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The Asian ApertureVisions
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, December 27, 2014    Share

If you were wondering about Japan during the latter part of the 19th century and you wanted to read up on it, then Lafcadio Hearn was your writer. Hearn defined Japan to the West with such literary classics as Kwaidan, Kokoro, and Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation.

Born on a Greek island, Lafcadio, eventually wound up in America, finding work at as a reporter for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer. He moved to New Orleans and wrote for the local paper. His life would soon change forever.

Hearn was commissioned to visit Japan. Arriving in Matsue, he fell in love with the country and married a Japanese girl. Through his marriage he was able to live in a very nice house. Something that few ex pats are able to do.

Lafcadio moved, with his wife, to Kumamoto, to teach, and that is where he wrote Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan in 1894. His work was the window to Japan until his death in 1904 at 54.

Picking up the torch and continuing the literary legacy of Japan, was a young American from the small rural town of Lima, Ohio. In 1959 the world was first introduced to Japanese directors, Kurosawa, Ozu, and Mizoguchi in The Japanese Film: Art and Industry by Joseph Anderson and the legendary Donald Richie.

If you wanted a taste of Japan off the beaten path then all you had to do was read his magnificent travelogue, The Island Sea about Richie’s journey island hopping and the many individuals he encountered.

Richie defined Japan to many Western readers and movie lovers with his many books on Kurosawa, the definitive book on Ozu, and my own personal favorite that providers the armchair traveler with what it feels like to really be in Japan in A Lateral View, a wonderful collection of essays on Japan and the Japanese.

Donald Richie’s view of Japan, replaced Lafcadio Hearn’s and continued to be influential until his death in 2013 at 88. Richie’s version is steeped in realism and the classic period of Japanese cinema with movies like Kurosawa’s beloved Seven Samurai and Ozu’s Tokyo Story.

However, sometime in the 80’s the third major writer on Japan would take the torch from Richie with the book Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics in 1983 by the always witty and entertaining, Frederik Schodt. In the Schodt’s view of Japan we move to the presentational as manga, anime, and monster movies swept over American and the rest of the world.

Just as Seven Samurai was released back in 1954, so was Honda Ishiro’s pop cultural icon Godzilla. Perhaps the greatest character in Japanese movies that managed to be a hit Summer movie in 2014.

Schodt’s lived in Japan when he was 15, and returned to seriously study Japanese at the International Christian University. He lived out the ultimate fanboy dream when he translated the great manga artist, Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix and Astro Boy.

In the age of streaming anime and reading manga digitally, it is refreshing to read Frederik Schodt. Just pick up a copy of his Astro Boy Essays and his brilliant sequel to Manga! Manga! Called Dreamland Japan. All of Schodt’s works are hard to put down. Just make sure your have a free Saturday afternoon and prepare for a wonderful ride.

With so much Anime fandom going on these days, I wish some fans would spend some time with a book and dig a little deeper into fandom with so many great books by Helen McCarthy, Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda, Tom Mes, Jasper Sharp, Jonathan Clements, Fred Patten, Zack Davisson, August Ragone, and my favorite newcomer, Patrick Galbraith, and many many more great writers out there.

Who knows? In 2015, you could be the next one to pick up the torch.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2014 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2014 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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