And seeing as we're on the subject of Japan, now's a good time to point out that this clever, sexy and artistically adventurous graphic novel -- which is credited with initiating "nouvelle manga," a sort of hybrid of French Bande Dessinne and Japanese Manga, when it was initially released in 2001 -- is back in print and once again on our shelves.Regardless of whether or not there is such a thing as "nouvelle manga," Yukiko's Spinach is an original, engaging and rewarding work that, while somewhat scopophilic and objectifying in its visual representation of women, and echoing anachronistic imperial attitudes that smack of orientalism, nevertheless captures a certain je ne sais quoi about our global village at the millenium.
Our friends at Fanfare/Ponent Mon -- who brought us that understated masterpiece, The Walking Man -- now bring us a fresh treat. Initiated by the powers that be at the French Institutes and Alliances in Japan, who, along with the French Embassy, bankrolled the visits of nine French comics creators to Japan in order that they be inspired to create eight of the works we have here. The other half -- eight more pieces -- were supplied by Japanese natives (one of whom, the editor, Frédéric Boilet, is a French ex-pat residing in Japan). Together, these sixteen pieces provide a kaliedoscope of views of Japan today; and not just Tokyo. This project was designed with a geographically broad view: the entire country, from the southern tip at Amakusa to the northern metropolis of Sapporo, is on display here. Creators include manga master Jiro Taniguchi (author of the aforementioned masterwork, The Walking Man), Joann Sfar, of The Rabbi's Cat fame, François Schuiten & Benoît Peeters, Kan Takahama, Fabrice Neaud, Little Fish, Aurélia Aurita and nine others. This is an excellent anthology of comics work at the same time as it is an engaging cultural survey. Of equal interest to readers of contemporary comics work and students of Japan, this is a sure fire must have for anyone who is both.