This is a review of the softbound edition which differs slightly from the hardbound in the end cover artwork which, in this edition, is comprised of a couple of gate-fold leaves. The format is slightly different but I suspect that all of the artwork is included in either edition.
When I stumbled upon this book I thought I had made a thrilling discovery as a casual glance through this roughly 10 x 8.5 inch book in approx. 143 pps. makes it clear the author knows how to take a picture, and also that the publishers have done their job of reproduction well; surprising for a book printed in China (a closer look at the paper and reproductions confirms the quality is not great, but is above average; atypical for made in china).
As to the featured graffiti: As good as anything anywhere, one suspects, and some sublime.
An issue with the book not entirely the fault of the author is a dearth of text and textual analysis. Doubtless, a language barrier issue looms large here. One does wish the author had developed a more encompassing dialogue or explication of the topic by more and varied questioning of his showcased artists.
While he does ask questions of a number of the featured artists the questions and answers are not fully developed.
The idea of a Japanese identity is and has been a central theme in Japan's intellectual history. A discussion of Takashi Murakami's Super-Flat manifesto, which is a continuation of this long discussion, and speculating on how it may intertwine with Japanese Grafitti art could have been fascinating even if described very simply.
For instance an absolutely brilliant work found on pps. 16-17 IS a byobu or gold leaf screen, the most famous of which help to define the Japanese identity. Its presence screams out to be explained as something more than a graffiti drawing. Other really clever uses of classical motifs play in many of the works found in the book, as well as the more modern Japanese tropes (which Have taken their place within Murakami's Super-Flat perspective).
I suppose the majority of taggers, bombers, graffitists are pretty much just knuckleheads whose scrawls are similar to infantile cries for attention, so one might argue it is pointless to even begin the conversation.
On the other hand, graffiti as art form, political expression, vandalism, and mindless activity have existed for a very long time and latterly graffitti artists have risen to great fame and fortune (haring, banksy, et al.) for doing it. The author scratches the surface of this most pregnant topic by asking the obligatory question of whether the artists' works of graffiti are viewed as vandalism, but does not pursue the matter when met with demurral.
I believe there is a shadow line between eye candy and public defacement where graffiti takes on some meaning as artwork and I don't mean just the visually arresting...at some point Haring's or Banksy's works go from being grafitti to decoration to something approaching the world of fine art, no?
Perhaps it was the author's intent to ignore this topic, in which case it begs the question: What is the point? That, my friend, is exactly what I'm talking about.
Still, this book is definitely worth a look.