Sunday, September 30, 2012

Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide

by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt, with illustrations by Tatsuya Morino, 205 pages

This book describes the origins, behavior, and weaknesses of different kinds of yokai, a term encompassing all sorts of legendary creatures and spirits in Japanese culture.  Well-known yokai like tengu, kappa, and kitsune are presented along with a host of others that may be less familiar to western readers.  The entries include recommended defensive actions and a mix of classic and newly imagined illustrations.

The authors try a little too hard to be chatty and quirky, here, resulting in some obvious filler patter and overuse of gimmicks like highlighting, hand-written notes, and post-its.  I also didn't much care for the rather random, inconsistent organization and would have preferred simple alphabetical order.  Other than one glaring editing error (a sentence is partially repeated when carried over to the next page), the book looks good and reads smoothly.  The information is interesting and I especially love the inclusion of classic artwork (actually, I'd happily exchange some of the newer pieces for additional old ones, but that's because yokai better lend themselves to old-school pen-and-ink style and lose some of their creepy coolness in the more brightly colored, cartoony modern depictions).  As a big reader of Japanese comics, and a fan of folklore in general, I found this an informative little volume that whet my appetite for more knowledge.  Now I just wish I had a bigger, more comprehensive, more "grown-up" reference on my shelf at home.

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