I grew up reading manga. As such, I have an affinity for Japanese culture and enjoy learning about it. So when I came across The Legend of Momotaro by Ghost Hand Games, I just had to give it a try. Adapted from a popular Japanese folklore, this immersive app brings Momotaro's heroic quest to life for the whole family to enjoy.
A Peachy Tale
Long ago in ancient Japan, there lived an old married couple whose only wish is to have a child of their own. One day, when the old woman was washing clothes down by the river, a giant peach floated to her. Delighted by her discovery, she took the peach home and prepared to eat it with her husband. To their surprise, the giant fruit split open and revealed a baby boy.
Thankful for their gift, the couple took the boy in and raised it as their own. They named him Momotaro, meaning Child of Peach. Days passed and the boy grew into a fine young man, blessed with a great deal of strength and courage. He was loved by everyone, including animals.
One day, news came from the East that a band of thieving ogres were attempting to invade Japan. Angered by this, Momotaro set on a quest to defeat them. Along the way, he was joined by a dog, a monkey and a pheasant. Together, the four sailed to Ogre Island and invaded the ogres' castle.
Although they were outnumbered, Momotaro and his friends fought bravely and won. They loaded the stolen goods onto a cart and returned them to their rightful owners. Momotaro and his friends were celebrated as heroes, and they all lived happily ever after.
Parents Need to Know
One of Japan's most popular folktales, the story of Momotaro and his quest to vanquish a band of demons is one that has been told many times. The Legend of Momotaro is a unique and elegant adaptation that will entertain the whole family.
As an interactive storybook, each scene in the app is composed of multiple layers. As you scroll/read through the carefully placed text, the scene changes subtly to illustrate a specific point in the story. An example of this is the scene where Momotaro grows up; at the beginning of the narration, he is seen as a toddler but as you reach the end, he is already an adolescent boy.
Furthermore, each scene contains many interactive details. If a flower blooms on an area that you tap, touch it to reveal an origami pop-up containing informative details about that object. Some pop-ups provides commentaries on items significant to Japanese culture like Hanakotoba (the Language of Flowers), while others display Japanese words for specific objects in Roman lettering (Romaji), Hiragana and traceable Kanji. You can also tap on these words to hear them aloud in authentic Japanese.
Presented as a traditional picture scroll, the story is put together on a continuous roll with each scene separated by fade-outs. To move from one scene to the next, you scroll to the right or left. You can also zoom in to take a closer look at the detailed artwork or zoom out to get a panoramic view of the app.
Like most digital storybooks, The Legend of Momotaro offers two reading options, Read to Me or Read by Myself. To toggle the narration, simply tap on the text. Voiced by English-speaking Japanese pianist Yuko Kishimoto, the narration is lightly accented but clear enough to understand. It is also rather slow and flat, which I personally found appropriate for the style of the app, but may not be so appealing to younger juniors.
Things I Like
Exquisite. That is the one word that came to mind when trying this app for the first time. The stunning artwork is definitely an eye-catcher, and I enjoy zooming in to look at all the delicate details. The use of Japanese-style patterns also create a pleasing artistic effects that I like.
Even more impressive than the colorful illustrations are the subtle animations and sounds, which bring the story to life. From the subtle movements of trees as hit by the breeze and the bubbling of a cooking pot to the gentle chirping of crickets and the trickling of water - everything work together to create an immersive and believable environment.
Finally, with over 120 interactive elements throughout the app, I really enjoy tapping on the screen to discover origami pop-ups. It's a fun way to learn more about Japanese culture. My favorites are the ones containing the recipe for making umeboshi (pickled plums) and Momotaro's customizable armor piece, which you can save and share. I also like that if you shake your iPad, you can see all the hotspots in a scene highlighted at once - a nice touch and a great time saver if you just can't seem to find that last spot!
The Legend of Momotaro is a beautifully crafted, highly detailed storybook app that I would highly recommend. I spent hours in this app and loved every bit of it. Not only is it an excellent reading material, it's also a great app to introduce your family to Japanese culture and language.