by Makoto Nakajima
published by Digital Manga; $9.95 US
Pop Japan Travel claims to be an “Essential Otaku Guide”, but it’s really just a collection of stereotypes and shortcuts.
Several Americans go to Japan because they love anime. One is a loud, Afro-headed black guy who wears a “Be Cool” headband the entire time. Another is an over-muscled bulldozer. A third is an elf-looking obnoxious know-it-all who claims to be “pretty knowledgeable about Japanese customs” because he’s gone to a California anime convention. He spews superficial stereotypes to “explain” Japan to his fellow travelers. The tour guide is a childish-looking 25-year-old woman who hates her charges in her thought balloons. They’re all part of the Pop Japan Tour, an event that the publisher coincidentally offers through their travel agency co-company.
I think the characters were supposed to be identifiable to potential readers (and tour customers). But they’re so unpleasant! They destroy property, accidentally insult people, force their guide into costumes, and ewwww over yaoi. The longest scene in the book involves chasing a manga artist around trying to force him back to the drawing board. If one reads into this, even the creator was bored with this story!
It’s not using stereotypes to show travelers what not to do (which would have been entertaining and educational). It’s just cutting corners. Here’s the kind of observation it shares:
So this is “Tokyo” — the capital of Japan… Needless to say, it’s full of Japanese people!
There’s a bunch more clichés, including Yazuka threats and a last-minute chase to catch a departing plane. It’s meant to be heartwarming, bonding adventure, but it’s ultimately a bunch of thrown-together shortcuts that wind up being boring.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)