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BOUND TO PLEASE / A meat-eating monster with a tender inner life

The Japan News

By Mai Niimi / Japan News Staff Writer You Look Yummy!

By Tatsuya Miyanishi

Translated by Mariko Shii Gharbi

Museyon, 40p

What kind of story would you expect from a picture book about dinosaurs?

A simple, maybe slightly cheesy, story to satisfy children?

It’s natural to think so. But that wouldn’t explain why one particular dinosaur character has appeared in 13 titles that have sold 2 million copies in their original Japanese editions. In 2010, there was even a film based on three books from the series.

“You Look Yummy!” is the first book in Tatsuya Miyanishi’s so-called Tyrannosaurus series, depicting the world — and the hearts — of dinosaurs.

Hearts of dinosaurs? Yes, in the world of this book, dinosaurs have hearts, whether warm or cold ones, just as we humans do.

As the name of this series reveals, the main character of the book, first published in Japanese in 2003, is Tyrannosaurus — the scary creature usually depicted as a dreadful, cold-blooded, “Jurassic Park” meat-eater. It’s easy to imagine the title, “You Look Yummy!” as words that come rumbling out of the Tyrannosaurus’ mouth, filled with sharp teeth.

When this fierce creature meets a little dinosaur that has just hatched from an egg, all alone in an eat-or-be-eaten world, the story begins. Luckily, it is not the end. The baby Ankylosaurus, an armored plant eater, greatly confuses the hungry meat-eater and even makes this fierce dino experience heartache.

The details of how the story goes on should not be described here, but some words from the author himself may entice you to pick up this “picture book about dinosaurs.”

Miyanishi once told The Yomiuri Shimbun in an interview that the theme of the Tyrannosaurus series is love.

“We have to more often say such beautiful words as ‘I love you.’ There aren’t so many important things for us,” he said. The love depicted in his books appears to be surprising, even breathtaking, for most of us. But the graphic-designer-turned-author went on: “The love I write about is something very natural. [If a society doesn’t consider it natural,] there must be something wrong with that society.”

We are surrounded by so much sad news: terrorist attacks, refugee issues and other tragic stories. There must be something wrong with the world we’re living in. But we should not let hearing sad news almost every day blunt our sensibility. To help our souls, it is nice to experience the world of love, and to observe a predator getting confused when he finds something warm inside him that he didn’t even know he had.

For anyone who wants to further explore this world of love, the series’ second title in English, “You Are My Best Friend,” was published this May. The book features the special tie between two friends — Tyrannosaurus and Elasmosaurus, an aquatic creature with an extremely long neck.

It’s also fun to read these books with children, guess what kinds of creatures those dinosaurs are from their appearances and long names and then look up the answers.

Where to Read

In bed, before going to sleep, so that your fresh memory of the dinosaurs’ world may lead you there in your dreams. Becoming the one to be told, “I can’t wait to be just like you” (a line from one of the stories), must be a heart-purifying experience.

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