A Lateral View
Looking at my Goodreads review from last year, I gave this only 4 stars out of 5, but only as a comparison to the author's other work, a few of those being so perfect that this one falls just a little short.
Some of the essays are brilliant. I especially thought most of the sections on film and image were wonderful and informative, even after reading so much of Richie's writing. The sections on Japanese film and pachinko are simply brilliant and must reads for any expat living in Japan.
One of the many things that have been said to reveal a lot about Japanese culture is Pachinko. While baseball may show the teamwork and sacrificial nature of the country, and karate and judo might reveal the obsession with perfection, pachinko shows us much more of the underside, and maybe downright negative parts of Japan. It is Otaku for sure, with obsession driving the industry, and depressing as well, with people wasting time and money in those smoke filled halls. Richie paints for the reader a broad and levelhanded disection of the practice of dropping balls into holes, trying to get more balls. This essay alone merits a read of this book.
However, as for some of the other essays, such as those on symbols and signs, I found them a bit less on the mark, or at least not as gripping and interesting, thus, they just lack in comparision to some of the earlier work of Mr. Richie.
I'm glad to mark this off, but it puts me one closer to be through all of DR's work... but I certainly need to reread The Inland Sea, so all is not done, I shall carry on