I’m taking a bit of a break from my usual SFF stuff today to shine a bit of spotlight on 3 collections of comics, written and drawn by Grace Buchele Mineta. I’ve followed her Texan in Tokyo vlog on YouTube for a while now, which I really enjoy (obviously, or I wouldn’t keep following it), and with news that not only is the 3rd collection of comics out now, but also that the Kindle editions of all 3 collections are currently free, I figured it was a good time to take a look at what she’s done.
With that in mind, it’s time for a few mini-reviews!
Thoughts: Most of the comics here are cute slice-of-life stories about living in Japan. Which may not sound that interesting, unless you’re really interested in cultural stuff and what it’s like to break cultural boundaries and experience for the first time a lot of stuff that some people take for granted.
Which I’m very interested in!
Most of the humour in the comic revolves around that idea. So for those who aren’t interested in the nuances of daily life in Japan, as seen from someone who grew up in America, these comics may not amuse you that much. Sometimes the punchline is going to rely on the reader finding it amusing that a man won’t take his wife’s sister’s underwear down from the clothes line, and gets her to do it instead. The silly little things that make us chuckle in everyday life, with the added spice of cross-cultural relations.
Aside from drawn material, the artist also throws in a lot of commentary about Japanese culture, which is pretty useful for the many people interested in visiting there for any decent length of time. From festival food to garbage pickup, a lot of common questions about life in Japan get answered in quick and convenient ways. It’s not an all-encompassing how-to guide, but neither is it meant to be. It’s just a good overview of what to do in certain situations, with some artistic personal experiences thrown in for good measure. Which, I should add, doesn’t just rely on Japan’s culture to be funny. Sometimes she pokes fun at Texas stereotypes (or rather, the drawn version of her husband does), and it’s amusing to watch the culture divide from both sides.
It’s not all humour, though. She talks quite openly about the racism that she’s encountered over being in an interracial marriage, and how, like many female bloggers, has experienced hate mail and death threats over what she does. Those sections of the book, originally posts from her blog, are sobering to read. The book is autobiographical, so you really can’t talk honestly about certain things without bringing up certain aspects, and while I’m disgusted that some things happen, I’m glad she didn’t shy away from talking about it.
The comic collection is a quick read, filled with approachable humour and good commentary on many aspects of life in Japan. Definitely recommended if slice-of-life stories are your thing.
Buy from Amazon.com
Publication date – February 16, 2015
Thoughts: The 2nd collection of comics is a good continuation of the first, providing more of the same style of humour and daily life stuff that you expect after the 1st book.
Much of what’s in here stands on its own, so you don’t need to have read the first book to understand what’s going on. There’s no plot, just a series of instances. The only thing that really involves continuity is the presence of Marvin, a random talking rabbit that pops up now and again. But even he gets a little intro before the comics really begin, so you won’t be horribly confused if you pick up this book before the first one.
The joys of one-shots!
You can definitely see the evolution of the art style, even now. Less in terms of drawing the characters themselves (though there are some changes in appearance here and there), but more in the way the comics are no longer presented as 100% 3-panel events. Sometimes there’s more, sometimes less, in accordance with what the scene needs. It’s nice to see some experimentation here, which makes it all feel less formulaic and more organic.
(I say as though I’m some expert judge of comic styles…)
Buy from Amazon.com
Publication date – June 21, 2015
Thoughts: Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo is the 3rd and most recent comic collection in the series, released only yesterday. Like the previous 2 books, it continues Grace and Ryosuke’s adventures in Japan as an interracial couple, dealing with the amusements of life as they happen.
More and more, as I read through these comics, I’m struck by the thought that so many of the little things that Ryosuke points out are weird and how they’re done in Japan… They’re often the way I’ve been doing things for years, just out of personal taste and comfort. So I get extra amusement seeing him explain certain things to Grace.
Personal chuckles aside, once again I saw a good development of the art style here, with more generally-approachable humour rather than a solid reliance on cultural weirdnesses to carry the comic. There’s still plenty of that in here, to be sure, and for those who love culture clash stuff, this comic series is a gold mine. But there’s more that can be appreciated even by those who don’t have that as a particular interest, which is nice to see.
Aside – I love how the artist talks about being a big book-lover, and how there’s a term in Japanese for someone who buys so many books they can’t read them all. I think just about everyone reading my blog can identify that way, at least a little!
Having read all 3 Texan & Tokyo comic books now, I can say that they’re definitely worth the read, a fun diversion for the afternoon if you want a bit of odd humour, cute drawings, cultural ponderings, and the fun of being married to a goofball. Which is right up my alley, and I love that I got the chance to read them! If these sound like they’d be your kind of experience, then take advantage of the fact that they’re all free on Amazon until midnight on June 23rd.
(Book 3 provided for review from the author. Books 1 & 2 acquired on Amazon.)