Tono Monogatari by Shigeru Mizuki

Tono Monogatari by Shigeru Mizuki. Translated by Zack Davisson. Drawn & Quarterly, 2021. 9781770464360

Format: Paperback graphic novel

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Fantasy/folklore

What did you like about the book? The folkloric tales in this collection were originally collected in the early 20th century, and here they are given new life in the hands of master mangaka Shigeru Mizuki. In fact, Mizuki’s bespectacled face appears, in a sweetly meta touch, quite frequently to interview villagers about the many yokai characters in the tales. Some passages are short, just a page or two, and some are a bit longer, but each contains what feels like an eyewitness account of supernatural beings interacting with villagers in Japan’s Tono region. Beginning with a map of Tono and a long essay on the history of the tales, this collection feels like an exhaustive survey of of the gentle (kami) or rough (yokai) gods, spirits and monsters that existed in the imagination of pre-industrial Japan. Some are funny, like a farting old man, some are scary, like a bug eyed ghost, and some are just weird!

Occasional chapter head essays about the type of creatures featured in the upcoming chapter, written by the translator, also a Mizuki scholar, add historical details. In addition, there are occasional pages in stunning color that really amplify the gorgeous details of Mizuki’s art.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  Readers age 16 and up, especially those interested in Japanese folklore or the work of Mizuki, will enjoy this, as well as older fans of his Kitaro graphic novels

Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries, especially where there is a demand for classical Japanese tales

Where would you shelve it ? Graphic novel fiction or graphic novel 398

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, if these genre appeals to you

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: April 13, 2021

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