Monday, July 06, 2009

Tatsuro Kiuchi

Following up on my last post about Rafe Martin's Mysterious Tales of Japan, with pictures by Tatsuro Kiuchi, here are some samples of two of Kiuchi's other projects, both of which use a very different palette and approach from the more conventionally "painterly" (but very appealing) illustrations he created for that book.

The first group are from a series of 294 color illustrations Kiuchi created to accompany Hikaru Okuizumi's novel The New Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was serialized in the Asahi Shimbun in 2002-2003.

The whole set can be viewed as a Flicker slideshow online.

At least one of Hikaru Okuizumi's other novels, The Stones Cry Out, has appeared in translation in the US, but this one apparently hasn't; in fact I'm not even sure it's been released in bound format in Japan. [Update: according to Tatsuro Kiuchi, the book has been published, but sadly without his illustrations.] The little information I've been able to turn up, from the Japanese Literature Publishing Project, seems promising, though:
Okuizumi is known for his parodies of the Meiji-period literary giant Natsume Soseki, but the model he chose for his full-length novel Shin chitei ryoko (New Journey to the Center of the Earth) is the Jules Verne classic. Always full of literary schemes, Okuizumi here recasts the original story as the historical record of an actual journey which he retells in a pseudoclassical style reminiscent of Soseki, transposing the action to early twentieth-century Japan. In late Meiji, a scientist who believes the Earth is hollow disappears, along with his beautiful daughter. He has apparently traveled to the center of Mt. Fuji to prove his theory, but there is another possibility: some say he is really after a secret cache of gold hidden by a feudal warlord. Hooked by his friend's promise to let him use a highly advanced camera, the main character, a painter named Roshu Nonomura, accompanies his friend and two other amateur explorers on an adventurous expedition deep within Mt. Fuji. Along the way, they encounter a cat that glows in the dark, a monster that seems to be a living relic of the dinosaur age, and a race of underground humans. This amply realized work of fantasy, laced with delicious humor, is written on a scale surpassing the original in grandeur.
This could make a hell of a nice volume if it were published here with the original illustrations, but I have a feeling it's not going to happen anytime soon. I'd settle for a Japanese edition -- if one exists -- just to be able to thumb through the pictures at leisure.

The remaining images are from a set of illustrations Kiuchi executed for a Folio Society edition of Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea.

Kiuchi's website, which has both Japanese and English versions, has a biography and a generous selection of his other work, including some animated spots he created for Starbucks.

Late note: a post on the blog of the Heflinreps Illustration Agency has several Kiuchi illustrations for a Japanese children's book called Let's Go Out for a Ride!

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