We’ve been expanding our home library with new genres, and the most recent arrival to our shelf is Onibi: Diary of a Yokai Ghost Hunter. I loved a good ghost story when I was younger, and I thought my son might like to explore this avenue in a different way…through the use of manga. Combining manga, photography, and ghosts…how did it go? Let’s find out!
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Tuttle Publishing kindly sent us a copy of Onibi: Diary of a Yokai Ghost Hunter, by Atelier Sento, for Tristan to review. Now that he’s 11, his literature tastes are changing and it can be awkward to find something that isn’t to young for him, but at the same time has age-appropriate content. Onibi is a good book for bridging this gap.
I’ll put a full disclaimer here that growing up, I often didn’t enjoy ‘cartoons,’ and I still don’t, much to Phil’s chagrin. However, many things did rub off on me in Japan, and the appreciation for manga is one of them. I’m still not a full convert, but I have a much more open mind, particularly after reading Tuttle’s Tokyo Pop Up book. Keeping this in mind, what did Tristan and I think about Onibi?
What’s the Story?
Cécile and Olivier arrive in Japan and purchase a camera. They are talked into buying an old one that they are told will allow them to capture images of the spirit world. The trick, however, is not to actually look through the camera or attract the attention of the ghosts as they will then hide and not appear on the film. As a film camera, any photos taken during the trip will not be developed until a later date so they are unsure if the film will work at all, and whether they’ve been duped into buying a worthless piece of kit.
During their time in the Niigata region, Cécile and Olivier attempt to seek out ghost stories from people they meet and visit the places ghost experiences have taken place. Along the way, they meet some interesting characters; who hasn’t met elderly locals who want to chat and tell you their life story and about places and events long gone? It’s fun to see situations like this woven into Onibi. After each encounter, the children seek out the ghostly location and take a photograph with the old camera.
At the end of each chapter, you find the developed photograph, along with a page from their notebook giving the details about it: the date, place, what they were photographing, the weather conditions and the camera settings. This is interesting for those with children interested in photography, and something unique you don’t often find in books!
I was very pleasantly surprised! The illustrations are similar to those in many of the children’s Japanese picture books and depicted real everyday life in Japan, so I loved that and it made me much more comfortable. The illustrations are “mostly traditional techniques such as watercolor, colored pencils and printmaking,” which are techniques we enjoy, so it’s interesting to look at individual frames and observe how they may have been made. The illustrators are French, which also gives the style a different feel.
At the back of the book you’ll find maps of Niigata, a spread of photos, drawings, and writing that are like a scrapbook of the children’s time in Japan, and most fun, is the guide on how to develop and print yokai pictures! There is also a small picture glossary included to familiarise a few of the Japanese terms that may not be familiar, such as onsen, torii, and yen, for example.
Final Thoughts on Onibi
I loved ghost stories when I was in my teens, and Onibi is a fun way to introduce the paranormal to kids in the safe manga format. Following the story and then seeing the developed photographs Cécile and Olivier take are interesting and get the imagination working on thinking what might lurk in your own area! I’m sure this won’t be the last paranoramal book my son will read, nor his last manga. Add in the cultural aspect, too, and I find it to be another great book published by Tuttle.
If you’re interested in purchasing Onibi: Diary of a Yokai Ghost Hunter, it’s available through: