Manga merges with prose to capture Japanese voices from the past.
Irasshaimase to 100 Tales from the Tokyo Ghost Café. What is fascinating about this companion to the haunting Tsunami Girl, which was shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing in 2022, is not just the fantastical fusion of evocative prose and manga but the intertextual and self-referential journey of its author and illustrator who showcase ‘traditional, modern and personal Japanese ghost stories’ while tackling universal themes of love, loss, loneliness, isolation, trauma, the fear of being an outsider and how solace can be found in the limitless power of imagination and creativity. Julian’s reverence for Japanese culture, folklore, history and spirituality is communicated through Chie’s atmospheric panels.
The visual versions of Chie [represented as a rabbit] and Julian allow the reader to be both observer and listener as Moon, the mischievous ghost cat, frames an ambitious narrative of sixteen interwoven stories and one hundred pages of mystical manga. These are introduced through the portal of a mysterious café guarded by a woman with a secret. Here, the adventurous duo befriend a lost boy and embark on a sacred quest to the haunted north of Japan.
What follows is a kaleidoscope of encounters with yokai as the weird and wonderful, sometimes scary, world of anoyo approaches. Hauntings, sudden disappearances, traumatised ghosts, the symbolism of flowers and music, an unusual night parade, strange noises and smells, the ravages of war and natural disasters, the echoes of loved ones, and the imprints of Japan’s past are all collected within these pages. There is an uncanny sense of being watched throughout as the manga episodes reflect classic legends and spooky happenings. Tales range from the magical to the quirky to the poignant to the spine tingling.
Clever interlocking occurs as the old merges with the new. Yuki and Taka return and the reader witnesses the long-term effects of the 2011 Tsunami. This is aptly juxtaposed with the ghost town culture created by the 2020 Pandemic.
Memorable chapters include the Poesque Killing Moon, the nostalgic A Date at the Galaxy, the curious Stranger on the Slope, The Phone of the Wind, which exists in Otsuchi as a shrine to connect loved ones to the other side, and Julian’s eerie childhood experience at Devil’s Bridge. As he explains, at the core of the book is ‘an interest in what our interaction with ghosts tells us about our feelings about this world and the other world.’
This will appeal to fans of Tsunami Girl and Julian’s previous visionary collaborations with his late brother Marcus, Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black and Dark Satanic Mills. It will also delight fans of supernatural manga and ghost stories that surf a gamut of emotions, going beyond the psychology of a scare to reflect on the nature of mortality. A useful glossary of Japanese words and phrases is included at the back.