Already, Brian Ashcraft is a name well-known amongst Japan enthusiasts: a regular at Kotaku, the author of Arcade Mania has returned with a history and expose on one of Japan's most iconic symbols: the Japanese schoolgirl. In Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential, Ashcraft takes a look at the character we all love and fantasize about from a variety of angles to create a surprisingly informative narrative about the icon.
I got a chance to read an early copy of the book while I was heading to Philly last weekend, and despite all the stares of people confused that I was reading what must have been a "pervert book" about Japanese schoolgirls, I found I couldn't put it down.
See what the book is all about after the jump.
Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential
Creator: Brian Ashcraft and Shoko Ueda
Publisher: Kodansha International
Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential divides its dissertation on these nubile young ladies into eight chapters: Sailor Girls, Idol Worship, Girls on Film, Material Girls, Cover Girls (magazines, kogals), Artist's Muse, Play Girls, and Comic Genius. Each tells the story of a different genre of girl.
I'll admit: when I first got this book, I was expecting it to be a lot of fluff, or at the very least, a broad history that didn't really provide much depth -- something that would be filled with a lot of pretty pictures and way-too-long descriptions of certain popular schoolgirl characters. Boy, was I wrong.
What I found inside the pages of Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential was something incredibly well-researched and put together. With the help of his wife, Ashcraft was able to delve into a lot of the psyche that girls have. The running theme throughout the book seems to be that, for all sorts of people, Japanese schoolgirls represent a unique point in time for everyone's life -- for the men who confessed their first love to a girl in a sailor suit, or the girls who were unburdened by work or family back then, with a world of possibilities open to them.
Each chapter kicks off with an interview or story, to serve as the gateway and overall narrative thread that the chapter revisits. The stories themselves prove to be a useful illustration for the chapter and good segues for the information, but it sometimes feels like a very specific view of things -- as though there's a lot more they're just not touching on because it doesn't fit in, story-wise.
Really, reading through this, my only complaints were on the printing and layout side: there are one-off tidbits of information that are often poorly placed within the page, and that the mix of greyscale and color pages makes for an annoying read -- I'd personally prefer that all the pages were in full color, although I realize the price would then increase.
Honestly, if you've got any interest in Japanese pop culture, this book is a must-have primer on one of the most influential items in Japan. I didn't think that was the case before reading this, but at this point, I have to admit, Ashcraft and Ueda have convinced me that it really is the case in Japan.
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