Kino No Tabi: The Beautiful World by Keiichi Shigusawa

kino no tabi

Kino No Tabi is the novelized version of the popular anime series Kino’s Journey.  Although published by Tokyopop in 2006, it is not a manga.  The descriptive style of writing could easily work as a manga and it is a good companion piece with the DVD, Kino’s Journey, which is also available from Surrey Libraries.  This young adult novel is set in a post-apocalyptic future Japan although any reference to time and place is nonexistent.  Instead the novel is set more in a fantasy realm and uses elements of the known world as tangible points for the reader.  Kino is a young adult, possibly a young teen.  The reader is left to guess because her current age is only described by others as younger to them although we find that she started on her journey at the age of twelve.  Her companion on her journey is a talking motorcycle named Hermes.  Why the motorcycle is able to talk is slightly alluded to when on one of their adventures they meet another traveller with a talking dog.  The dog and Hermes find each other’s ability to talk equally ridiculous, but accepted nonetheless.  Kino travels with Hermes to different countries as they are described.  These countries are more like city states which have their own rules and idiosyncratic beliefs.  Kino has a fixed rule of not staying in one place more than three days in order not to become too involved with the people of the city she visits.  This rule of course never holds true since she invariably becomes embroiled in some adventure or intrigue within the city.  Kino’s travels are an allegory for a teen’s journey into adulthood and their similar contempt and attraction for what that will mean to them. (Submitted by Shane).

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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

astonishing A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.

This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.

The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)

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