Thursday, January 14, 2010

Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan

"Ai" means "love" in Japanese, and this volume is a love note written about that island nation. Within these pages are vignettes from three women's travels in Japan. They visit beautiful gardens and temples, see breathtaking vistas, travel in bullet trains, engage in some cosplay, shop, and eat all over the country. Some of the story revolves around Aimee adjusting to different cultural practices, such as the public nudity at the onsen (communal baths) or being gawked at because of her height. The trip culminates with a visit to the largest VOLKS doll store in the world.

Aimee Steinberger created this work. She is a professional animator who has worked on The Simpsons, Futurama, as well as Disney and Warner Brothers movies. She draws this travel account in a style that combines American cartoons with shojo manga. The result is a very expressive, energetic, colorful, and cute series of drawings. The series of sketches provide individual scenes as well as carry a travel narrative. Her love of Japanese culture really comes through.

The book is chock full of information about Japan, and it includes a very helpful glossary and a series of further resources in the Appendix. This labor of love was great fun for her to create, and she describes her creative process for it in this interview. Reviewers who are interested in manga, anime, or Japanese popular culture, such as Deb Aoki and Brigid Alverson, have expressed very positive reactions to the book. Most reviewers cite that this is a well done work. The biggest criticisms about it are that this is a quick survey without much depth and that the book seems to cater mostly to female readers. On the plus side, Steinberger makes it very easy for someone to reenact this trip should it seem appealing.

Go! Comi published this book. They provide many great resources for the book, including an extended preview, Aimee's journal, and bonus drawings and photos that were not included in the book.


  1. How about science cartoons?

    There are many good ones on Vadlo search engine

  2. Thanks!
    I hadn't seen that site, but there are some very nice cartoons there.