BEHIND THE MASK. On Sexual Demons, Sacred Mothers, Transvestites, Gangsters, Drifters And Other Japanese Cultural Heroes. by Ian. Ian Buruma, Behind the Mask: On Sexual Demons, Sacred Mothers, Transvestites, Gangsters, Drifters, and Other Japanese Cultural Heroes. Behind the mask: on sexual demons, sacred mothers, transvestites, gangsters, and other Japanese cultural heroes. Front Cover. Ian Buruma. New American.

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Nov 30, Kit Fox rated it it was amazing. Jul 30, Channing rated it really liked it. An utterly brilliant book by a man with the brain the size of a small planet.

BEHIND THE MASK by Ian Buruma | Kirkus Reviews

The hero’s individuality is therefore a bfhind reassertion of personality free from artificially created social strictures, and their actions are an expression of purity resulting from baser human character. Even one more page per chapter expanding on the social aspect of things outside of fiction could have really provided that extra reinforcement for the ideas being presented that I think this book needs.

If you have the slightest interest in Japanese film, this book’s more or less a must.

As this book was written before directors like Kitano Takeshi and Miike Takashi came on the scene, it would be interesting to see how Buruma would interpret their work as fitting into this continuum.

He then discusses key works across a variety of genres, including No and Kabuki theater, fiction, and later film beuind manga. Jan 07, Jap Hengky rated it really liked it Shelves: One could not fail to Although certainly dated, I found the general ideas to beehind quite illuminating.

We are sometimes presented with contextual information and close-reading of a few works by the one buurma other sources receive just a cursory glance as they relate to an overarching theme. I’d recommend this book, despite its age, to anyone interested in a survey of Japanese fiction and film, and behjnd to anyone curious about Japan in general.


The chapters dealing with notions of melodrama, masculinity, and ultraviolence in cinema and how they appear in certain yakuza films and movies like “Fighting Elegy” were particularly interesting. The wandering loner is a lifestyle which is simultaneously romanticised and pitied.

In the hermit’s cave where I live I’d never heard of Buruma. Fun and illuminating read.

Behind the Mask by Ian Buruma

But the background maso the cultural elements he described go back to the emergence of Shintoism, 11th century literary tradition, 18th century visual arts and theatre traditions, as he aims to give some idea of Japanese nationl identity, of ‘Japanesness’ p xand has looked for continuities and contrasts between past and present.

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Jul 07, Adam rated it did not like it. Instead, the author makes reference to obscure at least for a western audience movies and plays that are largely indecipherable to the outsider. Dec 17, Pearse Anderson rated it liked it Shelves: Bhruma fully understand why Buruma declined to revise this book, because his life too has moved on and Japan is no longer the primary focus of his interest.

I had to power through almost all of this, and though I did learn something every page, every chapter seemed to contradict what the previous chapter had beuind.


In another sense, this is an extremely unique work, however, in that not only does each chapter stand alone as genuinely insightful film or fiction criticism but together the essays constitute a nearly complete, nuanced and sensitive account of what one might call a “pr Ian Buruma’s nonfiction tends to be wonderful, and this book is no exception.

I always say this. Keeping in mind that people in Japan, like all countries, are individuals and do not conform to some unitary national mode of thinking, it is immensely helpful to understand the standard cultural tropes with which people describe and relate to the world they live in.


Overall, the book had some interesting insights into behnd certain aspects of Japanese society are the way they are, but it felt negative and biased in one direction. It probably took about two chapters for me to completely accept the idea that this book looks at Japanese figures through the lens of important fiction in Japan and once I did I was even more intrigued than when I read the description of the book. Buruma identifies three traits threaded throughout Japanese cultural practices and memory: There was a problem adding your email address.

This book is a very interesting insight into the soul of Japanese culture. These dated from years after Buruma’s book, but fit perfectly with his thesis. This has been a fascinating book to read, always lively, sometimes dealing with subject matter I found so horrifying I had to go and read something else behid coming back.

He excels at tying these works together by explaining core concepts which aid in elucidating the emotional reactions of both the characters and the audience. Ginzburg’s peasant radicalism runs deep in Japan, and one only need peel away a thin veneer to discover its presence.

So now I have two copies. More judgmental and less insightful than the author’s other books on Japan, with some glaring, repeated factual errors. That annoying characteristic aside, he does manage a pretty compelling hypothesis about the transmission of certain characteristics prominent in the Japanese psyche from the earliest historical records to the present.