Books / Reviews | RECENTLY PUBLISHED BOOKS ABOUT JAPAN

'Family Traits' review: A world of myth and whimsy comes to life

by Dana Macalanda

Staff Writer

“Thank you, honey — it’s beautiful. Let’s put it up on the fridge.” A typical reaction to a child showing a parent their latest drawing, yes? Well, Thomas Romain has taken that a step further.

Family Traits: The Fantastic Bestiary of a Father and his Sons, by Itsuki, Ryunosuke & Thomas Romain.
112 pages
UDON ENTERTAINMENT, Picture Book.

“Family Traits: The Fantastic Bestiary of a Father and his Sons” is a collection of watercolor illustrations by Romain, a Tokyo-based animator, and his sons’ drawings that inspired them.

The vibrant world of Itsuki and Ryunosuke, with its cursed princes, almighty gods and those who dwell somewhere between is a joy to explore, and their dad’s respect and love for them is apparent from the beginning, with their names appearing before his on the cover.

As Romain writes in the foreword, “My role is that of a translator who interprets these children’s drawings so that an untrained eye may appreciate their full flavor.” It’s not about just churning out one slick piece after another, but discovering a backstory for each addition to the mythos.

Ironically, a major disappointment is that the translated text accompaniments are head-tiltingly wooden. The raw information is there, but the phrasing mutes the trio’s personalities — something particularly noticeable when compared to the book’s Japanese version or the family’s amiable YouTube videos.

That aside, it’s a beautiful culmination of what began as a way for Romain to share his love of art with his kids that blossomed into an ongoing project celebrating family and the creative potential of children.