By Mark Frauenfelder at 12:05 pm Wed, Jul 13, 2011
[Video Link] I'm a huge fan of Tonoharu, Lars Martinson's graphic novel series about an American English teacher who lives in rural Japan (See my reviews: Book 1, Book 2). Here's a funny video he made about it.
I love the artwork, but refuse to read the books until I’m done with my stint on the program. To anyone with a relative who’s about to leave for Japan (the first new shipment comes next week!) don’t buy this book for them. It’s too close to the experience a lot of JETs face in rural Japan, and it can be pretty discouraging. Not that I’m unhappy in my tiny town, just that reading about someone else’s experience can taint your own.
This reminds me a lot of Peter Hessler’s book, “River Town”, about his two years in rural China teaching English.
Oh no, not this again. How not to live in Japan: the graphic novel. The art is well executed but doesn’t fit the subject matter at all, and the central character appears to have had his initiative and enthusiasm surgically removed. I too say avoid it.
Tonoharu is unique, a hidden gem. I saw my local comic shop dealer’s face light up when I asked for a copy, amazed that I’d heard about it.
I spent 3 years in Fukuoka Japan, in and around where the story takes place. Many people seem to take this story as a parody but it actually nails what it is like to live there.
I bought Books one and two after seeing them reviewed here, they more than lived up to my expectations. They’re beautifully written and illustrated and capture the JET experience better than anything I’ve ever read. My son was in the JET (Japan Teaching Exchange Program) for three years and then chose to remain in Japan where he’s lived now for eleven years total. Tonoharu helped me to understand his experiences better, I’ve visited Japan several times and Martison has captured the country perfectly.
For some reason I can never successfully log in to comment on BoingBoing.
I’m a recent graduate of Brown University moving to Japan in August. I don’t think I’ll be teaching English, but I’ll do it if I need to for the work visa.
After reading the recommendation of the first volume here on BoingBoing I picked the first book up from the local library. I went home, read it in fifteen minutes, and returned it the next day. This is not because it was gripping.
Nothing happens. I could say the same of some of my favorite comics, but in this it’s just depressing. I notice in your first review every panel looks different – that shows off the better points of the art, but it’s misleading because most of the panels or pages in the book are repeated with only minor variation as the main character blinks or something. You also mention some plot points that aren’t in the first volume.
This is one of the books I would be most likely to warn someone not to read.
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