Juhan Shuttai!: Naoko Matsuda

Juhan Shuttai

Like all good manga industry people, I keep up with ye olde awards and happenings. And most of the happenings are about stuff I don’t care about. Which actually makes it easy to keep up. I don’t need to bother reading manga for which I am clearly not the target audience. Like, I know Space Brothers has gotten a ton of accolades and sells really well, but I just don’t care. I’m sure it’s great and if anyone asked me to translate it, I totally would and I’d probably enjoy it (I just enjoy translating fiction), but I’m not going to go out of my way and shell out a bunch of yens for twenty-three volumes of the thing. Which is pretty much how I feel about the majority of manga that make the happenings. 

That said, there are always one or two nominees for the Manga Taisho award that look interesting to me as a reader or as a professional translator. And this year, there was one nominee that wrapped up my professional and personal manga interests in a single story: Juhan Shuttai! by Naoko Matsuda. Because it is a manga about making manga! Meta manga! Continue reading

Random Anniversary 2: My Brain



Another arbitrary amount of time, gone by in the blink of an eye! I continue to get older at a surprising pace! And I document this in a thing called a journal! Thoughts, feelings, occurrences, situations, circumstances–all of it ends up on a page at some point! Those pages build up and build up until I have a ridiculous number of pages inscribed with years and years of circumstances and occurrences stuffed in the back of a closet somewhere because what am I supposed to do with them!

Yes, it’s time to celebrate again the completion of another book, another tiny tome of my scribbly script, this one from July 2012 right up until April 2014. Some of the incidents documented therein include seeing Upstream Color for the first, second, third, and fourth times (I know I don’t usually write about movies here, but seriously, you should watch that movie. It’s really good), two lengthy trips to Japan (mostly Tokyo interspersed with jaunts around the Kanto region and brief trips to Kansai, Hokkaido, and Okinawa), walking the red carpet at TIFF (as an interpreter for what was probably the easiest money I’ve ever made interpreting), getting my heart broken by three baby cats, and of course, reading books. Reading lots and lots of books. 

And as with every little notebook my brain fills with scribbles, I kept a list of every one of those books (except for the ones I forgot to write down because I am a numbskull). So in celebration of this randomly occurring special day, I present that list to you here (in addition to changing the look of the whole place!). Like the last random anniversary, links to any that my brain tackled publicly here are included and the key for the secret codes following each title is right here. Continue reading

Sakuran: Moyoco Anno


Ugh, you guys. 2014 has been kicking me in the face, hence the lack of posting here. If I was thirty-three, I would totally be buying into the whole concept of Japanese yakudoshi, but fortunately for my skeptical self, my worst years have been wholly unconnected with my supposed yakudoshi. Even more fortunately, no matter how much the year tries to kick my teeth in, my brain and I still have books! So many books! So many books that it actually becomes a little intimidating and depressing, since clearly, I will never get to read them. Uh-oh, mortality.

But no matter how mortal I am (very) or how bad the year is (worse), I still have the wonderment of comics fun that is TCAF. Have I told you about TCAF? Have I perhaps mentioned it once or twice? No? Then you don’t know that I am the OFFICIAL INTERPRETER. (I really need to get cards with that stamped officiously below my name.) And this year I will be officially interpreting for none other than brain favourite est em. Exciting! But she is not the only Japanese guest! Moyoco Anno will also be in attendance. Even more exciting! 

And as is my way, I have been studying up, getting ready for all the Japanese adventures I’m sure to have. As I’ve demonstrated here, I am pretty up to date with est em’s entire catalogue (although book four of Golondrina is sitting on my shelf waiting for me), but my history with Moyoco Anno is a little patchier. So I decided to go back to the book I had read years ago, back when my Japanese was still a little baby Japanese, a book I have always regretted not hauling across the ocean with me when I returned to Canada after too many years in Japan: Sakuran. Continue reading

The Age of Miracles: Karen Thompson Walker

AgeOfMiraclesTo be honest, I wasn’t going to write about The Age of Miracles at first. I mean, I enjoyed reading it, but I didn’t feel particularly blown away by it, and it’s already gotten a ton of press. It was on the New York Times bestseller list. It does not need my brain to give it any extra attention. And books with the first ten pages of the paperback full of delirious blurbs tend to just annoy me. All that exuberance makes me want to put the book right back on the shelf. 

It also makes me wonder if it sells enough books to make it worth the cost of throwing in the extra pages. Has anyone studied this? Has anyone been brought off the book-buying fence by “[t]he next big female novelist”? (Taken straight from the praise pages of this particular book, the only thing that blurb makes me want to do is stab the person who wrote it. Hats off to you, Rolling Stone, for making sure we know that women will always be “female novelists” and men will be regular novelists. Thanks for that.)

Fortunately, this purchase was the result of a birthday gift card to an online retailer, so these “stunning” and “transcendent” comments could not affect my decision to read this, a decision that was made, like pretty much every book-reading decision I make, somewhere in the depths of my mind after hearing rumours of the book in various online fora. Continue reading

Tenkensai: Yumiko Shirai


You guys! How come no one told me about this book? I feel like I am the last person to the party and everyone’s walking out the door just as I’m walking in. I picked this up on the strength of the cover alone (a frequently used book buying method; don’t let anyone tell you not to judge a book by its cover) although I was a little apprehensive about it. Because I have seen covers that have this kind of more artistic style, but then the manga inside is all sharp lines and standard style. Plus, given the young face looking a bit dirtied up against that knife, I worried that it might end up being some children battling it out in an apocalyptic future. And sure, I could’ve read the jacket to find out if either of these concerns would prove to be true, but I try not to read book jackets. I like to be surprised by stories.

And this story surprised me in many pleasant ways and got me all excited and ready to cry for its publication in English (to be translated by me, obviously). But before I came here to rant and rave, I wanted to learn more about this incredible artist who I have never heard of before, so naturally I turned to Google. And discovered that this book was published in English. Nearly four years ago. And it won a major Japanese manga award. And Shirai is the woman behind Wombs, which was serialized in IKKI and is one of those series I always see in the bookstore and wonder if I should pick up before getting distracted by something shinier. Continue reading

Fubin BL: Miho Kigoshi, Keiko Fukumoto (eds.)

Fubin BL

I’m not going to lie to you: I grabbed Fubin BL on one of my many book shopping trips in Tokyo because of the “The Latest BL from Takako Shimura” splashed across the obi in enormous letters. Shimura is always one of those artists I just enjoy reading, even though I rarely go out of my way to hunt her stuff down. But I love the perspective on sexuality and gender she brings to pretty much all of her work (like in Wandering Son, which I think is her only work in English) and the thought of a new BL piece from her after she has spent all this time really honing her gender-coloured storytelling seemed like too spectacular a gift from the BL gods to pass up. 

On first glance, I also thought the title was Furin BL (Adulterous BL), which made it sound like something along the lines of the Dame BL anthology. So all the way home, I was wondering to myself just what exactly adulterous BL was, only to discover when I pulled it out of the bag that it was actually Fubin BL (Compassionate BL). (The characters actually don’t look that much alike; I just wasn’t paying that much attention.) The idea of compassionate BL deflated my balloon a little, but either way, the collection does still have Takako Shimura and Haruko Kumota, another favourite, so I decided to give it a chance and learn what makes BL compassionate. Continue reading

Shisei: Shizuka Nakano

ShiseiOof, the days do run away, all wild horses over the hills. You may have noticed that my brain has been strangely silent these many days, that the battles with books have suddenly disappeared. Despite my brain’s desire to continue battling the books, a desire that is stronger than ever, it was forced to contend with things even more serious than books, real-world stuff like long-distance hospital visits. And although I like to think my brain and I are good at concentrating on more than one thing at a time, the fact is when it comes to people you love in hospital, your ability to concentrate on anything other than that person is dramatically diminished. But the hospitalizee is in a better place now, letting my brain get back to doing what it does best: reading!

I came across Shizuka Nakano where I come across pretty much all interesting, unknown-to-me artists: Nakano. I feel like there is some kind of destiny or cosmic something or other to discovering an artist named Nakano in a place called Nakano. Or it might just have been inevitable given how common the name Nakano is. In any case, when I saw her stylized lines and frequent omission of outlines so reminiscent of the sixties for me and so very removed from anything I have seen in the Japanese manga world, I knew I would have to pick up one of the books; all that was left to decide was which one.  Continue reading