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The Japanese sisters known as Aranzi Aronzo are probably most known for their craft books featuring their line of cute mascots characters, but the ladies have also created plenty of comics, an abundance of which are featured in The Complete Aranzi Hour from Vertical Books.
Most of the stories here are two pages and are almost all surreally pointless. Best friends White Rabbit and Brown Bunny play together joyfully, enjoying cherry blossoms and warm sunny days as well as each other’s company. The yokai-like Sprite and Spritekin get into weird situations and the naughty Bad Guy and Liar are always trying to provoke each other. A few comics feature photographs of plush versions of these characters in the real world. There overall effect is innocently subversive. It’s cute and fun without feeling saccharine and there’s no winking irony or cruelty here. It’s just delightful.
Aranzi Aronzo have a good eye for character design — obviously, Hello Kitty and all of Sanrio are influences — but there’s also a definite Kid Robot/vinyl toy sensibility here (and oh, if there were vinyl toys of these, I’d be buying them by the case). The design will appeal to adults and children alike (while there’s a little bit of blood from scraped knees and such, there’s no violence. Some characters, like Spritekin’s pet, Sprite Kong, are definitely weird, but nothing is really scary. I’d be happy to hand this a child).
It can be read straight through (which is what I did) but since the stories don’t connect to each other at all, it makes an excellent book to pick up and just read little bits of every now and then. I think it’s an excellent book to leave out for guests.
Also included are lyrics to songs (no music, but there are suggestions on how to sing these songs) and a few activities, like mazes and spot the differences. I was a little disappointed to see there was no craft projects, but that’s OK. I have other Aranzi Aronzo books for that.
Everyone I know has loved Aranzi Aronzo’s work, from little girls to grown men to everyone in between. You probably won’t read anything else for a long time that is as much fun as The Complete Aranzi Hour. I know I won’t.