In 1910, Kunio Yanagita—author, folklore specialist, and proponent of Japanese legends of the yokai and kami—compiled a series of stories generated from the Tono region of Japan entitled Tono Monogatari. In the dedication, he wrote “This book is for people living in foreign countries.”
As Zack Davisson explains in his introduction to Shigeru Mizuki’s manga rendition of Yanagita’s book of legends, this dedication was meant to ground Japanese individuals living abroad in the traditions of their territory, their land, and their people. It was a bugle call signalling them to remember the core elements of the Japanese cultural psyche. That romantic impulse, that call to the past, bleeds through Mizuki’s Tono Monogatari as the stories of regional lore bring us to Tono, a smaller world, and all the magic therein. Tono Monogatari is in store today!
Translator Zack Davisson situates the book with a thorough essay at the start, but he doesn’t end there. What is so engrossing about this collection is that it includes interspersed explainers about all things magical: foxes, mountains, spiritual energy (kami), mystical beings (yokai), and more. Each collection of stories is situated with all the necessary context so that the magic can shine through exuberantly. There are stories of grandmothers coming back from the dead, deities taking physical form to help plant rice fields, giants lurking in misty mountains, and yokai just waiting to play tricks on unsuspecting wanderers.
Shigeru Mizuki is thorough in his retelling of the stories, inserting himself in the narrative here and there to make sense of it all (or gasp at its absurdity). The stories he presents verge on the transcendental, making them energizing, inspiring reads. Oh and his interplay between highly-detailed renderings of Japanese landscapes and cartoonish characters—visual mastery!
Tono Monogatari displays the invaluable nature of regional lore, and how easily it can lose the fight against cultural homogeneity. Like biodiversity in a bustling forest, the regional deities and legends of Tono and all communities are essential to the survival of our world. If you love manga, folklore, fantasy, dark humour, and/or history, this book is for you. Pick up your copy today!
The beloved mangaka adapts one of his country - and the world's - great works of supernatural literature Shigeru Mizuki - Japan's grand master...More Info