BOOK REVIEW

Author, illustrator embrace 'kawaii' culture in 'Tokyo Tales'

LONDON —

Inspirational author Renae Lucas-Hall writes compelling fiction to explore the “kawaii” (cute in Japanese) phenomenon – an artistic style from Japan gaining international recognition which exhibits everything in an adorable and cutesy way, from frivolous fashion in lace and pink satin to panda and bear face accessories.

Lucas-Hall shows a strong understanding of modern-day Japanese trends, the Japanese culture and the mind-set of the Japanese as she entertains her readers with interesting characters and unique plots in her latest book “Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories.”

The first of 15 stories, titled “My Cute Kawaii Boutique,” tells the tale of a young Japanese girl called Kimiko who is hoping to broaden her lifestyle opportunities and develop her creativity when she applies to work at a fashion boutique in Harajuku, in the heart of Tokyo. This shop is filled with Lolita dresses and matching kawaii accessories. It’s a popular destination for fashion-conscious teenagers who want to express their individuality. Yoshimi Ohtani’s illustration half-way through this story shows Kimiko all dressed up in her kawaii finery. This enchanting image perfectly captures Kimiko’s delight as she plays dress-up during her interview at the My Cute Kawaii Boutique.

Lucas-Hall’s first short story collection provides readers with a variety of beguiling plots and captivating characters. This book soars above and beyond the entertaining kawaii culture which is currently sweeping Japan and the rest of the world. You can expect to feel the pain, humiliation, fear and joy shared within each of the short stories as the characters deal with more substantial and weighty issues such as youth bullying, homelessness, marital problems, a marriage arrangement and a disaster which occurs at a Coming-of-Age Ceremony (“seijin no hi”) – an important occasion celebrated in Japan to commemorate the transition into adulthood.

Ohtani’s illustrations feature on the book cover and throughout “Tokyo Tales.” In a way, this use of stylish imagery capturing intriguing characters will remind the reader of the vintage pictures in Grimm’s fairy tales and the character portraits in Victorian classics by authors like Charles Dickens. In contrast, Ohtani’s modern illustrations will definitely appeal to today’s young adolescents as well as older critics, especially those who are interested in animated images from Japan.

“Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories” is the second book published by Lucas-Hall through Grosvenor House Publishing. Her first book, “Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story,” is an endearing romance novel that captures the essence of Tokyo and the dilemmas faced by Japanese youth growing up in Japan in the 21st century. As an expression of gratitude for the hospitality she received when she lived in Japan, Lucas-Hall donated 10% of her profit from the sales of this paperback to the Japan Society Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund from 2012 to 2014.

“Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories” is available in paperback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and more than 60 other retailers worldwide. 

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