Books by Matt Alt and Yoda Hiroko! Hello, Please! Very Helpful Super Kawaii Characters from Japan and Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide

I don’t remember when, but at one point when I was reading Matt Alt’s blog, I noticed that I hadn’t read any of the man’s books! I quickly rectified this by breaking out my old dusty copy of Hello, Please! that I’ve had lying about since the Christmas of ’07, and immediately got a hold of his newest book, Yokai Attack!. Now here’s some reviews to show for it!

I’d just like to note that normally I’d spell yokai as “youkai” but for the sake of this review I’ll be spelling it without a “u” to avoid confusion.

Hello, Please! Very Helpful Super Kawaii Characters from Japan, by Matt Alt and Yoda Hiroko

While some Americans may be familiar with Japan’s obsession with all things cute by way of characters such as Hello Kitty and the Pokémon, most probably aren’t aware of how embedded cuteness is in modern Japanese culture. Hello, Please! Very Helpful Super Kawaii Characters from Japan aims to enlighten by introducing us to the wide variety of Japanese “working characters” that populate street signs, instructional booklets, food packaging and the like all over Japan.

Hello, Please! is composed primarily of photos, each separated into different sections, with each section opening with a short introduction as to what the characters in that part of the book are meant to do. The photos are accompanied by witty commentary, which adds another shade of colour to the already colourful characters on display in the book.

While very small (pocket sized, actually) Hello, Please! is filled with hundreds of vibrant photographs all printed on top quality paper. The design aesthetic throughout is clean and colourful, not unlike the characters that populate the approximately 200 pages. As expected, this book is not a terribly deep or involving read, and instead opts to let the photos do the talking. One can be done with it in about an hour or so, but it also works as a fun item to share with your friends. I’d recommend it.

Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide, by Matt Alt and Yoda Hiroko, with illustrations by Morino Tatsuya

…or 外国人のための妖怪サバイバルガイド. Instead of kindly getting one acquainted with the adorable mascot characters that populate modern-day Japanese culture, Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide provides one with detailed information about traditional Japanese creepy crawlies that still have a foothold in modern popculture today.

Much like Hello, Please!, Yokai Attack! groups its characters into multiple sections, but instead of acting as a photo album, Yokai Attack! is more fact-heavy–filled with various legends, descriptions and charts about these old-school spooks. The most impressive part of this books is the sheer amount of research that went into it. One glance at the bibliography shows that a wide range of sources were consulted, and I’m going to assume that there was also a lot of research done by way of interviews and in-the-field exploration. It all comes together in a nice, well-written package, that is both informative and entertaining.

In addition to pages upon pages of information, Yokai Attack! features illustrations of each and every monster by manga artist Morino Tatsuya, assistant to the legendary Mizuki Shigeru. His style is very unique, and suits the tone of the book splendidly. In addition to Morino’s illustrations, Yokai Attack! features the work of other yokai masters along with various photos taken throughout Japan, all arranged to look like a scrapbook of sorts, complete with fake highlighting, paper clips, torn pages and written-in corrections.

Yokai Attack! is a great starting point for anybody interested in yokai. It’s both fun and informative, as well as nice to look at. If you’re already well acquainted with yokai by way of–I don’t know–playing a bunch of Touhou games, you may not find this book as informative as I found it, but it’s still an entertaining read, and much like Hello, Please! it’s a neat thing to share with your friends. Recommended.

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