Feb 17
"Fred Korematsu Speaks Up skillfully introduces a civil rights icon and other brave men and women to a new audience." (Heyday Books)

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up skillfully introduces a civil rights icon and other brave men and women to a new audience.” (Heyday Books)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

On January 30 of this year, you may have noticed a certain bespectacled figure serving as the Google Doodle: Fred Korematsu. Possibly unknown to many of you (In fact, I didn’t know the name until several days prior to his being honored by Google), Korematsu was nonetheless an important civil rights figure of the 20th century and has gotten the recognition he deserves as in recent years, with Fred Korematsu Day being celebrated in several states. Now, younger readers are offered an informative look at his fight for justice.

Co-written by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, Fred Korematsu Speaks Up documents the journey of the man who fought against the forced relocation of Japanese Americans to prison camps during World War II. The book provides details about Korematsu and his battle, but also about social movements and other groups that have suffered enormous discrimination, such as African Americans and Chinese Americans.

Much of Korematsu’s life story is told in poem-like stanzas, starting with an incident as a young man in which he was refused a haircut at a barbershop because of his race. Atkins and Yogi then take readers through significant moments in his life, from the personal (such as how Korematsu came to be known as “Fred”) to monumental events for the Japanese American community (like the bombing of Pearl Harbor and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing an executive order authorizing the military’s removal of people of Japanese descent from their homes on the West Coast).

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Jan 26

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). For more of his articles, click here.

On Jan. 12-13, Yoshiki of the band X Japan—the nation’s number one rock group, which has sold out the 55,000 seat Tokyo Dome a record 18 times and has moved more than 30 million singles and albums since forming in the 1980s—fulfilled a lifelong dream by debuting, and also selling out, two consecutive nights at Carnegie Hall in New York City with his Yoshiki Classical Special performance.

Backed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuga Cohler with arrangements by Shelly Berg, the nearly three-hour concert brought an arena vibe to the traditional concert hall setting. Featuring a mix of X Japan classics, new material, and pitch perfect renditions from the book of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, Yoshiki brought the tunes to life at the piano, and additional turns from guest vocalists Katie Fitzgerald and Ashley Knight provided bright spots of witty banter (unlike other Japanese superstars poised for American fame, Yoshiki’s English is fluent).

The production team pushed the limits of imagination for Carnegie Hall, with lighting so intense that Yoshiki himself had to ask his crew mid-song to reposition of one of the rigs. Videos and still images (courtesy of last year’s internationally released documentary We Are X) were amply beamed overhead throughout the show, giving the audience the full scope of Yoshiki’s lifelong artistic journey.

In the final stretch following the X Japan epic “Art of Life,” an instrumental version of “Endless Rain” spotlighted a colossal mirror ball that bathed the hall in brilliant, swirling light, as those in the front rows unexpectedly belted out its bilingual chorus to the delight of longtime fans.

While X Japan supporters might have to wait a bit longer to witness another full band performance in New York (they last headlined Madison Square Garden in 2014), Yoshiki Classical Special easily lived up to its name, making another dream come true for both performer and audience.

For additional photos and videos of the concert, visit Yoshiki’s homepage at www.yoshiki.net.

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Dec 29
"This graphic novel series arrests your attention, from the immersive quality of the art, to the highs of self depreciating humor, to the lows of isolation and despair that run through it. Those who have lived abroad will find a lot to relate to." (Top Shelf Productions)

“This graphic novel series arrests your attention, from the immersive quality of the art, to the highs of self depreciating humor, to the lows of isolation and despair that run through it. Those who have lived abroad will find much to relate to.” (Top Shelf Productions)

 

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio currently keeps the lights on by working at JTB USA while writing freelance in New York. Follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and comic books on his blog and Twitter @brittlejules.

Everyone has felt out of place at some point in their lives. People who choose to live abroad sometimes make that their everyday. In Tonoharu, cartoonist and JET alum Lars Martinson (Fukuoka-ken, 2003-2006; Kyoto-fu, 2011-2016) illustrates a story exploring themes of human relationships through the experience of an English teacher in Japan on a journey of self-discovery. Told in three parts, the final volume was released in November and represents many years of work for Martinson that began to see fruition when he received the Xeric Grant for Comic Book Self-Publishers in 2007.

Tonoharu is a tale of several non-Japanese teachers of English living in the titular rural town outside of Fukuoka City, mostly from the viewpoint of a young American named Dan Wells. Wells feels out of place in Japan, but claims to have felt the same way back home without having the excuse of being a foreigner. The reader climbs in the back seat for an intimate road trip with him through his pursuit of purpose and success in his job and social life, privy to all manner of encounters from intimacy in the bedroom to traditional parades with locally made floats. In just one year, Wells encounters unique challenges in his work, frustrations with seemingly unrequited romantic interest for another American, confusion and alarm at the mysterious activities of other foreigners in Tonoharu, and worst of all, the inability to replace light bulbs in his apartment!

Tonoharu is full of quiet moments that when described may come off as unimpressive, but they are always captivating and powerful in the way the words and imagery captures the moodiness of imperfect exchanges between people that are not usually seen in glossier fiction. This quality is enhanced by a lack of narration—the framing story of Dan’s successor (also named Dan) features his narration, but in the main story the characters only express themselves by speaking to one another. Often the things they don’t say, their expressions and their body language, and the things they choose to say while alone, speak just as powerfully as the introspective autobiographical style of narrative-driven graphic novels such as Persepolis.

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Dec 11
"Time to Play is very much a well-produced compilation of covers that delights in mixing together several genres." (J-MUSIC Ensemble)

Time to Play is a well-produced colletion of covers that delights in mixing together several genres.” (J-MUSIC Ensemble)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

“J-pop meets jazz.” What does that really mean?

These words appear on the J-MUSIC Ensemble’s official website, the J-MUSIC Ensemble being a New York-based jazz-influenced instrumental band that mixes various genres. The group’s Grammy-nominated founder Patrick Bartley once told me, “We’re not just playing jazz songs; we’re taking the jazz mentality.”

So what do they serve up with Time to Play, their full-length recording debut? Befitting the group’s name, Time to Play features eight covers of songs by popular Japanese musical acts (including Hikaru Utada’s “Simple and Clean”) executed in a cohesive mix of jazz, funk, rock and pop. Sure enough, the album’s first track (and Perfume cover) “Game” features a significant rock influence with a heavy dose of bass and guitar. The album closes with another substantial touch of rock as the Yoko Kanno cover “The Real Folk Blues” also features a significant helping of the two above-mentioned instruments (but oddly enough, the song doesn’t sound in any way like a folk or blues tune).

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Dec 1

 

By David Reilling (Nagano ALT), writing from Sydney, Australia.

Even post-punks get the blues

Even post-punks get the blues

The Mohican Comes Home or “Mohican kokyô ni kaeru” tells the story of an estranged son returning to his hometown after being gone for a long time. This is a common theme in several other films such as the Godfather, literature and even the Bible, i.e. the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The humour and touching moments in individual scenes make this movie enjoyable to watch despite the predictable plot.

Eikichi Tamura left Hiroshima for Tokyo, hoping to become famous with his band. Like countless other would-be stars before him, Eikichi’s dream never takes off in the big city. The movie opens with Eikichi, the lead singer in a metal band, screaming “Get Sick and Die” to a bloodthirsty crowd of heavy metal fans smashed into a basement bar. The next scene cuts to Eikichi and his bandmates sitting backstage, looking tired and sombre. One of the members confesses: “I get more of a kick out of doing my part-time job.” This scene shows a glimpse into the outcast world of freeters, Japanese people who deliberately choose not to become salary-men and find work in non-traditional areas.

Eikichi goes home to his girlfriend and cramped apartment; he then decides to return home in order to tell his father, Osamu, that his girlfriend is pregnant.

The movie jumps to an unnamed island in Hiroshima and introduces Eikichi’s father. Osamu is a foil to Eikichi. Eikichi has a mohawk-haircut and screams obscenities at a crowd of mosh-pitters. Osamu is in all white suit, attempting to mimic 1980s pop rocker Eikichi Yazawa, and directing a school band of ten unenthusiastic junior high students playing at a temple for an audience of elderly townsfolk. Anyone who has ever taught English in a rural Japanese town will find this scene hilarious. Afterwards, Osamu berates the students for the awful performance as they stare at the ground.

He strikes a pose, again mimicking his idol Yazawa, and offers advice “Life… is a constant battle with yourself. OK?” Funny Scenes like this make the otherwise dull plot bearable.

From this point on the plot becomes predictable. Coincidentally immediately after Eikichi returns home, Osamu is diagnosed with cancer. The plot then follows a standard curve of a father and son trying to repair their relationship. Again, despite the lame plot, several scenes in the movie achieve a fantastic balance between touching and humorous.

In one scene, Osamu wants to eat a specific sausage pizza he had for his birthday some 20 years ago. In order to give his father satisfaction, Eikichi orders all of the sausage pizzas he can find from the mainland.

Eikichi strives to give his father closure. In my opinion, the peak of the movie is when Eikichi pretends to be his father’s idol, Eikichi Yazawa. Osamu states earlier in the movie that “Yazawa is his only pleasure in life” and that he named Eikichi after Yazawa. By this point in the movie, Osamu’s illness has degraded his memory. He cannot tell that the man in the white suit claiming to be Yazawa is really his son.

Osamu breaks down and confesses the high point in his life: meeting Yazawa’s eyes across the crowd at a concert in 1977. Could this really be the high point of someone’s life? Eikichi is remarkably patient with his father, considering his dad ranks a pop star ahead of his family.

The movie’s supporting cast, Eikichi’s mom, brother and girlfriend, played by the former all-girl band AKB48 lead singer, Maeda Atsuko, do an OK job. If the supporting cast are wheels, Eikichi and Osamu are the engine which drive the movie until the end. I seriously question why director Shuichi Oita chose to cast well-known, wealthy and successful actors to play the parts of freeters and country folk. The roles seemed fitting for lesser known actors or real live freeters to get their chance in the film industry.

Without revealing too much, I found the ending to be a disappointment. The conclusion felt hurried and lacked the impact of the rest of the movie. Does the poor story and mediocre ending make this a bad movie? Actually no. If viewed as separate short stories, the scenes are moving and hilarious vignettes. The ‘Mohican Comes Home’ will make anyone who has ever lived in the Japanese countryside long to return.

The Mohican Come Home (Mohican kokyô ni kaeru) by Shuichi Okita, released March 13 2016 in Japan, starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Akira Emoto, Atsuko Maeda, Masako Motai, Yudai Chiba, Katsumi Kiba, Jun Miho, Ryouta Koshiba, Miu Tomita.


Nov 19
"If you are a lover of the weird or irreverent comedy mixed with supernatural horror, manga, and Japanese folklore-inspired fiction, then find the spiritual world portal of your choice to get your hands on a copy of Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon." (Drawn and Quarterly)

“If you are a lover of the weird or irreverent comedy mixed with supernatural horror, manga, and Japanese folklore-inspired fiction, then find the spiritual world portal of your choice to get your hands on a copy of Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon.” (Drawn and Quarterly)

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio currently keeps the lights on by working at JTB USA while writing freelance in New York. Follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and comic books on his blog and Twitter @brittlejules.

Imagine coming home to find a stranger in your house. He acts like he owns the place, eats your food and drinks your beer, before leaving you reeling in confusion! Better send a letter to the Yokai Post for help from Kitaro, a charming character made by manga legend Shigeru Mizuki. Kitaro investigates strange phenomena and protects humans from ill-intentioned yokai.

Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro – Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon is a manga volume collecting seven more of Kitaro’s paranormal adventures. While this book can be enjoyed as a stand-alone dive into the classic character’s adventures, your enjoyment can be enhanced by checking out Kitaro’s origin story featured in the first volume, The Birth of Kitaro, reviewed last year by JQ here. This book is one of several entries in a list of literary delights from Japan that Drawn and Quarterly has been bringing to America for affordable access. This volume was also translated by JET Alum and Shigeru Mizuki expert/JQ interviewee Zack Davisson (Nara-ken, 2001-04; Osaka-shi, 2004-06).

Like it says on the tin, in this book Kitaro encounters a uniquely urban yokai: Nurarihyon. This creature takes on the appearance of an unsettling-looking and self-important man to stealthily wreak havoc as mundane as forcing you to serve him your best snacks and as extreme as explosions in cities.

Many of the yokai Kitaro encounters cause trouble because it is in their nature, some have a need to feed, or have a human-like impulse that persists beyond the grave, but Nurarihyon is cut from a different cloth. He is simply cruel and makes mischief because of his hatred for humans. He also stands apart from others in Kitaro’s rogues gallery because he finds it repulsive that Kitaro helps humans and targets him for that reason. You’ll have to pick up the book to find out just how Nurarihyon plots Kitaro’s demise, and how he very nearly gets away with it!

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Nov 12
stone-bridge-press

“Even if Womansword is an unintended trip back to the ’80s, it is a fascinating read and a striking reminder of how language can reflect the general mindset and culture of society.” (Stone Bridge Press)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

Sometimes, I might come across a book that makes me feel as if I don’t know anything about Japan. Not that I didn’t learn a lot about the country during my JET days, but that the book contains so much information, it puts to shame what I’ve learned about Japan.

Such is the feeling I experienced while reading Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women. First published in 1987, the book examines Japan through the language used to describe women and the terms frequently employed by women. This new 30th anniversary edition of Kittredge Cherry’s work seems to be the perfect setting to learn about women’s issues I had never thought of.

And it certainly was, although I got a feeling from the book that I once experienced while observing the fashion sense of people attending a flea market in Yoyogi Park: everything is stuck in the ’80s. (More on that later.)

Womansword is divided into seven chapters that address themes such as motherhood, sexuality and aging. It provides relevant information before reaching the first chapter as the “Preface to the 30th Anniversary Edition” includes several details on how the landscape for women in Japan has changed—and hasn’t changed. The good news: In 1991, for the first time in history, more than half of Japanese women had entered the workforce. And in 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced several measures to reverse the country’s shrinking birth rate as part of his Abenomics economic plan. On the other hand, Japan ranked 105th out of 136 countries in the 2014 Global Gender Gap Report and in the following year—more than 30 years after the Equal Employment Law was passed—Japanese women still earned lower pay and fewer promotions on average.

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Nov 8
"I Want That Love is a very enjoyable read that teaches the importance of friendship, love and tenderness. Young readers will also learn how life’s most important lessons can be passed down from generation to generation." (Museyon)

I Want That Love is a very enjoyable read that teaches the importance of friendship, love and tenderness. Young readers will also learn how life’s most important lessons can be passed down from generation to generation.” (Museyon)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

During your elementary school days, you surely read about the primordial creatures you know as dinosaurs. But if you haven’t been reminded of the creatures that roamed the earth roughly 65 million years ago in some time, you might not realize that there’s more than meets the eye. Case in point: Tatsuya Miyanishi’s I Want That Love.

I Want That Love (the third book in Miyanishi’s Tyrannosaurus series of 13 titles that have sold more than three million copies internationally) tells the story of a Tyrannosaurus, who is described by the author as “the strongest of all the dinosaurs.” Not surprisingly, everyone is scared of him as he never fails at getting his way by force. But the good times don’t last—the Tyrannosaurus (whose name is revealed to be Mr. Rhadbodon)—is somehow sapped of his strength after being bitten in his tail by a Masiakasaurus.

As expected from someone whose identity is clearly tied to brute force, the Tyrannosaurus loses all sense of who he is, so he’s desperate to find any solution to the disaster that has befallen him. Fortunately, he receives help in the form of berries given to him by fellow creatures and he uses his newfound energy to protect his friends from other dinosaurs.

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Oct 1
"This is an outstanding collection of poems that reflects a wide variety of emotions and observations while giving readers new and colorful images of Japan." (Chin Music Press)

“This is an outstanding collection of poems that reflects a wide variety of emotions and observations while giving readers new and colorful images of Japan.” (Chin Music Press)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

As we might take for granted the ability to research anything and everything quickly, it’s easy to forget how much of a struggle it has been (and still might be) to discover fascinating aspects of history. But when those discoveries are made, it’s satisfying not just for those who make the extensive effort—it’s rewarding for those who have benefited from the discoveries.

Thanks to fellow author Setsuo Yazaki, English-language speakers from all over the world now have the opportunity to read Are You an Echo? The Last Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko, a collection of poems produced by the late lauded children’s writer. Yazaki was a young student when he read Misuzu’s poem “Big Catch,” and he was automatically intrigued by her. So he wanted to discover more of her works and immediately started trying to find them—only to run into run one obstacle after another. Finally, Setsuo made a breakthrough when he was able to reach Misuzu’s younger brother Masasuke (then 77 years of age), who handed Yazaki a set of diaries, which included poems Misuzu wrote.

A prolific writer, Misuzu’s works regularly appeared in popular magazines. She wrote 512 poems, but only a few of them appear in Are You an Echo? Even so, that small sample size is enough to give you a glimpse into her life. Misuzu grew up in a fishing village in western Japan, and she loved being around water (she wrote one poem about an island she visualized but couldn’t reach). She also had a very vibrant imagination, and everything she encountered had feelings, like snowflakes (she’s actually concerned about their well-being) or telephone poles (which at one point, got sleepy). Even cicadas wore clothes in Misuzu’s world.

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Sep 17
"Although Tokio Whip can be a difficult read, reading it actually resembles being in the city. You’ll learn things that are crazy and information while wondering what exactly is going on." (Stone Bridge Press)

“Although Tokio Whip can be a difficult read, reading it actually resembles being in the city. You’ll learn things that are mind-blowing while wondering what exactly is going on.” (Stone Bridge Press)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

Those who look fondly at their JET experience often feel that the people they met and the places they frequented greatly shaped their time in Japan. But as a lot of us—if not most of us—former JETs lived outside of the big cities, it might be interesting to read about how life in the capital might be influenced by people and places.

So Arturo Silva’s Tokyo Whip might just serve as a look at the capital that fascinates you. Silva, a native of the United States who spent the ‘80s and ‘90s in Tokyo, uses first person voice to take readers on a tour of the city experienced by Roberta and Lang, two Westerners living in the Japanese capital, and their friends. A story about life in Tokyo is probably interesting in itself. But another important story is brewing in Tokio Whip: Lang is a film director and he has created a 144-minute work divided into six scenes whose settlings include locations such as the Rikugien Garden, Seibu Ikebukuro Department Store, and Shinjuku Station—all of those being places you might be familiar with.

Most of Tokio Whip takes place in the heart of the city as Silva aims to create a novel similar to a tour of Tokyo people might go on. Even if the book really isn’t a circular tour of Tokyo, reading Tokio Whip will surely bring about some natsukashii moments or thoughts, such as one character who spent twenty minutes in Shinjuku Station looking for an exit or another character still getting lost in Shibuya Station despite being there hundreds of times.

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Sep 17
"Through reading her travelogue, Inzer comes across as a writer who would make an excellent travel blogger, as she gives prospective visitors to Japan fascinating tidbits about the country’s culture and attractions." (Tuttle Publishing)

“Through reading her travelogue, Inzer comes across as a writer who would make an excellent travel blogger, as she gives prospective visitors to Japan fascinating tidbits about the country’s culture and attractions.” (Tuttle Publishing)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

You may remember being treated to “What I did during my summer vacation” tales in elementary school. Well, Christine Mari Inzer spent a memorable summer vacation visiting family in Japan and she documents those travels in a largely visual journey entitled Diary of a Tokyo Teen.

Originally published independently in 2014, this updated, expanded edition is in gorgeous full color and includes over 20 new comics and photos in a large-size format (7.5” x 10”) — all at a very affordable price.

The spirited daughter of a Japanese mother and American father, Inzer describes herself as being half at home in the United States and half at home in Japan, and summarizes her travels through a collection of photos, illustrations (all self-drawn), and anecdotes. Geared toward young adults (the author is currently a student at the University of Richmond), Inzer details the ups and downs of travel while humorously detailing some moments of aggravation, such as her frustration with the shyness of Japanese boys.

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Aug 14
"Gargantuan in size at 928 pages (including detailed appendixes), this manga-format biography is a surprisingly quick read. Its fast-paced visuals and story provide a unique vantage to observe a legendary figure that leaves you energized after each sitting." (Stone Bridge Press)

“Gargantuan in size at 928 pages (including detailed appendixes), this manga-format biography is a surprisingly quick read. Its fast-paced visuals and story provide a unique vantage to observe a legendary figure that leaves you energized after each sitting.” (Stone Bridge Press)

By Alexis Agliano Sanborn (Shimane-ken, 2009-11) for JQ magazine. Alexis is a graduate of Harvard University’s Regional Studies-East Asia (RSEA) program, and currently works as a program coordinator at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of NYU School of Law.

For many, the newest publication from Stone Bridge Press will seem like a long lost friend. Originally serialized in 1989 and completed in 1992, The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime, written and illustrated by Toshio Ban in association with Tezuka Productions and translated by Frederik L. Schodt, is a book worth the wait. Gargantuan in size at 928 pages (including detailed appendixes), this manga-format biography is a surprisingly quick read. Its fast-paced visuals and story provide a unique vantage to observe a legendary figure that leaves you energized after each sitting. Whether you first learned about manga and anime yesterday, five years ago, or have been a diehard fan for decades, this book has something to offer.

Manga and anime artist Osamu Tezuka carries the weight that Walt Disney carries in the West. His vision, ingenuity, and motivation defined and propelled the bourgeoning manga and anime industry of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. This book follows Tezuka through it all: from his birth in Osaka in 1928 to his death in 1989, and everything in between. Through him, we see 1930s Japan and the rise of militarism, the authoritarian interwar, the penurious postwar, and the gradual rebirth and growth leading to the booming days of the 1980s. In his lifetime, Tezuka experienced it all—feast and famine, war and peace—and it is fervently captured in his artwork and stories.

This book is written and illustrated by Toshio Ban, a longtime animator and friend of Tezuka. Carefully researched and painstakingly detailed, Ban covers everything from Tezuka’s lifelong fascination of insects, his struggle balancing his academic passion of medicine, and his artistic passion of manga and anime, to his various commutes between Takarazuka City and Tokyo. While some details are lacking (for example, the reasons behind his first animation studio Mushi Production’s bankruptcy and financial problems), Ban has created a work exhaustive as it is fascinating.

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Jun 19
"If you enjoy jaunts into the fun and mysterious realm of comics and mythology, don’t hesitate to pick up this affordable volume that offers a perfect introduction to a series that has captivated the imagination of generations." (Drawn and Quarterly)

“If you enjoy jaunts into the fun and mysterious realm of comics and mythology, don’t hesitate to pick up this affordable volume that offers a perfect introduction to a series that has captivated the imagination of generations.” (Drawn and Quarterly)

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio currently keeps the lights on by working at JTB USA while writing freelance in New York. Follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and comic books on his blog and Twitter @brittlejules.

What has hair as sharp as needles, a tongue like a chameleon’s, and one empty eye socket to keep its father in? If you could only guess some kind of crazy monster…well, then you’re not far off!

Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro: The Birth of Kitaro is a manga volume collecting seven classic paranormal stories of the titular character from the 1960s. They include Kitaro’s origin, and yokai files with more information about his fascinating friends and enemies that endure in myth and pop culture. All are translated and written by none other than our very own Shigeru Mizuki expert (and JQ interviewee), Zack Davisson (Nara-ken, 2001-04; Osaka-shi, 2004-06).

But who is Kitaro? And what are yokai?

Kitaro is one of many yokai (basically a mysterious Japanese monster/spirit/phenomenon) that have been making waves across the world through movies, anime, video games and, of course, manga. Born from two other human-like yokai who were unable to raise him due to sickness, Kitaro was entrusted to the care of humans at a young age. Even while growing up, he could not disguise his heritage or hide from the adventures it would bring him.

Despite his child-like stature, Kitaro is a giant in the genre of yokai stories in Japan thanks to the brilliance of his creator, the legendary late artist Shigeru Mizuki. Since earlier this decade, Drawn and Quarterly has been a major force in publishing Mizuki’s works into English (nine books to date) and contributing to the boom in America of Mizuki’s work and yokai. You may already be familiar with his eerie adventures in Drawn and Quarterly’s first collection of Kitaro stories released in 2013 and translated by Jocelyn Allen. Beginning with this volume, and continuing in several more to come, more of Kitaro’s hijinks can be enjoyed in a format and price point friendly to all ages.

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May 30
"In addition to the stories profiled here, there are other works that will make you laugh while taking you to a Japan that might not have even existed in your imagination." (A Public Space)

“In addition to the stories profiled here, there are other works that will make you laugh while taking you to a Japan that might not have even existed in your imagination.” (A Public Space)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

Upon picking up the sixth volume of Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan, the first thought that popped into my head was that I would be introduced to epic Japanese works and/or more prominent authors from the country. After all, several award-winning writers—including Mieko Kawakami, Satoshi Kitamura and Hiroko Oyamada—produce works that appear in this volume. Quite possibly, some of the stories in this 21-piece set might become classics in Japanese literature. Or at the very least, this newbie to the Monkey Business series might discover new aspects of Japan—or be reintroduced to certain things—in rather unforgettable tales.

And well…this edition of Monkey Business doesn’t lack colorful stories.  Several of them stand out, including the first one – “Forbidden Diary.” No, it doesn’t serve as an educational tour of Japanese history or culture. Instead, this excerpt of Sachiko Kishimoto’s fictional diary introduces us to a “Phantom Old Man” who has experienced Japan a little differently from the way you might have.

Let’s see…the old man (who is actually being taken care of by the narrator) remembers Shibuya as being totally void of people, as only a haven for rice paddies and without its iconic scramble crossroads. In addition to seemingly arriving out of the Stone Age, the old man repeatedly changes appearances during the story.

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May 1
"Parents will enjoy the dinosaur’s uncanny resemblance to Godzilla and may even learn a thing or two about prehistoric creatures. Don’t worry, your kids won’t have a clue if you don’t pronounce them correctly—they’ll be too enthralled with the captivating story and dramatic images." (Museyon)

“Parents will enjoy the dinosaur’s uncanny resemblance to Godzilla and may even learn a thing or two about prehistoric creatures. Don’t worry, your kids won’t have a clue if you don’t pronounce them correctly—they’ll be too enthralled with the captivating story and dramatic images.” (Museyon)

By Heather Wilson Tomoyasu (Ibaraki-ken, 2004-06) for JQ magazine. Heather is a vlogger and blogger on her site US Japan Fam, author of “Legit Ways to Make Money from Home” (available on Kindle and iTunes), social media consultant, and mommy to twins plus one! You can follow and connect with her on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

After a popular debut in his first children’s book, You Look Yummy, our tough but lovable friend Tyrannosaurus is back and better than ever thanks to author Tatsuya Miyanishi and his English publisher, Museyon (who also brought you 2014’s Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little Bear). The second of a 13-book series, You Are My Best Friend features a similar transformation of the dinosaur from a violent and selfish creature to a kind and caring one, this time through the act of making a friend.

Through 26 vivid and brightly colored illustrations over 40 pages, you’ll follow Tyrannosaurus as he taunts smaller dinosaurs, finds himself ironically near death, and is then saved by another dino. This act of unexpected kindness brings about a change of heart in our tyrant, who suddenly finds himself with a best friend whom he must (spoiler alert!) in turn save at the end. The book is a heart-warming moral story that also serves up exciting twists and turns.

Parents will enjoy the dinosaur’s uncanny resemblance to Godzilla and may even learn a thing or two about prehistoric creatures. Elasmosaurus, anyone? How about Styracosaurus? No? Me, neither. Don’t worry, your kids won’t have a clue if you don’t pronounce them correctly—they’ll be too enthralled with the captivating story and dramatic images.

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