Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien (英語) ペーパーバック – 2017/1/18
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"A fascinating, scholarly, beautifully illustrated, miscellanea of strange beasts, quelling demons, and otherworldly apparitions. JapandemoniumIllustrated will instruct you, amaze you, and transport you to a quintessential realm of Japanese lore." — Guillermo del Toro, filmmaker
"Such beautiful nightmares — why bother to wake up? Long before Pokémon took to the streets, the Japanese saw monsters everywhere and in everything. Scholarly without being monstrously studious, Sekien's classic compendia of outlandish everyday demons compiled in this one fiendishly clever volume is sure to enchant even the most rational readers (poor misguided souls!) I sleep less now that I recognize the tenjo-name behind the spots on the ceiling." — Alfred Birnbaum, editor/translator of Monkey Brain Sushi
Japanese folklore abounds with bizarre creatures collectively referred to as the yokai ― the ancestors of the monsters populating Japanese film, literature, manga, and anime. Artist Toriyama Sekien (1712–88) was the first to compile illustrated encyclopedias detailing the appearances and habits of these creepy-crawlies from myth and folklore. Ever since their debut over two centuries ago, the encyclopedias have inspired generations of Japanese artists. Japandemonium Illustrated represents the very first time they have ever been available in English.
This historically groundbreaking compilation includes complete translations of all four of Sekien's yokai masterworks: the 1776 Gazu Hyakki Yagyō (The Illustrated Demon Horde's Night Parade), the 1779 Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki (The Illustrated Demon Horde from Past and Present, Continued), the 1781 Konjaku Hyakki Shū (More of the Demon Horde from Past and Present), and the 1784 Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro (A Horde of Haunted Housewares). The collection is complemented by a detailed introduction and helpful annotations for modern-day readers.
Translators Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda have co-authored numerous books on Japanese pop culture, history, and folklore.
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True, the text for some of the illustrations consists of fairly straightforward descriptions. (My favorite: "The Nobusuma is essentially a flying squirrel. Its shape resembles a bat, covered in fur and with webbed wings. Its four limbs are short and its claws long. It eats nuts, and also fire.") But for many of them, if they're going to be more than just odd pictures, you definitely need the additional material that Yoda and Alt have researched and written for this volume. Especially in the early sections, some of the illustrations have no explanation at all. Others have text all right, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense - for one short example, the entire text with one picture is "They say Raigo's spirit transformed into a plague of rats." Uh, OK, and? Maybe in Seiken's time it was obvious who Raigo was and what he has to do with this picture, but the modern reader has no clue. In the commentary on each illustration and in the excellent introduction, Yoda and Alt provide us with all the cultural, historic, and linguistic background (there's lots of wordplay, too) we need.
The book is also very visually pleasing, both the reproduction of the art and the layout. Obviously necessary for the library of a yokai fiend like me, this book is also worth taking a look at if you're a history buff with an interest in this period in Japan even if you don't already know much about the folklore. Also highly recommended for anyone with a serious interest in weird folkloric creatures of any culture.
My only complaint is that the cover seems to be easily damaged. Mine came with some minor wear and tear despite being a new product. I intend to bring this to discussion panels to pass around while I talk about yokai, so I already prepped myself mentally for this to happen.