‘Ibraki And Friends’ Is A Young Reader’s Guide To Japanese Folklore’ From Trivium’s Matthew Kiichi Heafy, The Half Sumo Collective And Z2 Comics

by Richard Bruton

Trivium vocalist and guitarist Matthew Kiichi Heafy, along with artist collective Half Sumo, brings you a rhyming board book of the monsters, heroes, and enchanted creatures of Japanese myth in Ibaraki and Friends, a Young Reader’s Guide to Japanese Folklore.

Ibaraki and Friends Cover Art by Half Sumo

Ibaraki and Friends will be a rhyming picture book featuring the rich world of Japanese folktales and mythologies that inspired Heafy as a child. It’s promised to be a way for “families to connect to Japanese culture and be enthralled by the monsters, heroes, and places that form its legacy.”

Each spread of Ibaraki and Friends presents one of the many legendary tricksters, heroes, and mystical beings that occupied the classical Japanese stories Heafy’s mother taught him growing up. These include the monkey/man/bird hybrid, Tengu; the eight-headed beast, Yamata no Orochi; and a nine-tailed celestial fox, all channeled with neon energy through Half Sumo’s vivid illustrations.

Ibaraki and Friends Interior Art by Half Sumo

Alongside the book, Heafy will also release The Ibaraki and Friends Lullaby CD, a musical accompaniment of acoustic songs written and performed by Heafy.

Matthew Kiichi Heafy is a Japanese American musician, best known as the guitarist and lead vocalist for the Grammy-nominated heavy metal band Trivium which he co-founded in 1999 when he was in 8th grade. Heafy’s solo project, Ibaraki, explores Japanese culture and mythology through black metal, and partially inspired his Ibaraki and Friends book with Z2 Comics.

Ibaraki and Friends, a Young Reader’s Guide to Japanese Folklore is available to pre-order from Z2 Comics right now and will be released in June 2022. Deluxe editions from Z2 will include a temporary tattoo set, a Bento Box set, and an accompanying lullaby CD.

“Ibaraki & Friends is a book full of the stories that I grew up with. That Japanese folklore lies at the very root of so many of the amazing stories we have today, whether they’re in video games, anime, movies, or songs.

For years, I’ve researched as many Japanese stories as possible—gotten several of them tattooed on my body—and explored their themes in the songs of Trivium, Ibaraki, and now in Ibaraki & Friends. It’s our hope that in exploring these wonderful stories, that the readers will want to learn more about Japanese culture—then more cultures of the surrounding Asian countries, then spread that willingness to learn about stories from all over the world, inspiring curiosity in the many cultures we share around the planet.” – Matthew Kiichi Heafy

Ibaraki and Friends Interior Art by Half Sumo
Matthew Kiichi Heafy. Photo Credit: Kyle A. Loftus

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