Japanese animator Makoto Shinkai is often called “the new Miyazaki.” Such overly ambitious praise might scare off the average person, but for over a decade Shinkai has maintained his unique style without caving to pressure. While 5 Centimeters Per Second and The Garden of Words might be some of his better known feature length work, like most animators, Shinkai got his start in short films. She and Her Cat is one of his first and most notable shorts. The black and white film tells the story of a cat and his owner from the cat’s point of view. As the cat makes poignant observations about his owner, the stripped down, slice-of-life portrayal of everyday life takes an unsuspected optimistic turn. But probably the best thing about the short is how Shinkai avoids the cutesy path in favor of bitter realism.
|Recommended by Tiffany White||Wednesday, December 17th, 2014||No Comments »|
Amidst the plethora of fictional yet semi-autobiographical novels out there, I have found few that actually warrant my full attention, more often than not because the life of the author wasn’t as interesting as initially thought. In the case of Yukio Mishima, the author of Confessions of a Mask, the situation is completely reversed. His real life was even more interesting to me than his fictional account of it.
But that doesn’t mean you should skip Confessions of a Mask, since it offers a unique view of what it means to be a gay man in Japan, as well as offering carefully written insight on the thoughts and machinations of Mishima throughout his youth. And while the life of Kochan, the book’s protagonist, dwells mostly in the regularities of isolation, sexual repression, and identity without many “wow” events in comparison to Mishima’s revolutionary life of film-directing, novel writing, body-building, modeling, and eventual demise by ritual suicide, the book is clearly tied to the author’s mentality, and thus, offers an unparalleled deconstruction of his personality.
|Recommended by Stefano Llinas||Thursday, December 4th, 2014||No Comments »|
Christine Mari Inzer’s graphic novel Halfway Home: Drawing My Way Through Japan is a hilarious memoir about a trip to Japan the author took when she was just 16 years old. Through cute hand-drawn illustrations and eye-catching photos, Inzer’s poignant musings allow you to witness the excitement and allure of experiencing another culture for the first time.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Thursday, December 4th, 2014||No Comments »|
Momoko Kuroda’s English poetry début I Wait for the Moon features one hundred of her haikus that gives new readers an excellent introduction to her work. Her pieces explore Japan’s postwar identity, muse on the pros and cons of nuclear politics, and finally, give new meaning to Fukushima. While her themes are central to Japan, her work is a fantastic way to see how Kuroda’s grown as a poet over the years and explore topics that are often ignored outside Japan.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Tuesday, October 28th, 2014||No Comments »|
Rin Chupeco’s YA horror novel The Girl From The Well follows the story of Okiku, a young woman who was murdered and is so consumed by rage that she decides to spend eternity hunting down all those who would harm the innocent. Although the writing style is a bit unusual, it does make sense—after all, Okiku is a vengeful spirit, so she doesn’t really focus on describing the mortal world. Plus, she’s at least 300 years old, so many of our modern conveniences are unfamiliar to her.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Thursday, September 11th, 2014||No Comments »|
In Just So Happens, which is Fumio Obata’s debut graphic novel, he challenges the idea of “home is where your heart is” and examines the pros and cons of being an outsider with his main heroine, Yumiko.
Yumiko is running from her past in Japan and thinks she has it made. She’s living in London and life is good—she’s got a great job, a wonderful boyfriend—plus, her family in Japan is too far away to have any impact on the lifestyle she chooses. However, her orderly world is turned on its head when her brother calls her with bad news: their father passed away recently in a mountaineering accident. Once Yumiko arrives in Toyko, she finds herself immersed in the traditional Japanese rituals surrounding life and death. She must also confront her past and make a choice about where her home, and her heart, truly lies.
Thanks to Obata’s delicate but powerful illustrations and the wondrous way in which he weaves his tale, readers will be sucked into Yumiko’s journey. Dignified and nuanced, Just So Happens is a spectacular page-turner that shows off both Obata’s art and his writing.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Tuesday, March 25th, 2014||No Comments »|