100 Tales from the Tokyo Ghost Cafe
The second collaboration between writer Julian Sedgwick and manga artist Chie Kutsuwada will grow on you. The deeper you wade into this collection of tales of kami gods and yokai spirits, the more attached you will grow to its characters, its décors, its language.
Chapters in prose alternate with manga sections, the latter following Sedgwick and Kutsudawa on their curiosity quest for ghost stories, while the former recount tales of undying feline bakeneko, creepy beak-faced tengu, enchanted tsukumogami and more. The spirits are in turn terrifying and cruel, benevolent and helpful, or downright cheeky. The humans who meet them have all lost something, or someone (sometimes themselves), and the encounter more often than not offers some amount of resolution and hope, and, always, an acknowledgment and acceptance of the idea that some things remain beyond human comprehension.
Each story is infused with its own style as befits its main character and setting, and echoes from one to the next will linger at the edge of readers’ consciousness, like glanced-at ghosts and half-heard songs. This is a book of many voices, many places and many eras. It is also a book of two languages as much of the text and illustrations are peppered throughout with Japanese terms and idioms. If this sounds like it could make for a confusing read, fear not. You are in safe hands here, and the interweaving of cultures, stories and tongues all contribute to a very rewarding immersive experience.
Deep, powerful stuff!