Author/Artist: Aimee Major Steinberger
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: December 2007
Price: $16.99 (US)
Synopsis: “Join Aimee Major Steinberger (a professional animator with a passion for all things cute) on the ultimate otaku vacation! Visit fantasy restaurants, maid cafes, and the world’s most exclusive doll store! Cosplay on the infamous Harajuku Street! Attend an outrageous all-female Takarazuka musical! See beautiful shrines, hot springs, stores full of manga, and so much more! Aimee captures it all in a manga journal that is both adorable and breathtaking!”
The moment you open the pages of Japan Ai you know you’ve got something unique in your hands; the cover alone is a perfect introduction to the adorable and colourful world you’re about to enter. A collection of simple sketches and corresponding commentary make up this journal of Aimee Major Steinberger’s trip to Japan. It’s an entertaining romp through Japan along with “a tall girl” and her friends.
Starting off the book is a quick intro about the artist, her interests and her reasons for heading off to Japan. From there it goes right into the trip, start to finish. Every page is littered with doodles and notes about the vacation, from amusing experiences to cultural education.
The art in this book is downright adorable. It’s the best way to describe the charming and expression imagery used to follow the trio on their journey. While most of the artwork is black and white, every couple of pages offer coloured images that help bring a real visual spark to the book and a strong sense of quality. The occasional coloured pictures really bring out the fact that these images were done this way for a reason, be it colour or black and white doodles. If every image had been coloured, it really wouldn’t have had the same personal sketchbook feeling that makes this book so pleasant. Coupled with the descriptions, you really get an idea of what Aimee is talking about. It all works flawlessly and has a wonderful sense of pacing, making it a joy to read. It’s funny, cute and most of all, feels very honest.
This is a Go!Comi original release and they did a fantastic job putting it together. The size of the book is larger than their manga releases and suits the different material. The paper is of high quality, helping the images to pop off the page, bright and crisp and gives the book a really pleasant feeling of weight. The cover is shiny and perfectly suiting, a homage to pop culture Japan and an excellent representation of the content. There’s a very detailed glossary and appendix for terminology, locations and mentioned businesses. As another bonus, the last page directs readers to Go!Comi’s website where they can find bonus content that they weren’t able to fit in the book.
Because the book is printed in colour, there are several full colour advertisements for Go!Comi’s manga series at the back of the book that are really able to give their series some due spotlight.
Japan Ai is easily one of the most enjoyable books to come out in a while. It’s undeniably charming, simple and quaint, and perhaps most convenient of all, can be picked up, flipped through and every page acts as its own standalone entertainment. It has good reread value and chances are something new will stick out every time. You’ll smile, you’ll laugh, you might even quirk an eyebrow in confusion along with the artist and perhaps most of all, you’ll want to pack your bags and head to Japan for an adventure of your own!