Whirlwind tour through history



By Phil Amara and Oliver Chin, Illustrated by Juan Calle (San Francisco: Immedium, 2019, 40 pp., $16.95, hardcover)

Phil Amara, Oliver Chin and Juan Calle’s third children’s book focuses on the history of Japanese anime and manga. Having previously done a bilingual history of ramen and of fireworks, “The Discovery of” picture book gives elementary school-aged children a whirlwind tour of Japanese manga starting in 12th century Japan. Though there have been books covering the history of Japanese manga and anime before, “Anime & Manga” presents a bilingual summary for children with colorful illustrations.

The bilingual presentation of the book makes “Anime & Manga,” at first glance, a good concept, but the Japanese lettering feels secondary to the English. The font is smaller and often harder to see. The authors also chose to use kanji sparingly, which would be understandable for gradeschool readers, but presents words haphazardly, with some words written with a mix of kanji and hiragana. The choice feels odd, especially when titles for anime, such as “Mobile Armored Riot Police: Ghost in the Shell,” are written out in kanji.

Ethan and Emma are catapulted through time with Dao the red panda and readers are introduced to a slew of names and dates. Though not factually wrong, given that this is a picture book for younger audiences, much of the nuance in the history of manga is glossed over. And though it focuses on broad strokes, one wonders if this picture book is more a showcase of fan art of favorite series more than a history lesson. Still, “Anime & Manga” covers a wide breadth of topics, even the concept of dojinshi (though it is mistakenly denoted as “fan fiction” when it actually refers to self-published media).

“The Discovery of Anime & Manga” might be alluring for young kids, but it fails to be particularly informative. A better source of introduction may be to let children read and watch the manga and anime mentioned within the book itself under parental supervision. That way, an eight-year-old might not ask their parents to let them watch “Akira.”

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