Japan

Book review: Shiver

Shiver by Junji Ito.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

If you’ve read any Junji Ito before, you’ll be pretty aware of the sort of things you’re going to get in Shiver, a collection of his best work, gathered together and presented with brief commentary from the creepmaster himself.

Hey, they’re playing my song!

If you’ve not read any Ito before, you might well want a stiff drink or a change of undies. ‘Cause shit’s going to get weird.

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Book review: Tokyo Ueno Station

Tokyo Ueno Station.Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (tr. Morgan Giles).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

When I first went to Tokyo, I made a habit of walking through a large park in Shinjuku. It was just down from the Tokyo Park Hyatt (as featured in Lost in Translation) and the park was exceptionally groomed – in the same way much of Tokyo was.

Unlike a lot of the other places I’d seen, though, it featured a lot of homeless people. It was ordered and quiet and a little hidden away: visible, but visibly ignored by most others walking through the space on their commute.
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Book review: The Aosawa Murders

The Aosawa Murders.The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda (tr. Alison Watts).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Parties are great. Parties celebrating the auspicious birthdays of elders are also great. What’s not great is when the party is spoiled by cyanide, resulting in the deaths of most people at the party, in vomit-tinged terror.

That’s one way to break up a celebration. (more…)

Book review: Shinto: The Kami Way

Shinto: The Kami Way.Shinto: The Kami Way by Sokyo Ono.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

If you’re interested in Japan, you’re probably aware of Shinto imagery. Even if you’ve never been, even if you’re not really that interested in religion, you’ll know some of its signifiers. Red gates, either in profusion or alone in the sea. Trees tied with paper. Clean temples and guardian animals.

You just don’t know it yet.

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Book review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein.Frankenstein by Junji Ito.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Frankenstein is a story that most people are familiar with. Whether you’ve read Shelley’s original or no, you’re probably aware of the general thrust of the story thanks to films modern and classic. You know: creation, exclusion, and that it’s his Dad’s name, not the monster’s. So what can be brought to another adaption of the work?

To be fair, there’s fuck-all else to do on an Arctic journey. Talk away, Vic.

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Book review: Shōgun

Shōgun.Shōgun by James Clavell.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

When I was a small boy I remember my father having a bookshelf full of hardbacks. And the one I remember most clearly, for some reason, is Shōgun, James Clavell’s 1100-page whopper. I can still recall the smell of it.

I had always been mystified by the book. I remember it being on Dad’s nightstand, with a golf-club bookmark through it. I remember its cover as the first place I ever saw the handle of a Japanese sword. And when I was older, I remember finding endless copies of it at op-shops, usually for somewhere around the two-buck mark. (more…)

A brief interruption

You may have noticed that there’s been scant – well, no – posting here in the past couple of weeks.

That’s because I’ve been overseas. On holiday.

See? That’s me in Japan.

While in Japan I read airport novels (hello, James Clavell, after many years of avoidance) and walked a hell of a lot. So there’s not been much in the way of reviewing or writing.

That’ll change soon as I’m home (now) and in need of distraction. Expect more soon.

(Though let me preface any future content with a lamentation that there’s no Family Mart near my house. Because if you know, you know.)

Book review: The Inland Sea

The Inland Sea.The Inland Sea by Donald Richie.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars.

In terms of travel books written about Japan, this is a classic. It’s a pretty simple work: Ohio-born outsider tools around the Seto Inland Sea and, in the manner of a flâneur, offers his take on the place. Pre-gallery Naoshima. Pre-bridge islands. A world of fishing boats and lazy afternoons.

Let’s put it in perspective from the outset: the area that he’s talking about is glorious. It’s hazy and hypnotic, and completely suited to romantic introspection if you’re a traveller who’s impressed by views. I mean:

Right? Right. It’s somewhere I wanted to learn a lot more about.

The problem is that through this book, you learn a lot more about Donald Richie than you do the area. And what you learn, ultimately, is that he’s pretty much a dickhead.
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Book review: Tomie: Complete Deluxe Edition

Tomie: Complete Deluxe Edition.Tomie: Complete Deluxe Edition by Junji Ito.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
If someone hadn’t read any manga before, and you really wanted to fuck with them, you’d probably show them some Junji Ito. I mean if you wanted to warp them irreparably you’d throw them a bit of Suehiro Maruo – that’s a Wikipedia link, but I’d be leery of actually Googling the dude if you were at work – but if you just wanted to weird them out, it’d be Ito all the way. Because this is pretty much the initial reaction to his work:

I had somewhat similar thoughts.

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Book review: Clan

Clan.Clan by Amazing Améziane.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

I have a bit of a thing for Japan – I’ve played taiko and I learn the shakuhachi – so I am probably predisposed towards this comic. It’s created by someone who obviously is keen on the collection of islands, and often reads like it’s written for people who share that enthusiasm.

I don’t find this problematic.

BUSINESS NEGOTIATION IS A FINE ART. 

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