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Comment: Ex-library book with expected stickers, stamps and contact wear to mylar dust jacket protector; otherwise a clean, tight copy, shipped in shrink-wrap.
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Tonoharu: Part One Hardcover – May 1, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Tonoharu Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Xeric Award–winner Martinson gives us a fully realized, engaging tale of international alienation. Ivy League grad Dan Wells has arrived in Japan to take his first job ever, assisting in English instruction classes at a small-town junior-high school. In his first months on the job, he faces boredom between classes (not all the Japanese teachers want his assistance, but he has made a contractual agreement to be on site at the school all day, every day), homesickness, the reality that he doesn’t readily become a glib Japanese conversationalist, and the rebuffs of other Westerners, who are either better prepared for the foreign experience or so quick to dismiss Japanese culture that they don’t engage the existential truth that alienation is more about the foreigner than about the host. Martinson’s daintily shaded and cross-hatched panels fit both the setting and Dan’s mood. Sly visual puns, particularly surrounding Dan’s inability to understand spoken Japanese but clarity about the temperaments of the speakers, spice the otherwise reportorial account. Martinson’s highly autobiographical fictional graphic novel conveys the feel as well as the facts of his hero’s experience of romanticism confronted by reality. --Francisca Goldsmith

About the Author

Lars Martinson was born on Mother's Day, 1977. He has met a princess, seen a five-legged cow, and eaten raw octopus eggs. From 2003 to 2006 he taught English in Fukuoka, Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. In 2007 he received the prestigious Xeric Grant for his graphic novel Tonoharu: Part One. He currently lives in Minneapolis and is hard at work on the second part of the Tonoharu story.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tonoharu (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions; 1st edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980102324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980102321
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,363,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tonoharu is a beautiful, true to life graphic novel. I taught English in Fukuoka for three years with the JET Programme, and even though this book presents some extreme examples of what can happen, the most outrageous thing is how factual it actually is. Nuanced, detailed, funny and sad, it really captures the spirit of what it's like to be a foreigner in Japan, the high highs and the lonely lows. I definitely recommend it to all JET alums and all those interested in seeing Japan through Western eyes. If you like manga, it will give you a deeper appreciation of the culture. Those who haven't been to Japan but enjoyed the movie Lost in Translation will feel a similar sense of lyrical dislocation as they follow the adventures of Daniel in Tonoharu.
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Format: Hardcover
A serious minority - Daniel Wells is the only American in a rural Japanese Village, where he serves as an assistant junior high school teacher. "Tonoharu: Part One" is the start of his story as Daniel must deal with everything coming with his new job - language barriers, culture shock, it's a lonely existence. His only relief comes from the pursuit, although not effective, of an American girl who resides in a town not far from his own. His adventures often turn offbeat and intriguing, making "Tonoharu: Part One" highly recommended for community library graphic novel collections.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have just finished reading the graphic novel Tonoharo Vol. 1 for the third time in a week.

The basic story is about an American who moves to Japan to teach english.

I lived in Fukuoka Japan for 3-years and taught "conversational" english at a company called GEOS. I started to go slightly "bonkers" my last 6 months or so and left a bit burnt out and I've never been back.

Some of this story is based in and around Fukuoka so it brings back some memories for me.

Many people have asked what it was like to live and work in Japan and I've told and discussed it with them to the best of my ability.

The writer does an excellent job of catching some of the subtlety and small detail that comes with living as a foreigner in Japan, and expresses some of the frustrations being a foreigner.

My experiences were quite a bit different than what is portrayed in the story but many similar things happened to me.

And, strangely enough, I knew people that lead lives very similar to the characters in the graphic novel. I also knew people that led lives very different but still went thru the same experiences and process of living there.

I'm not sure if I got so much out of this because I lived there or the writer does such a good job.

If your at all interested in the subject of expats in Japan, this is a graphic novel that you should read.

Volume 2 has just come out but I haven't had a chance to purchase it yet but I will.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I left for Japan with great expectations too, embarking on a year's adventure teaching English for Aeon that quickly soured and nearly marooned me. I missed out on JET, possibly because I'd just turned 30 (old in Japanese years?) so I took the next best offer. The parallels between my experience and Dan's are many and reading this graphic novel made a lot of forgotten emotions come flooding back. My biggest gripe after a year there and returning home is the perception amongst those who haven't been that it's a Utopian society of empathic people reading Murakami and watching Miyazaki movies. It isn't - not by a long shot. What we as Westerners know about Japan is idealized and highly filtered. Reading Tonoharu provides an inkling of the actual reality.

The line drawings are spare, manga-esque and evoke the place well. My only (vague) criticism with the novel is its brevity; I'd like more for my $$ but at the same time I'm glad to support a talented artist and will certainly buy the sequels.

For the record: I quit my job with Aeon after my employer invented new, non-corporate rules such as no student friendships and others too absurd to fill this space with. I found another school in Tsukuba where I was treated well and finished my tenure without incident. Sometimes I consider going back ... but then again reading Tonoharu is probably sufficient.
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Format: Hardcover
I just read this book in one short sitting, and I feel the same as I do when I hear that sad "Christmastime is here" song from Charlie Brown's Christmas...nostalgic, a little sad, as if something deep has been accessed within me. Part One tells the story of Dan, a 25-year old American who is an assistant teacher in a small Japanese town, and who is discovering that moving to another place - even an exotic place - doesn't automatically let you reinvent yourself. He's awkward, lonely and bored, just like the life he left in the US. There's not much action or dramatic tension in Part One per se, but the clean drawings and the many short, sometimes one-panel vignettes of life in a foreign place ring true even for those of us who haven't been to Japan.
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who has spent time teaching in Japan and written about it (For Fukui's Sake: Two years in rural Japan) I was really keen to read Tonoharu.

As a piece of art, the entire book is a thing of beauty. The artwork is excellent with superb attention to detail, lovely clean lines and great backdrops so that the scenery, the architecture and the everyday objects are very accurately depicted. (If you like Guy Delisle's work eg: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea - you'll like Tonoharu).

I have two criticisms; firstly - it's too short. I finished it in less than an hour, and for over £12 - I wanted more page for my pound.

Secondly, the storyline was a little disappointing. The book follows the life of 'Dan' a young American working in a rural(ish) town (called Tonoharu). But rather than showing us the excitement of life as a foreigner in Japan, Dan doesn't seem to have any fun at all. I don't think a single frame depicts him smiling, laughing or in awe of the incredible country he is now living in.

Instead of the "Wow! Japan!" excitement that most foreigners feel upon arrival, the comic depicts a lonely existence for an isolated Dan with no 'get up and go' who spends his time mooching around, head hung low, fawning over an American girl who is way out of his league.

Although almost all foreigners in Japan do experience such periods of bewilderment and isolation, what Tonoharu omits is the other side of life there; the incredibly enriching experience where every day is an adventure into the unknown - if only you embrace it.
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