The Japanese master of quotidian detail takes readers up China’s Yellow River in this new book, first published in Japan in 2009.
Taking his inspiration from a 12th-century Chinese scroll, Anno presents some 20-plus wordless scenes that encompass both miles and centuries. Opening scenes depict a foggy morning, mist obscuring the riverbanks so boats float in negative space. As pages turn, the mists clear and readers see bustling villages teeming with activity: in one corner a small group practices meditative exercise; in another a house is razed; in yet another a heated game of table tennis takes place. At first glance, readers may feel they are in medieval China, as sailed vessels navigate the river, and horses, oxen, and humans pull carts. Readers who look closely, however, will notice the ubiquitous bicycles, and it becomes clear that Anno’s representation of time is elastic. One scene toward the end depicts the 1974 discovery of the famed terra-cotta army; another depicts present-day anti-desertification efforts on the Yellow Plateau—both with no machinery in sight. Several pages of notes explain the artist’s approach to these scenes, often comparing China’s culture to Japan’s—a valuable exercise in perspective for all readers.
It’s been a hair over two decades since a new book by Anno (Anno’s Magic Seeds, 1995) last made its way to our shores; this tour, breathtaking in its own right, is therefore doubly welcome. (Picture book. 5-10)