Sunday, September 8, 2013

Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley

Turning Japanese

The go-pursue-your-non-English-teacher-career-in-Tokyo concept is the dream of many Japan lovers. Lisa is half-Japanese, so we don’t have the language barrier, but she’s still an outsider foreigner. And who doesn’t want a fictional insider’s view of a manga studio?

 Lisa won a manga contest, so this year long internship in Tokyo is a dream come true. But of course, now that she’s on the bottom rung of the group, life is not all genki maids and mecha guys. She traces lines all day, nothing that requires any imagination, and not too much skill. Her homestay life with a Japanese family is pretty dismal with an obnoxiously loud shut-in gamer boy and a party till the wee hours teen girl. Sleep is iffy.

But she pulls herself out of her hole of despair, setting out to do an original manga project that puts her at odds with the office talent. She is not letting herself be the nail that gets beaten down- she’s carving out her own life, and causing her back-home fiancé to wonder where she’s putting her priorities.

Truthfully- I thought this book was going to be crap. I thought it was going to be all dreamy Japan fantasy with no reality and little cultural understanding.  It surprised me how well it stood up. I can’t say it’s in the top 10 Japan-set books of all time, but definitely worth a look.

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