Mahoshojo Ore: Moukon Iccyokusen

Mahoshojo OreWe all are well aware of my love of the magical girl men, I hope.  So much the better if the magical girl man is a burly chainsmoker. So my hopes were obviously high when I spied Mahoshojo Ore in the BL section of my local bookstore. It was only a matter of time, I thought, before the magical girl man made his way to the relative mainstream of BL. And let’s all be honest here, the idea of magical girl man BL is so obviously awesome that I was amazed that no one had done it before. Basically, I was thrilled at the picture of the burly magical girl on the cover of the second volume of this two-volume series and confused at the regular magical girl on the cover of the first. After all, a real girl has no place in the love between a magical girl man and his chosen manly partner.

The fact that I was expecting more of the man part of the magical girl man and less of the girl part could explain why I felt let down by this series. It’s still fun and clearly incredibly popular since there are displays in every bookstore I go to and they’re making it into an anime. But the whole thing is queerbaiting of the highest order and thus a crashing disappointment in that respect. If nothing else, I wish booksellers were not propping this one up in the BL section. It’s disappointing in other ways, but the expectation that I would be enjoying a rather unusual BL story was an artificial one created by the shelving of the books in the bookstore. Continue reading

Ancillary Justice: Ann Leckie

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Oh the neglect! With the flying over the ocean and the deadlines for paying work (I love writing about books, but it definitely does not pay the bills. Or for anything at all, actually), I have had no time for typing out my noodle-y thoughts on the many books that I have been reading. Because, of course, deadlines and international moves be damned, I will read books. In fact, I noticed today that I have five different bookstore point cards, all of which I have used since I got to Japan a mere three weeks ago. The brain wants what it wants.

But this book Ancillary Justice is not one of those point card books, but rather one I shoved (tenderly and kindly because I love my books and would never hurt any of them) into my carry-on bag for the long flight to Tokyo. It’s been sitting on my shelf for a while and it seemed like the perfect plane reading; story driven with a little extra character meat on its bones. And I wasn’t expecting to write about it because one: it won some pretty serious awards and got some crazy good reviews from other people, so it doesn’t exactly need my rah-rah to help get it off the shelves and into hands. And two: plane books are not always the best books to talk about. I mean, you enjoy them, you get what you get from them, and then you move onto the next thing. Not every book needs a thousand words about why it is pretty great. But this one ended up being so much about so many things so dear to my heart that I feared my brain would simply burst if I didn’t get some of those thoughts out.
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Brain on Display

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Deadlines! You guys, my deadlines are murdering me right now. I am working on a lot of really great things! That I can’t talk about yet! So you’ll just have to trust me when I say they are awesome and I am excited for you to get to read them. I’m also getting ready for my annual pilgrimage to the mecca of manga, which means I have even less time for chattering about all the books my brain is battling. (Don’t worry though, I always make time for my brain to actually battle the books. The books on the shelf of unread books won’t read themselves.) So why not listen to what my brain has to say about translating? I am “starring” in an interview over at Tofugu (and can I just say how much I love that title? It makes the whole thing sound super cute. Especially with the adorable illustration they did of me. Cute explosion!), so go read that. And hopefully, my brain will have new words about new books again next week.

Phantasm Japan: Nick Mamatas, Masumi Washington (eds.)

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The thing I like about doing translations for short story collections is that when I get my comp copy, I actually want to read the book. I mean, I am honestly delighted each time I get a book I translated from the FedEx guy. He’s pretty nice and it is such a thrill to see the words I agonized over all tidied up and on the printed page. And I will never get tired of seeing my name in the back. But I never actually read the books. I have already read the words they contain far, far too many times. They are burned onto the backs of my eyelids.

Because when you translate a book, you don’t just read it and then you’re done. You read it, and you read it, and you read it again, and then maybe you skim it for a numbers check (always double check the numbers!!). And then you read it again. You maybe read the book more often and more deeply than its author did. Because the author knows what she meant. The translator has to discern this from nothing more than the words on the page. Continue reading

Wombs: Yumiko Shirai

Wombs I have a tendency not to read the backs of books or any summary blurbs on anything. They’re often written in a way that is totally off-putting to me (a perfect example of this is the first sentence from the back of my favourite movie Trust: “The film concerns the unusual romance/friendship between two young misfits wandering the same Long Island town.” Triple yawn!) and they usually give too much of the story away for my liking. I get that these blurbs are there to convince people to buy the book/movie, so you have to give the people something, but I much prefer walking into something totally blind. (This is also why I only read reviews once I’ve read/seen the work or for works I have no intention of ever reading/seeing.) So all I knew about Wombs before I started reading it was that it has a seemingly ridiculous title (which is actually a perfect title now that I’ve read it) and that it’s by Yumiko Shirai.

Yumiko Shirai! Remember her? I loved her debut work so, so much that I was pretty much willing to try anything else she wrote, even if it starred accountants doing tax returns for other accountants. Fortunately, she is not forcing us to read about accounting with Wombs. Instead, it is another war-related story, although this one takes place while the war is still ongoing. And I have to say, I’m pretty sure this is the weirdest premise for a story I’ve ever come across. Basically, women are impregnated with aliens so that they can teleport. For real. Continue reading

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