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Book Review – Explore some graphic novels this summer!

By Amanda Andrei

 

Touch upon the history, folklore, and tenets of Buddhism and Zen with Musho Rodney Alan Greenblat’s Dharma Delight, or take a tour of Japan, either through the eyes of Christine Mari Inzer’s Diary of a Tokyo Teen or Florent Chavouet’s Tokyo on Foot.

 

Dharma Delight: A Visionary Post Pop Comic Guide to Buddhism and Zen is exactly as promised, an illustrated compendium peppered with vibrant comics, philosophical musings, and enchanting stories to explore and present the ideologies of Buddhism and Zen. Musho Rodney Alan Greenblat (Musho is his Buddhist name) starts with an introduction of his own journey into Zen, initiated by his many trips to Japan as a tourist. He discusses his understanding of dharmas, which are teachings of Buddha and the boundless lessons that occur around us every day. They could be as minor as “Toe Stub on Table Leg Dharma” which teaches us to turn on the light when walking in the dark, and as serious as “Wrong Decision Dharma” which teaches us to listen to our parents.

And that’s only the first four pages. Each page and section is chockful of information, whether extolling a pithy teaching of Buddha such as “Be a lamp to yourself and all beings,” or detailing a two-page spread of the “Wow temple” (Musho’s conception of the ultimate space of peace and joy), or recording a traditional Jataka Tale (ancient Buddhist folk parables). It’s too much to take in at once on the first go – rather, keep this colorful compendium with you and revisit it often. Use it as a reminder on the basics, or perhaps use its vibrant pages as a visual meditation. This guide can be an excellent start for anyone curious about Buddhism and Zen, ready to tap into its mysteries and delights.

 

Diary of a Tokyo Teen is a fun multicultural journey through the eyes of a Christine Mari Inzer, a multiracial Japanese American girl who was born in Japan and moved to America when she was six years old. While spending eight weeks visiting her grandparents, she recorded various aspects of her cultural heritage, including food, fashion, festivals, and more. The diaries may remind millennials of the popular series Amelia’s Notebooks, narrated stories with autobiographical drawings, doodles, and a strong sense of self-awareness and humor. As an added delight, Instagram-like photos of landmarks and family are included, rendering the book as a personalized scrapbook of Japan. While Inzer touches on a teenage girl traveler’s concerns (such as figuring out a foreign restroom, dealing with strangers, or flirting with boys), the book is devoid of heavy teenage angst and instead brings the reader on a journey of wonder, fascination, and self-discovery. Teenage readers may be inspired to create their own travel diaries on their own journeys.

 

Florent Chavouet’s Tokyo on Foot is another graphic memoir of a traveler in Japan. Chavouet premises the book by saying “it’s neither a guide nor an adventure story” – rather, it’s the visual journal and sketchbook of a flâneur, an urban hiker discovering a new city and capturing its wild and meditative moments. Spreads of annotated hand-drawn maps, doodles of advertisements and grocery labels, and cartoons of locals and urban sprawl fill the pages. Buildings are sharply drawn and carefully colored, only to be contrasted with vague sketches of other edifices in the background – a reminder of fog blanketing a city, or an artist’s process, or even memory itself and how even the most striking travel memories can fade. Every few pages there are “interludes” – silly stories or hyperbolic sketches covering topics such as udon noodle restaurants or the artist’s new pencil sharpener. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to the drawings or maps, which makes it all the more whimsical and intriguing – a way for readers themselves to get lost in the charming and mysterious enormity of Tokyo.

Books can be purchased through Tuttle Publishing.

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