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Review: Diary of a Tokyo Teen

Jan 22 // Nick Valdez
Inzer's Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes has quite a bit packed into its humble package. That humbleness oozes through each page as you learn more about the author little by little. It's non-abrasive approach also eases the reader into the text. Coming especially handy when Inzer's text eventually drops bits of info about Japan's culture and customs. Thanks to her writing style and art, much of the general Japan-related facts aren't as plain as you would see them in a conventional travel guide and thus more memorable. Because each factoid is tied to one of Inzer's memories (thus filling the "Diary" part of title), it makes each fact a little more tangible. For example, one of my favorite parts of the book is when Inzer discusses Tokyo fashions. She fawns over how well the teens are dressed while highlighting how awkward she felt around them. This bit of self-depreciating humor is utterly charming as it's still oddly positive and heart warming. There's so much emotion packed into these vignettes I was taken aback by how much I had learned about the author's journey throughout.  You can't discuss the bulk of the text without gushing over Inzer's art. Her comics are like the gravy on the already meaty content. It's the extra flare of personality helping hammer her personal story home. Adorable imagery coupled with her adorable perspective just gave me a warm feeling in general. I wish I had other adjectives to use, but I really can't think of a better word to describe the art than "adorable." With each of her self-portraits containing a level of awkwardness, you can almost imagine how small she felt at times in an admittedly big place. This comes through especially during a vignette in which she traveled alone for the first time and was met with confusion. Sure it's not the deepest or the most emotional at times, but it's greatly appreciated these sorts of stories are included in the first place.  I guess my only issue with Diary of a Tokyo Teen overall is that there isn't enough of it. Regardless of how long you spend reading the text and admiring Inzer's comic art, it's still a brief experience. But in that loss, Diary gains an even greater amount of accessibility than even its art and content provide. Diary of a Tokyo Teen is for everyone. If you're slightly interested in Japan and its culture, there are no better eyes to see it through than Christine Mari Inzer's. 
Tokyo Teen Review photo
To be completely blunt, I didn't expect much going into Christine Mari Inzer's Diary of a Tokyo Teen. When I was approached for a review of the book, I accepted because I really dug the art and figured it'd be a nice, light l...

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Dragon Soul

Derek Padula's Dragon Soul book transforms into a physical release

This wish wasn't beyond Shenron's power
Dec 16
// Salvador G Rodiles
You got to hand it to authors who get their digital books released physically so people can immerse themselves while they turn each page with their hands. In a similar manner to how a Saiyan goes Super, Dragon Soul: 30 Years ...
J-Novel Club photo
J-Novel Club

J-Novel Club adds multidimensional bathing and more

Light Novel website gets more titles
Nov 18
// Soul Tsukino
J-Novel Club, a website that carries Japanese light novels in English to its members has now added two more titles to its growing list of available series to read. The Faraway Paladin and Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension will both be carried on the website for English readers to enjoy!
E-SAKUGA photo

Dive into FLCL's key frames with E-SAKUGA's upcoming product

Ride on Shooting Sakuga
Nov 05
// Salvador G Rodiles
There's something wonderful about seeing the hard work that goes into creating an animated piece. One nice thing about this process is seeing the project's key frames that make each scene pop out. Speaking of which, FLCL is g...

Review: Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy

Oct 17 // Josh Tolentino
[Photo by Hiroshi Suga] Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy (Paperback) Written By: Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono, Masuhiro YamamotoPublished by: VIZ MediaReleased: October 11, 2016MSRP: $14.99ISBN: 978-1421589084 One thing should be made clear right away, for any prospective buyers of the book: Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy is NOT a recipe book. It's not even a book about sushi, at least not "sushi" in the general sense as a field of Japanese cuisine.   Instead, Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy a book about the sushi served at Sukiyabashi Jiro. Specifically. That makes a significant difference. In some ways, one could see the whole book as something of an extremely elaborate menu or catalog for the restaurant itself. The contents of the book consist of pictures of the various types of sushi served on each , with the opposite page containing information about the dish from Jiro himself. The short paragraphs - blurbs, really - are written in a more anecdotal style, conveying insights ranging from why a given piece is served before or after other types of sushi to things like cooking methods or marketing times. In essence, each entry is a window into a Sukibayashi Jiro staffer's experience of creating and serving that type of sushi. Other, more sobering impressions can be gleaned from the otherwise brief notes, such as the occasional mention of increasing scarcity of fish available for some pieces. These admissions inadvertently highlight ongoing crises with overfishing, oceanic extinctions, and sustainable fishing practices. It might not be long before some of the celebrated pieces detailed in Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy disappear from the menu. The specificity of it all makes the book feel like a journal, a series of notes rather than a carefully organized, comprehensive guide. If Sukibayashi Jiro had a gift shop so that visitors to it could pick up a memento of their reservation, this book would be on the shelf. From the cynic's view, VIZ Media is publishing and selling a promotional brochure for a restaurant that many people will never visit.  That view might hold, if not for the quality of the book itself. [Photo by Hiroshi Suga] Putting aside concerns about the nature of its contents, Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy is an utterly gorgeous physical object. Despite the fact that it's a pocket-sized paperback, the book is constructed like a decorative coffee table centerpiece. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, reading the book feels like a genuine aesthetic act, something beyond the information contained in the text and pictures alone. The endpages are carefully textured and the whole thing gives off an aura of classiness largely absent from genuine travel guides or food books. Those readers who want to make the case for keeping and buying physical books in an age dominated by screen-based readers can file this one into evidence for their side. The content also extends past just the sushi. The main section is followed by a subsection detailing best practices for eating sushi, as well as a how-to guide for making reservations at Sukibayashi Jiro itself. In all honesty, the information detailed within isn't much more than one would get on the occasional website article. That said, having it come directly from the horse's mouth gives it an air of authority and authenticity. [Photo by Kenta Izumi] In the end, we have the answers to the dilemmas I posed earlier in the review. The purpose Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy is to be an elaborate, if heartfelt and earnest, bit of self-promotion for an expensive  very earnest, heartfelt bit of self-promotion. As for its intended audience, the gift-store patron crowd are the best fit. Beyond them, perhaps a friend who's a mega-fan of Jiro Dreams of Sushi and is planning a visit sometime soon. Genuine sushi afficionados or those less enamored of a famous little restaurant may want to hold off.
Sushi: Jiro Gastronomy photo
Slice of Life
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch at this point to declare that Jiro Ono - head chef at Tokyo's Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant - is one of the most visible Japanese culinary professionals in the world. Thanks to his and his r...

Review: Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design

Aug 30 // Josh Tolentino
Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design Published by: Tuttle Publishing Written by: Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny Release date: July 12, 2016 MSRP: $9.99 (Kindle [Reviewed]), $17.95 (Print) ISBN: 978-4805313510 The value of Japanese Tattoos is immediately apparent given the relative absence of substantial English-language work about the art and design of Japanese tattooing, or "irezumi" (刺青). Generally speaking, irezumi literature in English tends towards overly dry, scholarly analyses, or superficial, aesthetically-occupied picture books and feeds. Ashcraft and Benny position their book between the two extremes, delivering a breezy, easy-to-read explainer that isn't afraid to dive below the surface and uncover hidden nuggets of cultural knowledge and history amid the striking design work being etched right into the human body.Honed by years of writing as an editor for the game website Kotaku, and by previous books like Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential and Arcade Mania!, Ashcraft mixes his light, accessible style with deeply researched cultural references and engaging profiles of famous Japanese tattooists and their clients. Japanese Tattoos isn't to be taken as a piece of academic writing, but instead as an FAQ of sorts, answering key questions and providing interesting insights and background, to help those who aren't yet sure about their interest in irezumi become interested. And in this respect, Ashcraft and Benny have succeeded in spades. Part of this is thanks to the way the book is laid out. As befitting its role as a cultural primer, Japanese Tattoos starts with a general overview of irezumi, its history, and importantly, what distinguishes it from the tattooing practiced elsewhere. Historical notes link irezumi with older practices of tattooing as a form of punishment for criminals, or as protective symbols "worn" by laborers and tradesmen. The section also traces the longstanding Japanese stigma against tattoos to the 19th and 20th centuries, as the country raced to modernize after centuries in isolation. Ironically for a stigma born of attempts to "align with western morals", it turned out to be those same westerners  - particularly the occupying U.S. military following World War II - that played a part in keeping tattooing alive despite the attempts to ban it. [From Japanese Tattoos by Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny] That leads into another important aspect of Japanese Tattoos: It's aware enough that culture isn't a monolithic, static thing, and that even "traditional" irezumi has changed over time. In rejecting the notion that irezumi is tied solely to any one thing (such as tebori, the classical method of inserting the ink into the skin with bamboo needles), the book reaffirms irezumi's uniqueness as an expression of Japanese culture, encompassing more than a specific technique but "an entire history and catalogue of iconography". Interviews with people like Horiyoshi III, Japan's most famous tattooist, reveal this progressive insight. Despite his mastery of tebori and his inspiration in classical woodblock prints, Horiyoshi III regards his work as less "traditional" than "traditionalist" thanks to his use of safer, modern ink, of mechanical tattooing machines, and the new, friendlier (and legal) conditions under which he works. It's an acknowledgement that even the most classical, "timeless" aspects of culture are subject to change and interpretation over time. That sentiment might seem in opposition to the permanence of the tattoo, but it's worth pointing out that tattoos change as their wearers do, by the virtue of being embedded on their ever-changing physiques. It's an embrace of mutability and the transitive nature of life that speaks to Japan's Buddhist influences. A tattoo may last one's whole life, but even that life ends. These reflections are woven into the other sections of the book, which cover popular and common motifs and elements in irezumi, with frequent asides and sidebars to deliver factoids that readers will want to recite back to their friends. The asides can sometimes feel a bit distracting from the chronological coherence of the book, but they're too good not to include, and so their somewhat scattershot arrangement is easily forgiven. [From Japanese Tattoos by Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny] From classic kanji script tattoos to the natural images, mythic beasts and figures, and even avante-garde and anime- or manga-themed designs, Ashcraft and Benny look in on the iconography, symbolism, and meaning behind the many classical elements of irezumi in Japan. Other chapters, particularly one covering various examples of the full "bodysuit" design, also focus on the form irezumi can take. Bodysuits and sleeves are the most visible archetypes of Japanese tattooing, and their placement in the book highlights that association. Never again will readers see the awesome back pieces on display in the Yakuza games in the same way. The book is also chock-full of great pictures of tattoos. Even in my relatively low-resolution review copy, the quality of the art shone through, and keeps the flow feeling as brisk as the prose. It's one thing to read about the peony's place in floral language as used in irezumi, but another to see it incorporated on people's bodies as a form of art and expression. Japanese Tattoos is a must-read for anyone interested in tattoos and Japanese culture, but its greatest strength is in how easily it can engage readers like yours truly, who have no plans to get a tattoo at all. Being able to engage with all that material despite its near-total irrelevance to my personal experience is the sign of a good book, and this one will serve as an effective crash course in irezumi for many a reader to come.   [This review is based on a copy of the book provided by the publisher.]  
Japanese Tattoos Review photo
Tattoo, not Taboo
What comes to mind when one thinks of "tattoos"? Some might imagine the anchor on Popeye's forearm, the pointy tribal band encircling a local gym fiend's bicep, or the crude inkings associated with prison art.Thinking of "Jap...

Yoshitaka Amano photo
Yoshitaka Amano

Rejoice: Viz Media to release a new Amano art book next week

Summer plus art equals a great time
Aug 10
// Salvador G Rodiles
There's something nice about companies releasing art books that feature an artist's older pieces. Not only do you get the chance to see how the person's work has evolved, but it also gives people the chance to see that creato...

Review: Kizumonogatari

Jan 27 // Anthony Redgrave
Kizumonogatari: Wound TalePublished by: Vertical Inc.Written by: NisiOisiNIllustrated by: VOfanTranslated by: Ko RansomReleased: December 15, 2015MSRP: $14.95 Despite being the third light novel released, Kizumonogatari is effectively the start of the series as a whole. High schooler Araragi Koyomi meets with a vampire during his Golden Week Spring Break holidays and subsequently joins the legion of the undead. As a bid to get his humanity back he has to serve  his new master or be damned to live in the darkness forever. It's a tale that has been hinted at throughout the TV show so fans will enjoy experiencing it first hand. Once the story gets going, the plot is set to a rigid structure with a few interesting turns keep it from being stale and providing a steady pace from start to finish. At times, the pacing can become slow especially during the first few chapters and in-between set pieces.  Despite the difference in medium, the feeling of a Monogatari story is still present. The mounting supernatural pressures, off-kilter dialogue, and perverse situations all find their way into the novel in at some point. Kizumonogatari keeps your eyes glued to the page by intertwining the normal with the paranormal. Readers of the popular Japanese author Haruki Murakami will feel right at home with the pacing and themes visited in this book.  As usual, the lead is the internally loquacious but externally laconic Araragi Koyomi, a high schooler stumbling through life with no direction. This character archetype is common in Japanese novels rather than Western ones although common strings can be drawn to the everyday reluctant hero with a quick mind and tongue. The cast is kept small and intimate with returning faces from the show making their first appearances in this novel. Araragi's interactions with the supporting cast are great as it explores their initial interactions and helps long time fans understand the basis of their relationship. Character quirks, catch phrases, and snappy dialogue makes it hard to dislike anyone. A personal highlight is Araragi's relationship with Tsubasa and how it evolves. It treads the line between strong friendship and romantic interest in such a way that when it is later followed up in Nekomonogatari Black you know where they stand perfectly.  The story is told entirely in the first-person perspective putting you right into the mind of Araragi. A constant long-running internal dialogue throughout the book. Readers that prefer to have dialogue-heavy novels with little in the ways of the description will enjoy the trimming of the 'adjective fat' in favour of getting to understand Araragi's personality more. This close intimate relationship between the reader and Araragi helps you relate to his plight even if first impressions are bad. In terms of writing style, this could come off as lacking in variety as you are only getting information from one viewpoint. It takes some getting to used to as I had found the first few chapters difficult to read. Odd interruptions, stray words, and abnormal punctuations cause the writing to stop and start mimicking the short snappy thoughts of Araragi that break the flow. Once you get used to this style and the story picks up the rest of the story flows a lot better. For the most part, the English translation of Kizumonogatari does a great job in capturing the tone and style of the original. The characters are still fun, quirky, and just as animated as they were in the show supported by the strong dialogue. Tsubasa's words are sweet with a drizzle of flirtation, Araragi is an over-analytical opportunist and Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade continues to carry a brazenly confident demeanor despite all circumstances. There are some points of the novel that may be very peculiar for readers not versed in the ways of Japanese anime and this could be very hit and miss. I can see where the author was intending with these sections for future use in an anime but in a novel they slowed the pace down considerably or made me feel very uncomfortable to read. They are rare and far between and that is why they could be a deal breaker as they come from the far left field.  Presentation wise, this isn't a normal Western paperback novel. Partly because the cover has paper flaps and the size gives it a nice heavy chunky feel to it. There are a few pictures on the first few pages of the book that look nice and a blurb in the inside of the paper flaps giving it the feel of a hardback book. The book clocks in at 344 pages with a short translated afterword from the author. It's a decent sized book that will keep keen readers busy for a week and casual readers for a little longer.  I've been an active follower of Araragi's adventures on the screen so I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of where it all started. After overcoming the initial challenges, I was immersed in familiar territory and enjoying every step. The pacing, dialogue, characters, and feel is pure Monogatari and fans of the series will not be disappointed by the translation. The book comes at an excellent time coinciding with the release of the movie so fans should give this book a flick through if they want to get the full experience. Newcomers, especially those not accustomed to conventional Japanese literature, may experience a culture shock in some of the scenarios visited in the story; however, they may find the charm in the intricacies and storytelling that made this series so appealing to many people from around the world. [This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher] The Art of GrassHopper Manufacture: Complete Collection of SUDA51Published By PIE International + PIE Books (Website)Written By: SUDA51Released: June 2015MSRP: $28.95 (Amazon)ISBN-13: 978-4-7562-4586-1
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Monogatari without Shaft
I don't think I could ever think of the Monogatari series without Shaft's trademark animation and visuals. It would be like eating PB and J sandwiches all my life and then discovering peanut butter could exist on starch witho...

These are the real-life books featured in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan

Nov 18 // Anthony Redgrave
Episode 1- Precious Place (Virtual Girl- Amy Thomson) [Amazon]One of the first establishing shots of the club room has Kyon reading this book and Nagato playing her PSVita. Maybe she should've founded a video game club instead. Anyways, this book isn't a literary classic like Dickens and from the Amazon preview page looks like a teen book in the vein of Animorphs or Goosebumps. Supporting the age old saying about books and their covers, this title did win the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and has been received positively by readers. A story about artificial intelligence and abandonment doesn't have a lot of parallel themes with the Nagato Yuki-chan story so I assume the animators just liked the Japanese cover of the book. Episode 10- Someday in the Rain (Mystery of the Yellow Room- Gaston Laroux) [Amazon]There is a large jump in the anime before we find another identifiable book. After Nagato from this show is lies dormant and Nagato from Haruhi becomes the dominant personality, Kyon and her find themselves back in the Literature Room hanging out, but this time Nagato is actually reading. The name of the book is Le mystère de la Chambre Jaune, a french novel that is famously known as one of the first locked-room mystery books. The cover shown in the show is a faithful recreation of the first edition of the book. The new Nagato has a penchant for the language of love with the next book. Episode 10- again (The Perfume of the Lady in Black- again by Gaston Laroux) [Amazon]This book is actually the sequel to the Mystery of the Yellow Room which is probably why Nagato picks it next. This title features a lot of characters from Gaston's first locked room mystery however, it is more well known as an Italian movie. This part of the episode shows off Kyon's complete lack of linguistic skills too as he is unable to pronounce any of these two titles. Episode 13- The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan III (Inherit the Stars- JP Hogan) [Amazon]In the show, this was Nagato's last book she checks out of the library before confessing and leaving Kyon. She was so engrossed with this book that she didn't want to leave the library before Kyon forced her to. As part of a five-parter, Inherit the Stars was James P Hogan's first book and was inspired by Hitchcock's Kubrick's legendary film 2001: A Space Odyssey and a bet with his buddies that he couldn't write a science fiction piece. This is the kind of book I'd expect Nagato and Koizumi to be reading, something science fiction-y and out of the world just like their true identities.  Le mystère de la chambre jaune
Nagato Yuki photo
It's a Literature Club, after all
In last season's anime, I had covered The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan dub for this site. The anime has now finished broadcasting and I've finished recapping, but I'm not quite done talking about it. I had noticed t...

Review: The Art of Grasshopper Manufacture

Nov 12 // Anthony Redgrave
The Art of GrassHopper Manufacture: Complete Collection of SUDA51Published By: PIE International + PIE Books (Website)Written By: SUDA51Released: June 2015MSRP: $28.95 (Amazon)ISBN-13: 978-4-7562-4586-1 First impressions are good. It's filled with pretty pictures with a clean layout for easy browsing and has a good sense of weight in your hands. Grasshopper Manufacture is an eclectic developer never settling on just one style or just one motif and thus this book is filled to the brim with a variety of illustrations and styles. It documents the entire developer's catalogue from the games still in production Let it Die to their first attempts as a developer The Silver Case. Only the absolutely hardcore fans will notice omissions and not all the games have art assets to contribute, either because of licencing issues or otherwise. This isn't a massive downside though as the title has enough original content to keep your visual cortex engaged throughout.  There is a great selection of art on display here. It ranges from concept art to promotional material to art assets seen in-game. There isn't an even distribution of pages per franchise as games that had an international release like Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes take up a lot more pages than smaller titles like Sine Mora and Michigan. However, I never felt like I wanted to see more from one particular game. This book places an emphasis on character and monster design so be prepared to see a lot of humanoid shapes and faces. There are a handful environmental pieces to help readers get a feel for the game's visuals and provide some diversity to the title. Western fans of the Fatal Frame series will be happy to see a small section dedicated to the Japanese only Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. This title tries to cram in as much as possible and goes as far as to include the various renditions of the company logos through the ages.  The text is peppered throughout the book, mainly in Japanese with a fully translated section at the back. It's clear the book wasn't designed to have English text so it had been included all in the back causing a lot of flipping back and forth to connect the two paragraphs together. The formatting of the text is good opting for a clear monochrome sans-serif font, but the size is on the small side requiring piercing stare to decipher. The inclusion of a complete translation is a highly welcome addition allowing westerners to enjoy this book regardless of purchase location.  The book's subtitle: Complete Collection of Suda51 should not be discounted as the book reads like a creative biography. The words guide the reader through each game as Suda51 recounts his experiences, design philosophy, and development insights. I found myself being more and more absorbed into the companies history through his recollections after multiple viewings of this book. They give each game more personality and depth than just looking at the pictures. Skipping over the written portions of this book is missing half the brilliance of the title. I was especially impressed by the way Suda was able to convey his personal struggles as the head of a game company with the creative hardships of matching visuals to game design. It helped me grow more attached to the art as a result and understand the philosophy behind every game this company had produced.  The book is a 224-page softback with a soft sleeve giving it a bit more class than a typical trade paper back. The size is just a bit shy of an A4 sheet, but the pictures are printed big and bold with the pieces showing off the most colour benefitting the most. The front cover is a mess. A collage of black and white art from various Grasshopper games with the uniform book title lined up across the whole thing. The actual title looks like it was formatted on WordArt as the font colour is slightly transparent making it difficult to read. The paper is a thick grainy stock giving the book weight and thankfully doesn't give off an excessive amount of sheen when viewed directly under the light.  Grasshopper Manufacture once had a slogan 'Punk not dead' exclaiming the idea of a punk subculture within the video game industry. Their individual and unique nature towards video games can be seen in their art by never lingering on the same thing and subverting the norm to be uniquely interesting. The Art of Grasshopper Manufacture is a title with lots of character, colour, and creativity. Suda's dialogue through the title injects some human personality amongst the images of monsters, demon hunters, and assassins. If you've ever found yourself being drawn to a Grasshopper Manufacture game then I highly recommended this book. It's a must have for anyone that has been bewitched by the visual callings of a Suda51 game.  [This review is based off a review copy provided by the publisher] Game Art: Art from 40 Video Games and Interviews with Their Creators Published By: No Starch PressWritten By: Matt SainsburyReleased: September 10, 2015MSRP: $39.95ISBN-13: 978-1593276652 enthusiasts
Grasshopper Manufacture photo
Enter the mind of SUDA51
Grasshopper Manufacture, to put it simply, is a Japanese game company. Their games are surreal and weird. Each one looks, sounds, and plays differently. And it's all from the mind of video game auteur Suda51. Art direction pl...

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Learn how to create daicon radish animals with this upcoming book

Daicon Panda Sculpting 101
Oct 19
// Salvador G Rodiles
Are you interested in learning how to make daikon radish art?  If you answered "yes," then you'll be happy to know that Daikon Radish Artist Kimimarokku's releasing a book that teaches people the basics of creating daico...
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Viz launches All You Need Is Kill rebrand, graphic novel

Trying to capitalize on Edge of Tomorrow adaptation
Apr 16
// Brad Rice
With the live action adaptation of All You Need Is Kill (rebranded as Edge of Tomorrow) set to release on June 6, Viz's Haikasoru line is preparing to capitalize on the blockbuster film. They'll be dropping an updated version...

Former porn actress Yuma Asami pens autobiography

Details her decisions to go into AV, battle with ovarian cancer
Apr 13
// Brad Rice
Yuma Asami, one of Japan's better-known adult video actresses, is spilling her secrets in a book titled Restart: Believe in Yourself. The book, set to hit Japanese shelves on May 8, details some of the reasons Asami took the ...

Viz releasing Princess Mononoke: The First Story

Hayao Miyazaki's original story for the iconic film.
Mar 08
// Ben Huber
Just about everyone is a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki's output, especially Princess Mononoke. But I imagine not as many folks know about the original story (of the same name) that Miyazaki put together. The book was a collection...
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UDON to publish SUBSTRATA, an artbook for a fake game

Project reunites Vigil Games and adds many more
Feb 18
// Pedro Cortes
Here's something a little different from UDON Entertainment. Known for publishing some pretty nifty anime and video game artbooks, UDON will publish SUBSTRARA, an artbook for a game that doesn't exist. Created as a way to reu...
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Lawyers publish book to empower job seekers

Helps them deal with jerky bosses
Jan 28
// Pedro Cortes
The image of the put-upon salary man in Japanese culture is a powerful one. It is seemingly part of the cultural identity, where after college you jump in a suit and find a job at a big corporation and generally be unhappy wh...

A Look @ Hello Kitty: Delicious!

Jan 15 // Kristina Pino
Hello Kitty: Delicious! Published by: Perfect Square (a VIZ Media imprint)Story and Art: Jacob Chabot, Jorge Monlongo, Ian McGinty, Stephanie BuscemaRelease Date: Jan. 7, 2014MSRP: US$7.99 (print) US$4.99 (digital) [BUY] Hello Kitty: Delicious! follows the adventures (and some misadventures) of Hello Kitty, her family and friends, as they run into spaghetti monsters, aliens, giants with a sweet tooth, hectic candy-filled dreams, and more. The cast is the same from last time, in terms of the book's characters, but the humans making the stories change things up a little. We still have Jacob and Jorge, who present a more traditional approach to Kitty's art style accompanied by inventive speech-less storytelling. But their stories are complimented by not just one, but two guests in the book who both have very distinctive styles to apply to our hero: Ian McGinty and Stephanie Buscema. Ian McGinty had two segments in this book: "Sweet Dreams" and "Food Fright." One of those is a rad call-back to old school horror; can ya guess which one? His line work is a bit more detailed than that of the other artists, and he had colorist Michael Wiggam to really bring it all to life. I loved having a third artist with longer stories in this book because it brought diversity into it. It's not that Jacob and Jorge aren't inventive -- they are incredible -- but a third person with a totally different art style, as well as a different way of telling stories, rounded things off fabulously. Ian will be returning for the third book in this series. Stephanie Buscema covered the little interlude sections, like Susie Ghahremani did for the previous volume. Hers were pretty much one-page deals, and I'm honestly sad that she won't be getting an encore in the next book. She is heavily influenced by "1950s kitsch and vintage children's books," and it shows in the best way. You can get an idea of her style by checking out this portfolio. I just wish I could buy one of her Hello Kitty pages as an art print. It should be fairly obvious by now that I think you need to throw your money at your nearest bookseller or tablet to support this release. Hello Kitty: Here We Go! was a strong first volume in this new series, and volume two kept everything that was fantastic about it and then added more awesome sauce to the mix. You don't need to have read one to enjoy the other, and given its structure of (mostly*) independent short stories, it's also a good "pick up and put down" sort of book. These comics have universal appeal and are suitable for all ages (some references may escape a younger audience, but the humor will remain). Be sure to check back here in April to see my thoughts on volume three. *One of the stories in this book references a previous one, but not in a way that you have to have read both to "get" it.
Hello Kitty vol. 2 photo
Let's go on food-filled adventures
The first volume in the Hello Kitty (reviewed) series published by Perfect Square was all about travel, and it didn't disappoint; we went all over the world and beyond. This second volume promised to have our mouths watering,...

Happy birthday, Haruki Murakami!

Jan 12 // Kristina Pino
As you may surmise from the title of that last book I listed, Murakami leads an active life and keeps a solid, daily workout routine. He runs marathons and has completed Ironman competitions. Before he became an author in his late-20's, he ran a jazz bar and married young. Fun fact: Murakami owns over 6,000 records. In his life, he's also been a university professor, an avid traveler, and a political essayist (lookie here). Oh, and Murakami loves cats. This is probably the best summation of Murakami and his work I came across while looking for factoids to share here (via): Haruki Murakami is an iconic figure of postmodern literature known mostly for his unreal, humorous work focusing on the loneliness and empty mindedness of Japan’s work dominated generation. My personal introduction to Murakami's work was the English-language release of 1Q84. I hadn't heard of him much before that book came out, and I decided to dive right in to that monster of a hardback, which sucked me right in from the start and just wouldn't let go. It's a wild ride, and though some folks criticize Murakami's writing style for being repetitive (and some even said 1Q84 was plain vague or even lazy), I hadn't been exposed to his other works to have a point for comparison. He won me over with that book, and I followed it up with The Elephant Vanishes so I could just enjoy bite-sized Murakami-style fiction. There's so much great work out there to enjoy with his name attached to it, that I honestly don't know where to go next. [Editor's Note: Kris, read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle! Oh wait, I'm supposed to wait until my turn to talk at the bottom.] I've been thinking I should grab Norwegian Wood, especially since there's a film adaptation, which means I can delay my "moving on" from that story that much longer. I don't think that I would have had the same appreciation for Murakami's work if I'd read it as little as five years ago. 1Q84 was a Christmas gift from a friend in 2011, shortly after its release in October. That's the year that I really began to adjust my literary tastes, and broaden my literary horizons much more aggressively. I started blogging about books, I read hard science fiction for the first time, and found literary love in nonfiction and young adult fantasy. I even started reading comics again that year; 2011 was big. So it was really the best time for me to pick up a work that was written in a completely different style from what I'd been used to and be receptive to it. I'm happy to say that Murakami came into my life at exactly the right time to rope me in as a life-long fan. And now that you've got some factoids and some of my own personal insight, let's round this off with some words from Brittany and Karen, who are also enthusiastic Murakami fans. Brittany Vincent says: I started reading Murakami during a weird time in my life. I had just started a new job I wasn't adjusting to well, I barely had time for friends or family, and my bizarre schedule coupled with the fact that I was staying at a relative's house for an entire summer kept me down in the dumps. It was a low time, but I was close to a Borders, and the fact that I could sometimes stop there after work gave me something to look forward to. I had dabbled with Murakami's Norwegian Wood, but I wanted something even more infinitely personal. I wanted something to believe in; a love story. One that eschewed the Nicholas Sparks bullshit and reveled in something more transcendental. I wanted to bury myself in a world that explored the whirlwind whimsy of romance and the soul-crushing loneliness of being. I chose Sputnik Sweetheart, finished it, crawled into bed at 4:30 in the afternoon, and cried myself to sleep. I mourned the person I thought I had been and mourned the person I was becoming. I listened to The Pixies' Debaser on repeat, thinking it might give me strength. I reread Sputnik Sweetheart and wished with all my might that I didn't have to put my scrubs on and head back to the job I was working that I so severely disliked as my friends and family lived on without me. I found solace, no matter how temporary, in knowing Murakami seemed to understand. Or at least had a more intermediate knowledge of the unbearable sadness I had dealt with then. And for that, he made a lifelong fan. I hope he has many more happy birthdays over the years. I know he helped make my 20th palatable. Karen Mead says: Strangely, I first found out about Haruki Murakami because of "the other" Murakami. I was interested in picking up Coin Locker Babies, Ryu Murakami's disturbing novel about infants abandoned in lockers, only it sounded way too dark and hard-core for me. During my investigation of Ryu Murakami though, I read some comments to the effect of "Well you know, the other famous Murakami-- Haruki Murakami-- writes much more accessible stuff." At the time, I was just starting to get really into Japanese culture and wanted brownie points for reading actual books instead of just manga, so this "accessible" Murakami seemed like a great place to start. While it's true that most of Haruki Murakami's work is more accessible than something like Coin Locker Babies, that hardly makes it all sweetness and light; the WWII-flashback sequence in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (the first Murakami novel I tackled), is quite possibly the most horrifying thing I've ever read. Still, while it can get very dark on occasion, Murakami's world in general is a gentler, dreamlike place that appeals to the senses. There's something effortless about reading Murakami that I haven't found in any other author's work; while his books have plots, characters, resolutions and all those sorts of important structural things, reading his work reminds me of drifting in and out of a daydream. It seems like once the story starts, I'm getting pulled along-- as though by a subtle tug of the current-- rather than choosing to read words on a page. Fortunately, the neighborhood library at the time had most of Murakami's works. I didn't read all of them-- for some reason, I can never quite get into After Dark. But I've devoured the grand majority-- the Gibson-esque Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, A Wild Sheep Chase and its equally surreal sequels, and the incredibly poignant Norwegian Wood. I've had Murakami's latest work (available in English at any rate), 1Q84, sitting on my night table for about a month now. It's not that I don't want to start it, but I have to wait until I'm ready to start drifting along in that current-- because once I start it, I doubt much else will get done. Murakami is often called "The Japanese John Irving," due to his writing style (and in part because he's the translator for Irving's books into Japanese.) However, having quite a bit of both, personally I prefer Murakami's work; he somehow manages to merge dreamlike elements with a matter-of-factness that makes the story feel grounded, no matter what kind of logic-defying things are going on. As far as I've read, no one handles magical realism better. Another thing that distinguishes Murakami's work is just how often his characters eat; in most books, we tend to assume that characters do things like eat lunch in between important scenes, but it's not uncommon in a Murakami novel to get a description of every single meal consumed during the protagonist's journey. Maybe this just appeals to me on a food-porn level, but I also like the attention to detail; it's part of what makes Murakami's characters feel like real human beings instead of just devices. Years after going on my reading binge, I did read Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami, and I was right the first time-- it was way too dark for me. But I owe Mr. Murakami a debt, because without him I wouldn't have discovered "my" Murakami. I highly recommend his work, although don't try to get into Haruki Murakami and start a new diet at the same time-- the constant references to delicious food will do you in.
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Spreading the love for a great storyteller
Haruki Murakami, today's Jtor-honored birthday boy, isn't a character from an anime or video game, but a real person who is still alive and kicking. And to mark the occasion, I am joined by Brittany and Karen in sharing our l...

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Don't leave on Pokemon adventures without a field guide

The Field Guide to Kanto, that is, because we're old school
Dec 21
// Kristina Pino
Kari Fry is so dedicated to your success as a Pokémon trainer that she created a beautiful field guide to all things Kanto. It kind of flew under our radar - this book was released at the end of November and it sold ou...
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Help fund a Moe-themed guide for headphone enthusiasts

Doujin circle Lunatic Joker turns kickstarter for help
Dec 16
// Tim Sheehy
Audiophiles and headphone enthusiasts may be interested in helping kick-start this interesting project we've stumbled across -- Lunatic Joker's Moe Headphone Guidebook 2013. The doujinshi guide will reportedly featu...
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Hail to the pink-haired lady!
UDON Entertainment have revealed a nifty 12-page preview of an artbook featuring the lovely Luka Megurine all by her glamorous self. This artbook comprises over 150 illustrations on 96 pages created by over 35 artists, and it...

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Cower in fear! Apparitions: Ghosts of Old Edo is out

It's time to get spooky!
Nov 20
// Salvador G Rodiles
We may be past the halfway point in November, but that doesn't mean spirit of All Hallow's Eve has left our realm. Taking this knowledge into account, Viz has released Apparitions: Ghosts of Old Edo on November 19th unde...
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Releases of the Week

Releases of the Week: Akira celebrates its 25th Birthday

Let's give our best wishes to the Birthday Boy
Nov 12
// Salvador G Rodiles
Brad is still in Ireland as we speak, so I'll be covering Releases of the Week for him today. While there aren't that many new titles coming out this week, people can look forward to the return of Akira! This time a...
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Novelist Haruki Murakami pens a new Beatles-inspired tale

He sure does love the Beatles
Nov 12
// Karen Mead
I've been a big fan of Haruki Murakami ever since my high school years, when I realized that my local library had a treasure trove of his novels available. I love his approach to magical realism; he does it better than any li...

An interview with Dr Akiko Mikamo

Nov 07 // Kristina Pino
Kristina: The book reads like it was narrated to me by Shinji himself. What was the general writing process like? Dr. Mikamo: I grew up listening to his stories and always wanted to tell his stories to the world in a book since I was a child. When I co-started our non-profit charity organization for peace education and promotion, San Diego-WISH:Worldwide Initiative to Safeguard Humanity, in 2010, I felt it was important to have the book out to reach out to more people all over the world with his messages. My father was 84 years old at the time (now 87), and I felt I needed to take actions while his memory is intact. I wrote my initial draft in 3 days and 3 nights straight with few breaks as I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Then, it took me 3 years to research historical facts for accuracy, interview my father on the phone and via fax back and forth for further details, edit, explore publishers, and finally published it on July 15 this year. Kristina: If Ashes is successful enough, do you think you'll write more of what he has to say? Dr. Mikamo: Yes, he and I have a lot to convey to the world. He is a wise man and has many sayings based on his experiences and beliefs, such as "Ten years to build trust, One moment to lose it."  I will also write about [humanity] in terms of empathy and tolerance of people that are different from yourself, on a similar topic to forgiveness. I mean a various type of diversity including physical and mental disabilities or the absence of, race and ethnicity, religious preference, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, gender, educational level, and so on. I will probably portray the examples of my elder sister, other real people and their family relationships as well as what we could do to make a better world with different people holding hands. My next focus includes how to understand and support persons with mental or developmental disabilities as I'm a clinical and medical psychologist in practice. Kristina: Are there any plans to translate this book to Japanese and release it overseas? Dr. Mikamo: Yes, I'm in the planning stage for the Japanese version now, and I hope to publish it in the first half of 2014. I would like to have it translated into many other languages in the near future, too. Kristina: Was the book Shinji's idea? How did it all begin? Dr. Mikamo: Shinji has been asked to give talks and share his experiences many times, and he has had bits and pieces of stories written down. But putting all in a book in English was my idea, encouraged by my fellow students at INSEAD, a leading international business school I attended in Europe for my executive masters degree in consulting from 2009-2010. The classmates there are mostly executives and consultants who come from many countries, and they told me my father's story was one of the most moving stories they had ever heard.  Kristina: What led you to the decision to write this book from your father's perspective? Dr. Mikamo: I was partly influenced by Clint Eastwood's movie, Letters from Iwojima, and how it was from the young main character's (Saigo's) perspective. It just felt right to "speak" to the audience as if my father (especially, as a young man) were talking to each of them. Kristina: Do you believe in coincidence? I believe everything has a meaning, but it is sometimes not so obvious at the time. One may later realize 2 things happened at the same time for a reason. Kristina: If your mother had had a voice in this book, what lessons would she have imparted on readers? Dr. Mikamo: She passed away 6 years ago, and it was very unfortunate she didn't get to see this book come to life. She was a very traditional Japanese woman, who had learned to swallow all the pain and keep it to herself.  She had taught me the virtue of tolerance and accepting. So her voice was not in the book directly, but her silent voice was reflected in the book through my personality and perspectives. Kristina: Are there any films or other books you'd recommend to people who loved Ashes and want to see more material like it? This includes both the historical aspects of the story as well as its ultimate message of empathy and forgiveness. Dr. Mikamo: It's not directly about forgiveness, but I think Letters from Iwojima is a brilliant and very touching movie about the WWII in the Pacific involving Japan. It really expands one's perspective when you watch it with Flags of Our Fathers also on Iwojima by Clint Eastwood.   For children, I recommend Sadako and One Thousand Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. Tariq Kahmisa Foundation in San Diego is a not-for-profit organization to educate teens to eliminate teen violence, and it is based on the importance of forgiveness. It was co-founded by the father of a teenager who was killed by a 13-year-old gang member and the murderer's grandfather. "The Amish Project" is a fictional play by Jessica Dickey (playwright and actress) based on a true story of a schoolhouse shooting, and it is a powerful story of forgiveness. Kristina: Do you have any advice for people who are living in or planning to move abroad somewhere, even if just to study abroad? Dr. Mikamo: To put aside judgment on people, behavior, or customs using your own scales, and to listen, observe, and try to understand where they are coming from first. You don't have to agree with them, but just try to understand and empathize. You will gain so much more. Not only will you learn about other cultures, but you will also gain a new and expanded perspective on your own. Kristina: Besides visiting the Memorial Park and Museum, what is one unmissable experience travelers should have when visiting Hiroshima? Dr. Mikamo: To visit Miyajima (Itsukushima Island) with the big shinto shrine and Torii gate. Very historical and beautiful. There is a photo in my book toward the back with a couple of deer with the Torii gate in the background. It is one of the Three Best Scenes of Japan. You can take a ferry there from the coast, or you can take a boat there from the river next to the Atomic Bomb Dome. And you MUST try the Hiroshima favorite, "Okonomiyaki." It's a casual meal with layers of crepe, veggies, thin meat or seafood, eggs, and with or without noodles. Hiroshima has its own famous special style, and the sauce is to die for. Okonomiyaki teppan (iron grill) restaurant is almost on every corner, and it's like what pizza is to Americans: just more nutritious and much healthier. Thank you so much, again! Akiko Mikamo Japanator would like to thank Dr. Mikamo once again for taking the time to grant us this interview. We look forward to covering more of her work in the future.
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Empathy, forgiveness, and the best food in Hiroshima
In conjunction with my review of Rising from the Ashes, I was given a special opportunity to interview its author, Dr. Akiko Mikamo. In case you haven't read the review yet (and why haven't you?!), here's the basic synopsis t...

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Pottermore is now translated to Japanese

Score for the Land of the Rising Sun
Nov 07
// Kristina Pino
Yesterday, the Pottermore Insider announced that the Harry Potter online experience is now translated to and launched in Japanese. Pottermore offers a look at the things you didn't get to see in the books or films - the in-be...

Review: Make Your Own Manga

Nov 06 // Ben Huber
Truly, I had hit the jackpot. Make Your Own Manga declares proudly its intentions on the cover: make your own "anime stories" and "manga comics." This product is not aimed at me, for sure. It's also probably not aimed at you either, dear reader. It features the drawings of several webcomic and print-published artists, and they fill the pages of the book with their work -- just not the speech bubbles. That's up to you! The quality of the art varies from story to story. Some, like Elaine Tipping's work, are well-drawn, but feature the most boring layouts possible. Gar Malloy appears to have drawn everything with a Sharpie (perhaps the default brush in Photoshop?), or at the very least has not discovered the importance of line variety yet. Robin Edwards' stuff feels like it needs one more pass to be finished. Erwin Prasetya on the other hand feels like the most accomplished artist in this collection. Erwin's work is dynamic and fluid, with interesting layouts and unique angles... also shading. Those stories have shading. And even despite the lack of text in the speech bubbles, you can definitely feel the pacing of the short stories. It's a night-and-day difference from the rest of the book. It's a silly little book designed to grab kids who have caught on to anime and manga and want to make their own but haven't developed their artistic abilities yet, so I can't really fault it for what it is. I just wish all the art had been up the standards of Prasetya's work. Still, it's a fun little diversion that fills the exact purpose it has set out for: blank manga pages for the reader to fill in. Make Your Own Manga is a perfectly fine book for your younger sibling or nephew who just got into manga and wants to get creative. Now, what you've all really been waiting for... I give it a deep-dish cheese pizza out of 10. 6.0 – Okay (6’s are flawed, but still enjoyable. These titles may not have attempted to do anything special or interesting, but they are nonetheless enjoyable. These typically make great rental fodder or bargain grab.)
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I've always wanted to be an artist and make manga!
It was a little chilly that morning and I didn't really want to go outside. The mailman always comes so early around here. Are we his first stop? I think he really needs to relax, since I don't even get up on my days off unti...

Review: Rising from the Ashes by Dr Akiko Mikamo

Nov 05 // Kristina Pino
Rising from the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness from HiroshimaDr. Akiko MikamoLulu Publishing Released September 4, 2013MSRP: US$14.99 PB [BUY] US$9.99 eBook [BUY] Rising from the Ashes is a quick read. At only 206 pages, it doesn't take long to physically get through. By the time you're done though, you might feel like much more time has gone by. Though the story is penned by Dr. Mikamo, the words are all a recollection from the perspective of her father, Shinji Mikamo. It was he who was standing on the rooftop of his home, getting some work done with his father, when suddenly the world turned upside down. He then recounts in meticulous detail the grueling days that followed, what his father (Dr. Makimo's grandfather) did to ensure his survival, and his life after the disaster. Besides the details of his personal experiences, Shinji sets the scene for Japan during that period of history. He talks about the political situation, what the public was led to believe opposed to what was really going on, the various restrictions that were in place, and the aftermath. His story continues all the way into the present. Though the material in the story is heavy and the writing a little somber, it isn't the sort of book that you'll feel depressed reading. Shinji pours plenty of heart and substance into his words, and emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and looking more at the big picture. Of course, he also went to great lengths to instill his philosophy in his children, including the author, who is the president of  San Diego WISH and a practicing psychologist. Shinji's story is absolutely incredible, and if you can't get yourself to Hiroshima for a visit in the foreseeable future, then this is the easiest way to teleport there. This is a book I recommend even if you have visited the Memorial Peace Park and Museum. You'll definitely learn some history as recounted from a different perspective (a first-hand one), and you'll also learn the origin of some cultural aspects of Japan that are still intact (at least somewhat) today. The only mild lament I have about this book is I wish it had been a little longer, if only because I am interested in learning more. [9.5 – Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. You'll find few memoirs as important or insightful as this one.]
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'A survivor's message of love and the power of forgiveness'
One of the very best experiences I've ever had traveling in Japan was visiting Hiroshima. It is one of the most peaceful places on the planet, and the message that beautiful city conveys to all who pass through is one I'll ne...

A Look @: The Hobonichi Planner

Oct 30 // Kristina Pino
Hobonichi TechoHobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun and Arts&ScienceRelease: October, 2013MSRP: ¥2,500 [BUY] [embed]30215:3017:0[/embed] As I mentioned before, the Techo isn't just a planner. It's a book that you can do anything with. If you want to use it as a journal for your thoughts, a scrapbook, doodle book, recipe book, or scratch pages for lists and notes, it all works out. The pages can take it - they're made to withstand the creativity of its users, as you can see in the promo video above. Since the book doesn't actually start up until December, I messed around with some of the memo pages to see how they handled various materials I have lying around in my apartment. The only things I didn't try were pastels and watercolors, but I suspect they would have been just fine. Nothing bled through the pages, because they're designed to not absorb anything to begin with. It's fantastic. Features I love most: Flexible spine makes it so the book stays open on any page you flip to Not one, but three separate spaces where you can jot down appointments, deadlines, meetings, and other scheduled events that are apart from the actual day-to-day pages Graph layout on each day's page to maximize your use of limited space Encouragement to just paste another layer or pocket to any page you run out of space on, because it's your book and you can do whatever you want I can't really name any drawbacks to the Techo. It's kind of a dream come true for me, since I carry around both an agenda and a journal which I use as a day-to-day book for doodling, writing down whatever I need to remember later, making lists, or drafting editorials I plan to publish online later (ah, the freelance life). This one book would replace both of those, and it takes up less space. If I buy a case for it, I could even (neatly) carry around an arsenal of craft supplies with it and still save on space. I made a video (located at the top of this post) to accompany this review. I'd also like to mention that as I finally begin to use the planner, I'll periodically update whoever wants to know on how the thing is holding up and whether I'm still happy and excited about it. I mean, I'm the kind of person who color-codes her notes and even has color-coded sticky tabs for easy indexing. And I like scrapbooking. And making lists. And scribbling things with different colored pens. And this one little book will pretty much let me combine all of these things, plus function as a planner. There is no losing.
Hobonichi Techo photo
I'm going to be fun this year
The Hobonichi Planner (Techo) has been around for years, and it comes in three different sizes. But it's more than just a planner - it's a record of your daily life, and a vessel for your creativity, designed to serve as an ...

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Hello Kitty vol. 2

Hello Kitty's next target is your stomach

Adorable deliciousness coming our way
Oct 22
// Kristina Pino
Following the release of Hello Kitty: Here We Go! (reviewed), Perfect Square have updated their site with the listing for the second book in the series, titled Delicious! Delicious! will be released on January 7th with the pr...

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