Issun Bôshi: The One Inch Boy

Icinori | Little Gestalten | 36 pages

Issun Bôshi: The One Inch Boy may be one of the most beautifully stunning picture books I have picked up in some time. I spotted it recently at the Asian Museum in San Francisco and knew it was a special book by the cover alone. The story is a lovely classic Japanese fairy tale about a very little boy, (one-inch tall) and his adventures after leaving home with but a needle for a sword, a soup bowl for a boat and a chopstick for a rudder. Tired of being adored for his petite frame, Issun sets out to gain a larger stature. Eventually, he outsmarts his enemy and grows in size and takes up with the Princess.

As beautiful as the story is, I cannot get over the illustrations of French illustrators Mayumi Otero & Raphael Urwiller (Icinori). From what I can tell, this design firm produces their own publications and the original French version of this book was produced by them. The illustrations are printed in four vibrant PMS colors with overlaying translucency producing even more colors. My guess is that they are printed either intaglio or silkscreen. The incredible and intricate printing aside—the illustrations are both magical and magnificent. Each spread is designed and masterfully exploits the (off) white of the paper and surprises us with outrageous scale and graphic portrayals. Each illustration combines deft distillation of forms but then juxtaposes them with incredibly ornate detail—especially in the foliage. Spread after spread, we are treated to fantasy worlds of red and blue trees and myriad hidden wildlife and flora. Each page is a story unto itself. The drawing skill is simply jaw-dropping.

Littleboy—huge book!

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