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Finding Great Britain Via Japan

Finding Great Britain Via Japan

My youngest son loves Japanese manga and anime.  It started when he discovered Inuyasha at the age of 10.  Sixteen years later, William has collected more than 4,000 volumes of manga covering more 1,300 different series.  He’s as comfortable reading a book from back to front as I am listening to the accents on Coronation Street.  He even wrote a paper on Osamu Tezuka, the father of Japanese manga, when he was in college.

Why I am mentioning this?  One day William realized there was an intersection between his love of manga and my love of all things British.  This realization led us on a journey to finding Great Britain via Japan.

The first point of intersection came when he discovered the manga series Emma by Kaoru Mori.  It’s the story of a girl who’s rescued from a life of poverty in Victorian England and trained to be a proper British maid.  Eventually Emma falls in love with a member of the gentry.  Of course, the young couple find their relationship challenged by the rigid class constraints of the period.

In his introduction to the first volume in the series, Jim Chadwick notes Mori’s love for all things English.  According to Chadwick, her goal was to create as accurate a depiction of 1885 London as possible.  She even worked with a consultant to ensure the accuracy of the details in the books.

Next, we discovered a series of manga based on the works of William Shakespeare.  The Tempest is William’s favorite.  There are also adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth.  The same publisher has produced manga versions of several Sherlock Holmes stories, including The Hound of the Baskervilles.

William is also an avid gamer, but much to his chagrin, he could never spark my interest in video games.  That is until recently, when he introduced me to a simple but charming game called Thomas Was Alone.  It’s narrated by British comedian Danny Wallace, who won a BAFTA for his work.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon playing the game so that I could listen to the delightful narration.

I love the fact that William and I can enjoy sharing our diverse interests in literature, history, and popular culture.  He doesn’t mind watching British movies and TV shows with me, although he draws the line at watching Coronation Street.  I’m happy to discuss the 16th century Chinese classic Journey to the West and the deeper meaning in Osamu Tezuka’s works.

William doesn’t mind taking a detour for some Brit-related sight-seeing when we travel.  Likewise, I was happy to visit a Buddhist temple in Hawaii, and I enjoyed taking a detour to explore Asian art at the Sackler Museum when we were Washington, DC.  In an interesting twist, I discovered that the Sackler’s building was designed by British architect James Stirling.

Without William’s interest in manga I might never have encountered Kaoru Mori’s Emma or the Sackler Museum.  Without my Anglophile interests, he probably wouldn’t have watched Lost in Austen or developed a taste for Curly Wurlys and Aero bars.  It turns out that finding Great Britain via Japan is something we both enjoy.

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