Sayonara Mina-san: Tsuchika Nishimura

Sayonara/Tsuchika_NishimuraAnd yet again, I have The Beguiling to thank for something fun to read. Perhaps a little indirectly since I did not pick this one up at the store (although they do have a selection of books in Japanese, this was not one of them), but rather owner Peter emailed me out of the blue one day to ask if I had read this. And I had not. And it looked pretty good. At the very least, I fell in love with the awkward bubble letters of the title on the cover; they just seemed to promise such good, somehow honest things inside. But maybe I am biased about awkward bubble letters since this is basically how I have always done them. I like the extra lines. It’s like seeing the guts of the letters somehow.

Plus what is even happening on the cover? Giant shadow person, enormous teddy bear, trees, trees, trees, random birds flapping by, high school girl ass over tea kettle. So yeah, not long after being asked if I had read it, I was busy ordering it and looking forward to figuring out what it all meant. Continue reading

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!: Nico Tanigawa (Trans. Krista Shipley, Karie Shipley)

No MatterSo that is officially the longest title of any manga I have ever read or any book my brain has battled in these pages. And this is also the only manga I’ve ever read only in English on these pages, and possibly the only manga I’ve read only in English since I was a young monkey who had never been to Japan and actually wasn’t particularly interested in changing that. I only cared about Sailor Moon. The fact that she was Japanese was incidental and not all that interesting to me at the time. (Now, of course, I have many a thought about how connected Sailor Moon is in fact with Japanese culture and society, thoughts my brain and I may share one day!)

But if I hadn’t know that this was a Japanese comic, I would have assumed it was by an American (albeit with an unhealthy and obsessive interest in Japanese pop culture) because the English is so great! Honestly, this thing is so well written and natural sounding. Characters say things that actual native English-speaking humans would say, complete with the most effortless use of slang I’ve seen in ages. As I already mentioned, I haven’t read the Japanese, so I can’t testify to the accuracy, but this translation works as a final English text, and I would definitely recommend it to any baby translators out there looking to improve their game. The editor is not listed in the credits, as seems to be the norm for Yen Press books, but whoever you are, mystery editor, I extend my high fives for this work to you as well. As Editor Appreciation Day showed us so recently, our editors are who make our work great. Basically, everyone involved in the production of the English version of this manga, keep doing what you’re doing! (And you know, disclaimer: although I had nothing to do with this particular series, I do translate stuff for Yen Press, most recently this.) Continue reading

Kanpenkina Shiiku: Yuiji Aniya

Kanpekina Shiiku

Happy 801, ladies and gentlemen of the rotten persuasion! I hope you are spending this illicit holiday doing what you love best, reading smutty comics in which men enjoy the pleasure of other men. In case you were wondering what dirty little thing you should pick up on this day of days, I have some words about a particular dirty little thing for you. And it’s pretty dirty!

I actually came across Yuiji Aniya through her non-BL work when she was serialized in Erotics F and liked her style so much that I decided to go and check out what she does with the man love. And wow! She just jumps right in. The first story in this collection of various BL one-shots, “Toyed”, is all pumping and thrusting from the first page. So basically, if you are looking for the sensitive, relationship-type stuff that est em does so well, don’t bother with this one. And normally, I prefer those relationshippy, character-driven stories, but Aniya has such a great style and is not afraid to poke fun at things that I ended up really liking this volume. Continue reading

Out of Sheer Rage: Geoff Dyer

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My love of D.H. Lawrence has been documented in these pages before. It is a weirdly powerful love similar to my love for filmmaker Hal Hartley, formed in my youth and thus completely impervious to all criticism or attempts at understanding. Just catching a glimpse of the weary spine of one of the copies of Women in Love on my shelf is enough to make me sigh dreamily. (The spine of the many versions of Trust I have had also make me swoon similarly.) 

And it is a love that grows and changes as I get older and see new things in the tattered pages of Lawrence’s many works, or when someone shows me new things to think about in relation to Lawrence. My aunt wrote her Master’s thesis on Lawrence, and sent me scrambling back to re-read everything he wrote in a new light. I have Anaïs Nin’s study of Lawrence waiting for the moment when I can devour it while, of course, re-reading everything Lawrence ever wrote. So it was a surprise to me to discover a book on Lawrence that I hadn’t read by an author whose work I really enjoy, Geoff Dyer. Once I learned of this slim volume, I naturally ordered it from my local independent bookseller (get out and support them, friends!) and eagerly awaited its arrival. And like nearly all books that I can hardly wait to get in my hot little hands, this one got set on the shelf since I was in the middle of reading something else. Oh, shelf of unread books! You defeat me! Continue reading

Terra e (Books 1/2): Keiko Takemiya

 

Terra e

Now that I am finally free of the most pressing of my terrible deadlines, I have been doing so much more of what my brain loves the most: reading! Japanese, English, French, I even ventured over to the German and Swedish books on my shelves just to taste the joy of so many words (although my German and Swedish have rotted to seriously embarrassing levels. Especially embarrassing considering the fact that I am German…). I’ve been digging deep into the shelf of unread books, finding things I don’t even remember buying. Like this Japanese bunko book Eien no Tochu, which the bad cover tells me is a “realistic depiction of the uncertain heart of a woman”. Why is this on my shelf?

I also found things I do remember buying, thankfully. Like the first two books of Terra e. And I didn’t find other things I’m certain I bought. Like the third book of Terra e. Where did it go? Did it get lost in my recent move? Do I just think I bought it when I bought the first two, but I actually didn’t? Why is this happening? Whatever the reason, it is happening: I do not have the last book of Keiko Takemiya’s bizarre venture into scifi. So I don’t know how the story ends. I will buy the last book when I am again in Japan, but until then, the story will exist inside me, unfinished but also not really needing to be finished. It is that kind of story. 

And so my brain tackles books one and two for your reading pleasure! It’s no secret that my brain and I loooooooved Kaze to Ki no Uta, Takemiya’s epic tale of young lovers destroyed by the world around them, so I was eager to dig into another of her classic works (and this one’s been translated into English by those troopers over at Vertical!). But Terra is a whole different beast from Kaze, if only because they were drawn for two completely different audiences. Kaze was straight up shojo, with all the hearts and flowers that entails, while Terra was published in a shonen magazine and so attempts to hide its author’s shojo roots with varying degrees of success.  Continue reading

Aurorarama: Jean-Christophe Valtat

 

Aurorarama

Dang, I am translating so many books! Ironically, this is the reason I have not been reading so many books these days. By the time I am done banging out page after page of comic after novel, my fingers are tingling, my wrists are aching, and all my good intentions to devote myself to this blog and sit down to further hammer out words for these pages have long flown out the window and down to the street below to get a beer at the pub on the corner. In case you were wondering, here are some of the paying projects that have taken precedence over my ramblings about books here.  And one project that I am very excited about that I still can’t say anything about. Oh, NDA! How you thwart my intentions to be open and honest!

But I think I may just have everything under control as long as nothing unexpected happens. Which it won’t, of course. My life will smoothly run along the course I have plotted out for it. Should be fine. So my brain can finally get back to what’s important: snarking about things in books that bug it. Or maybe that will just be today’s book. Normally, we try not to be too snarky because even when something has its problems, they do not outshine the merits of the book. Like back when I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.The just-so-ness of so much of it really bugged me, but the story captivated me and made my plane ride one hundred percent better. But Aurorarama, as intriguing a tale it may tell in a fairly fascinating and well-built world, made me want to pluck my eyeballs from my head, so egregious were its crimes.  Continue reading

Bokura no Hentai 4/5: Fumiko Fumi

 

Bokura no Hentai

The questioning gender/sexuality train picks up where it left off in the earlier volumes, but with a new cover design. I am all aboard the train, but less on board with the new covers. Which might seem petty, but I have stated my “judge a book by its cover” policy on more than one occasion. The kissing designs of the first three books were both enticing in a provocative way, especially with the obis proclaiming that what looked like girls kissing were actually boys dressed like girls, and revealing of the characters and their relationships. 

The slight smile on Paro’s face as he kisses a wide-eyed Marika, the total embarrassed sincerity of both Marika and Yui as Yui goes in for the kiss, the self-awareness of Paro and the slight defiance of Yui as they move to kiss each other, these covers almost perfectly capture who they are in relation to each other. Each kiss is set in a colour that really shows the reader the level and kind of emotion connecting the two kissers. And it’s satisfying to go back to these covers having read the books and see the hints of the story in them. 

But the new covers belong to the blandest of shojo school romance stories. I like the inclusion of the female characters on the backs since they do play larger roles in these volumes, and picking up on the color themes of the first volumes also brings these covers closer to the first three, but overall, they just feel less daring and interesting. I’d even like them more if they were just stark white backgrounds, the way the first three are jet black. But these polka dots seem like such a cop out and the poses way too standard school romance.  Continue reading