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From Impressionism to Anime: Japan as Fantasy and Fan Culture in the Mind of the West

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2008

    West meets East

    Review of Susan J. Napier¿s ¿From Impressionism to Anime: Japan as Fantasy and Fan Cult in the Mind of the West¿. Professor Napier has disproved Kipling¿s aphroism ¿¿The east is east, and the west is west, and never the twain shall meet¿. In her latest book, Professor Napier establishes the long and impressive history where the east meets the west ¿ specifically, how the images and fantasy of Japonism were reflected in the Western intellectuals¿ minds. When the bamboo curtain was forcefully drawn open by Commodore Perry in 1853, Japan didn¿t lose its mystery in fact, the glimpses of Japan magnified its exotic allure to the Western intellectuals. This book is not only a tour de force, it is a tour d¿horizon ¿ introducing us to those whose works were influenced profoundly by their ideas (fantasies) of Japan ¿ from the Impressionists (e.g., Monet and Van Gogh), to playwrights (e.g., Gilbert and Sullivan), to architects (e.g., Frank Lloyd Wright), to contemporary writers and film-makers (Quentin Tarantino). This cultural influence is what Prof. Napier refers to as ¿soft power¿ of Japonism. Contemporary popular Japanese culture vernacularized by anime has brought Japonism to millions to youths in the West. I give this book four stars rather than five, because I feel forced to take away a star due to the unfortunate editing. First of all, the cover is ghastly. The photo itself is ridiculous, and its washed-out color makes it look like it went through the washing machine. Second, the quality of the photo illustrations are so pathetic ¿ mostly black and white when the color may be the most important aspect of the Japonism to be illustrated, and even the colored illustrations are too small to appreciate. Lastly, the editor must have been asleep ¿ the index paginations are all two or more pages off as he/she forgot to count the illustrated pages. One suspects that the publisher was trying to publish the book on the cheap, when the book is so rich, not only in textual content, but also begs for visual illustrations as they are the visions of the fantasies fancied by the Western mind. Ko-Yung Tung, Yale University

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2008

    A reviewer

    I found this book to be both fun and thought provoking. Discussing the origins and history of anime from the 'Tale of Genji', to Japanese prints, Impressionism, collectors, gardeners, beat poets, movies, and, finally, anime and its fans, this book has many original and penetrating insights about aesthetics and fantasy and their roles in human development. One of these is how these mediums create a virtual world in which new identities can be invented and different social orders constructed as both experiment and play in the interconnected and influential laboratory of the collective mind.

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