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Pure Invention

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Member Reviews

I received a copy of Pure Invention by Matt Alt from NetGalley for review.

Pure Invention by Matt Alt is the in an in depth look at how Japanese Pop Culture influenced pop culture around the world. I really enjoyed it as it invoked strong nostalgic feelings and it was interesting to learn how they came affect my childhood in Canada. So many times in my life I look back and think about how I loved anime before I even knew what it was (Studio Ghibli movies and Sailor Moon) and how it shaped my appreciation for Japanese culture without me even realizing it. This book explains how that happened and talks about the people who worked hard to make it happen. 
My only complaint is that because this book is so dense reading it got long. It's not that I wasn't interesting in the content, it was just a lot of information to take in. Otherwise I really enjoyed it.
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“Pure Invention” is a sweeping, fascinating analysis of how Japanese pop culture came to set the global standard for technology and cultural consumption. Matt Alt has clearly done a plethora of research, and he expertly crafts a narrative that spans decades upon decades of social, economic, and cultural history. He examines the resilience and seemingly constant relevance of Japanese pop culture and how it continued to influence global culture even during economic downturns. This is an ambitious book and Alt does a great job of articulating his thesis and carrying it through the whole text. 

One thing I wish had showed up in this examination of Japanese culture is some of the more troublesome elements. Alt discusses this very little. Japan is notoriously xenophobic and has also had a long history of racism toward Japanese people who have minority Japanese ethnic backgrounds. I wish there had been a little more balance in Alt’s analysis of Japanese culture so that some of these challenges were more thoroughly addressed and examined. These elements of Japanese culture and economy have repercussions that surely impact pop culture - and some groups are marginalized from participation in that pop culture. 

Beyond that, I thought “Pure Invention” was a captivating work that was well-researched, had a cohesive message, and really conveyed the fascination with and reach of Japanese pop culture. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy!
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As a massive and unabashed fan of pretty much all the things that this book talks about, I have to confess that I can't be completely objective about it. However, anyone should be able to agree that Alt really does his homework in researching the history behind the country and the things he writes about. Its information is incredibly well-researched and detailed and presented in such a way that it reads like you're having a conversation with those that lived through it. Which in most cases, you do through Alt interviewing those that experienced it.
It's pretty incredible to see things laid out from point A to point B in such a way that the inevitability of Japan's pop culture spreading in the way it did is so obvious. I guess hindsight is pretty important here and there might be some skewing of facts to help lead the hypothesis to the desired point, but I really do respect Alt for the massive amounts of research that obviously went into this. He's created a timeline of the way that seemingly purely Japanese inventions have saturated the Western world and (at least in the opinion of this Japanophile) made it that much more interesting.

Massive thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the sneak peek!
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