I have started with this installment, rather than the series' s chronological order, for several reasons. First, 1989 concludes the Showa period, when the old Japanese emperor dies, and starts the Heisei period, of a new Japanese emperor. This allows the author to reflect back in the entire Showa period, and describe important lessons and raise important questions. Second, the period 1953-1989 covers the transition of Japan from a starving, destroyed country, to an evonomic superpower. Third, I am much more familiar with the why 1980s,so I can judge much better the views expressed by the author about the international political events of the period. Fourth, I am not sure how much of World War II is still seen in the Japan of today.
The story is chunked into small periods of time, marked by important political, economic, and cultural events. The life of Shigeru Mizuki takes the backstage, and is perhaps more an illustration of how the common Japanese people might have lived their personal dramas and successes than a real memoir.
The manga is extraordinary, the mature skill of the drawings mixing very well with the text (excellent translation by Zack Davisson). The drawings include elements of great difficulty, such as the fisheye views of streets in Tokyo and action shots involving Japanese celebrities, but are never overwhelming. The book also includes a number of colored pages printed on matte paper, at the end. They are very, very good.
The text is wise and deep, despite the heavy topics, the superstitious turns, and the frequent slices of garbage news. If anything, the effect is cathartic: the reader feels a warm camaraderie with Shugi-kun and a sense of belonging in the great events of history. The text is often comical, but moments of inspired analysis abound. Shigeru on reaching the second half of his life, on the sense of work burden, on the meaning of happiness are interesting moments.
The end, which includes an analysis of Showa, is a bit preachy, but never self righteous. Shigeru pardons the emperor and then analyzes. Reading his manga, I felt the same as when I reflect back on the Communist regime in Romania: not with hatred, but with sadness for so many people's lives being ruined, with a little sorrow for my own losses, and with a strong desire to not let such a horror happen ever again.
Ok, I've said enough. It's your turn to read this manga....more
TODO: +++ Simply the best book I've read about contemporary Japan. Way better than the books of Patrick Galbraith (Otaku Spaces and The Otaku EncyclopeTODO: +++ Simply the best book I've read about contemporary Japan. Way better than the books of Patrick Galbraith (Otaku Spaces and The Otaku Encyclopedia), or the topical Kawaii!: Japan's Culture of Cute. +++ Excellent summaries on otaku, manga, anime, games, and music. +++/- Very interesting, if by and large generalizing and stereotyping, analysis of the Japanese contemporary life. Fascinating details about the life of a family, of an otaku, of a student, of a career woman/salary man, and of various other subcultures. ++ Excellent introduction to everything Japanese: history, myths, symbols, language, etc. + Good touristic tips, especially about the essential places (Nikko, Hakone, etc.) + Many things match my own experience with the culture and people. -/+ not enough depth, but the book is written on purpose to be very accessible and easy to read. ...more
I bought this book while visiting Japan, hoping to find out more about the rad newgen sub-culture of otaku. Overall, this is a short encyclopedia, pluI bought this book while visiting Japan, hoping to find out more about the rad newgen sub-culture of otaku. Overall, this is a short encyclopedia, plus a collection of interviews. It is much of what Otaku Spaces fails to be, that is, an analysis of what the otaku culture is and means---this I liked very much. However, the presentation structure and style remain that of an encyclopedia, that is, rather dry, and there is an issue of too many explicit images sprinkled everywhere, so I would still recommend reading instead the more general A Geek in Japan.
I read this in a plane, so I have to mention that there are very explicit images sprinkled on every page. I guess these are good representations of the manga/anime culture as seen by the author, but it makes for an unnecessarily cumbersome reading in a public space. Also, I've read plenty of manga, but not much of the eroge/hentai/lolicon type. Anyway, it would have been much easier for the average European reader to restructure the imagery as follows: leave a few loose explicit images, and combine the rest (most) in a section only for explicit images. ...more
I bought this book while visiting Japan, hoping to find out more about the rad newgen sub-culture of otaku. Overall, this is a collection of interviewI bought this book while visiting Japan, hoping to find out more about the rad newgen sub-culture of otaku. Overall, this is a collection of interviews plus a brief summary. I would recommend skipping this and either reading directly The Otaku Encyclopedia (rather detailed, but also including interviews) or (better, in my view), buying instead the more general A Geek in Japan.
The book has its positives, among which: +++ Interviews with a broad selection of characters. + Excellent production and print value.
Unfortunately, this book abounds in missed opportunities: - Little analysis to identify cross-threads. For example, that most otaku interviewed for this study are working to support their hobbies is important, because it matches views in other modern societies, but in the West, that one can pursue own dreams rather than struggle to fit in, as long as they do not directly disturb the lives of others. - No detailed analysis of an otaku space - - what are the main objects? Why are they special? How are they placed in the otaku cultural map and history? What is the layout of the actual living space? - Interviews with "regular" otaku are very shallow, way less detailed and deep than the interviews with Danny Choo and the university professor (Morinaga Takuro), and a bit the kawaii dojinshi creator (John Hathway). The translated interviews, as presented here, leave the impression that otaku are shallow people. - No comparison with contemporary people in Japan who are not otaku. The question asked of otaku about whether otaku is just another form of collector is answered very briefly, except for Aki (age 20), who on page 115 is quoted as saying "In terms of fashion, one collects certain brand-name apparel. We otaku collect works by certain authors. The underlying logic is the same, but the difference is whether the objects being collected are socially acceptable or not." - No analysis of the economics of otaku, except for the brief hints from Morinaga Takuro (pages 90-91), and indirectly by all the (semi-)pro cosplayers who in their interviews say they reinvest most of their earnings into their hobby. - No analysis, and especially no timeline, of how the core terms of otaku culture have penetrated the Japanese real-world market. For example, on page 152 there is a brief statement about how a bishōjo game inspired the first cosplay cafes, such as Pia Carrot Restaurant, but this idea remains unexplored. The same happens with Gundam and puramo (plastic models), with maid cafes (one sentence about this in the history of Akihabara, page 152), etc.
TODO: +++ Kawaii graphics!! ++ The book includes: an introduction to kawaii, a history of kawaii designs, a survey of main brands, an overview of kawaiiTODO: +++ Kawaii graphics!! ++ The book includes: an introduction to kawaii, a history of kawaii designs, a survey of main brands, an overview of kawaii cuisine and horeca (including maido, maid cafes), a look into kawaii dresses (including hanabi (fireworks) festivals and the largest comics market Comiket), and a glance at various kawaii small crafts and visual arts. +/-- Except for the brief introduction, all the information is told through interviews, which leaves little room for analysis or deeper cultural meaning. Perhaps all is simply kept cute and glittery....more
After Super Potato Design, I also browsed Mira Locher's Zen Gardens. I was hoping to find inspiration for decorating the inside and the courtyard of aAfter Super Potato Design, I also browsed Mira Locher's Zen Gardens. I was hoping to find inspiration for decorating the inside and the courtyard of a new house project - could I hope for a tiny zen garden? Overall, I was enchanted with this little coffetable book: I found many interesting elements and excellent inspiration. I also discovered the work of Japanese Zem garden designer Shunmyo Masuno.
The book covers nearly 40 Zen gardens designed in either traditional and modern style. Each project is covered in detail, with excellent pics and good analysis. The book also includes a discussion with Shunmyo Masuno, and a description of the design and construction process for a garden. Good stuff!
Having visited many of the historical Japanese gardens, and some Zen gardens outside Japan, I felt at home and also fell in love with the gardens depicted in this book. I also felt that a small space can be more than enough for a beautiful Zen garden.
One more detail: I found the chapter on gardens outside Japan inspiring. The Bergen and Stuttgart projects, of which the University of Bergen's is open to a public audience, were particularly inspiring. Next time I'm visiting friends in Bergen, I will try to get a real-life view of the garden....more
The book covers several kinds of stores, and diverse companies for each store. Unfortunately, the coverage is not as detailed as to lead me to inspiration, and the photos overall seem to be taken from too much afar to lead to real insight. Perhaps as a consequence, I could also not find myself caring about the storefronts....more
I browsed Jinling Qu's Japanese Spa Resorts hoping to find inspiration for decorating the inside and the courtyard of a new house project. Overall, alI browsed Jinling Qu's Japanese Spa Resorts hoping to find inspiration for decorating the inside and the courtyard of a new house project. Overall, although I did not find what I was looking for, I was fascinated by the spas and also found some elements I just may adapt for my project. Win-win.
The book covers over 50 spa resorts in 6 prefectures and, even if the local environment is not visible in most of these spas, the collection is diverse and impressive. Each spa is covered in detail, with pics taken in general front, outside, main pool, and representative room(s). For a foreigner to Japan, the book doubles as a touristic guide. Well done!...more
TODO: + very clear, high quality writing. A delight to read such an eloquent story! +++ Very good book, excellent in many parts but annoying in its manTODO: + very clear, high quality writing. A delight to read such an eloquent story! +++ Very good book, excellent in many parts but annoying in its many propaganda parts. Excellent and lengthy analysis of China's leadership, policies, and issues, if more compassionate than that of Southeastern Asian countries. +++ I finally understood how Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge were possible. +/- Many politically charged statements, which makes the book difficult to assess objectively. +++ recommended reading for anyone trying to understand the history and politics of the region. - Unfortunately, the book covers only the period until 2000. So much has happened in Asia (and the entire world) since!
Good policies: + the right to leave the country + running the economy + house ownership + low corruption + greening + focus on education
Main issues: - the chase for First World standard (ends when reaching standard, leaving little else to achieve as Grand Dream) - the nationalist call combined with fear of neighbors who want to destroy them (never ends, if played right, but destructive in forming a safe environment) - presenting a well-known leader as the know-it-all source of decisions, for decades (ends when said leader retires, typically with nepotism or cronyism in replacement process - in N. Korea, same family; in China, same political groups; in the US, same family) - progressive tightening of the screw (ends when a large fraction of the population cannot take it anymore) - patient but decisive elimination of rivals - resettlement of most people, specifically separating ethical groups (Stalin also did this) - many rules, disproportionate and seemingly discriminating punishment (example: the widely different duration of limiting the volume of printed newspapers, after seemingly similar infringements of the law) - financial incentives for people for voting with the ruling party (upgrading houses first in quarters won by the ruling party) - seemingly nepotism, with all three children winning medals and high positions in environments linked to their father. That the children, now mature, have coped well with the high-responsibility positions is undoubtful. However, the key question is: would Singaporean children without a connected parent have had the same opportunities and success? - lots of propaganda (we have to catch uo, pressure from neighboring enemies, return to traiditinal values) - using the "others do it too" argument and other logical fallacies
Other issues: - need for change, as accumulation of resentment - happens with coaches of the most successful teams, when players become fed up with the same person managing the course of action - only a small fraction of the population of a First World country is willing to do Third World jobs; the missing workers willing to do them can be imported, which raises racial and ethnical tensions, and fights over salaries and opportunity; the missing workers can also simply be provided from the younger generation, causing unwillingness to work and street riots (as in England)
Wow, I finished it! Neal Stephenson's Reamde is far from a simple novel. It starts a high tech plotless story, evolves into a Hollywood thriller, joinWow, I finished it! Neal Stephenson's Reamde is far from a simple novel. It starts a high tech plotless story, evolves into a Hollywood thriller, joins the travelit section later, and finally matches James Bond's useless flics in a 100+ shoot-out scene. Overall, not worth the time.
The positives? This part of the review should not even exist, yet... Stephenson is a fantastic writer, and this book shows how even the dullest of settings can capture imagination when described right. I also liked the characters, many strongly defined and interesting. This is also one of the few thrillers in which women are portrayed as important characters, without having to make them caricatures of 007. The tech side, including aspects in the online game that unifies the story, is credible. Well done!
The negatives? 1. This book is 850 pages too long, given it's plot. Enough said. 2. There are enough inconsistencies in the plot. Surprisingly for me, they do not derive from the depiction of either tech or jihad, but from the procedural itself. 3. If you read this book, you will be bombarded with simple-minded equations: Middle East=jihad, guns=defense, etc. Never mind that the jihadis buy RPGs from the store (for self-defense?! or hunting?!). 4. Plot twist indeed: Abdallah Jones is the most determined and knowledgeable jihadi in the world, yet he gets stuck in a one-road region. 5. Finishing this book will make you question all the time spent on it, yet curiously satisfied. Book pron....more
Imperium is the rare book that can explain Communist regimes, in this case, the Communist regime in Russia. In what starts as a memoir, then turns intImperium is the rare book that can explain Communist regimes, in this case, the Communist regime in Russia. In what starts as a memoir, then turns into a multi-trip travelogue Ryszard Kapuściński captures the essence of the regime: the corruption, the decay, the bureaucracy, the totalitarian state, but also the beautifully diverse (and thoroughly enslaved and oppressed) people. This dystopian journalism, for modern Russia (1930s through 1990s) is a dystopian and failed state, is made palatable by Kapuściński's ability to tell stories, to blend humour and unexpected anecdote in the darkest of tales. How to move an oversized bust of Lenin into your room and why this is a sure way to prison? Etc.
Overall, a must-read for everyone wanting to understand Russia. Imperium is brilliant analysis coated in excellent writing, a masterclass in realpolitik in understandable terms.
TODO: about Stalin, Beria, Khrushchev,..., Gorbachev. About the population of Siberia. About the planned conflicts in Armenia, Azerbaijan, etc. About the starvation of millions in Ukraine. About the forced migration of millions. About the murder of intellectuals. About the depredation of Turkestan and its split into five countries. About Moscow, Novgorod, Petersburg. About Baltic states and Belorussia. About the tragedy of conflict set in advance by Russia, to enable it to intervene and occupy later.
The brilliant stories. The brilliant analysis. The brilliant feeling of "this journalist gets it."...more
TODO + read to get accustomed with new wave of Norwegian lit + story of withdrawal from society, of understanding one's way in the modern society + protTODO + read to get accustomed with new wave of Norwegian lit + story of withdrawal from society, of understanding one's way in the modern society + protagonist is a late bloomer, college student about to drop out, no plans, only a thorough misunderstanding of the why +/- similar, but not as good as Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano, many other Japanese manga about coming of age, The Glass Bead Game of Hermann Hesse, The Alchemist of Paulo Coelho... The competition is simply too good. But this one is a reasonable writ on the topic, matches well the title, and reflects both modern society and the Nordic culture - the writing is immature in parts +/- the love story left un-developed + the side-story about brotherly love is touching + some of the side-stories are good, several could reflect Norwegian view of the world + the uncertain voice and the first-person writing fit well...more