From Publishers Weekly
The influx of Japanese art and fashion into the American cultural mainstream gets an entertaining treatment from Kelts, an essayist and lecturer at the University of Tokyo, who interviewed many of Japan's leading culture gurus over the past three years. Kelts is clearly most interested in the world of anime and manga (from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke), as his readers will most likely be. A primary theme is that of the Japanese paradox: how has such a strictly defined and rigid society produced pop art that is, compared to its American counterparts at least, wildly imaginative and boundary bursting? Kelts's belief is that one directly created the other, that anime and manga's wild and kinetic structures, hyperaddictive apocalyptic story lines and surprisingly emotional content (not to mention sex and violence unheard of in American pop culture) could never flourish in an openly permissive and individualistic society that had not experienced nuclear devastation. Although the book grasps too eagerly at its subject's grander implications, it still effectively conveys the cross-Pacific cultural dissonance. Kelts has a sharp grasp of his subject and is on sure ground when discussing the history of the form, especially the impact of Disney on postwar Japanese animators or the reverential awe in which American animators hold such filmmakers as Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away
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"Japanamerica is the book I have been waiting for. It tells the incredible story of the way the colorful and eccentric world of Japanese entertainment and popular art has enriched our lives in the West. But it also deals with why it has a poetry that has taken Americans many years to understand and feel able to echo. Japan's holocaust was equally traumatic to the ones experienced by many Americans, and perhaps more sudden, more extreme and more focused. This story shows how today we all use movies, comics, music, art and advertising to face our past and its traumas, rather than to escape. The Japanese methods of facing the past are restrained and unusual, but ultimately glorious, and mean more to us in our post-9/11 era than ever they could before. Roland Kelts, part American, part Japanese, brings real insight to the way this union of hearts and souls through entertainment will continue to grow and draw two very different worlds together."
--Pete Townshend, The Who
"Roland Kelts sees deeply and writes elegantly; he gives us a unique and powerful vision of Japanese and Western culture."
--Daniel Bergner, author of In the Land of Magic Soldiers and God of the Rodeo
"Roland Kelts is a keen observer of both American and Japanese pop culture, placing him in a unique position to discuss the rise of anime in America and the West."
--Martha McPhee, author of Bright Angel Time
"The brain of Roland Kelts is not only a brilliant interpreter of places where Japanese and American culture meet, it is also one such important place."
--Matthew Sharpe, author of the NBC book club selection, The Sleeping Father, and Nothing is Terrible, Stories from the Tube, and the forthcoming Jamestown: A Novel