Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Floating Girl by Sujata Massey

This is another book in the Rei Shimura Japan mystery series. In this book she focuses on the very popular world of manga. During the story Rei visits an anime shop, reads a wide variety of manga, and even dresses up like a comic book character and goes to a Comic Convention.

I found Massey's explanation of the world of manga interesting. I know a little bit about the genre from my husband so I was intrigued to learn more. To see how it is read and what is available in Japan was interesting. I did learn more about the field and the purpose of manga literature. The descriptions of individuals who go to great lenghts to cosplay made me laugh knowing the number of people in the United States who do the same thing. Because managa is a growing genre in the United States I felt the theme of the novel was timely.

In addition, Massey once again explores the experiences of foreigners living in Japan. In this case, she introduces foreign men who dance in an exotic club exclusively for Japanese women. The perceptions and treatments of foreigners is probably what brings me back again and again to Massey's book. This is a theme that I have explored on a different continent as an academic and one which continues to fascinate me.

However (and there always seems to be a however with her books), the foundation of the book is slipshod. The mystery is solved, bam, with little nuance. The explanations for what happend are plausible, I suppose, but they just don't ring true. In addition, there is a moment in the book when the main character runs downstairs from her apartment to a local market to make photocopies. The only problem is that it is the same market and character from her first novel, but Rei no longer lives in the same apartment or even the same neighborhood. And character interactions seem to resolve themselves too easily. Problematic moments in the book suddenly disappear in order to wrap up the story in a neat little bow.

I like the information I get from Massey as I am reading. But I always finish her books wanting more. I just think she could improve some of the problematic points that inevitably seem to find their way into her finished work.

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