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1. Review – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

My obsession with David Mitchell continues and is getting more intense. There are books you devour. There are books you savour and never want to end. And then there are David Mitchell books which are both. I went with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet because there was a reference and crossover with The Bone Clocks. It is […]

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2. Dust of Eden: A Novel, by Mariko Nagai (Albert Whitman & Co., 2014)

Recommended for ages 8-12

This slim historical novel in verse packs an wallop of an emotional punch. It tells the story of Mina Tagawa, a young Japanese-American girl from Seattle who along with her family is imprisoned in an internment camp in Idaho, where they live for three years. 

The author sensitively portrays this shameful period in our history, and the way in which different members of Mina's family react: her stoic grandfather; her angry father, a newspaper reporter who is arrested soon after Pearl Harbor; her frustrated teenaged brother, who joins the highly decorated Japanese regiment that fought in Europe. We also see the reaction of Mina's white best friend and her family, who try to remain loyal to their Japanese American friends and neighbors during this difficult time.  In a particularly moving passage, Mina's brother Nick writes of his experience liberating Dachau, drawing comparisons to the camp he lived in Idaho surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers like the ones he saw in Germany.  

In an afterword, the author explains that she was inspired to write Dust of Eden by her childhood doctor, a second-generation Japanese American who was interned along with his family during World War II.  The afterword gives a short background on the chronology of the internment.  

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3. Review – Silence Once Begun by Jesse Bell

9780307908483This is one of those great novels that blends up truth and imagination so well that the lines between fact and fiction are so blurred you don’t even know where to begin trying to unravel it. It also doubles the intrigue especially the way Jesse Ball structures the story to unfurl piece by piece, layer by layer in such a way you are taken by surprise after surprise.

The story concerns the “Narito Disappearances”. A crime that baffled local authorities in Osaka where eight people had gone missing seemingly without a trace until one day a signed confession is handed in to police. The man who has made the confession is quickly arrested and doesn’t say another word. But this is not a whodunit because as the story goes on we see there is a much bigger and more important question that who.

“I am looking for this mystery. Not the mystery of what happened but the mystery of how”

One one level this is an ingenious crime novel. By telling the story in a different order the facts and “truth” aren’t revealed to us until we get to the beginning of the story. Rather than telling the story in chronological order we follow the path Jesse Ball’s investigation follows like a trail of breadcrumbs. Ball recounts his investigation through interview transcripts and internal notes as well as letters and other documents he is given along the way.  Each interview shines a little more light onto the story and leads Jesse to another piece of the puzzle.

I was so engrossed in this book it wasn’t until finishing it that I truly digested what I had read. In many ways this is a modern parable about the moral fallacies we place on our systems of justice but the skill and subtlety in which Jesse Ball tells the story gives it not just power but also emotional resonance. And by doing so Jesse Ball gets to the absolute core of what a crime story is and what it should mean when we read one.

Buy the book here…

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4. A Q&A with Peipei Qiu on Chinese comfort women

Issues concerning Imperial Japan’s wartime “comfort women” have ignited international debates in the past two decades, and a number of personal accounts of “comfort women” have been published in English since the 1990s. Until recently, however, there has been a notable lack of information about the women drafted from Mainland China. Chinese Comfort Women is the first book in English to record the first-hand experiences of twelve Chinese women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese Imperial forces during the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945). Here, author and translator Peipei Qiu (who wrote the book in collaboration with Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei), answers some questions about her new book.

What is one of the most surprising facts about “comfort women” that you found during your research?

One of the shocking facts revealed in this book is that the scope of military sexual slavery in the war was much larger than previously known. Korean and Japanese researchers, based on the information available to them, had estimated that the Japanese military had detained between 30,000 and 200,000 women to be sex slaves during the war.  These early estimations, however, don’t accurately reflect the large number of Chinese women enslaved. Investigations conducted by Chinese researchers suggest a much higher number. My collaborating researcher Su Zhiliang, for example, estimates that between 1931 and 1945 approximately 400,000 women were forced to become military “comfort women,” and that at least half of them were drafted from Mainland China.

Although it is not possible to obtain accurate statistics on the total number of kidnappings, documented cases suggest shockingly large numbers. For instance, around the time of the Nanjing Massacre, the Japanese army abducted tens of thousands of women from Nanjing and the surrounding areas, including over 2,000 women from Suzhou, 3,000 from Wuxi, and 20,000 from Hangzhou. These blatant kidnappings continued throughout the entire war, the youngest abductee’s being only nine years old.

Chinese and Malayan girls forcibly taken from Penang by the Japanese to work as 'comfort girls' for the troops. The Allied Reoccupation of the Andaman Islands, 1945. Lemon A E (Sergeant), No 9 Army Film & Photographic Unit. War Office, Central Office of Information and American Second World War Official Collection. Imperial War Museums. IWM Non Commercial Licence.

Chinese and Malayan girls forcibly taken from Penang by the Japanese to work as ‘comfort girls’ for the troops. The Allied Reoccupation of the Andaman Islands, 1945. Lemon A E (Sergeant), No 9 Army Film & Photographic Unit. War Office, Central Office of Information and American Second World War Official Collection. IWM Non Commercial Licence. Imperial War Museums.

What impressed you most deeply when you heard the stories of these women?

What struck me most deeply were the “comfort women’s” horrendous sufferings. I felt strongly that their stories must be told to the world. Many of the women were teenagers when the Japanese Imperial Forces kidnapped them. They were given the minimum amount of food necessary to keep them alive and were subjected to multiple rapes each day. Those who resisted were beaten or killed, and those who attempted to escape would be punished with anything from torture to decapitation, and the punishment often included not only the woman but also her family members.

The brutal torture was not only physical. These women confined in the so-called “comfort stations” lived in constant fear and agony, not knowing how long they would have to endure and what would happen to them the following day, worrying what their families went through trying to save them, and witnessing other women being tortured and killed. During research and writing I often could not hold back tears, and their stories always remain heavily and vividly in my mind.

I was also deeply impressed by their resilience and faith in humanity. These women were brutally tortured and exploited by the Japanese imperial forces during the war, and when the war ended, members of their own patriarchal society discarded them as defiled and useless. Many of them were ignored, treated as collaborators with the enemy, or even persecuted. Yet what the survivors remember and recount is not only suffering and anger but also acts of humanity – no matter how little they themselves have witnessed. Wan Aihua, though gang-raped multiple times and nearly beaten to death by Japanese troops, never forgot an army interpreter who saved her from a Japanese officer’s sword. She told us, “I didn’t know if the interpreter was Japanese, but I believe there were kind people in the Japanese troops, just as there are today, when many Japanese people support our fight for justice.”

What motivated you to write this book? 

In part, I was shocked by the lack of information available. In this day and age, it feels like every fact or story to be known is easily at our fingertips. However, in this instance, it was not the case. Even after the rise of the “comfort women” redress movement, most of the focus was on the “comfort women” of Japan and its colonies, and little was known about Chinese “comfort women” outside of China. This created a serious issue in understanding the history of the Asia-Pacific war and to the study of the entire “comfort women” issue.  Without a thorough understanding of Chinese “comfort women’s” experiences, an accurate explication of the scope and nature of that system cannot be achieved.

In the past two decades, how to understand what happened to “comfort women” has become an international controversy. Some Japanese politicians and activists insist that “comfort women” were prostitutes making money at frontlines, that there was not evidence of direct involvements of Japanese military and government. And they say telling the stories of “comfort women” disgraces the Japanese people.

One of the main purposes for me to write about Chinese “comfort women” is to help achieve a transnational understanding of their sufferings.  To understand what happened to the “comfort women,” we must transcend the boundaries of nation-state. I hope to demonstrate that fundamentally confronting the tragedy of “comfort women” is not about politics, nor is it about national interests; it is about human life. Dismissing individual sufferings in the name of national honor is not only wrong but also dangerous, it is a ploy that nation-states have used, and continue to use, to drag people into war, to deprive them of their basic rights, and to abuse them.

Peipei Qiu is the author and translator of Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves, which she wrote in collaboration with Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei. She is currently professor of Chinese and Japanese on the Louise Boyd Dale and Alfred Lichtenstein Chair and director of the Asian Studies Program at Vassar College.

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5. What Is It? Haiku

Launch of new series: What Is It?
I’d like to introduce a new series of posts I’m going to be writing called: What Is It?  I’ll be exploring topics related to the world of books and reading as well as taking suggestions from you.

What Is It? Haiku
To kick things off, I’ve decided the first topic in this new series is going to be haiku.  Haiku is a mystery to many devotees of the written word – myself included – so, I’ve gone out into the world to learn more about the mysteriously clever art of haiku and share my findings with you.

Haiku - The Sacred Art by Margaret D. McGee book cover

At a glance:
- Haiku is a word for a specific type of poem and is originally from Japan
- A haiku (poem) contains a specific number of syllables (like a limerick contains a defined number of lines)
- A haiku contains a total of 17 syllables divided into 3 lines
- The first line has 5 syllables, the second has 7, and the third and final line contains 5 syllables
- A haiku doesn’t have to rhyme and most of the time they don’t
- Popular haiku subjects include elements from nature (seasons, animals, plants)

Now that you know a little bit more about what a haiku is, the next step is probably reading some existing work.  A good place to start is by reading Haiku – The Sacred Art: A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines by Margaret D. McGee (pictured above).

Another book to consider is Haiku Mind – 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan. It’s a collection of haiku poems with themes such as honesty, transience and compassion and has a wonderful calming cover just begging the reader to dive in.

If you’ve been inspired by reading some haiku by other authors and feel ready to try your hand at writing one yourself, then Writing and Enjoying Haiku: a Hands-On Guide by Jane Reichhold seems like a good a place as any to start.  You’ll read how haiku can bring a: “centered, calming atmosphere into one’s life, by focusing on the outer realities of life instead of the naggings of the inner mind.”  Sounds perfect doesn’t it?Nerd Haiju by Rob Pearlman book cover

There’s a fantastic sub culture of haiku for nerds, and this one looks like a great collection: Nerd Haiku by author Robb Pearlman.  It contains 200 poems that speak to “core elements of the nerd universe: science fiction, fantasy, comic books, super heroes, big-budget movies, role-playing games, technology, TV series, animation, cosplay, and video games.”

Let me know if you already enjoy haiku, or if you’re delving into this subject matter for the first time.  Have you written a haiku about your love of books? If so, we’d love to read it.  Here’s my attempt, although with much help:

Boomerang Books blog
Prose and opinion combine
Best explored with friends

Suggestions Welcome
Hopefully this new series will cover some interesting topics and inspire you to explore new areas in literature.  Suggestions are very welcome, so please comment below and tell us what you’d like to know more about in the great world of books.

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6. Japanese People Can’t Let Go of ‘Frozen’

Every time you want to stop writing about "Frozen," it breaks another record. This weekend, the Disney smash hit remained in first place at the Japanese box office for an incomprehensible eleventh weekend in a row.

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7. Kotodama: the multi-faced Japanese myth of the spirit of language

By Naoko Hosokawa


In Japan, there is a common myth of the spirit of language called kotodama (言霊, ことだま); a belief that some divine power resides in the Japanese language. This belief originates in ancient times as part of Shintoist ritual but the idea has survived through Japanese history and the term kotodama is still frequently mentioned in public discourse. The notion of kotodama is closely linked with Japanese linguistic identity, and the narrative of kotodama has been repeatedly reinterpreted according to non-linguistic factors surrounding Japan, as well as the changing idea of “purity” of language in Japan.

Ancient face

The term kotodama literally means “the spirit of language” (koto = language, dama (tama) = spirit or soul). It is a belief based on the idea of Shintoism, the indigenous religion of Japan which worships divinity in all natural creation and phenomena. In ancient Japan, language was believed to have a spirit, which gives positive power to positive words, negative power to negative words, and impacts a person’s life when his or her name is pronounced out loud. Wishes or curses were thus spelled out in a particular manner in order to communicate with the divine powers. According to this ancient belief, the spirit of language only resides in “pure” Japanese that is unique and free from foreign influence. Therefore, Sino-Japanese loanwords, which were numerous by then and had a great impact on the Japanese language, were eschewed in Shintoist rituals and Japanese native vocabulary, yamatokotoba, was preferred. Under the name of kotodama, this connection between spiritual power and pure language survived throughout Japanese history as a looser concept and was reinvented multiple times.

War-time face

Koku Saityou shounin, written by Emperor Saga. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Koku Saityou shounin, written by Emperor Saga. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the most significant historical moments in which the myth of kotodama was reinvented was during the Second World War. In order to strengthen national solidarity, the government reintroduced the idea of kotodama, coupling it with the idea of kokutai (国体, こくたい, koku = country or nation, tai = body), the Japanese national polity. The government promoted the idea that the use of “pure” and traditional Japanese language was at the core of the national unity and social virtue that is unique to Japan, while failing to use the right language would lead to violation of the national polity. Under the belief of kotodama, proposals to abolish or reduce the use of kanji (Chinese characters), which had been introduced since the modernization of the country in the second half of the nineteenth century, were fiercely rejected. Instead, the use of kanji as well as traditional non-vernacular orthographic style was encouraged. Furthermore, based on the kotodama myth, the use of Western loanwords was strictly banned as they belonged to the language of the enemy (tekiseigo) and those words were replaced by Sino-Japanese words. For example, the word ragubî, which is the loan from the English word “rugby,” was replaced by tôkyû, a Sino-Japanese word meaning “fight ball.” The word anaunsâ, which is the loan from the English word “announcer,” was replaced by hôsôin, a Sino-Japanese word meaning “broadcasting person.”

It is interesting to note that the kotodama myth was reinvented to encourage the use of Sino-Japanese elements, whereas in the ancient belief the myth promoted the Japanese native elements and eschewed Sino-Japanese elements. In other words, Sino-Japanese was redefined as the essential element of the “pure” and “traditional” Japanese language. Even the movements to simplify the Japanese orthographic system by abolishing the use of Chinese characters and using only kana (phonetic syllabaries) to write Japanese were considered to be violations of kotodama, despite the fact that kana was invented in Japan. This complete reversal of the position of Sino-Japanese elements can be explained by the belief that the increasing use of Western loanwords was creating a new threat to the Japanese linguistic identity. The idea of kokutai, along with other militarist propaganda, was stigmatized in post-war Japanese society and faded away. However, the idea of kotodama survived through the post-war democratization period into contemporary Japan with yet another face.

Contemporary face

You still hear the word kotodama today. A song titled “Ai no Kotodama [Kotodama of Love] – Spiritual Message” performed by a Japanese pop rock band, Southern All Stars, is a well-known hit which has sold over a million since it was recorded in 1996. Above all, one frequently sees the term kotodama used in public debates on the subject of foreign loanwords (gairaigo, which excludes Sino-Japanese loans). For example, an article from a nationwide newspaper stated that “loanwords are threatening the country of kotodama.” Thus the idea of kotodama is still linked to the purity of language in contrast to Western loanwords but, unlike the link between kotodama and political identity of the country made during World War Two, it seems that the myth is now linked to its cultural and social identity while recent waves of globalization have increased the diversity within the contemporary Japan.

The diversity of Japanese society goes hand in hand with the diversity of its vocabulary, which we can see from the rapid increase of loanwords in Japanese. However, at the same time, this increases a sense of insecurity in relation to the linguistic and cultural identity of Japan. As a result, the ancient myth of kotodama has been reinvented as a way to manifest Japanese linguistic identity through the idea of a “pure” language. Kotodama has no fixed definition, and continues to transform as Japanese society undergoes changes. It is questionable if the Japanese still really believe in the spiritual power of language — however, the myth of linguistic purity persists in the mind of the Japanese through the word kotodama.

Naoko Hosokawa is a DPhil candidate in Japanese sociolinguistics at the University of Oxford. A version of this article originally appeared on the OxfordWords blog.

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8. Japanese Audience: Your Books Travel the World


" Saucy is a real character dealing with real stuff—hard stuff that doesn’t have easy answers, not in real life and not in fairy tales, either. This is a really compelling and ultimately hopeful story. Highly recommended." – Debby Dahl Edwardson, National Book Award finalist and author of My Name is Not Easy Read a sample chapter.

When you sit in your home office and write, do you think about reaching kids around the world?
Neither do I.

Yet, I’ve been privileged to be published in eight languages: Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, German, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and English.
My books have been read by children and adults across the globe. That’s an amazing thing.

I just learned that Wisdom, the Midway Albatross will be on the 2014-15 Reading List for the Sakura Medal, which is a children’s book award given by the international schools in Japan. The award reaches 15,000 students on 25 schools.


When WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS was published, I always hoped the book would find its way to Japan. While the story focuses on how the oldest bird in the world surviving the Japanese tsunami, the story is also about that March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. From that tragic natural disaster have come many stories of courage and survival. I hoped that Wisdom’s longevity in the face of nature’s forces would be an inspiration. Maybe one day, there will be a version in Japanese.

Thank you, Sakura Medal for allowing us to share Wisdom’s story with a Japanese audience. And thanks for letting me share my good news.
Read more about Wisdom here.

Where have your books traveled? What languages are your books translated into? What language do you WISH to be translated into?

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9. Poetry Interludes: Clearing the Mind Between Books - Lucy Coats



I'm in the space between novels at the moment - in the eye of the creative storm, so to speak. It's a necessary space for me, a place where I give myself the time to do ordinary things, let my mind wander - and feed my creativity by doing something completely different in the writing line. Sometimes I'll work on a picture book, but I'm more likely to write poetry - most of which goes into the big box marked 'never show this to anyone'. Usually I challenge myself to master a new form of verse - I attempted triolets last time - but quite often I'll go back to an old friend. I love the discipline of iambic pentameter, or I might dip into a sonnet, a ballad, or even a limerick.

One of my favourite forms of poetry to write is haiku. To condense so much feeling and atmosphere into so few words is an art--and a difficult one. I have never managed to write one to my own complete satisfaction (and certainly not one I'd be happy to show in public), but I'll always keep trying. It is an art worth working at.

As a student I remember marvelling over Ezra Pound's In a Station of the Metro from "Contemporania," Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 2.1 (April 1913), which I make no apology for repeating here in case there are those who do not know it:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

With a boyfriend in Paris at that time, I spent a lot of hours riding the Metro and mouthing the station names of Denfert-Rochereau, Chatelet-Les Halles, Pyramides, Arts et Metiers, Sevres-Babylone (a poem in themselves, and so much more romantic than Marylebone, Ealing, Euston or Lewisham). I understood Pound's words exactly from my own experience, and even now they conjure up the frantic, crowded platform jostling, the harsh braying note of the closing doors and the slightly sweet smell of sewers and smoke from a million damp Gauloise cigarette butts which would say 'Paris' to my senses even if I were blindfolded.

Years after Paris, I made a trip to Japan, the true home of haiku. Riding the Tokyo Metro was a different experience entirely, and yet just as evocative in its way. Coming in from Narita airport I remember eating sea-fresh sushi from my first bento box and marvelling at brown-grey jagged hills covered in pine trees and moss, exactly like a Hokusai print--and that was before I'd even seen Mount Fuji.

In Japan I felt tall for the first time--but also alien, standing out like a sore thumb above the massed commuters on the platform, trying to read signs in a language I had no hope of understanding. Somehow, though, I trusted myself to one of the seemingly familiar coloured lines on the map and arrived where I was meant to be--a place where a friend had told me I would find a taste of the 'real' Tokyo, far from the blazing multi-coloured neon signs of Shibuya and the clicking cameras whirring outside the Imperial Palace. In Shinjuku I got lost deliberately--the best way to discover unexpected wonders. 

There was the tiny shop with a window full of wooden shoes, which I entered down three rickety steps to find a tiny grey-haired woman bowing to me. I bowed back politely, and suddenly the lack of language was no longer a barrier. With mime and hand gesture and more bowing, we communicated perfectly, and I left with three exquisite pairs of shoes, destined for the (then) small feet of Lovely Daughter, her brother and my god-daughter, all wrapped in patterned paper with a little string to carry them by. I wandered deserted shrines with small offerings of food and flowers before them, and then found myself in a busy market where I was, once again, alien--the alien window shopper amongst a sea of hurrying, haggling housewives buying live chickens, leafy vegetable, roots large and small and rice from great hoppers as tall as the eaves.

There were many more metro trips along the coloured lines of Chiyoda, Marounouchi, Yurakucho, Asakusa and Oedo, but the final one took me to the peaceful woods of the Emperor Meiji's garden--tribute to his beloved Empress wife. Here's what I wrote about it. Not a haiku, but I like to think it has some of the idiophones which characterise other Japanese poetry. 

In Emperor Meiji's garden
black bright carp
dance
their slow drumbeat
on waterlily ripples.
The Empress Shoken sleeps
and nesting crows
sound
requiems of flight
above the weeping trees.

copyright © Lucy Coats 1998

For me, it's a word picture which conjures up how I felt in that particular time and place, better than any photograph could. That's why I'll keep on writing poetry in the in-between times - whether I show it to anyone or not. 

Lucy's new picture book, Captain Beastlie's Pirate Party is now out from Nosy Crow!
"A rollicking story and a quite gloriously disgusting book that children (especially boys) will adore!" Parents In Touch magazine
"A splendidly riotous romp…Miss the Captain’s party at your peril." Jill Bennett
"An early candidate for piratey book of the year!" ReadItDaddy blog
"A star of a book." Child-Led Chaos blog
Lucy's Website
Lucy's Tumblr
Follow Lucy on Facebook 
Follow Lucy on Twitter
Lucy is represented by Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor Ltd


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10. Motoi Shito

Motoi Shito on grainedit.com

Outstanding work from Motoi Shito, a designer and art director based in Tokyo.

 

 

 

Motoi Shito on grainedit.com

 

Motoi Shito on grainedit.com

 

Motoi Shito on grainedit.com

 

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Also worth viewing:

Japan Nippon
Asatte
Takenobu Igarashi

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11. Mainichi Newspaper - News Without Words Part 2!

You may remember the map of the world I created for Mainichi Newspaper last year (the web interactive map is still online, see my previous post about it here). Well what do you know, I've done another one! This time a map of Japan.


This new map is in the morning edition of today's Mainichi Newspaper, sold across Japan. You can zoom in on all the details by accessing the fabulous interactive web version.

Can you spot a tiny self-portrait in there?

The observant will immediately notice we had to tweak the outline proportions of the country so it would fill the double page spread of the newspaper. Once again there was a lot of research involved, and the production was a challenge, with every figure and news item drawn separately in pen & ink, scanned and compiled together on screen. Many of the elements of the map will perhaps be more familiar to Japanese readers than overseas viewers, however even if you've never been to the Far East, I hope you can enjoy my virtual tour across Japan!

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12. Japan Will Hold A 4-Day Animation Festival Entirely in An Airport

This fall, the city of Hokkaido, Japan will present the first-ever animation festival to take place entirely in an airport. The New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival will make use of the Hokkaido airport's well-equipped facilities, including its 377-seat theater with 3D capabilities.

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13. "Oh, Japan. Will you never stop coming up with ingenious, adorable, and/or strange practices that confound Westerners?"

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14. Book review-Ink by Amanda Sun

Title: Ink
 Author:  Amanda Sun
Series:  The Paper Gods #1
Published:  21 June 2013 by Mira
Length: 356 pages
Warnings: one scene which could be read as attempted rape
Source: ARC from publisher
Other info: There is an ebook novella prequel, called Shadow. Rain is the sequel coming in June.
Summary : Ink is in their blood. On the heels of a family tragedy, Katie Greene must move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn't know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks and she can't seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building. When Katie meets aloof but gorgeous Tomohiro, the star of the school's kendo team, she is intrigued by him…and a little scared. His tough attitude seems meant to keep her at a distance, and when they're near each other, strange things happen. Pens explode. Ink drips from nowhere. And unless Katie is seeing things, drawings come to life.
Somehow Tomo is connected to the kami, powerful ancient beings who once ruled Japan—and as feelings develop between Katie and Tomo, things begin to spiral out of control. The wrong people are starting to ask questions, and if they discover the truth, no one will be safe.
Review:  Katie Greene is forced to move to Japan to live with her aunt. There, she meets Tomohiro, a boy whose drawings come to life. with runins with the Yazuka and working around attraction to Tomohiro, Katie learns about his connections to the Kami, Japanese gods of old.
I had a period of really really loving Japan. I’m not totally obsessed any more, but I still like it. When I heard about this series, I was just “aww hell yes. Must read. Excited.”
Katie is still finding her feet in Japan. You get bits of Japanese and snippets of random culture, some of which I recognise from things written by Japanese people, so I’m assuming that the other things were all correct to. It was certainly fully built and different to the Western school settings.
The random Japanese phrases are nice to start with, but they get annoying quickly, because even though it comes with Katie’s translations (mainly), they interrupt the flow with their frequency and make you feel like you need to have a working knowledge of Japanese to understand this book in the way it flows. Oh, and the constant “ne”s got on my nerves. Because they indicate a question. And then are followed by a question mark. And at one point there was an explanation of this when you could infer what they meant. Unnecessary in written stories.
Characters, I liked Katie to start with because I relate to her difficulty at fitting in. However, once we met her and she got a few friends, she got a a bit boring and didn’t move on. Tomohiro, I didn’t care for at all. He moodswings a lot and is mysterious in a boring way. And then he’s really really creepy.   There’s a sweet guy whose name I forgot. I liked him. Minor characters were mainly forgotten when Tomohiro shows up.
 I loved the inclusion of the Kami, using mythology other than Classical Greek/Roman. Don’t get me wrong, I love Classical Greek and Roman, but it’s used so much, and the use of Japanese mythology was wonderful. The originalness and the description of the creatures added awesomeness to the book.
It’s very stereotypical YA paranormal romance, if you ignore the fact that it’s set in Japan and has Japanese gods. Badboy who wants you to stay away? Check. Instalove? Check. See him once, can’t get him out of your head? Check. I could go on, but I won’t.
Unrelated to the writing, the illustrations are gorgeous. 

  Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a book with a wonderful different mythology, but lots of drawbacks.


0 Comments on Book review-Ink by Amanda Sun as of 4/30/2014 2:01:00 AM
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15. Ryo Takemasa

Ryo Takemasa via #grainedit

 

Charming work from the talented Ryo Takemasa, a graduate of Musashino Art University and member of the Tokyo Illustrators Society.

Ryo Takemasa via #grainedit

 

Ryo Takemasa via #grainedit

 

Ryo Takemasa via #grainedit

 

Ryo Takemasa via #grainedit

 

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Also worth viewing…
Kevin Dart Interview
Mitch Blunt
Thereza Rowe

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16. Japan – Nippon

Japan Nippon via grainedit.com

Japanese graphic design is characterized by a unique aesthetic, oscillating between its own pictorial tradition and Western visual culture. In Lars Muller’s lastest release, Japan-Nippon they explore the Japanese poster and how it functions most notably as a highly aesthetic image advertisement, presupposing the designer as an artist.

 

Japan Nippon via grainedit.com

 

Japan Nippon via grainedit.com

 

Japan Nippon via grainedit.com

 

Japan Nippon via grainedit.com

 

Japan Nippon via grainedit.com

 

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Also worth viewing:

Saul Bass Book
Design Books
Holiday wish lists

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Thanks to Mister Retro: Machine Wash Deluxe for being this week's sponsor.






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17. Tom & Jerry Short Remade With CGI Anime Girls

This a fan-made experiment in which the 1956 Tom & Jerry short "Down Beat Bear" is remade in CGI with anime girls in the roles of Tom, Jerry, and the dancing bear. The characters don't appear to be random and likely represent some part of fandom of which I'm not aware. Even lacking that context, I still think it's a fascinating piece of work, not so much for its animation or technical merit as for its resurrection of (and reverence for) classic theatrical animation in a completely unexpected setting.

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18. Graphic Novel Week: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms Fumiyo Kouno, translated from the Japanese by Naoko Amemiya and Andy Nakatani

This isn't currently in print, but many libraries still have it and it's seriously worth tracking down a copy. It's two stories, in one book. "Town of Evening Calm" deals with Minami, a young woman who, 10 years prior, survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She's still haunted by that day, and has intense guilt about the fact she survived when so many didn't. (Including many members of her immediate family.) "Country of Cherry Blossoms" is in two parts and takes place in 1987, the second part in 2004, and on one hand is a story of changing friendships and aging parents, but on the other is a look at how the bombing still lingers in Japanese society and thought. They're connected, but I won't tell you how.

This is an Outstanding Book for the College Bound, on the History and Cultures list. I didn't read it when we were working on the list, because I was on different subcommittees, but hearing the History and Cultures people talk about it, it was on my list of ones to pick up immediately.

The author's note at the end explains why Kouno wrote the story. She's from Hiroshima, where they avoid the subject. When she moved to Tokyo she discovered that the rest of Japan (excepting Nagasaki) don't talk about it because they don't understand it. They don't the scars those cities still bear, and how they're different than the ones the rest of Japan has.

The result is beautifully drawn book. "Town of Evening Calm" is rather heartbreaking, but "Country of Cherry Blossoms" is often very funny. It's a fascinating look into a time and place and effects events still have decades down to the line.


Book Provided by... my local library

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0 Comments on Graphic Novel Week: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms as of 3/27/2014 11:55:00 AM
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19. Graphic Novel Week: Pluto




Pluto by Naoki Urasawa, based on work by Osama Tezuka.


I'm going to review the entire 8-volume series as one, because that's how I think about it, because that's how we looked at it for inclusion on the Outstanding Books and College Bound list for Science and Technology.

Urasawa takes a story arc from Osama Tezuka's classic Astro Boy series and retells it for an older audience. The first volumes really focus on Gesicht, a top European detective who's looking into the horrible murders of some of the world's leading robots. It's soon evident that the serial killer is targeting the seven most powerful robots in the world. This troubles Gesicht for many professional reasons, but many personal ones as well--most of the seven are his friends, because he is one of them. This killer is unlike anything they've ever seen before--he's too fast to be captured on film, so he can't be human, but he doesn't show up on any robot sensors, so he can't be a robot.

As the mystery deepens, we meet the other robots, get backstories-- many are haunted by what they saw and did in the last great war and many live their lives today as a way to atone for their actions then. There are flickers of something at the edges of Gesicht's memory that he can't quite place, but he thinks it's important.

And through it all it raises questions of what it means to be human and where the line is between Artificial Intelligence and humanity--if we get too good at designing AI, will there be a line any more? Can there be one? What about an injured human with robotic parts? How much robot is too much robot? And through it all, it's just a damn good, engaging story that has many heartbreaking moments. An early one that stands out is the story of North, a robot who is known for the death and destruction he brought during the war. He's now a butler to a composer who loathes him because everyone knows robots can't feel. All North wants to do is make music, to play piano and bring beauty to the world, but the composer won't let him, because robots are emotionless and can't understand or play true music because of it. It perfectly sets up the prejudices many have against robots, while showing that many of these AI systems are so advanced that robots may not be that emotionless after all. It's a tender story that sets up a lot of the larger issues and dynamics in the series.

I love the world Tezuka and Urasawa have built, and it's eerie to realize that the geopolitics read as super-current, but were in the original text from the 60s. As someone whose never read Astro Boy, I'm not familiar with the source material, but that's ok. The story is amazing on its own, but I do like the touch that each volume has a bit of back matter--an essay, an interview, another comic-- from a variety of people--Tezuka's son, manga scholars, other artists-- that help give both works a context to each other and to the larger manga world. It was very interesting and helpful. (Plus, I just love that Japan takes drawn books so seriously that there are a lot of manga scholars out there.)

I highly recommend it.

Books Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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20. Masaaki Yuasa’s ‘Ping Pong’ Series Looks Incredible

Table tennis sounds like just about the last thing that needs an animated series, but leave it to the Japanese to make the sport as exciting as a superhero action-adventure series. This is our first extended look at "Ping Pong," a new 11-episode animated series by Japanese director Masaaki Yuasa ("Mind Game," "The Tatami Galaxy") that will debut April 10th on Fuji TV’s late-night noitaminA block.

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21. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Does First-Ever Disney Park Meet-&-Greet

Today in Japan, a new Oswald costumed character began doing meet-and-greets at Tokyo DisneySea.

0 Comments on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Does First-Ever Disney Park Meet-&-Greet as of 4/1/2014 7:09:00 AM
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22. The Meditative and Mysterious Films of Tatsuhiro Ariyoshi

Born in 1984 in Aichi Prefecture Japan, Tatsuhiro Ariyoshi is an independent animator who lives and works in Tokyo. He graduated from the Musashino Art University (Department of Imaging Arts & Sciences) in 2009, followed by a graduate degree from the animation department at the Tokyo University of the Arts.

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23. Illustrator Interview – Akiko White

As all my blog followers know, I am a huge fan of the SCBWI and highly recommend children’s authors and illustrators to join and become involved in this society. I apply for and follow keenly their awards, and just as … Continue reading

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24. ‘The Tale of the Plump Bird’ by Saki Iyori

"The Tale of the Plump Bird" was directed, animated and edited by Saki Iyori

0 Comments on ‘The Tale of the Plump Bird’ by Saki Iyori as of 4/14/2014 1:45:00 AM
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25. new series....

©the enchanted easel 2014
in the making.

i am crazy in love with all things japanese...from the culture to the food to the super cute art such as the company sanrio (hello kitty) and anime. oh, and let's not forget my obsession with cherry blossoms and the absolutely breathtakingly beautiful sakura trees. i mean even my fragrance is japanese cherry blossoms. as i said, obsessed. really need to go to japan once day...

anyhoo, i've been wanting to do a little series of kokeshi dolls for quite a while and i had these thumbnails drawn up since this past november. how tight do i work?! gosh, i could probably save myself the drawing step in between and just sketch these right onto the canvas, using these thumbnails as my guide. but....i'm too OCD for that (and love drawing just as much as painting) so i'm going to whip out 4 8x8 sketches and then transfer them to the canvas.

can not wait to paint these! :)

©the enchanted easel 2014
a peek at little sakura {big surprise with the name}...

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