July 18, 2007

Keba Keba: Takashi Murakami's Children's Book


Haven't seen much coverage of this, even though it's been around since 2003. That's when Takashi Murakami illustrated a story by the Japanese musician Yujin Kitagawa about a kind, friendless creature named Keba Keba. The result was an exhibition, a CD, a suite of twelve limited-edition prints--and a children's book, Murakami's first attempt at directing his mad kawaii skillz towards an actual kawaii audience.

Keba Keba [which the pair translates at "Gaudy Tawdry"] floats around seeking friends, and as he gives colors to the needy creatures he meets, he gradually deflates and fades to gray before disappearing altogether. He leaves the world a much more colorful place, but he's dead-- and he never does get any friends.

If Zen self-sacrifice on the altar of the world's ungrateful superficiality and the realization that we're all doomed to die alone is the message, I predict Japanese art hipsters will be the next hot nanny trend.

Otherwise, it sounds like The Giving Tree told from the POV of an underappreciated artist. I started out this post thinking, "Awesome! Murakami for kids!" but now I wonder if it isn't another example of what The Horn editor Roger Sutton says:

The Giving Tree never was a book for children; it was a book for adults charmed by thinking themselves sophisticated for finding such "wisdom" in a kiddie book. Idiots.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a Murakami fan; plus we have work by him, so I'm even invested. But I think the kid can keep taking her Murakami straight up, thanks. Meanwhile, after finding out a set of those prints sold for $62,000a few weeks ago at Christie's Hong Kong, I wish I was idiot enough to buy them in 2004 when they were 'just' $9k.

Buy Keba Keba for 1,680 yen (about $US13.75) at Amazon Japan, or let one of the duelling robots--Kid Robot or Giant Robot--do the transpacific lifting for you for about twice that. The GR version looks guaranteed to include Marc Jacobs' thoughtful foreward.

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