A young American teen, son of a Japanese immigrant and an American soldier killed in combat, goes to Japan with his mother for an extended visit and begins to grapple with sophisticated cultural complexities.
The graphic novel opens with a familiar Japanese legend about a shape-changing tanuki trickster spirit. The story cuts to New York City, where Ichiro and his mother prepare for their trip. Ichiro has been very close to his American grandfather, who has schooled him in the worst kinds of American jingoism. First his mother, then his Japanese grandfather began to share the legends and history of Japan, both positive and negative, with Ichiro. A nighttime pursuit of a persimmon-thieving tanuki turns into a surreal odyssey that takes Ichiro deep into the mythic realm of Japanese folklore. Inzana’s graphic style is, at first glance, far more Western than Japanese-influenced; there is no look of manga in his figures. But his compositions and his brushwork, particularly exquisite transitional spreads between episodes, echo classical Japanese art, and his depiction of the Japanese Otherworld will seem familiar to anyone who has seen a Miyazaki film. Ichiro's realistic and mythic journeys combine to give both him and readers a better understanding of the importance of both understanding and overcoming history.
Beautiful and thought-provoking; questions unanswered will linger in readers' minds. (Graphic novel. 12 & up)