Random Musings: Spotlight on Masaichi Mukaide

Star Reach, Issue 7

Star Reach #7

While reading Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present, I encountered a single sentence that particularly caught my attention: “Star Reach was also notable for printing the first Japanese comics to be translated into English, two short pieces by Masaichi Mukaide; the style displayed was not characteristically Japanese, however, and failed to ignite any further interest in importing manga for the time being.”

Masaichi Mukaide. Though at that point I was unfamiliar with Star Reach, I was pretty sure that I had come across Mukaide’s name somewhere before. And so I decided to investigate.

Star Reach was an influential independent American comics anthology that focused on science fiction and fantasy stories. Mike Friedrich, who was once an editor and writer at both DC Comics and Marvel, established his own press in order publish Star Reach, which began in 1974. In 1978, he also started to release Star Reach‘s sister publication Imagine. At one point or another, both of those magazines included short works by Mukaide. Some of the comics were entirely his own creation while others were collaborations with different writers, both Japanese and American–notably Lee Marrs and Steven Grant. The first of Mukaide’s comics to appear in English, “The Bushi,” was written by Satoshi Hirota and was published in the seventh issue of Star Reach January 1977.

In an interview with Friedrich included in the Star Reach Companion, Richard Arndt asked how it came about that Star Reach published the first manga to appear in America. Friedrich replied:

I’ve never met the Japanese artist I published, although we did present a fair amount of his work. Oddly enough, he’s not a comic book artist in Japan. He was basically a fan artist over there. He could not make his living as an artist in Japan because his work was considered too American! If you look at it now, it was probably the first combination of manga and American comics. His work didn’t quite fit anywhere. But, yeah, there’s a book, Manga! Manga!, which certifies that the first appearance of manga in the United States was in Star Reach. I had no idea that was true.

Well, it turns out that technically isn’t true–Ryan Sands has noted that a 1971 issue of Concerned Theatre Japan included three short manga in translation–but for all intents and purposes, Mukaide’s work was the first exposure that the average comics reader in the United States had to manga.

Try as I might, I’ve been unable to find very much information about Mukaide himself. The best clue that I’ve discovered comes from Friedrich’s editor’s note accompanying Star Reach #18, the magazine’s final issue:

A friend of Masaichi Mukaide dropped by the other day and I found out a bit more about our distant Japanese contributor. He’s a law school graduate who opted out of a legal career to enter the publishing world and keep up his art. His wife is also an artist, working on the local comics (I believe I was told).

However, that’s not the last that was seen of Mukaide in English. Sometime between 1980 and 1982 a volume simply called Manga was released. (ISBN 4946427015 for those who are interested in trying to track down a copy.) This collection is the reason that Mukaide’s name seemed familiar to me–his comic, “The Promise,” concludes the volume. He was also the editor of the collection. Looking more closely at Manga‘s credits, there are also some other names that I now recognize: Friedrich served as the consulting editor, Hirota was the associate editor, and Marrs was a contributing writer.

Manga was one of the first collections deliberately crafted in order to introduce Japanese comics to Western audiences: “Our purpose in publishing Manga is to give the non-Japanese reading public a visual taste of Japan and the creative talents that exist there. Nothing would give us greater pleasure, however, if in doing so we are able to boost the cultural understanding in the west about Japan.”

The Bushi

“The Bushi”

As already mentioned, the first work by Mukaide to appear in English was “The Bushi,” which was written by Satoshi Hirota. Were it not for the historical Japanese setting, there is very little to indicate that the creators themselves were also Japanese. Mukaide’s artwork is not all that different from many of the other comics found in Star Reach. The story is set during the tumultuous time between the age of myth and legends and the age of humans. A young warrior confronts and battles with a demon, seeking revenge for the slaughter of his family, only to become a demon himself.

“The Spider Thread” is based on the well-known short story “The Spider’s Thread” written by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa in 1918. In it, a sinner is given the chance to escape hell because he once saved the life of a spider–the only good deed that he ever committed. However, Mukaide gives his own little twist to the tale at the end of the comic. Considering the seriousness and drama of the story–it almost entirely takes place among the tortured souls in hell–the final panel is surprisingly humorous, turning the comic into a joke. “The Spider Thread” also contains what is probably my favorite single page composed by Mukaide.

Mukaide’s first collaboration with writer Lee Marrs, “The Awakening of Tamaki,” was apparently intended to be the start of a series which would follow the trials of a young woman named Tamaki. After her family is killed, Tamaki is raised in seclusion by her sole-surviving uncle. When he dies as well she must make her own way in the world, disguised as a boy for the sake of her safety. Thanks to her uncle’s training, Tamaki is an excellent swordswoman with exceptional moral strength. As far as I know, there were never any more installments in the series, which is a shame; I really liked the comic.

The Spider Thread

“The Spider Thread”

“The Mission” was Mukaide’s second collaboration with Marrs. Whereas I was very fond of “The Awakening of Tamaki,” “The Mission” is probably my least favorite of Mukaide’s comics in English. It seems like it should be a something that I would enjoy, but it just didn’t grab me. Despite the numerous twists and turns the story takes within its few pages, despite the lies and betrayals, despite the quick pace and all of the action and fighting, for some reason “The Mission” simply strikes me as somewhat generic ninja adventure. Ninja doesn’t even have a name; he’s just Ninja.

When compared to the rest of Mukaide’s English-language comics,  the two-paged “Salvation” stands out because the artwork and story is so simple. Backgrounds are almost nonexistent and the shading and detail of the illustrations are limited as well. The story follows a drunkard who keeps getting kicked out of drinking establishments. He causes a panic by claiming that a doomsday flood is coming in order to sneak back into the bars after everyone else has fled. It’s an amusing and silly short comic that, like most of Mukaide’s other comics, has a bit of a twist at the end.

“The Soldier Who Guards the Gate of the City Freedom” is another two-paged comic by Mukaide, although it is more of a historical allegory instead of a humorous gag like “Salvation.” A young soldier, a man of honor, has the lonely duty of guarding the city gates. He does so willingly, though the eventual enemy attack is a long time in coming. Mukaide’s emphasis on the soldier’s loneliness is the key to the impact of the brief comic. The steady passage of time, too, is important. Mukaide captures this through the use of a very regular progression of narrow panels which are all of the exact same size.

“Crashing,” which was written by Steven Grant, is the only example of Mukaide’s work in the genre of science fiction. All of his other comics published in English are historical in nature, generally with touches of the fantastic. Mukaide’s artwork in “Crashing” is not at all dissimilar to American science fiction comics of the era. It’s a somewhat confusing story, but this is exceedingly appropriate as the comic’s protagonist has gone insane. Mukaide’s artwork supports this as well–the illustrations can be somewhat hallucinogenic and the page layouts are often fragmented.

The Awakening of Tamaki

“The Awakening of Tamaki”

“The Promise,” the last of Mukaide’s comics to be translated, is his rendition of the legend of the Yuki-onna, or the Snow Woman. Lafcadio Hearn’s telling of the story in Kwaidan is probably the version with which English-language audiences are most familiar. Mukaide’s tale incorporates many of the same elements as Hearn’s, but he adds his own touches as well. “The Promise” also shares some similarities with “The Bushi,” especially in style, although “The Promise” tends to be stronger overall. However, the two comics bookend Mukaide’s excursion into English particularly nicely because of their parallels.

After that, Mukaide seems to disappear. I have no idea what happened to him or if he’s even still creating comics. Perhaps he went back to working in law. Either way, a small corpus of Mukaide’s comics released in English in the late 1970s and early 1980s does exist. What particularly strikes me about these works are the changes and adjustments that he makes to his art style and page layouts to better suit each story being told. Although each comic is definitely its own work, there are some common elements as well. For example, his narratives and artwork frequently draw inspiration from traditional stories, tales, and legends. Interestingly, although many of his comics take place within a vaguely historical Japanese setting, he does not exclusively limit himself to Japanese sources. Instead, Mukaide’s work blends together both Eastern and Western influences, which seems oddly fitting for one of the first Japanese comics creators to be released in English.

Masaichi Mukaide Bibliography

  • “The Awakening of Tamaki” written by Lee Marrs and illustrated by Masaichi Mukaide (Imagine #4, October 1978)
  • “The Bushi” written by Satoshi Hirota and illustrated by Masaichi Mukaide (Star Reach #7, January 1977)
  • “Crashing” written by Steven Grant and illustrated by Masaichi Mukaide (Star Reach #18, October 1979)
  • “The Mission” written by Lee Marrs and illustrated by Masaichi Mukaide (Star Reach #15, December 1978)
  • “The Promise” written and illustrated by Masaichi Mukaide (Manga, 1980/1982?)
  • “Salvation” written and illustrated by Masaichi Mukaide (Imagine #6, June 1979)
  • “The Soldier Who Guards the Gate of the City Freedom” written and illustrated by Masaichi Mukaide (Star Reach #18, October 1979)
  • “The Spider Thread” written and illustrated by Masaichi Mukaide (Imagine #3, July 1978)
Salvation

“Salvation”

Further Reading
Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present by Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner
Early Manga: A Chronology by Ryan Sands
Incredible First-Ever Manga Translated in 1971 by Ryan Sands
Manga and Mega Comics by Jason Thompson
Manga in the USA by Michael Toole
My Life is Choked with Comics #19a: Manga by Joe McCulloch
My Life is Choked with Comics #19b: Manga by Joe McCulloch
Star Reach Companion by Richard Arndt

The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan

The World of the Shining PrinceAuthor: Ivan Morris
Publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781568360294
Released: June 1994
Original release: 1964

Several years ago I read the entirety of The Tale of Genji, a novel written by Murasaki Shikibu in the eleventh century. It was a pretty big undertaking, but absolutely worth it. I love the novel. Ever since finishing The Tale of Genji for the first time, I’ve been meaning to read Ivan Morris’ The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan. The volume takes its title from the hero of The Tale of Genji who is referred to as the shining prince due to his exquisite visage and exceptional character. In many ways, The World of the Shining Prince serves as a companion to The Tale of Genji as Morris explores the historical reality of the aristocracy of Heian-era Japan. The World of the Shining Prince was originally published in 1964. Beginning in 1994, later editions of the work also include an introduction by Barbara Ruch. I recently read and was rather impressed by another of Morris’ works, The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan, and so was looking forward to reading The World of the Shining Prince even more.

In addition to the introductions, preface, appendices, bibliography, and topical index, The World of the Shining Prince examines a number of different aspects of tenth-century Japan, Heian court society, and The Tale of Genji within it ten chapters. Morris begins with a broad overview of the era in the first chapter, “The Heian Period.” Though the Heian Period lasted from 782 to 1167, The World of the Shining Prince largely, but not exclusively, focuses on the 900s. The next chapter, “The Setting” looks at Heian architecture, city planning, and geography. From there Morris delves into more detailed analysis of Heian culture in the chapters “Politics and Society,” “Religions,” and “Superstitions.” Next, attention is specifically turned to the Heian nobility and aristocracy. “The Good People and Their Lives” details day-to-day activities, amusements, and ceremonies while “The Cult of Beauty” looks at the particular aesthetics of the era. The eighth chapter, “The Women of Heian and their Relations with Men” outlines household and family structures as well as the place of romantic liaisons. The World of the Shining Prince concludes with chapters devoted to Murasaki Shikibu and to The Tale of Genji itself.

Although written more than five decades ago, The World of the Shining Prince has held up remarkably well. Admittedly, it is nearly impossible to write a completely objective cultural study–Morris’ analysis is informed and influenced by his own cultural subjectivity. In the half-century since The World of the Shining Prince was written, Western thought and scholarly approaches to cultural analysis have also changed. (For example, as Ruch mentions in her introduction, views on gender politics and the relationship between religion and superstition has shifted over the years.) The World of the Shining Prince is a product of its time, but that doesn’t at all diminish its value as a resource on Heian-era Japan, and more specifically on Japanese court life in the tenth century. Additionally, the volume is written with a general audience in mind. It is quite approachable, even for the average reader, and is engagingly written. Granted, the subject mater of The World of the Shining Prince is fascinating to being with.

Although Morris does provide some important general context within which he situates The World of the Shining Prince, the volume’s scope is relatively narrow, concentrating on a very specific part of Heian society. However, this specificity also allows him to explore that subject from several different perspectives. Information about the Heian Period is somewhat limited, especially in regards to the lower classes, which is another reason that The World of the Shining Prince is so focused on the era’s nobility. The Tale of Genji is a major source for Morris’ study of the Heian-era Japan, as are other works of contemporary literature–The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon especially features prominently–as well as diaries and court records from the time period. The World of the Shining Prince is an extremely informative and absorbing work. It’s more than just a companion to The Tale of Genji and reaches beyond its literary connections. The volume should appeal to anyone interested in learning more about classical  Japanese history.

My Week in Manga: August 11-August 17, 2014

My News and Reviews

So, as I briefly mentioned in my anniversary post this morning, my partners and I very recently became parents. We all ended up spending most of last week at the hospital; needless to say I was a bit preoccupied. But everyone is happy, healthy, and at home now, so everything’s good. Thankfully, I already had a couple of posts typed up and ready to go. Otherwise, it would have been a very quiet week here at Experiments in Manga since I didn’t get much reading or writing done at all. (For some reason.)

Anyway, I did somehow manage to post two reviews last week! First up was Denise Schroeder’s wonderful, delightful, and charming short comic Before You Go. The review is the latest installment in my Year of Yuri monthly manga review project, which focuses on manga and other comics with lesbian and yuri elements. Also reviewed last week was Jamie Lynn Lano’s memoir The Princess of Tennis: My Year Working in Japan As an Assistant Manga Artist. It’s a very interesting and informative book about the manga industry and Japan. The book can currently be purchased through Sparkler Monthly’s Distro program.

Despite being rather busy last week, I did come across a few things online that made for interesting reading. At Manga Connection, Manjiorin wraps up her Swan review project. The fourth Manga Studies column at Comics forum has been posted, focusing on Ishiko Junzō and gekiga. Joe McCulloch has a piece on the early work of Ryōichi Ikegami at The Comics Journal. Mangabrog has a translation of a conversation between Usamaru Furuya and Inio Asano. Also highly recommended is Comics Alliance’s interview with Vertical’s Ed Chavez.

Quick Takes

Gangsta3Gangsta, Volume 3 by Kohske. As can probably be inferred from the cover, much of the third volume of Gangsta delves into the pasts of Nic and Worick, how they met, and their somewhat complicated relationship with each other. In the process more is revealed about the history of Ergastulum and the Twilights, too. Gangsta is a very violent series. Even when Nic and Worick were young they found themselves surrounded by death in a harsh environment of political turmoil. In the case of Nic, he was being kept by a mercenary group hired to act as bodyguards to Worick’s family; he’s done plenty of killing of his own. He apparently has always been somewhat terrifying. The beginnings of Nic and Worick’s exceptionally close connection are seen in this volume. Neither of them come from a good family situation, both of them are seen as socially unacceptable (Nic because he’s a Twilight, Worick because he’s a bastard son), and both of them are physically abused by those who should care about them. Though they get off to a rough start, the two broken young men are able to find some solace in each other’s company. Nic and Worick fascinate me; I’m glad to have gotten more of their backstory in the third volume. I’ve enjoyed Gangsta from the very beginning and continue to do so.

Love Full of ScarsLove Full of Scars by Psyche Delico. Okay. So, Love Full of Scars is a collection of utterly ridiculous and absurd boys’ love stories. The over-the-top humor certainly won’t be to every reader’s taste, but I loved the volume. Though I largely enjoyed all of the short manga included in Love Full of Scars, my favorite was probably the titular story. (It also happens to be the longest, with several chapters devoted to it and side stories of its own.) Kanda is a high school punk who has a crush on Uesaka, the school’s biggest badass. The problem is that every time Kanda tries to confess his feelings, he ends up picking a fight instead. Fortunately, Uesaka is able to see through all of Kanda’s posing. They’re both delinquents so more often than not communicating with their fists and punching each other in the face helps them to solve their differences. The sex in Love Full of Scars, when and if it actually happens, usually ends up being rather awkward and incredibly earnest at the same time. The stories in the collection generally avoid the stereotypical seme/uke dynamics of the boys’ love genre. There is also a bit of a fixation on facial and body hair. And, well, pubic hair, too, for that matter. (Granted, that’s mostly for the sake of gag.) The manga is rough, rude, and raunchy, but I found it to be highly amusing and entertaining.

Tonari no Seki-kunTonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time directed by Yūji Mutoh. The anime adaptation of Takuma Morishige’s manga series My Neighbor Seki had completely slipped under my radar until Vertical announced that it had licensed the manga. My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to watch the anime while waiting for the manga to be released. The anime was an absolute delight; I wish there was more! I’m definitely looking forward to reading the manga next year. The premise of the series is disarmingly simple. Yokoi and Seki sit next to each other in the back of their high school classroom. But instead of studying, Seki occupies himself at his desk in all sorts of ways, messing around with erasers, shogi pieces, knitting, and so on. The scenarios are actually all very imaginative, creative, and elaborate. Try as she might, Yokoi can’t help but be caught up whatever it is Seki is doing, so she doesn’t get much studying done, either. The anime is much more entertaining than I’ve probably made it sound. Each episode is under eight minutes and they are all very funny. There is very little dialogue in the series. Instead, the narrative relies very heavily on Yokoi’s internal monologue. Yokoi’s voice actress, Kana Hanazawa, does a fantastic job with the role–she is exceptionally dynamic and expressive.

Random Musings: Four Years of Experiments in Manga

I have been writing about manga, Japanese literature, and other related (and occasionally not-so-related) subjects here at Experiments in Manga for four years now. That’s…kind of incredible in its own small way. I don’t generally delve too deeply into my personal life on the blog, but this past year has been particularly momentous for me, and not just because I’ve managed to keep Experiments in Manga going for so long.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been doing all sorts of coming out both online and off. I’m very fortunate to be in a place in my life where I am able to be more open about who I am, and I’m probably the happiest that I have ever been because of it. My family, friends, and coworkers have all been amazingly supportive. I’m also currently a month into recovering from a major surgery that (without going into all of the gory details) has improved my quality of life tremendously. And a little less than a week ago I and my partners became parents. So, yeah, there have been some big changes in my life over the last year!

As for Experiments in Manga, there have been some changes here, too. Probably the most noteworthy is that Experiments in Manga joined the Manga Bookshelf family of blogs and has now been a part of that cohort for a year. In addition to keeping up with my writing at Experiments in Manga, I also regularly participate in Manga Bookshelf’s group posts. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of Manga Bookshelf and working more closely with other manga bloggers. It’s brought Experiments in Manga more readers and commenters, too, which for the most part has been a lot of fun.

After almost two years of effort, I was finally able to wrap up my Blade of the Immortal review project in November. It was a good and challenging experience for me, and one that I wanted to repeat. So I let Experiments in Manga’s readers pick which manga I would tackle next. In a few months I’ll be wrapping up my Year of Yuri monthly review project and once again I’ll be putting my next review project up for a vote. I also had a couple of smaller, informal review projects over the past year. Back in January I celebrated my very own “Usamaru Furuya Week” by reviewing everything of his available in English that I hadn’t already. And every weekend in March I reviewed a volume of Takehiko Inoue’s phenomenal manga Real. (Because March equals basketball, or something like that.)

Last year saw more queer content discussed at Experiments in Manga than ever before. It wasn’t entirely done intentionally (well, except for the Year of Yuri project), but I’ll admit that it did make me happy. Many of those posts, like my random musings on a lecture about queer theory, Japanese literature, and translation and my review of Jeffery Angles’ Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature, have been some of my most popular, or at least most frequently visited. Gengoroh Tagame also appears to be a perennial favorite; quite a bit of interest continues to be shown in my Two from Tagame post, which looks at two of his manga released relatively recently in English: Endless Game and Gunji.

Actually, one of the posts that I was personally very satisfied with from last year, a Spotlight on Kaita Murayama, was also somewhat queer-related. In general, I’ve been writing more of these Random Musings features. I’ve really enjoyed working on these posts. They allow me to be a little more freeform and talk about things that aren’t necessarily suited for the format that I currently use for my in-depth reviews. Other non-reviews that haven’t yet been mentioned that I was particularly happy with or that were otherwise well received include my thoughts on TCAF 2014, tips on finding manga in libraries, and a list of some of the notable releases of 2013. I had never done one of these end-of-the-year lists before, but it was surprisingly fun, so I’ll most likely do it again.

As for the in-depth reviews from the last year that seemed to be especially popular, I was a little surprised to see the amount of interest shown in some of the nonfiction titles that I read, such as The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan and The Way of Taiko (both of which were great). My review of the omnibus of the Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy of novels received a fair amount of attention, too. The five manga reviews from the past year that were the most frequently visited included Saki Nakagawa’s Attack on Titan: Junior High, Volume 1, Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro, Torajiro Kishi’s Maka-Maka: Sex, Life, and Communication, Volume 1, Yuma Ando and Yuki Sato’s Sherlock Bones, Volume 1, and Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, Omnibus 1.

By this point I seem to have settled into a fairly predictable posting schedule at Experiments in Manga. Each week sees at least three or four posts, occasionally more if I have some sort of project going on or am feeling particularly inspired. I think I’ve said this every year so far, but I really would love to write more than I do. Sadly, my free time is very limited and from here on out (with the kidling and all) it will be even more so. Right now three to four posts a week still seems like it should be a reasonable and manageable pace for me, though.

I’ve said this every year, too, but as always I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to all of the readers of Experiments in Manga, both new and old. I mostly write for myself, but it is extremely satisfying to know that Experiments in Manga is at least occasionally interesting or helpful to other people as well. There certainly is plenty of room for improvement–I know there are some things that I don’t do very well and need to work on–but generally I’ve been very happy with the continued evolution of Experiments in Manga and the general direction the site has been taking. Thank you all for your support over the last year. Here’s hoping that the next one will be even better!

The Princess of Tennis: My Year Working in Japan as an Assistant Manga Artist

The Princess of TennisAuthor: Jamie Lynn Lano
Publisher: Jamie Lynn Lano
ISBN: 9781499797527
Released: July 2014

The Princess of Tennis: The True Story of Working As a Mangaka’s Assistant in Japan by Jamie Lynn Lano is just that–a memoir written by someone fortunate enough to live the dream of so many aspiring artists. Very few non-Japanese creators have had the opportunity to work within the manga industry as an assistant or as a lead mangaka. Fewer still have written about their experiences to any great extent. In addition to working as an assistant to Takeshi Konomi (the creator of the exceptionally popular The Prince of Tennis), during her time in Japan Lano was also freelance writer, a columnist for Asahi Weekly, a host for a Japanese children’s television program, and an avid blogger. The Princess of Tennis is based on “Working As an Assistant on The Prince of Tennis,” a series of posts which can be found on her blog Living Tall in Japan. (Lano is over six feet tall, so the site is aptly named.) I had previously read some of Lano’s story online, but was happy to see it collected and expanded upon in book form with The Princess of Tennis.

After graduating with a degree in media arts and animation, Lano moved to Japan where she taught English for a few years. In 2008, Konomi Takeshi put out a call looking for assistants for a new manga series. Unlike many other mangaka, he was also considering applications from artists who had little or no experience in the industry. Lano was a huge fan of his series The Prince of Tennis and considered Konomi to be one of her idols. And so, after some encouragement from her friends, she applied for the position, never thinking that she would actually be hired. But she was. And she ended up working with Konomi, his editors, and a small group of other assistants for more than a year. (And on the sequel to The Prince of Tennis, no less!) It was a dream come true for Lano, but as enthusiastic as she was the job wasn’t always a easy. Working as an assistant on a series that she loved certainly had its perks, but it was also a challenging and exhausting experience that required long, grueling hours.

The Princess of Tennis is a personal story that is told with heart and honesty. Lano’s style is very informal, almost diary-like. Although there is some self-reflection from the very beginning of the memoir, she generally focuses on what she was feeling at the time she is describing rather than providing a detailed analysis of the situation after the fact. Lano is a self-proclaimed fangirl, something comes through in the bubbly way she writes. She makes liberal use of exclamations points (and other punctuation), employs all-caps to indicate excitement or for emphasis, and the occasional emoticon even makes an appearance in the text. She also includes very cute illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, a few delightful bonus comics towards the end of the volume, and photographs throughout the book. Lano’s enthusiasm and gratitude for the opportunity to work as a manga assistant is obvious even when things, and people, become rather difficult to deal with. The Princess of Tennis is friendly and approachable in tone, making for an entertaining as well as informative read.

In The Princess of Tennis, Lano offers an insider’s look into the Japanese manga industry and into the creative process of making manga. At first she is so excited about working as an assistant for Konomi (and understandably so) that Lano tends to overlook the downfalls of the position. The Princess of Tennis almost seems like an account that couldn’t possibly be true. Initially more time is spent participating in media events and festivals than slaving away at the drawing table. But as the volume progresses and reality and frustrations set in, The Princess of Tennis becomes much more like what I’ve come to expect based on the stories from other creators in the trade. The Princess of Tennis also offers a glimpse into what it is like to live in Japan as a foreigner and the challenges associated with that. And because Lano is revealing the details of her personal life in The Princess of Tennis there is also the drama of interpersonal relationships, romantic and otherwise, to take into consideration. While she has held onto some secrets for the privacy and sake of the other people involved, Lano is very open and forthcoming in The Princess of Tennis, providing a unique perspective on the manga industry and on Japan.