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‘The Book of Japanese Folklore’ by Thersa Matsuura

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As an American fan of Japanese anime, I’ve sometimes found myself amazed by the creative styling of some creatures and monsters I see in my favorite series. Just look at shows like Demon Slayer, and Jujutsu Kaisen, and you’ll find some crazy looking monsters that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in Western animated projects. I’ve also always been quite fascinated by mythology and folklore, so when I spotted this new book titled The Book of Japanese Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Spirits, Monsters, and Yokai of Japanese Myth by Thersa Matsuura, I knew I wanted to check it out.

[Note: While I am reviewing this book independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Simon & Schuster for the purpose of this review.]

Small but mighty, The Book of Japanese Folklore is chock-full of information

Despite being less than 250 pages, the book goes much further than I expected, with well-researched coverage and insights on many monsters and creatures from Japanese mythology. The Book of Japanese Folklore includes not only many weird, wild, tragic and cautionary tales from the folklore, the reader can learn about historical and modern references to the creatures, as well as translation and pronunciation of the names.

The written out pronunciation and translation at the start of each chapter is especially valuable. Any manga or anime fan who is eager to learn more about Japanese culture and language should certainly appreciate and enjoy this feature of the book. In addition, I think this is a terrific book for fans that may not be as familiar with the inspiration and stories behind many of the creatures that cross their screens when watching Crunchyroll anime, playing Pokémon, or reading their favorite manga.

The Book of Japanese Folklore by Thersa Matsuura

The author provides an overview at the beginning, followed by “Background and Popular Stories.” She then points out references to the subject in modern pop culture, mentioning where else the reader may have seen the creature.

Towards the end of the book are several more useful sections. This includes an index so you can easily cross-reference other mentions of each subject. There is also a helpful glossary highlighting common words and names used in Japanese folklore, and additional reading suggestions for those who’d like to continue their Japanese folklore journey. 

Attractive cover and illustrations make this a must-have for your manga library

The Book of Japanese Folklore is also an extremely attractive little hardcover, with lovely watercolor-like illustrations decorating the outside of the book, and the edges of the pages trimmed in gold coloring. This book would look perfect next to your manga collection or with other books about mythology and travel or cultures.

Inside there are many truly eye-catching color images by illustrator Michelle Wang. This sort of adds to the idea that this is a short book that does a lot, honestly, because there are so many full color illustrations in it as well. The images also do a great deal to help the reader picture some of these weird spirits and monsters.

The Book of Japanese Folklore Futakuchi Onna
Image of the Futakuchi Onna from The Book of Japanese Folklore by Thersa Matsuura and illustrated by Michelle Wang. (Simon & Schuster)

Final thoughts on Thersa Matsuura’s The Book of Japanese Folklore

Overall, The Book of Japanese Folklore is a lovely addition to any library and I would say is an easily digestible and interesting read for fans of Japanese culture, anime, manga and games, young or old. The author and illustrator did an admirable job with this one, making what outwardly seems like a short book on Japanese folklore have a lot of bang for the buck.

My Rating: 9/10

The Book of Japanese Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Spirits, Monsters, and Yokai of Japanese Myth by Thersa Matsuura can be purchased most places books are available. If you’d like to learn more about the author and her popular podcast Uncanny Japan, check out Thersa Matsuura’s official website at thersamatsuura.com.

Are you going to check out this book? Let us know what you think on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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Lizzie Hill

I'm a lifelong fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book movies. In July 2021, I launched The Cosmic Circus as Editor-In-Chief with a small but passionate group of writers. @MsLizzieHill on Twitter and Instagram.

Lizzie Hill has 92 posts and counting. See all posts by Lizzie Hill