making Out in Japanese” or purchasing Kodansha’s awesome Romanized Japanese-English Dictionary.
For those of us into Japanese culture, we had issues of “Mangajin” to help us learn Japanese and translating manga, anime and even Japanese music was a common thing for us into Japanese pop culture.
Fast forward to 2011 and times have changed a lot. Manga and anime are easily available through legit and non-legit means, you can find Japanese translated lyrics quite easily and with the Internet, people are even more closely connected to Japan. To the point where Akihabara and forums like 2Chan are easily integrating slang to not just otaku’s regular day lexicon but also many fans abroad.
Talk to fans today, may it be going to a convention and them saying I want to “glomp” that cosplayer or interviewing the Queen of Akihabara Haruko Momoi and she keeps dropping words like “moe” during the interview to a guy asking me if I like “tsundere” characters and I do remember a time when me and my staff member were asked to be in a picture and she jokingly said, do a “yaoi” pose. Uh, excuse me?
There are just a lot of slang that people are using, especially for those engaged in otaku culture and you can go to a site like Danny Choo’s “Culture Japan” and he will be using a lot of wording that many fans will just understand with glee but for those of us who had to study formal Japanese, we are left scratching our head and wondering, “what the hell is everyone talking about?”.
Granted, in Japan, there is a lot of slang…from the people at Shibuya, to the yankii girl (gangster tough girls) of wherever, there are words from Japan’s subculture that you’re not going to find in “Making Out in Japanese” nor a Japanese dictionary.
Fortunately, Patrick W. Galbraith has written “The Otaku Encyclopedia”, an insider’s guide to the subculture of Cool Japan.
The book is very useful to the otaku who are interested in learning words, terms, companies, areas and more.
For example, on the first page alone, people can learn the word “akanbe”, a common thing that people see in anime or drama when a person makes a gesture by pulling down one lower eyelid and sticking out their tongue. I for one have seen this many times but never had a word for it. But now I know.
I have always wondered how the word “Moe” became to be used a lot in the past few years and sure enough, Galbraith goes to length on the term and where the word was derived from.
But let’s say that you want to know what a Vocaloid is? You have heard people make comments about “hentai” and “eroge” and want to know what that is all about? Want to know who this popular company known as “Good Smile Company” is all about? Or heard from a person that he is investing on a Gundam garage kit? You can find it on this book.
But for many people, encyclopedias with terms may not be for everyone, so Galbraith also adds another enticing factor to this book…interviews.
Throughout “The Otaku Encyclopedia”, you can find books with people who are knowledgeable about Akihabara, a few professionals who work in the anime industry, a professional who created Comiket, another professional who makes figures, cosplays professionally, a professional gamer, professional maid at a cafe, a true life otaku and an interview with a popular talent/singer. There are a good number of cool interviews throughout this book and also gives us an idea of the concept of otaku.
The Otaku Encyclopedia” is a wonderful resource for otaku!
And reading this book, especially the foreword and what Galbraith learned while interviewing various individuals for this book, he got to see different perspectives towards otaku culture.
Bare in mind, while “otaku” may be used quite frequently outside of Japan, in Japan, it’s a different story as there are people who still frown upon it, while there are people like Galbraith and many others who celebrate otaku and their love for Japanese pop culture. I’ve been featured in various publications in Japan as a Japanese music otaku and I don’t know if I’ve gotten used to the term.
But the fact is, the more friends and associates that I have in the anime industry, manga industry and various areas of Japanese pop culture, I have grown fond of them and their work and the people who appreciate their work and I noticed certain terminology often used in anime and manga but also with the fandom.
And there are a lot of things that have went on in Japanese pop culture in the past 25-years and more that are explored in Galbraith’s book and for me that is what I found intriguing. This is not some guy who just popped out of nowhere and is writing a book, Patrick W. Galbraith is also a well-known journalist in Japan for English speakers through Metropolis magazine and runs the Otaku2.com website. He has researched pop culture and otaku culture and this research is part of his life and what he enjoys covering.
I have no doubt in my mind that people can definitely learn a lot from this book and it definitely helps in learning the various otaku-based slang but also common terminology if you do participate in anime, manga, Japanese figures, etc. type forums or websites and talk with people at conventions and surely, know what everyone is talking about.
With that being said, for those who are new to Japanese culture and are learning to speak or write in Japanese, using these words are good with using among your peers but I still recommend learning Japanese through school, online training or software-based because even for myself, learning Japanese slang from dramas and anime, during the beginning of my career of interviewing Japanese celebrities, I have used slang accidentally with a well-known Japanese talent in the industry and it was taken as an insult but was quickly remedied when we had a conversation of where Americans were picking up these non-PC words. So, it’s good to know when to use polite words and slang words and I do recommend for those learning Japanese, to learn it the best way you can and if you could, interact with fluent Japanese speakers and also have Japanese friends to expand your appreciation of Japanese culture, including the pop culture.
“The Otaku Encyclopedia” is a very enjoyable, well-written and well-researched encyclopedia crafted for the otaku in mind. Does it have everything? I guess that would be subjective to the reader but for me, there is a lot of terminology and things that easily are well-selected for the anime, manga, video game and hobbyist. It’s really well-done!
I can only hope that Galbraith continues to update this encyclopedia with the latest slang (even removing slang that has gone out of style) but if you are an anime fan, manga fan, Japanese video game fan or happen to be a person who has nendoroids, dollfies or Japanese figures in your room, etc. This one is for you!
“Yakuza Moon: The Manga Edition” is a wonderful manga adaptation of Shoko Tendo’s memoir of her life! A heartbreaking and surprising look at the dangerous life of the daughter of a yakuza boss. An emotionally moving, very sad but true to life story of Shoko Tendo! Highly recommended!
© 2011 by Shoko Tendo, Sean Michael Wilson, Michiru Morikawa and Kodansha International Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
MANGA TITLE: Yakuza Moon: The Manga Edition
STORY AND ART BY: Shoko Tendo
DISTRIBUTED IN THE USA BY: Kodansha International
RATED: Mature Content
RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2011
At once heart-rending and eye-opening, this true-life memoiris a shocking yet intensely moving first-person account of one woman’s experience of growing up in Japan’s yakuza society.
Born into the family of a wealthy crime boss, Shoko Tendo lives her early years in luxury. But labeled “the yakuza kid,” she soon becomes the victim of bullying and discrimination from teachers and classmates at school, and of her father’s drunken rages at home. As her family falls into debt and her father’s influence wanes, Tendo falls in with the wrong crowd, and other men begin to appear in her life. By the age of fifteen she is a gang member, by the age of eighteen a drug addict, and her twenties are marked by a series of abusive and violent relationships with men.
Tendo sinks lower and lower, time and again an unwitting victim as she struggles to define her role as a woman in the violent, sexist, and drug-addled world she is thrust into at a far-too-tender age. After the death of her parents and her own attempt at suicide, she begins a tortuous, soul-searching reevaluation of the road she has taken—and it is only a startling, unconventional act of empowerment that brings her back from the brink.
A heartbreaking look at the dangerous life of the daughter of a yakuza boss. Moving, shocking, raw and very real!
In 2009, Shoko Tendo’s memoir “Yakuza Moon” was translated to English and released by Kodansha International and what people had to read was the shocking and heartbreaking life that Shoko endured since childhood. And now, “Yakuza Moon” receives its manga version courtesy of Sean Michael Wilson (who worked on “Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai” with illustrations by Michiru Morikawa.
With a visual manga version of Shoko Tendo’s memoir, readers can feel the emotions that Shoko had gone through as a youngster up to an adult when she tries to make something of her life.
In “Yakuza Moon”, we learn how Shoko was the daughter of a yakuza boss. Her father lived a good life, had a good business but also known to be with women, while her mother lived to be there for the family. But there were times that Shoko’s father was drunk and abusive and while she had this life at home, her life as a youngster were not kind as well because she was a daughter of a yakuza boss.
Many people thought of her as stupid and for young Shoko, when she heard her own teacher talking bad about her to other adults (not knowing she overheard everything), she learned how people can be so cruel.
But yet, she took everything that was handed to her, all the bad, all the bullying and also the problems that came with being a yakuza daughter.
From when her father was sentenced prison time, she and her sister Maki would live a dangerous lifestyle with other young yakuza children as they lied and got into clubs and lived the fast life. But while her father was in prison, one of the yakuza from her father’s group tried to rape her and for Maki, this led to problems trusting men. In fact, you get to learn how badly her judgment of men will take her on a dangerous journey of sniffing thinner to experimenting with dangerous drugs.
And like many addicts, the longer you sink into that hole, the darker things get and the worse things become and for Shoko, this was her life. She was confused, she was depressed, she was bitter but one thing that she knew from these men that she was with, was that drugs made the pain go away, or so she would have thought.
The situations that you see Shoko go through, throughout this manga is shocking. From men using her as a sex toy as blackmail in order for her to protect her parents was very sad but it was the only way she could protect her family who was heavily in debt. She was beaten, forced to do things against her will and she was a woman who lived in her own personal hell and she knew no way back.
And each time she would meet a man who would seem to be her saviour from the darkness, they turn out to be much worse than she ever expected as she became a victim of abuse.
And while “Yakuza Moon” is not the happiest memoir and while the storyline is quite dark and real, the purpose of this memoir is to show that one can emerge from the darkness, may come out of it bit scarred but are able to say they lived through it and were able to make something of themselves.
But Shoko’s story is that life in Japan that you don’t hear or read about in Japanese newspapers or publications. While there are stories of yakuza and their wives, we don’t hear about the emotional and physical turmoil that exists for the children. While every person is different, the fact is that Shoko paints a realistic portrait of how one’s life can be changed for the worst when the people you most trust, turn against you. Your teachers, your family and the people who you think cares about you.
For Shoko, her life could have been your everyday drug addict tragedy or the woman who was beaten by her boyfriend that you would often read in Japanese newspapers but I do feel that this memoir was therapeutic for Shoko Tendo and also giving people an idea of how life for the children of yakuza is not ideal and in her case, life can be very screwed up.
“Yakuza Moon” is a wonderful manga adaptation by Sean Michael Wilson. I personally haven’t read Shoko’s book but Michiru Morikawa’s manga illustrations really do make you feel the emotions that she has gone through. Because we get to see Shoko’s sexual past of pleasure and pain, nudity and all, plus drug use, it’s the reason why this manga has received a “Mature Content” rating.
I don’t think I have ever seen a story like this, in manga, anime, drama or film from Japan. And to follow Japanese culture for so long and read something that was even surprising for me is quite rare. I’ve watched many dark stories from Japan and situations that were very screwed up, but it’s one thing if it’s made for entertainment but to read one that is actually based on a person’s real life. It was quite surprising and it makes you wonder how many other Shoko Tendo’s are there? How many are suffering today? And how many were not able to crawl out of the darkness and survive like Shoko was able to?
Unfortunately, this story is not just limited to Shoko and people in Japan but it happens to many children all over the world. But not many live that long to talk about it, nor do many write about it. So, I really did appreciate reading Shoko Tendo’s memoir and to see how through all that pain that she has gone through, that she was able to survive from it and to eventually write a bestselling book and also to have a few documentaries under her belt. I’m also grateful that Sean Michael Wilson and Michiru Morikawa chose Tendo’s “Yakuza Moon” for a manga adaptation, it really gave us a visual look, and feeling that impact from Shoko Tendo’s memoir.
Overall, If you want a manga that is based on a true story, with a surprisingly dark but real storyline that you just don’t really hear about in Japan, I highly recommend “Yakuza Moon: The Manga Edition”.
A riveting mystery about an innocent man who is wanted for the assassination of a prime minister. Who can he trust? Can he prove his innocence? Wonderfully written and an entertaining, exciting book from the award winning author, Kotaro Isaka!
TITLE: Remote Control
BY: Kotaro Isaka
PUBLISHER: Kodansha International
PAGE COUNT: 348
RELEASED: March 1, 2011
From acclaimed mystery writer Kotaro Isaka comes an exhilarating political thriller that has mesmerized readers internationally with its likable characters, unforgettable dialogue, and riveting plot.Masaharu Aoyagi, a former delivery-truck driver in the city of Sendai, is unemployed. Two years ago he achieved brief notoriety for rescuing a local actress from a robbery attempt while making a delivery to her apartment. Now he is back in the spotlight—this time as the main suspect in the assassination of a newly elected prime minister who had come to Sendai for a hometown victory parade.
Set in a near-future Japan modeled on the United States, Remote Control follows Aoyagi on a forty-eight-hour chase, in a dramatic retelling of the Kennedy killing with Aoyagi in the role of a framed Lee Harvey Oswald. A massive manhunt is underway. As Aoyagi runs, he must negotiate trigger-happy law enforcement and Security Pods set up throughout the city to monitor cell-phone and email transmissions and keep a photo record of street traffic. Can he discover why he has been set up and who is responsible? Can he find the real assassin and prove to the world his innocence—amidst media pronouncements of his guilt—before the conspirators take him out?
Isaka’s style and worldview are such that he is often compared to Haruki Murakami; but he defies an easy label as a writer, with a voice, a sense of humor, and an imagination that are truly unique. Now, with this excellent translation by Stephen Snyder, readers everywhere can enjoy one of Japan’s finest literary talents.
Kotaro Isaka, the popular author known for his detective/mystery fiction stories.
The author won the “Shinchou Mystery Club Prize” for his debut “Audubon’s Prayer” and since then, Isaka has continued to create amazing work which includes “Gravity Clown” (2003), “Children and Grasshopper” (2004), “Accuracy of Death” (2005) and “Desert” (2006) each being nominated for a Naoki Prize, becoming the only author to be nominated in the first 4 years of the Honya Taisho and in 2008, winning a “Naoki Prize” and the “21st Yamamoto Shuguro Prize” with “Golden Slumber”.
And now, Kodansha International is releasing Isaka’s award-winning work “Golden Slumber” outside of Japan with the title “Remote Control”, translated in English by acclaimed translator Stephen Snyder (Natsuo Kirino’s “Out”, Ryu Murakami’s “Coin Locker Babies” and Yoko Ogawa’s “The Diving Pool, The Housekeeper and the Professor”).
“Remote Control” begins with a woman named Haruko Higuchi who is having lunch at a soba shop with Akira Hirano in Sendai, Japan. Both have not seen each other for four years and are catching up on old times.
While at the shop, the news was on and focused on the popular Prime Minister Kaneda who was traveling to Sendai.
While the two talked about their married life, Haruko talked about her husband Masakado who services “Security Pods” that are installed all over the city. The security pods were touted as a way to promote public safety but these pods also take pictures in the area around them but also records cell phone transmissions. How Japan lives in a surveillance society.
But then the discussion between Haruko and Akira talked about Masaharu Aoyagi, a former boyfriend of Haruko when she was younger and a man who was on television for saving the life of a pop singer named Rinka. Aoyagi who worked for a delivery company happened to be delivering a package in the same building where Rinka was being attacked and Aoyagi saved the pop star’s life and ended up becoming a celebrity (despite not knowing who Rinka was).
As both watched the television and began discussing politics and Prime Minister Kaneda, a toy helicopter possible controlled by a remote control is shown and hovering above Prime Minister Kaneda’s car and then immediately an explosion.
Prime Minister Kaneda has been assassinated.
The storyline would then feature those who watched the accident on television coming up with ideas of why Prime Minister Kaneda was killed, the investigation led by the assistant division chief for General Intelligence in the Security Bureau, Ichitaro Sasaki on who was responsible for the assassination of the Prime Minister.
But we learn about why the security pods were installed all over Japan and it had to do with a serial killer in the area. As the city of Sendai was terrified by the serial killer, a bill was proposed to restore peace and security by the introduction of mechanical means, and thus the Security Pods were created. For the purpose of crime prevention and investigation.
By the next day, Sasaki has announced a suspect in the assassination, the man is Masaharu Aoyagi. A regular man who was known for his heroic deeds several years ago for saving the pop star Rinka.
According to the police, a surveillance camera at a shop selling remote-controlled helicopters shows a Masaharu Aoyagi and also that Aoyagi had worked a part-time job at Todoroki Pyrotechnics Factory in Sendai.
His motive, as a delivery driver, there was a campaign that Kaneda supported that would relieve congestion in urban areas by prohibiting on-street parking and that Aoyagi saw him as an enemy to delivery drivers.
By day three, it was announced that Aoyagi would be surrendering to police.
“Remote Control” would then focus on what transpired 20-years after the assassination but also focus on what transpired in the three days of Masaharu Aoyagi’s life.
On the day of the incident, Masaharu Aoyagi would meet up with his good friend Shingo Morita, who called a week earlier to meet up. The two have not seen each other for years and while they were together, Morita would have information on things that have taken place in Aoyagi’s life recently.
From a woman who accused him of groping her, Morita talked about how it was a set-up. Of course, Aoyagi has no idea of why would anyone set him up but then Morita would explain to him about Lee Harvey Oswald and how he was a patsy in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and now Aoyagi is Lee Harvey Oswald.
Morita explains to him that one day he received a strange call, a call that would cancel his wife’s debt if he helps out on a special project. To make sure that Aoyagi was at a certain place, at a certain time and to drive Aoyagi in his car and keep him knocked out until 12:30 by using sleeping pills. But since he woke up early, Morita wants to help him.
Morita tells Aoyagi to be careful, to not trust anyone or else, he will end up like Oswald. Morita then tells Aoyagi that the people who hired him said if the pills did not knock out Aoyagi, to kill him with a gun.
Morita tells him that under the car, there is a bomb that will go off. And now, Morita wants his friend, Aoyagi to get out of the car and run for his life. Aoyagi tells his friend to leave with him but Morita tells him that he can not because of his wife and child. Together both men, both good friends shared an adoration for the Beatles and Morita began to sing the Beatles song “Golden Slumbers”. But Aoyagi did what his friend has asked and he left…
The police then came and aimed their guns at Aoyagi and all he can hear in his head is Morita telling him that he’ll end up like Oswald.
Next thing you know….Morita’s car has blown up. Aoyagi has no understanding of what is going on until he eventually finds out that he is wanted for the death of Prime Minister Kaneda.
Can Aoyagi prove his innocence? Can Aoyagi go to his friends for help? Who is responsible for framing Aoyagi and why?
“Remote Control” by Kotaro Isaka is an exciting, riveting mystery, suspense, cat vs. mouse story about a man who was framed for the assassination of the Prime Minister of Japan.
What makes this book so different and avoiding the banality of other mystery, cat vs. mouse, fugitive type of storyline is Isaka’s style of going from two different viewpoints. Although Aoyagi is the primary character of the book, we also get to see the perspective of Haruko, the former girlfriend of Aoyagi, long ago. In fact, throughout the book, it’s more of flashbacks of their past and Haruko knowing that Aoyagi is incapable of harming anyone, let alone assassinating a Prime Minister.
But you can tell through Isaka’s book that there is a fear and distrust of government’s surveillance on society. From the security pods of Japan, this has been highly debated in other countries, especially in the United States after 9/11 as video surveillance have been installed around the country. While the goal is for the safety of its citizens, it is also a loss of privacy.
While surveillance in today’s technology is video-based, in “Remote Control”, these cameras not only capture photo and videos, they (the police or security agencies) can listen in on cell phone conversations. But Isaka goes further into showcasing that those in power are abusing this technology.
But interesting in this story is who are those abusing the technology and it’s the people who are hired to protect the citizens, the police. In this book, the police want Aoyagi dead and they will do whatever is necessary to capture him, even if it means hurting his friends.
The book shows a distrust towards these surveillance devices but also towards the police and while I know there are such things as corrupted cops, it was a bit interesting to read how the cops were corrupted to the point where they just wanted to catch a criminal, pin him for the murder and make it disappear. In some ways, for Western readers, this type of mentality is very pre-1960′s where police would bust anyone on circumstantial evidence and close the case without further investigation and many innocent people went to jail for a crime they never committed.
While it was very exciting to read how Aoyagi was able to hide from the police and see how those who try to help him, end up in some type of trouble, there are two things that I felt that the book may confuse readers. For one, the timeline. After the assassination, the book goes into non-integral characters who discuss the assassination and then what transpires from the audience point-of-view in the three days that the police are hunting after Aoyagi. Then all of a sudden, the story fast forward to 20-years-later and tries to talk about the assassination and what has happened to various characters.
This was very unusual because the characters at that point in the story aren’t even introduced or developed yet. In fact, it’s a chapter which one would want to go to, after you read the story not before you get into Aoyagi’s storyline. So, I felt that having this storyline of what happened 20-years-later so early in the book was confusing and misplaced.
It was quite interesting because I was thinking about the television show “LOST” and how the series would go through past, the present and the future and in some way, I felt that Isaka was trying to accomplish that for the book and give us an idea of how things were in the past, how things are in the present and in the future but visually, the pacing works on television. Sure, many people were confused with the TV series of “LOST”, there was a certain payoff at the end for your patience.
With “Remote Control”, while it ended with a pretty good ending, I had to go back and re-read “Part Three- Twenty Years Later”. Again, my opinion that it was misplaced and took you out of the book in terms of pacing and in some way, I would recommend skipping part three and go from part two to part four and after reading the book, then read part three. It makes better sense that way.
Overall, “Remote Control” is fascinating, entertaining and riveting mystery book and aside from the pacing issues that I had with the book, when it gets to the incident especially from Aoyagi’s perspective, it was well-written and well-developed. The characters were fun to read and to see how Isaka put a lot of thought into the storyline but also its character’s nuance. He didn’t try to make Aoyagi some type of Hollywood type of hero or fugitive, this was a guy that tries to climb out of a window and ends up getting hurt. He’s a regular man with no special abilities and he gets fatigued, hurt and confused throughout the book. And I actually enjoyed that portrayal of the protagonist.
So, if you are looking for a well-written mystery book, I do recommend “Remote Control” as it is definitely a wonderful written work by Kotaro Isaka. Recommended!
Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai – The Manga Edition by Yamamoto Tsunetomo/Chie Kutsuwada (a J!-ENT Manga Review)
An easy to follow, enjoyable and informative manga adaptation of the original, historic samurai book by Yamamoto Tsunemoto. Definitely recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2010 Sean Michael Wilson, Chie Kutsuwada, William Scott Wilson and Kodansha International, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
MANGA TITLE: Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai – The Manga Edition
Based on the commentaries by Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Adapted by Sean Michael Wilson
Illustrated by Chie Kusawada
Based on the Translation by William Scott Wilson
PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Kodansha International
Available on January 1, 2011
A fledgling samurai humbly requests to be taught the ways of the samurai by Yamamoto-sensei, the famed author of Hagakure, a book of samurai deeds that has been acclaimed throughout the land. Yamamoto takes on the education of the eager young samurai, and so begins a series of tales reminiscent of The Arabian Nights, with deeds both admirable and atrocious, but each one a lesson in the convoluted Way of the Samurai…
Back in the early 1700′s, a samurai named Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a former retainer of Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of the Saga prefecture in Japan would provide a spiritual guide for a samurai warrior, the way of Bushido.
A young samurai named Tashiro Tsuramoto visited the aging Yamamoto back on March 5, 1710 and was fascinated by the samurai of the Saga region and he began recording meticulously the stories and opinions of the aging Tsunetomo about what the warrior code meant to the samurai class. Especially during a time when Japan was at peace and the position of the samurai were not the same as it was during the most feudal period of Japan.
By September 10, 1776, Tashiro had collected all of Tsunetomo’s ideas in a completed 11-volume compilation. The manuscript is known as Hagakure (which has several meanings but translates to “Hidden Leaves”) and it records Tsunetomo’s views on Bushido, the warrior code of the samurai and that a samurai retainer must be willing to die any moment for his lord.
For two centuries, the Nabeshima clan had secretly guarded and kept the manuscript in the Saga domain and decided to make it public during the Meiji period (1886-1912).
While “Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai” had been translated by several people and released several times throughout especially within the last 50 years, recently the book was made into a manga. Featuring an adaptation by Sean Michael Wilson (who has written manga versions of “A Christmas Carol”, “Wuthering Heights”, “The Canterville Ghost”), illustration by Chie Kutsuwada (“The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga”) and features translations by William Scott Wilson (“The Lone Samurai: Hagakure” which would inspire the film “Ghost Dog” by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch).
For those who had the opportunity to read “Hagakure”, especially for Japanese who read it, many were fascinated because the book was literally a historic timepiece of how the Bushido code was before the 1700′s before samurai entered a peaceful coexistence and others samurai took on administrative duties due to the change of Japan. By the time that Tashiro Tsuramoto started taking notes of the book in the early 1700′s, by that time, the monumental battles of Japan were over and the Tokugawa Shogunate established peace in the land in 1603. For Tsunemoto, he saw the changes in samurai and so, what Tashiro was able to record in his notes were wonderful stories of how things were back then.
I know many people may not and probably will not read the original translated book of “Hagakure” but for many people, especially today, sometimes a manga is the best way to approach a new generation.
The book is broken down to the following chapters:
- Chapter 1: The Way of the Samurai
- Chapter 2: Loyalty
- Chapter 3: Revenge
- Chapter 4: Kaishaku and Seppuku
- Chapter 5: Sincerity
- Afterword by William Scott Wilson
In the manga, the aging samurai Yamamoto Tsunemoto is visited by Tashiro Tsuramoto who wants to learn from him about the ways of the Samurai. Tsunemoto gives several anecdotes of samurai. How important their loyalism to their lord.
One story was about a lord cutting his fingernails and the samurai who didn’t leave because he counted nine fingernails and there should be ten.
Another story featured the samurai code in which a samurai was being teased because of his looks. So the samurai Tokuhisa slayed the man who made fun of him. The samurai was told that “To be made fun of and remain silent is cowardice. A Man who makes fun of people is himself a fool. It was his own fault for being cut down”.
In the chapter of “revenge”, one story talked about a samurai who got his revenge by slaying another who had wronged him and people cheered for him because he was able to get revenge. Tsunemoto explains to Tsuramoto of the importance of taking revenge and slaying those who have done one wrong. In Tsunemoto’s words, “To cut a man down in revenge is honorable if the crime committed against you warrants it”
Also, interesting were two stories on how samurai and husbands who caught their wives having sex with another man and how they dealt with the affair.
For the chapter of Kaishaku (those who are appointed to behead those who have committed seppuku) and Seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide), some may find this chapter quite interesting. In one story, Tsunemoto talks about children being brought up to execute. One story was about a Yamamoto Kichizaemon who cut down a dog, then as a teenager executing a criminal and how people at 14-15 were raised and ordered to do beheadings. Tsunemoto talked about how he found performing a beheading was an “extremely good feeling” and that to think it is unnerving is “a symptom of cowardice”.
These are just a few examples of the story of samurai in “Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai – The Manga Edition”. While many of us know of samurai through what we watch from Akira Kurosawa or classic samurai films and for some people their knowledge is what they see from anime or manga, it really helps to have a manga edition of a highly revered, respected book like “Hagakure” because we get to see multiple perspectives of samurai as told by Yamamoto Tsunemoto. To learn the way of the Bushido and how one was loyal to their lord but also upheld the code and lived the way of the samurai warrior according to the code.
While this book does have a storyline of Tashiro Tsuramoto learning from Yamamoto Tsunetomo and how Tashiro is enlightened by Tsunetomo’s words. The manga which was adapted from the original manuscript gives us a good perspective of how things were back then in Japan amongst samurai.
Each story that Tsunemoto tells is short, thus we get a good number of examples in each chapter. The illustrations by Chie Kutsuwada were well done and the manga adaptation was very informative and as a period piece, quite enjoyable to read as it is quite different from other manga that one would read about samurai.
It’s important to note that this manga is targeted for older teens or a mature audience, definitely not for young children as it does feature beheadings, seppuku, etc.
Also, I want to note that I haven’t read the original book, so I can’t comment on how much was left out in the adaptation but with translator William Scott Wilson’s passion about “Hagakure” and that he worked with Sean Michael Wilson who wrote the adaptation, I am assuming they are faithful to the original book.
If you have any interest in samurai especially about Japanese perspective and the Bushido code of that time… but you don’t feel that you are up to reading the actual book, then definitely recommend checking out “Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai – The Manga Edition”.
One of the better bento-making books available right now! Makiko Itoh does a wonderful job in making an easy-to-follow bento book for the Western audience in mind. Featuring easy-to-follow instructions and recipes, preparation timeline, how-to photography and more. If you want to start making bento, this book is highly recommended!
TITLE: The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go
BY: Makiko Itoh
PUBLISHER: Kodanasha International
PAGE COUNT: 132
Healthy, attractive, and economical-bento-box meals will revolutionize your lunchtimes. Let Makiko Itoh, the Net’s leading bento blogger, get you started on your bento journey!
- 25 bento menus and over 150 delicious recipes, both Japanese and Western: Sukiyaki-style Beef Donburi Bento, Egg-wrapped Sushi Bento, Spanish Omelette Bento, Bunny Sandwich Bento, and more
- Every bento photographed in full color
- Comprehensive practical bento-making guidelines: choosing a box, menu-planning, speed and safety tips, staple ingredients
- Timelines help streamline your morning preparation
- Glossary of Japanese ingredients
- An invaluable resource for bento beginners and aficionados alike
For many non-Japanese who enjoy Japanese culture, especially the pop culture and have watched many anime series or drama series, or even read the manga, it is no surprise if you are curious about bento. The way they are put together and how creative they are (as well as economical), it’s no surprise that more people outside of Japan are catching bento fever and wanting to make bento at home.
So, what is bento? Think Japanese version of the school lunch but instead of a big thick lunchbox, there is creativity on the portions of what one eats and are typically set in a special container in which food is split. There is no big bulky apples or bananas or a big sandwich, for the Japanese, you have your steam rice, egg, vegetables, meats, etc. and it all fits into a container.
And it’s no surprise that bento boxes have become popular outside of Japan. People wanting to create economically cool bento boxes and who best to write about it than food blogger Makiko Itoh, owner of justhungry.com and justbento.com.
Makiko has written “The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go” featuring 25 attractive bento menus and features more than 150 recipes which include the Sushi Roll Bento, the Chicken Karaage Bento but as it does feature Japanese style bentos, she also has a not-so-Japanese section which has a Summer Vegetable Casserole Bento and Every Loves a Pie Bento.
And what is important is that Makiko doesn’t focus on cuteness or for the sake of having cute bento, she writes with care about nutrition and has easy-to-read, concise instructions that go along with photos.
For example, using the cover image (featured above), the photo is for “Chicken and Three-color Pepper Stir-fry Bento”. She shows you how to create the stir-fry with a recipe, plus how to make instant cabbage and cucumber pickles and blanched broccoli. Also, information on how to prepare basic white rice.
She also has a time line of how long it takes to create the dish as well.
After you make the dish, she then features how to prepare the food and place it into a single-tier and two-tier box.
So, these are easy-to-follow instructions.
So, what about the rolled up egg? How do they roll it up? No problem, she has pictures on how she does it.
What about the zig zagged vegetables? No problem, she explains how to do it as well.
And it’s important to note that the ingredients featured on the Japanese recipes are ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. Especially if you have an Asian grocery store nearby. Granted, sesame salt or kabocha squash may not be at your local grocery store, but the goal is to improvise if you don’t find some of these ingredients.
Now, by using Makiko Itoh’s “Just Bento Cookbook”, you may be thinking…great, we got the recipe down, ingredients for the Japanese and non-Japanese dishes can be found but what about the actual bento box and equipment that Makiko uses. Now, this is the cool part of the book where she actually showcases bento boxes and accessories and where you can purchase them.
Itoh also goes into foods that can be refrigerated or frozen and for those who are not familiar with the Japanese ingredients, she also has a glossary at the end of the book. So, for those who read and are not sure what “bonito flakes”, “miso” or what “edamame” are… no problem, she explains what they are.
Overall, this is a fantastic book for those wanting to prepare bento dishes. Sometimes blogs on how to prepare bento are hard to follow and Itoh recognizes the weaknesses of what others have tried to do and focuses on making the experience as easy as possible for those creating bento for the first time.
So, if you are interested in making bento, I can easily say that “The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go” is perhaps the best book I have reviewed on bento thus far.
Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt (a J!-ENT Book Review
Sure, there are many ninja and samurai books available but authors Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt (known for their last book “Yokai Attack!”) thoroughly research the time period, focus on a variety of real life warriors (as welly as mythical characters), present them, their accomplishments and their demise but also making the book lively, fun and entertaining. Another wonderful, well-written and highly entertaining book. Definitely recommended!
TITLE: Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws
BY: Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt
PUBLISHER: Kodanasha International
PAGE COUNT: 196
Ninja. The word is loaded with connotations, most rooted in fantastic flights of pop culture. But the truth behind these shadowy assassins is more mind-blowing than any manga, more astounding than any anime, more fascinating than any martial-arts flick. Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai, and Outlaws introduces dozens of unforgettable real-life ninja straight out of the annals of Japanese history—many of whom are all but unknown outside of their home country. Ninja masters. Solo assassins and operatives. Femme fatales as deadly as they were sexy. Swordfighters out of legend. And the Shogun and warlords who commanded them. Each individual is profiled with a full-page, full color manga-style drawing, and a dossier brimming with top-secret information, including photos, anecdotes, and dramatic stories of the individuals in action. The book covers ninja clothing styles, the types of weapons that were used, ninja tools, ninja tricks of the trade, and the basics of the ninja diet. It also includes a do-it-yourself tour of ninja related spots in modern Tokyo.
Were you one of those people that watched Sho Kosugi films when you were younger? Watched Kung Fu cinema on television in hopes that “Super Ninja” would be televised? Purchased ninja clothes and weapons online so you can be like those ninjas you watched in the movies?
Well, if you were one of those type of people, then “Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws” is definitely a book for you! And also a book for those who love stories about real life (and fictional) ninjas in general with some added samurai warriors to make this book even more enticing.
Back again are Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt, the husband and wife team who wrote the 2008 book “Yokai Attack!” featuring Japanese mythological spirits and monsters with a humorous take on the subject, the duo does the same with their ninja (and samurai)-driven book by featuring historical facts about these individuals and their affect on Japanese pop culture many, many years later.
As a child, I have always been into ninja storylines and like many kids back in the ’80s, we had access to ninja magazines from our local supermarket and purchasing the latest ninja gear via mail order was not too difficult. Granted, my parents were not exactly the accepting type and when they found ninja stars and a sai in my closet, needless to say, my collection of ninja magazines were trashed and my hopes to becoming like a ninja were dashed.
Well, fortunately, we had a Japanese American student in our school who claimed his father learned ninjitsu from a descendant who trained from one of the last living ninjas, Grand Master Masaaki Hatsumi but when I went to undergo training from my future ninja teacher, to find out that training would be conducted at his home in a trailer park, needless to say, that moment was the end of my pursuit of trying to become a ninja.
So, the next years of my young teenage life of following ninja was through “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (the black and white comics), whatever was shown in film and the popular “Ninja Gaiden” video game series on the NES and of course, early ninja anime. Needless to say, I wished I had a book that was easily accessible on ninja adventures when I was younger, something cool that would feature other ninjas and their adventures. Stories that would show us why they were so bad ass!
Well, fortunately we now have a ninja book that is not about training or the history of one man, this is a book that goes into the story of various men in Japanese history who were dedicated to the life of the Shinobi, those who have lost their way and those who were active in trying to exterminate the various ninja clans.
“Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws” was thoroughly researched and similar to Yoda and Alt’s latest book, a good dose of humor added as well. Also, provided with each chapter on an individual are cool illustrations by Yutaka Kondo.
The book is broken down in various chapters. The book features “The Illustrated Ninja” which gives the reader information on history, milestones, ninja warring nations, ninja terms, style and weapons, tools, techniques and how the lived. But the main portion of the book deals with a certain ninja individuals.
In the chapter “Ninja Ninja”, we learned about characters such as Mochizuki Izumo no Kami, Togakushi Daisuke, Hino Kumawaka-Maru, Momochi Tanba, Mochizuki Chiyojo and many more. In fact, if you play many video games or watch many ninja films, names such as Hattori Hanzo, Matsuo Basho, Sawamura Jinzaburo Yasusuke are also feature.
In each chapter featuring these men, an illustration by Yutaka Kondo are featured and next to it is a file information on that ninja. From their birth-death, occupation, cause of death, nicknames, hobbies, preferred weapon, clan affiliation and confirmation of that ninja’s existence.
So, for a ninja like Hattori Hanzo, we learn how he is part of the Iga Clan and he uses a spear. His occupation was a “Jonin” (master ninja) and the chapter would go into describing the man, the moment of their glory, how they died and information of how these ninjas are respected in today’s culture. In Hanzo’s case, The Hanzomon Line in Tokyo goes to the Hanzo Gate which was a part of the imperial palace.
The next chapter titled “Ninja Gone Bad”, we learn about ninjas such as Ishikawa Goemon, Nippon Zaemon, Fuma Kotaro and Kosaka Jinnai who turned to a life of crime. Goemon who was once with ninja Iga clan and after his clan were hunted by Nobunaga’s successor Hideoyoshi Toyotomi and Goemon used his skills for profit (which was forbidden). Unfortunately this ninjas arrival to a village was leaked and the ninja along with his young son were boiled to death in an iron cauldron of oil and his death would influence the name of an iron tub as a “Goemon-buro” (Goemon bath) in Japan.
Another ninja, Nippon Zaemon was like the American gangsters of the early ’30s who would rob the rich and was on the front of the first wanted poster in Japan and featured is the actual text from Zaemon’s wanted poster.
The chapter “Ninja Magic” would focus on ninjas of fiction (and some who were real) in Japanese culture such as En no Ozunu, Kashin Koji, Katoh Danzo, Jiraiya and Sarutobi Sasuke & Kirigakure Saizo. These ninjas used magic and were hunted down by Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
One of the more popular ninjas to use magic were Jiraiya (a name familiar to manga and anime fans of “Naruto”) who partnered with his sidekick Tsunade and together they fought against injustice. In Japanese folk tales, Jiraiya was able to summon a large toad and how Japanese pop culture of today has made Jiraiya a major pop culture ninja icon.
The final chapters would deal with ninja rivals, which were typically samurai who fought against the ninja such as ninja rivals Miyamoto Musashi, Yagyu Jubei, Tomoe Gozen, Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Hanegawa Heizo. While most of these names are well-known samurai, Yoda and Alt, make sure to showcase the ninja connection with these samurai. For example, with Miyamoto Musashi, one of the stories of this legendary warrior is how he defeated a warrior named Musashi at the age of 13 and due to the weapons and the location of the duel, it is likely that the man Miyamoto beaten was actually a ninja.
And then there is the chapter of ninja users such as Shotoku Taishi, Takeda Shingen, Sanada Yukimura, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Yoshimune. Powerful individuals in Japan during that feudal era who would employ ninjas (shinobi) as spies. One of the most notable figures covered was Takeda Shinen, a man who would create his own spy network in Japan centuries before the KGB and CIA using trained agents who worked covertly as traveling priests and shrine-maidens.
The final chapter would focus on the ninja destroyer, feudal lord Oda Nobunaga, the man who would conquer Japan and would constantly become the target for ninja trying to assassinate him. While Nobunaga is a man who is covered quite a bit in Japanese books, probably the most interesting story was how Nobunaga had an African man nicknamed Yasuke among his retainers. I have never heard of an African man working with Nobunaga Oda until I read this book and found it to be quite intriguing.
Overall, the presentation of how this book was written was well-done. The authors definitely made it a book that is fun and reader-friendly, but most of all, it is quite obvious that they did their research on each ninja and samurai and how these popular icons of ninja and samurai glory have been portrayed in Japan today or how they had some influence in Japanese pop culture.
The book is rather thorough and informative and for the most part, I had a great time reading this book as it features a lot of information on ninjas and their lifestyle as well as covering the time period in which many of these clans existed.
“Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws” is another enjoyable, awesome book and yet another home run for the the married duo Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt. Highly recommended!
“A fantastic book for inspiration and also a reference for ideas to incorporate a Japanese touch for your garden. This revised edition features more photography, illustrations and content.”
The image above is courtesy of Kodansha America
TITLE: A JAPANESE TOUCH FOR YOUR GARDEN
AUTHOR: Kiyoshi Seike, Masanobu Kudo, David H. Engel, Photographs by Sadao Hibi
PUBLISHED BY Kodansha International
PAGE COUNT: 100 Pages
A JAPANESE TOUCH FOR YOUR GARDEN
With this book, you can bring a touch of Oriental magic into your own backyard. All the basic components of a Japanese garden and their functions are explained and illustrated: stepping stones, paving stones, stone lanterns, signs and statues; streams, waterfalls, and ponds; bamboo fences, gates and walls. Written by eminent authorities on architectural design, botany and landscape design, this popular book has now been fully revised and expanded.
I love looking at Japanese gardens. There is a feeling of peace and serenity when I look at the garden and the lush green backgrounds to just the placement of rocks. I’ve always been interested on the ideas and the reasoning behind it and about a decade ago, I found a fantastic book titled “A JAPANESE TOUCH FOR YOUR GARDEN”.
Fast forward a decade later and now we have a revised version of that book. This new revision features:
- 192 all-new photographs and a stylish new design
- Twice the color pages with even more gardens to inspire you
- 126 detailed line drawings
The book is broken down to two sections: “The Gardens” and “The Elements”.
“The Gardens” featured on the courtyard garden, the stone garden and the tree and water garden.
The courtyard garden segment featured beautiful photography showcasing the home and the way plants, rocks and placement were featured. And also giving an illustration of the composition of the stones and the pathways. I thought that this was well done.
But the one that will always be pleasing to the human eye are stone gardens. Appreciation towards minimalism and I found this segment alone just beautiful and really empowering.
The tree and water garden of course, is just amazing. Breathtaking. Of course, having an actual waterfall as part of your garden is probably more fitting for the rich and famous but nevertheless, very beautiful to look at and one can find themselves just standing on a bridge or just sitting and watching the water interact with the greenery and the rocks. Simply beautiful.
But once you reach the section on “The Elements”. This section is where all the information for landscapers or those wanting information on Japanese gardens will be interested in. It’s an important chapter because it explains how communication is made from a Japanese garden to the person viewing it.
From the reasoning behind placements of rocks, arrangement of stones, plants, water, bamboo gates, lanterns, etc. and the theory behind it.
The chapter on rocks and stepping stones was a good example that many will like to read because it goes into the theory of placement and just almost like art, how the rocks can give a feeling of having more of a garden and the empowerment felt from them.
The book goes into stone lanterns and how they became a part of Japanese gardens because of the tea ceremonies. The chapter goes into explaining the different lanterns available and their use. And also, stone Buddha’s or lamp posts.
Another chapter goes into water basins and the construction of them. And of course, followed by water-based segments that go into streams and waterfalls.
A section that has been expanded upon is the use of bamboo constructions such as fences, gates and walls.
And the section is then followed by the selection of plants that are used for color and seasonal change.
The book ends with hand-made techniques, an appendices and Japanese gardens one can visit in the United States, the UK and Ireland.
The book is full of information, beautiful photography and just overall, helpful for those wanting to build their own Japanese garden or just simply has a passion for them.
Over a decade ago, I purchased “A JAPANESE TOUCH FOR YOUR GARDEN”. With my passion for Japanese culture, I wanted to have a touch of Japanese flair for my home.
Granted, I was only a college student at the time and having only limited income, I used the book as a reference and for visual ideas. I would use the books diagrams and sketch out where I wanted the plants to go. Where I wanted the rock placements to be located. Then picking out plants that would not only be suitable for our very hot climate and cold climate but plants that would provide color. (Please note that this photo was after the winter, the start of Spring and the bermuda grass was starting to come up and fill parts of my garden).
I would pick out Japanese lanterns and lamps to add to the composition and over Spring, I was able to come up with something that I was proud of (considering my limitations). I was able to create something different in my front yard and eventually, having neighbors and people nearby my home giving me compliments of the work that I was able to create.
I have no landscaping skills (as you can probably tell) but I realize that by using the book and learning about rock placement and using the photos as a visual reference and trying to find plants or similar plants as featured in the book, perhaps I could bring some part of Japan to my own American yard.
So, I can tell you first hand that this book is a great reference for ideas and for those who just love the serenity of Japanese gardens and the ideas and reasons behind it. This revised edition has more photography, more content and illustrations over the original and for those who are wanting to experiment or add a touch of Japan to your garden, “A JAPANESE TOUCH FOR YOUR GARDEN” is definitely for you. Highly recommended!
Image of “AVATARS AND ANTIHEROES: A GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ARTISTS” is courtesy of 2008 Kodansha International”
“Claudia Albertini writes an intelligent, beautiful and thought provoking book showcasing forty of the latest contemporary artists in China. Well-written, well-balanced and overall a fantastic insight to modern Chinese society and contemporary art. Excellent!”
BOOK: AVATARS AND ANTIHEROES: A GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ARTISTS
AUTHOR: Claudia Albertini
COMPANY: Kodansha International
PAGE COUNT: 180 pages
Chinese contemporary art is currently enjoying a worldwide boom, fetching record-breaking prices at auction houses around the globe. The country’s rapid transition from Communism to consumerism, and the dizzying changes brought about by urbanization, globalization and new technologies have created a fascinating explosion of art overwhelmingly concerned with the search for self-identity in a society that, from Confucius to Mao, has traditionally disregarded individualism for the collective good.
Avatars and Antiheroes reflects the schizophrenic undercurrents of a nation in continuous fast-forward. From the Cynical Realism and Political Pop movements associated with the post-Tiananmen generation of artists such as Yue Minjun, whose grinning representations of himself as antihero seem to mock the revolutionary heroes of old, to the pop-culture generation spearheaded by Cao Fei, whose digital avatars live in a world without borders, this book showcases the work of the most important contemporary artists to emerge from China in recent years.
Stunning full-color plates of the work of Chinas leading painters, photographers, sculptors, performance artists, video artists, and even a fireworks artist are complemented by insightful commentary from Beijing-based art specialist Claudia Albertini, who personally interviewed many of the artists featured.
I have to admit that I was feeling giddy about reviewing Claudia Albertini’s first book “AVATARS AND ANTIHEROES: A GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ARTISTS”.
I have had the opportunity to embrace a lot of art coming from Asia, especially in Japan and Korea but my curiosity towards Chinese contemporary art has always been buzzing because when it comes to China, you sometimes wonder how restrictive art can be especially when it comes to political pop movements.
What we have with “AVATARS AND ANTIHEROES” is just that. As Albertini describes as the book “reflects on schizophrenic undercurrents of a nation in continuous fast-forward. From the Cynical Realism and Political Pop movements associated with the post-Tiananmen generation of artists such as Yue Minjun who grinning representations of himself as antihero seem to mock the revolutionary heroes of old, to the pop culture generation spearheaded by Cao Fei whose digital avatars live in a world without borders, this book showcases the work of the most important contemporary artists to emerge from China in recent years”.
One thing that you will notice with this book are the plenty of large photography to showcase the artists that Albertini is covering. Well-written and although utilizing words that may fly over the head of some people (note: typical of a good number of authors of art or historical books), fortunately Albertini’s book is understandable and not overly cerebral. You understand what the author is trying to communicate and for an art book, that is a plus for readers worldwide.
Albertini does a great job in showcasing the works of the artist but also including background of the artist on how they got their start in the art world and also background on certain art pieces. Also, knowing that each of the 40 artists featured, she did interview.
An example would be the artist Cai Guoqiang. I was looking at the Cai’s creation of “Light Passage-Autumn” which is just a beautiful artpiece of black explosions with the use of grays and browns exploding throughout the piece and to learn that Cai likes to use gunpowder in his artwork.
Cai’s use of gunpowder in his artwork is just beautiful but another work that I just found incredible is “Head On” featuring life-sized replicas of dozens and dozens of wolves (made of paper mache, plaster, resin, fiberglass and painted hide) jumping in a rainbow like formation and crashing head on to a glass wall and the wolves all having different expressions as they jump but for those that crash into the wall, a look of pain. Absolutely stunning!
And art on canvas is not all that is featured in this book, from sculptures, photography, video stills and other areas of how the artist can communicate their creativity, I also found the craftsmanship of the artists featured in this book to be mind blowing.
Shi Jinsong’s “Na Zha’s Baby Stroller” is not your typical baby stroller, this one has blades, spikes and sharp pieces throughout the baby stroller that just surprises you when you look at it and to see how much work it took for Shi to create it. Albertini describes Shi’s work as a reflection on the exertion of control in contemporary society, on the relationships between state and institutions and the individual.”
For Shi, everyday objects are not just material possessions but also deadly weapons. Another photo featuring Shi’s work is a traditional office desk. All created in stainless steel from the desk, chair, lamps, keyboard and computer monitor. But monitor has a guillotine, the desks have cuffs and the chair is literally a torture device.
One of my favorites featured in the book is RongRong & Inri. Rongrong from Zhangzhou, China and Inri from Yokosuka, Japan. Both photographers who can’t speak the same language but both had an appreciation for each other’s artwork. Two photographers who feature themselves in beautiful landcapes and showcasing nature sometimes clothed, sometimes nude but they document their experience and the end result is just absolutely beautiful, sensual and mesmerizing.
But then there are some artists featured that truly push the button on contemporary art such as Chen Lingyang, who looks to explore the truth of the female body. And thus in a print piece titled “Twelve Flower Months – The Nine Month Chrysanthemum”, you see this artistic piece but inside a mirror is a photo of her vagina during a menstrual period. Chen’s featured this style of artwork in a twelve photograph series that would take traditional Chinese garden design, featuring a flower and what would look quite artistic is sure to make a viewer’s eyebrow to raise when they look in the mirror to see her portrayal of femininity but during a menstrual period.
And throughout the book, with forty artists featured, there is such a variety of artwork that hardly overlap in terms of styles and creativity. You get a good representation of the contemporary art coming from China and learning about the artists, possibly where they are mentally and emotionally through the creation of their work and more.
When it comes to books covering contemporary art, there are a few things that I look for and that is variety. Showcasing various artists with different art styles and showcasing the various creativity of the individuals featured. I love to see many artwork pieces of that individual but also featured nice and big if possible.
The other thing that I look for is how much research goes behind the artist’s background but also interviews are a plus as well. But how it’s written must be able to communicate to the reader as easily possible and not make one feel you are reading a thesis on art. Words selected for creativity is great but when used too much that it becomes cerebral, I tend to have a disdain for those art books.
I can tell you right now that “AVATARS AND ANTIHEROES: A GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ARTISTS” is a well-written, enjoyable book and Claudia Albertini did a spectacular job in bringing these painters, photographers, sculptors, performance artists, video artists, fireworks artist from China and through good selection, really showcasing the beautiful and eye-catching artwork of these individuals.
To see this artistic revolution in China and how some are communicating their artwork despite whatever restrictions they may have in the country, I’m so happy to see a book that showcases artwork on a variety of levels.
If you have an interest in contemporary Chinese art, this book is definitely highly recommended!
Photo from “Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide” @2008 Kodansha International”
“An invaluable resource for those who want to know more about Japanese monsters. Written in a way that is enjoyable, fun but also interesting tidbits on how these monsters have impacted Japanese culture, information on sightings, how to escape from these monsters if one would come across them and much more.”
BOOK: Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
AUTHORS: Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt, Illustrations by Tatsuya Morino
COMPANY: Kodansha International
PAGE COUNT: 196 pages
How do you escape from the Human-faced tree?
Keep your home safe from the Bathtub Licker?
Make it through a date with a woman whose neck puts an anaconda to shame?
Forget Godzilla. Forget the giant beasties karate chopped into oblivion by endless incarnations of Ultraman, Kamen Rider and the Power Rangers. Forget the Pocket Monsters. Forget Sadako form the Ring and that creep all-white kid from The Grudge. Forget everything you know about Japanese tales of terror. The yokai are the spookiest Japanese creatures you’ve never heard of, and it’s high time they got their due.
When I first got into Japanese pop culture, one of the things that I noticed through watching Japanese films, television, video games and reading manga (Japanese comic books) is that you would see occasionally see these monsters.
For Americans, when they think of Japanese monsters, outside of the typical Godzilla and related monsters that many have been accustomed to seeing in movies, some are discovering these weird creatures such as turtle-like humans or girls clad in traditional Japanese clothing that looked demonically possessed.
I can see people watching an anime like “Demon Prince Enma” and wonder why one of the monsters is this turtle like creature named “kappa” and then watch a Japanese TV show with people walking through a cemetery being scared out of their wits by people dressed up as a turtle. What is this “kappa”? Or even play a video game such as “Dead or Alive” and see this muscular character with a very long nose called a “tengu” and then see this character on various video games? One thing you will notice as you follow Japanese pop culture is that these monsters are featured quite a bit and definitely makes you wonder more about them.
My curiosity peaked in mononoke (ghosts) or bakemono/obake (monsters) was through the books and radio programs by Hawaii’s Glenn Grant. Known for interviewing and researching these monsters and retelling the frightening stories on his radio program and audio book. About people who meet a beautiful woman on the beach, late at night and then all of a sudden this beautiful woman’s neck starts to elongate and ends up being a vengeful monster. Who is this monster known as “Rokuro Kubi”.
There are some websites that would have some information and some Japanese magazines that would do the occasional obake story every so often but recently, I have read the latest book from husband and wife team Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt titled “Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide”.
I am very impressed by the amount of monsters featured in this book alone. The book is broken down in chapters: Ferocious Friends, Gruesome Gourmets, Annoying Neighbors, The Sexy and Slimy and the Wimps.
So, as an example, one of the popular monsters you see in Japanese pop culture is the Kappa.
For the Kappa, the writes give you a pronunciation, English name of the monster, the alternate Japanese names, the gender, its height, weight, locomotion (how they move), their distinctive features, offensive weapons, their weakness, their habitat and their claim to fame. Also, how they attack, how you survive an encounter with the Kappa and my favorite, how the monster has had its place in Japanese culture.
In this case, in Tokyo, there was a bridge called he Kappabashi (Kappa Bridge) but now is occupied by the Bhuddist temple, Sogenji, which is also known as a Kappa Temple.
Also, there is a sushi called the “kappa-maki”, which is a cucumber roll.
You get a lot of these fun details throughout the book and this is what I found quite enjoyable.
Also, a ghost that may sound funny but has terrorized school kids aplenty is the monster known as “Toire no Hanako” (Hanako in the Bathroom) which is a girl with a bobbed hair in red skirt.
There have been many crazy stories on this monster alone and featured aplenty on manga and anime. The monster has even been made to a horror film. But it was cool to see how this monster came to the scene and see the authors really do their research on the monster and also its comparisons to similar monsters.
There are so many of these Japanese monsters found in this book alone and it does help when the layout of the book has a very good layout, presentation with images and illustrations. Each monster chapter has a pretty cool illustration by Tatsuya Morino and definitely a nice touch to the book.
The book ends with a resource featuring websites, bibliography and a Yokai index to quickly find that monster that you may have seen on a television or manga.
Overall, the presentation of how this book was written was well-done. The authors definitely made it a book that is fun and reader-friendly, but most of all, it is quite obvious that they did their research on each monster (especially to know it’s various names and other monster comparisons) and although I’m sure there are plenty of monsters in Japan not featured on this book, the more well-known obake (about 46 of them) that one would see in a Japanese film, television show, video game or manga, is what you will find on this book.
Where else would you find how to escape from a human-faced tree or keeping your home safe from a bathtub licker?
“Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide” is an invaluable resource for those into Japanese culture and those who always wondered the origins of these creepy monsters and spirits. Definitely check it out!