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Dream Spectres: Extreme Ukiyo-e: Sex, Blood & the Supernatural Paperback – April 26, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


It's a little early for year end lists but I declare that with "Dream Spectres" Shinbaku has released one of the best art books of 2010. This incredible collection of images smashes open the floodgates of extreme ukiyo e for Western audiences, presenting more than 250 colour reproductions, most of which would be impossible to find otherwise. The book even reproduces the Eimei Nijuhasshuku ( 28 Scenes of Murder and Verse"), the most infamous series of Japanese muzan e (atrocity prints"), in its entirety. Hunter's achievement here is in presenting overwhelming evidence that the breadth and depth of Japanese mass produced genre painting rivals anything going on in film or literature today. Even if you're already a fan of bloody ukiyo e, there are works here that will have you collecting your eyeballs off the table. --Rue Morgue, March 2010

This mind-roasting volume is without question one of the standout books of 2010. The book, as its subtitle makes clear, deals with the darker regions of the ukiyo-e movement, specifically the gory, perverse and horrific aspects. The grossness and outrage of the pornographic illustrations on display here, nearly all featuring absurdly oversized genital organs, are undeniably striking (to say the least!). So too the spirited bloodletting of Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, who specialized in insanely gory scenes of reality-based carnage (including a man ripping another s face from his skull), and the near-psychedelic palettes of Kuniteru Utagawa and Shuntei Katsukawa, who pictured brave warriors battling dragons and giant sea turtles. There s far more to this book, of course, which can only be classified as a crowning achievement. DREAM SPECTRES is the first-ever English language book on extreme ukiyo-e, and may well end up the definitive one. --fright.com

About the Author

Jack Hunter is the acclaimed author and editor of over 20 books on the history of cult cinema, freakshows, and other cultural diversions. His innovative book on Japanese cult cinema EROS IN HELL became a bible for the new generation of US DVD producers who are still steadily releasing the films detailed in its pages. Other books include: MOONCHILD, FREAK BABYLON, and SEARCH & DESTROY. He lives in Tokyo in a constant state of cultural research.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Shinbaku Books (April 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840683015
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840683011
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,513,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This fairly small and thin book is replete with some of the rarer imagery from the ukiyo-e output. Fortunately, or so it might have been, they have focused on the depictions of the imagery, which take centre stage over any discussions surrounding them. However, unfortunately, the 'graphics department' have all but ruined virtually every single one of the reproductions of the same, making this book all but worthless beyond a passing squint.

The larger, postcard-sized reproductions are almost universally very blurry (more blurry, due to the reduced size, than the first scan uploaded by David suggests), presumably from their source photography, though who knows if they thought to artificially add some extra blur - it would not now surprise me. This really does wreck the book and makes you wish Hotei publications had managed such a project. Nb For those who have not seen many ukiyo-e, they are not blurry in the slightest in real life (even the very early ones, and these are mainly very late period prints) - they are prints from precision-sculpted, hand-carved hard woods, although their block colors do degrade at different rates if they have been light-exposed. In other words, the buck stops at the reproduction not the source.

Bizarrely, the smaller, matchbox-sized reproductions of works are as universally over-processed to an opposite ridiculous degree! They are sharpened and color and contrast boosted to the extent that all detail is lost, as if in Photoshop they had repeatedly applied the same filter without looking at the distorted results (as previous reviewer speculated, this is to indicate the colors before their light-exposed fading over the years).
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I echo the previous reviewer's comments. When I first flipped thru the pages, I was very surprised by how small the images were and how many were squeezed onto a page. This book contains a wonderful collection of prints - it's a shame they aren't reproduced at a size that would be more accessible. I uploaded an image of a page with FIVE prints squeezed on it so that you can see what I mean. I too would have been happy to pay much more for a larger volume - probably twice the height would be necessary.

I was somewhat confused by the presentation of the Eimei Nijuhasshuku series (one of the main reasons that I purchased the book). The prints are shown one to a page, with a large image occupying most of the page and a smaller, usually more vibrantly colored, identical image next to it. There is no explanation given as to why there are two images of each print. Is the larger one a true image of an actual print? Is the small one a retouched version that is supposed to show what the print colors would have looked like when first printed? I uploaded an image of one of the pages to show you.

I also found the use of the "F" word in print descriptions to be a bit gratuitous. I liberally use it myself in exclamations and retorts, but I think some other word would have sufficed here in many cases.
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Excellent assortment of images and insightful commentary, but the images are often so small you'll need a magnifying glass to see the details. I would gladly have paid more to see the images at a decent size and some fold outs for the tryptychs. But for the price, the book is still a good value.
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This book is amazing. If you are looking for an insight into the world of brutality/sex/blood in ancient Japan, this is the book for you! I wish that it was bigger, but, still, it is adequate enough that you can see the amazing art and read the very good descriptions of what is happening in each piece. I am thrilled to now have a copy of this in my library. If you are no openminded, I would not suggest this at all, as it does touch on fetishism, rape, torture, bestiality, and many other things that most people can't seem to stomach. If you want to educate yourself on these things and how they were seen in Japan, and you can appreciate history and art, do yourself a favor and get this book.
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