The Kingdom of Slender Swords, by Hallie Erminie Rives

I’ve just read a romance novel from 1910 that ought to be an anime.

1. Set in Japan by a writer who’d visited there and married a diplomat.

2. Features every cool and creepy part of Japanese society, including a heroine who gets lost and inadvertently visits Yoshiwara’s brothels!

3. Includes martial arts being used by cool Japanese guy against annoying foreigner.

4. Spends a lot of time both showing the attractiveness of Japanese popular religion, but arguing that Christianity is still the way to go.

5. Descriptions of kimono which are authentic and instantly able to be pictured. (Especially if you know what Edwardian kimono look like, from watching shows set back then.)

6. Plenty of things happen. Plenty of things.

7. Ends with action scene where heroic American diplomats team up with heroic Japanese Navy guys to defeat an evil Western terrorist plot by a mad scientist, complete with a life or death struggle on an airplane. (And this was right after the Wrights.)

Strangely enough, this very positive (but not unrealistically idealistic) portrait of then-modern Japan was drawn by a lady who had previously written another novel defending lynching, of all things. Granted, she was a lot younger then, and her dad was an old Confederate colonel… but sheesh, that’s a change and a half.

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