Cool Japan Guide by Abbey Denson.
Did I like it? No.
Does the book have value for others? Absolutely.
Will others enjoy the book? More than likely.
Why didn't I like it? A few reasons… Chief amongst them was the fact that the book was a beginner's look at Japan, and despite living there for only three years as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I can say that I know a heck of a lot about Japan—not as much as some, but definitely more than most (and here I'm even including the Japanese who were born and raised there).
Having said that, this book didn't have any surprises for ME.
I can still be surprised about many a factoid on Japan—I am every day—but this book lacked (for ME) a 'wow' factor that I did get with every page turn of another Tuttle Publishing book, A Geek In Japan (my review - HERE).
I also am not a fan of Denson's overly simplistic art style, though I admit that it's cartoony, which makes it seem friendly and thus safe and trustworthy to the reader.
The thing is, I own over 35,000 comic books and I've also spent many a year sitting in comic book convention Artist Alleys watching geeks and nerds walked by to see if the books I had written with various hungry artists contained drawings of women with overly-large boobs. I've produced and self-published about 25 stories in 15 comic books, and while the art in them may not be on the same par (it wasn't ) as comic book legends Neal Adams...
(Click on all images to enlarge them!)
|Neal Adams - Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 from 1970 - one of my all-time favorite comic books... I had my copy signed by Neal last month! Very friendly man! Now I need to meet his main writer Denny O'Neil!|
Now… I am also smart enough to know that art is subjective to the viewer. What I dislike, the majority might like, and vice versa.
But that's why I'm fairly suggesting that the book has value to those who are uninitiated with Japan or the best blog on the inter web thingy, Japan—It's A Wonderful Rife.
Despite not being my cup of o-cha (green tea), the art is NOT terrible. It's simplistic. It's clean. The characters and objects are all easy to discern. The print job is superb with the colors popping off the page.
The subject matter—for the uninitiated—is pretty complete… from offering advice on what to pack, what to see, what to sample.
It's all there… presented in a neat order… in a comic book-style format.
|Good information! Clear and concise. Maybe that's why everyone is smiling all the time. I would check the country code on any DVD you buy in Japan to see if it will play back in YOUR home country.|
I'd recommend Cool Japan Guide hands down.
There's a lot of wordy words in Geek, while Denson manages to keep the dialogue short, snappy and even cute. So that's good.
My main problem, is that the book is presented to us visually in a comic book format - a graphic novel format, actually - but because it's a guide on what one should see and do in Japan, Denson doesn't really try to bring her two main characters to life.
They are dull and static, with Stepford Wife smiles.
Will others enjoy this book? Yeah… it actually seems to adequately cover all aspects of Japan that a tourist might be curious about.
In that respect, the book is perfect.
I dislike being a critic, as I feel critics are generally filled with self-important loathing of everything not related to them.
What I have offered is my opinion, and why my opinion is what it is. It doesn't mean you have to think my opinion is the bees kneez or anything.
Paper books rule!
If I was going to Japan for the first time—say leaving in July for my first year on the JET Programme—and someone gave Cool Japan Guide to me as a good-bye and good luck present, I would find its contents very helpful - which, all things considered, is a damn good thing.
Cool Japan Guide by Abby Denson (and other great books on Japan and the rest of Asia) is available from www.tuttlepublishing.com.
Andrew "I-can't-even-draw-a-smile" Joseph