Oct 17, 2010

The illustrated life and times of author Kenji Miyazawa

The surprising thing about Ko Yano’s biography of Kenji Miyazawa is not that he’s done it in the form of a comic book, but rather that this manga biography appears to be the only book-length life of Miyazawa available in English. THE MANGA BIOGRAPHY ...

Sep 19, 2010

Dastardly doctor with a mean scalpel and a heart of gold

It is probably not excessive to say that every Japanese male between the ages of 15 and 40 knows Black Jack, the outlaw surgeon who features in the series of comics that Osamu Tezuka created in the 1970s and early 1980s — comics that ...

Aug 15, 2010

Plumbing the depths of a suicide obsession

When Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature, chose to become a writer rather than a teacher or literary scholar, his mentor at Tokyo University told him that it would be necessary for him to continue his studies on his own. ...

Jun 20, 2010

Pulp fiction raunch with a happy ending

Yoshihiro Tatsumi was, when young, a fan of Mickey Spillane, the poor man’s — the very poor man’s — Raymond Chandler, and Spillane’s fingerprints are all over “Black Blizzard,” a page-turner in the best pulp style, published in 1956. BLACK BLIZZARD, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. ...

Jun 13, 2010

Quest for meaning of life in rural Japan

Great men will, often thanks to their depredations, force themselves on our attention. THE FORGOTTEN JAPANESE: Encounters With Rural Life and Folklore, by Miyamoto Tsuneichi. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2010, 315 pp., $29.95 (hardcover) The fishermen, farmers, hunters, wanderers, carpenters and others about whom ...

May 16, 2010

A splendid tour through the 'real' Tokyo

It is likely that as many people will appreciate Donald Richie’s “Tokyo Megacity” as a tasteful addition to their living room decor as will open it, and that most who do open it will assiduously avoid Richie’s text in favor of Ben Simmons’ photographs. ...

May 2, 2010

Sex, drugs and rock and roll, plus lots and lots more sex

With “Big in Japan,” an erotic coming-of-age novel set in Japan, M. Thomas Gammarino has joined the likes of Jay McInerny (“Ransom”), Brad Leithauser (“Equal Distance”), and countless other non-Japanese writers who spend a little time in Japan when young, and then — surprise, ...

Mar 28, 2010

Treason for the most patriotic of reasons

The subtitle informs us that this is a “casebook” — that is, not a monograph on the Sorge spy ring, but rather a miscellany of pieces around that topic. Happily, the assembled parts are not the hodgepodge they might have been, but instead a ...

Feb 21, 2010

Laying it all out on the table

Hiromi Ito’s poetry is often described as “shamanistic,” and indeed, according to translator Jeffrey Angles, when she performs her poems she sometimes “sits on the floor like a shamaness and raps on a drum.” That sort of thing, along with the insistence — often ...