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Drop Dead Cute Paperback – March 24, 2005
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Personally I would be more inclined to apply the word "kowai," which means "frightening" in Japanese, to the work presented in "Drop Dead Cute." There is an overwhelming sense of loneliness and alienation in this graphic work, a general absence of men and of family life, all sorts of female grotesqueries, and juxtapositions of the horrific and the idyllic. Take, for example, the graphically-stunning work of Chiho Aoshima. In one print she has what is perhaps the most beautiful rendering of a Japanese plum tree that I have ever seen, and this tree in blossom is mixed with images of the mythical paradise of Mount Horai. Stranded in the high branches of the tree, meanwhile, is a naked woman bound in ropes. Another artist, Tabaimo, who works in a take-off of the ukiyoe style, has a subway car scene with a baby abandoned like a package on an upper luggage rack, a stack of dismembered forearms, and a man wrapped like a piece of sushi.
What this all means is only touched on lightly by Vartanian. He has provided a mere one page of text by way of understanding each artist, and his introduction is also just a teaser in hinting at the darker side of this art. For a fuller understanding of how an emphasis on childish themes is coexisting with a sense of alienation in Japan today, the reader of "Drop Dead Cute" would do well to acquire the more scholarly and probing "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture."
to be a fan of kawaii to enjoy this book
a friend of mine lent this to me (FORCED it on me) about a week ago, and i was skeptical at first. i would only flip through the book at a red light, or when i was stuck in traffic, seeing as how it came to live on my passenger seat where i had been lightly neglecting it since it's arrival. it wasn't until there came a weekend with no good bands in town that i decided to actually devote TIME to looking at this book. i admit, i wasn't immediatley enthralled with it, but it's a hell of a lot better than straight anime, where everyone's art looks the same, and the cat-eared girls and hermaphroditic boys run through magical forests with reckless abandon. no, these pictures had soul. they had meaning. sure, some of them aren't the most detailed and mind-blowing displays of art, but then, they don't have to be. if these women didn't feel it necessary to show off, i say kudos to them. too often is art used to flaunt one's talent, rather than to convey meaning and emotion. and in doing so, the artist loses that freedom to create original works from the heart, and their "art" just becomes a rote and commercialized means of income. just a job. and that's the real test, isn't it? if you can successfully display your message, yet stay true to yourself, to your heart and to your inspiration, then you've made a difference.
so if these women can still pass on their emotions to the general public without losing authenticity, that's really all that matters. for an artist, that's what success is. it's not about money or fame or beauty. just do what you love, and never lose sight of your true style.
anyway, i'm babbling. this is a good book if you're a fan of japanese art, but are tired of mainstream anime. so get up, split from the norm, and check it out.
(but don't insult it because it's not glamourous enough for you!)
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