published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon; $25 US
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators is a beautiful introduction to a variety of art styles and a demonstration of how Japan inspires a wide range of material.
The entries in this anthology are by nine French creators and eight Japanese. The Europeans spent two weeks in various Japanese cities, while the locals were asked to create stories about their hometowns. Within the broad theme of the country, there are all kinds of stories, including a travelogue featuring cartoony talking shoes, a sketchbook-like exploration of the physical in a bathhouse, autobiography in illustrated text, and a simply drawn fable.
Each story is introduced with a brief biography of the creator, which also makes this book an excellent sampler. The curious now know where to go to find more work by these talents. Most of the stories are 10-16 pages, longer than in many anthologies, which gives the reader a satisfying taste.
The book begins well with a story by Kan Takahama. She uses realistic soft pencil to illustrate the conflicting draws of relationships and hometown locations, creating a thoughtful atmosphere of longing and mild regret.
All of the stories are thought-provoking, but the gorgeous thin-line work of Jiro Taniguchi (The Walking Man) is a standout. He tells of an orphan girl, a distant cousin, who’s about to married in the fishing village where his family lives. It’s only an incident in his life but a turning point, a road not taken, in hers. It’s not the only piece the reader is left thinking about long after the book’s covers have been closed.
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