This mind-roasting volume is without question one of the standout books of 2010. It’s a lively, user-friendly study of ukiyo-e (“images from the floating world”) woodblock printed art from 18th and 19th Century Japan. Ukiyo-e was an evident forerunner of today’s manga as well as quite a few popular J-Horror motifs, notably the pasty woman with black hair of RINGU and THE GRUDGE, which apparently had its inception in a 1750 ukiyo-e painting by Maruyama Okyo.
Author Jack Hunter (of the essential Japanese movie study EROS IN HELL) provides a succinct history of ukiyo-e, which began as book illustrations and came to encompass kabuki theater posters and scandal sheets before dying out in the late 19th Century. Yet the eye-popping, quintessentially Japanese artwork that came out of the movement is nothing short of extraordinary.