Manga Review: Showa: A History of Japan 1953-1989

Manga Review: Showa: A History of Japan 1953-1989 by Shigeru Mizuki

This is the final volume of Shigeru Mizuki’s history of Japan and his personal life during the Showa Era.  It mixes events that affected the entire country with stories of his struggles as a man and an artist.

Showa: A History of Japan 1953-1989

As noted in the introduction by Frederik L. Schodt, this volume covers more time than the previous three put together.  It covers Japan’s transition from a militarized country reeling from utter defeat, to a nation that was all about business.  Many of the events covered will be new to American readers (though manga and anime fans may see the roots of certain storylines in real life happenings.)

The book also chronicles the long years of poverty Mizuki endured as he struggled to earn a living as an artist.  Again, this is a warts and all portrayal, so we learn that his arranged marriage was by no means a love match, but something his parents insisted on.  Even when Mizuki finally makes it big with a hit manga, he learns that success is its own trap.  Now that people want his product, he has to keep putting it out on strict deadlines bang bang bang.

I learned a lot.  For example, while it’s been retrofitted into many historical dramas, kidnapping for ransom was a new crime in 1963, made possible by rising prosperity meaning rich people had enough cash to pay ransom.  The “paradox of prosperity” is discussed:  As rising prosperity made the inside of people’s houses more comfortable, the associated pollution made the outside of their houses less comfortable.

As Mizuki’s personal star rose, he had to take on assistants to help him produce all the work he was now obligated to put out.  Some of these assistants, like Ryoichi Ikegami, went on to become famous manga creators in their own right.  Others…did not.  A subplot in one chapter has an assistant vainly attempt to get his original work published to impress a potential marriage partner.

A couple of chapters are dedicated to daydreams Mizuki had, one where he takes a vacation to the afterlife, and another where he contemplates a company that facilitates extra-marital affairs (and admits that his long-suffering wife might also appreciate the idea.)  In real life, he reconnects with the New Guinea natives that had befriended him decades before.

The volume ends with a completely transformed Japan, and Mizuki’s wish that while the future is yet unwritten, the new generations will learn from the mistakes and suffering of the past.  Mizuki lived on into the second decade of the 21st Century, still working up until the end.

Once again, the primary narrator is Nezumi Otoko (Rat Man), and we meet the real life person who inspired his personality.  One chapter is instead narrated by a traditional storyteller who mentored Mizuki for a while.  Readers who are unused to manga conventions may find the art shifts uncomfortable.

In addition to the standard footnotes and endnotes, this volume ends with a number of color plates that demonstrate Mizuki’s art at its most detailed.  this is great stuff.

There’s some uncomfortable bits, including rape, cannibalism and suicide.  There’s also some toilet humor (which at one point turns dramatic.)

Like the other volumes in the series, a must have for manga and anime fans who want to know more about Japan’s recent history.  It would also be good for more general history students seeking a new viewpoint.  Highly recommended.

Book Review: The 36 Ancient Chinese Strategies for Modern Business

Book Review: The 36 Ancient Chinese Strategies for Modern Business by Lan Bercu

Disclaimer:  I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.

The 36 Ancient Chinese Strategies for Modern Business

Beginning some time in the late 1970s, when it became obvious that Japan had become an economic powerhouse, American businesses began taking an interest in Asian philosophies that might explain why companies from those areas were doing so well, especially in industries where America was faltering.   Thus, books for business explicating on The Five Rings, The Art of War and so forth have been written and often sold well.

This is the latest book in that tradition.  The author was born and raised in Vietnam, where The 36 Strategies, a text on warfare believed to have been compiled during China’s Warring States period, is read by schoolchildren.  She has since found the information included helpful in her career as a speaker on business and international matters.

The main text is divided into thirty-six short chapters, one for each strategy.  Each starts with a short story about ancient Chinese warfare, then one or more examples of how modern businesses have implemented these strategies, whether by name or by chance.  This is followed by translation into more basic tips, and questions for the business to ask itself based on the strategy.

Some of the strategies have poetic sounding titles, like “slough off the cicada’s golden shell” or “borrow a corpse to resurrect a soul”, while others are more plain-spoken, like “kill with a borrowed knife.”   The strategies themselves, however, tend to be simple to understand, if sometimes difficult to apply to a given situation.  That last bit is why they’re arranged by type; some are better when you have a clear advantage, others when you’re on the defensive or in a losing position.

It should be noted that the more literal applications of some of these strategies to business, such as “replace the beam with rotted timbers” and “deck the tree with false blossoms” may be considered unethical, and in some cases are outright illegal.  The author points out that businesses (and customers) should be aware of these strategies anyway, to help defend against them.

The short chapters and copious examples make this a good read for the busy person on the go; this is one time I would suggest buying the e-book version.  The book comes with an ad for the author’s services, bibliography and an index.

The utility of this book will depend on whether you already have another of the books relating the 36 strategies to business.  If so, you may not need this one.  This book also has a lot of synergy with The Art of War, so you may want to invest in one of the business books that concentrate on that text as well.

In war, do not repeat the tactics that have gained you one victory.  Rather, let your methods be determined by the infinite variety of circumstances. — Sun Tzu

Book Review: Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks

Book Review: Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks by Danielle Robertson

Disclaimer:  I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.  The book itself has an extensive disclaimer that it is not a substitute for consultation with a licensed healthcare professional.

Are You a Monster or a Rock Star

Like many people, I have sampled energy drinks from time to time, and heard scary things about their possible health effects.  This book by a food biochemist and dietitian seeks to inform the reader about these liquids.  It’s explained that “energy drinks” includes both beverages and supplements, which are similar in nature, but regulated differently.  (For example, ginko biloba is not allowed as a beverage ingredient, but is allowed in supplements.)

After a brief history of energy drinks, starting with Thailand’s Krathing Daeng, the ancestor of Red Bull, the book has a section on the safety of these liquids.  It mentions Adverse Event Reports (do not mix energy drinks and alcohol, it’s a killer), biological sensitivity and consumption practices.

This is followed by a section on how energy drinks do (and don’t) work.  This includes bits on how your individual circumstances may change the effectiveness.

The largest section goes into detail on each major active ingredient; what it does, where else you can get it, and what happens if you get too little or too much.  This runs the gamut from caffeine through vitamin B12 to Yerba Mate.  Some ingredients have not been proven to do anything other than sound cool, others can be dangerous if you get too much.

There are appendixes on: ways to wake up without caffeine,  the stages of fatigue and which type of products work best at each level (note: this book does not endorse any specific brand of energy drink),  how the FDA handles Adverse Event Reports, the American Beverage Association’s code for responsible labeling and marketing practices, and definitions of some terms.  There’s also a list of references in the back for more research.

This book is aimed at the layperson, with simple metaphors and relatively plain vocabulary.  With the help of your healthcare provider, you can use this book to see if an energy drink will be safe and effective for your particular situation.    I’d recommend this book to users of energy drinks, and students majoring in dietetics or food biochemistry.  It’s clearly written and has many interesting facts.

Book Review: Brandwashed

Book Review: Brandwashed: How Marketers and Advertisers Obscure the Truth, Manipulate Our Minds, and Persuade Us to Buy by Martin Lindstrom.

Disclaimer: I got this book through the Goodreads giveaway program on the expectation I would write a review. My copy is an uncorrected proof, and minor changes (possibly major changes to the final chapter) are likely to occur in the final product.

Brandwashed

The first thing I noticed reading the introduction is that apparently Martin Lindstrom does not have a library card. Also, it’s pretty clear that he has never had to look for a discarded newspaper to get the help wanted ads–let alone consider getting breakfast that way. From the introduction, Mr. Lindstrom lives a life of incredible privilege, in both the scholarly and layman’s senses of the word. A glimpse into a very different world than my own.

The subtitle does a good job of summing up what “Brandwashed” is about. Like the 1957 Vance Packard classic “The Hidden Persuaders”, this book looks at the various means advertisers and marketers use to manipulate consumers into buying things. Fifty years of technological and psychological innovation have vastly improved their ability to do so, of course, so you will want both books.

Mr. Lindstrom is a very successful marketing consultant, so many of the examples in Brandwashed are from his own experience. (On the other hand, most of the organizing of the book and connecting paragraphs are by his ghost writer.) I was fascinated by what he claims to have learned about how Russians *actually* feel towards vodka.

One thing I would have liked to have seen is more on how to fight “brandwashing”, to prevent this manipulation from turning you into a shopping addict or spending money you don’t have on crap you don’t need. There’s almost nothing in this line in the book, though Mr. Lindstrom does seem in favor of tighter regulations of health claims on non-drug products.

Overall, much interesting and possibly useful information. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in advertising and marketing.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...