“Japan On A Dare”

Moresukine is a do-or-dare journal divided by “assignments”, maintained in its eponymous notebook, properly known as the moleskin to anyone actually fluent in English. Really a blog turned into a work of comics, its author Dirk Schwieger, a German living in Tokyo, offered to take on any assignment by his readers, who challenge him to experience everything Japanese from “gender” to “roller coasters.” But if mocking the misappropriation of a European notebook
product in its title was going to be any indication, I expected the book to offend me. The book will be published next month by NBM.

"I expected the book to offend me. [...] But I was proven wrong".

I expected Moresukine to detail all sorts of farcical Japanese behavior typical of bar banter—the modern equivalent of a war story. Chapter titles like “Assignment: Telephone Club” (Telephone Clubs are a sort of euphemism for sex clubs) and “Assignment: Fugu” (Fugu being a deadly fish edible only under expert knivesmanship) make Japan-apologists like me skeptical, as I can’t
imagine reporting on false challenges would provide anything but a mockery of them. I thought, “Here we go. Another ‘look at this backward country’ paean to all its Euro-American counterparts. I bet he’ll still sleep with a hooker after all’s said and done.”

“Assignment: Para Para (wherein Schwieger examines Japanese synchronized hip-hop dancing), makes the funny scenes in Lost in Translation look like a bad episode of Full House."

But I was proven wrong. He did not sleep with any hookers. Or at least as far as I could tell. At times Moresukine is certainly humorous, and even mocking. “Assignment: Para Para” (wherein Schwieger examines Japanese synchronized hip-hop dancing), makes the funny scenes in Lost in Translation look like a bad episode of Full House. But Moresukine is by and large a work of populist anthropology. Neither proscribed to the tourist monuments nor opposed to trying them out, Schwieger represents a new kind of visitor—someone who makes an act of observation to get as close to whatever the real Tokyo might be.

"The actual draftsmanship of this concept-graphic novel might be the best thing about it."

But as if the blog/book platform, reader-generated content (Moresukine’s epilogue is actually a set of comics-responses from other artists who’ve been challenged by Schwieger to interact with a Japanese and draw to tell it), and the moleskin journal format weren’t enough marketing trends to light up all of Madison Avenue, the actual draftsmanship of this concept-graphic novel
might be the best thing about it. “Assignment: Pod Hotel” alone captures in drawing, all the absurdity, profundity and successful literary potential of an outsider’s look into Japan.

Divided into “pods” resembling a typical hotel “floor,” each frame works chronologically and thematically into the architecture of these temporary outposts for those who’ve missed the last train. The drawings are also a fragmentation of Schwieger’s body, contorting through different frames, to find comfort. An apt metaphor for the anthropologist.

                                – Anne Ishii, Publishers Weekly


“Moresukine – a comic book about a German cartoonist's experiences in Tokyo”

In late 2005 Dirk Schwieger, a German cartoonist, went to live in  Japan for a year. He got an office job, and started keeping a journal of  his experiences in Tokyo. On his blog,  he invited readers to email him "assignments," which he dutifully  carried out and reported in comic strip format in a Moleskine notebook.

"Schwieger's art is funny and detailed, and his observations are insightful."

The assignments included eating fugu (blowfish sashimi that has a toxin that could kill you if not prepared properly), going to a  capsule hotel, visiting the Ghibli Museum,  riding a roller coaster on top of a building in a shopping center,  reporting on the "coolest of the cooler things happening in Japan" (some kind of barrel with poles on it and tentacle-backpacks hanging from it  -- I have to admit I had no idea what he was talking about here), eating okonomiyaki (a bowl of raw egg, red ginger, pork, squid, shrimp, and cabbage that you cook yourself), and so on.

Schwieger's art is funny and detailed, and his observations are insightful. Moresukine is an enjoyable, too-brief account of a Westerner trying to discover Japanese culture.

                                – Mark Frauenfelder, BoingBoing


“Holiday Books”

"Schwieger is genuinely open to trying anything: he visits an origami gallery, checks into a “love hotel” and eats potentially poisonous wild fugu."

A very different take on Japan comes from the German cartoonist Dirk Schwieger, whose comics diary MORESUKINE: Uploaded Weekly From Tokyo (NBM/ComicsLit, paper, $15.95) — the name is a Japanese transliteration of the Moleskine notebook in which he drew it — documents his readers’ challenges to experience the oddities of Tokyo culture. Schwieger is genuinely open to trying anything: he visits an origami gallery, checks into a “love hotel” and eats potentially poisonous wild fugu. He’s also attuned to the details of his environment and the way they color his social interactions. The book’s fnal section contains a handful of responses to Schwieger’s suggestion that his readers talk to Japanese people in their own cities and draw cartoons about the experience.

                                – Douglas Wolk, New York Times