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Martinson, Lars. Tonoharu, book one.

MARTINSON, Lars. Tonoharu, book one. Top Shelf. 128p. illus. c2008. 978-0-9801-2321. $19.95. S A

Daniel Wells is an American who lives in Tonoharu, a rural town in Japan. He works as an assistant English teacher in a junior high school, where the students want to know his blood type and whether he has a girlfriend. Living in Japan isn't easy for Daniel; he must deal with strange foods, boredom, long periods of isolation and the fact that his knowledge of Japanese isn't good enough to have any sort of meaningful conversation. There is an American girl in the area, but despite his best efforts they don't hit it off. In many ways, Daniel might as well be living on another planet.

Tonoharu is a quasi memoir, loosely based on the author's experiences. Martinson spent three years teaching in Japan, so he knows what he's talking about. Besides being an accurate portrait of the effects of isolation, Tonoharu will be of interest to people interested in Japanese culture. This graphic novel isn't for everyone. Younger readers may find it boring; older readers may find it depressing, or wonder why the main character is such a sad sack. Since Daniel isn't a Type A personality--his hobbies are sleeping and watching TV--he doesn't exactly hit the ground running. The background-heavy art is rendered in shades of black and gray, and every page has exactly four panels. Tonoharu contains vulgarity (f-bombs and s-bombs) and is recommended for graphic novel collections that focus on memoirs or are looking to add a bit of international presence; for older teens or adults only. George Galuschak, YA Libn, Montvale PL, Montvale, NJ

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Author:Galuschak, George
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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