Review: Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential

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Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls made a nation cool
Revised Edition with Flaps
By Brian Ashcraft with Shoko Ueda
Tuttle Publishing
Paperback: 208 Pages 
Release Date: May 13, 2014

"For years, Japanese schoolgirls have appeared in hugely-popular anime and manga series such as Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Blood: The Last Vampire. These girls are literally showing up everywhere—in movies, magazines, video games, advertising, and music. WIRED Magazine has kept an eye on the trends emerging from these stylish teens, following kick-ass schoolgirl characters in video games like Street Fighter and assassin schoolgirls in movies like Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. By talking to Japanese women, including former and current J-Pop idols, well-known actresses, models, writers, and artists—along with famous Japanese film directors, historians and marketers—authors Brian Ashcraft and Shoko Ueda (who have both contributed to WIRED's "Japanese Schoolgirl Watch" columns) reveal the true story behind Japan's schoolgirl obsessions."

In Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential, Brian Ashcraft and Shoko Ueda explore one of the biggest and most recognizable symbols of Japan, the Japanese school girl. The Japanese school girl represented a lot of things to people in Japan. For many it was a reminder of their own youths, for others it was who they are and who they will be. Japanese school girls represented the future of Japan. These young ladies would become future Doctors, Lawyers, or even Artists. But this book isn't about what these young ladies will become; it’s about how these young girls influenced an entire culture throughout the years and even now. Brian Ashcraft and Shoko Ueda delve deep into the influences of the Japanese school girl. They go in on how the uniform was adopted and eventually made into a Japanese staple. From the cultural to the pop culture aspects of Japan, Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential puts the not only the school girl, but the uniform itself as an iconic status.

In each chapter of the book Ascraft gives readers an in depth look of each aspect of the influences that Japanese school girls have in Japanese society and the eventually the world. With every chapter acting like sections of life, he gives you an in-depth history of every aspect. So not only do you get to know how these school girls influenced the mainstream, but you get an understanding of the culture and some of its Western influences. Fashion was one of the biggest industries to be influenced by Japanese school girls. The magazine EGG in the early 90’s did do your typical fashions like you would find in vogue, but once they started shifting their gears towards the younger generation it was total boom in sales. Not only were school girls their main focus, but they were their cover models, their journalists, and even their fashionistas.

School girls ran the industry because they weren't as much influenced so much by what was out there. Their style came from the fact that they were stuck in a uniform for most of the day, so they came up with more inventive ways to be cool in/out of school. They were the trend setter of the young, so a lot of people took notice. School uniforms became so fashionable that there are stores that sell only uniforms, but of course designed more for fashion and by no means a substitute uniform for school.

When it came to technology school girls changed the game heavily. According to Ascraft, when pagers became the tool of the business man, school girls saw them as another way to communicate with friends in secret because they didn't have the privacy they wanted at home. They developed their own numerical code, and when pagers gave the ability to text actual words, they fully took advantage of that as well. If not for school girls using pagers the way they did, they would have stayed in the business market as opposed to the mass consumer market. And when cell phones came about, if your phone had the ability to text and send emails you were among the top sellers. Like with every teenager, if you give them the ability to communicate without having to be in the same room as the person, they will in sense abuse that ability heavily.

Brain Ashcraft really gives you a great book on culture and influence in Japan’s society that spans decades. In certain chapters at first he goes into the historical significance of that aspect in Japanese society, and then he’ll bring in the influences that these girls and their uniforms had on it. So it’s a like a history book that focuses on thing, but gives you so much more. His detailed information and storytelling really help to understand how iconic the Japanese school girl is.

The illustrations, photos, and his one page comic book-esque interviews with actual school girls at the end of every chapter help pull the insights of this book together. The actual pages mimic notebook pages, pictures made to look like cutouts, with stickers all around. It feels like in a sense that, even though they are young, young women run Japan. It’s almost a testament to what the school uniforms represent, which is that long road ahead to graduation that is filled with big dreams and aspirations. That these young ladies can do just about anything and the whole world caters to their every wants and desires.

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