IS (Volumes 9–17): Chiyo Rokuhana

IS Vol. 13 cover

I know I wanted our intersex hero Haru to get out of high school and into the real world, but I was wrong. Maybe I would have been right if Haru’s life after high school was treated with the same balance of relentless optimism and genuine emotion, but that is not what happened. I’m not sure why Rokuhana went off the rails with this series, but I do know where she did: at the beginning of Volume 14.

Spoilers ahoy!

Haru graduates from high school at the end of Volume 13, after enduring all manner of bullying and torment, which he manages to get through only thanks to the great friends he has also managed to make. (Of these, Maki is particularly adorable, referring to herself as “Maki” in that weirdly juvenile way some Japanese high school girls do.) And of course, the love of his life, Ibuki. Ibuki is the one that finally makes Haru feel comfortable with his body and being touched, and the tenderness and affection that they show each other made even my cynical heart a little softer. Continue reading

Papa ga Mo Ichido Koi o Shita: Jun Abe

I try to only write about books that I enjoyed reading. Because I don’t really want to relive the bad books (and I actually don’t like everything I read, although it might seem that way here), and I want to boost the signal on things that I enjoy so that other people can enjoy them and the author might actually be able to make a living at this writing thing. (Not that people like Upton Sinclair or DH Lawrence need a signal boost, but still.) But I try to keep away from unadulterated gushing. Until today! I love Papa ga Mo Ichido Koi o Shita (Papa fell in love again)! Love! Love! Love! Love!

And for good reason. It’s so funny! The art is so great! The story is interesting and ridiculous at the same time! It’s really, really funny! It walks the line between gag manga and slice of life! Did I say funny enough yet? It’s incredibly funny! It’s funny to the point of making me laugh out loud on a crowded commuter train. I’ve learned to do this thing where I hide my face in the book while I giggle away at the hilarity in these pages. Because I really cannot stop myself from grinning and giggling while reading Papa. And I am not generally a laugh-out-loud person. Continue reading

Silverpoint: Toh EnJoe

I am not going to tell you what I think of this story (PDF which you can download free until March 2012). Because I translated it and that would be some kind of conflict of interest. I will just suggest that you read it. And then donate. Because this is a more than worthy cause. (And of course, you can read the story in Japanese by buying it here, with all the proceeds going to charity.)

If you are less than interested in great causes, it is a great story by a great author who has yet to make his presence felt in the English-speaking world. But really, that’s only a matter of time. (Oh, wait. I said I wasn’t going to tell you what I think of the story. Uh, sorry?)

And Toh EnJoe’s musings on rockets and the nature of writing itself are not the only excitement. Up-and-coming young Japanese authors of all stripes have contributed stories (including recently discussed Mieko Kawakami), and all kinds of amazing translators have donated their efforts to bring you these stories in English. So click through, read some great fiction and send what you can spare to the Japanese Red Cross, who are still hard at work in the hardest-stricken areas of northern Japan. Because a thing like the March 11 earthquake, you don’t just recover from that overnight.

UPDATE: Guess who won the Akutagawa Prize! Mr. Toh EnJoe himself! (He is the guy on the left if you click on that link.) “Silverpoint” is not the story he won for, but it’s still a great story and pretty representative of his style. And it’s up on these interwebs for a good cause, so go download it already, and put some money in the Red Cross hat.

The Jungle: Upton Sinclair

This is one of those books that has been on my reading list for about forever. In a way, it is the intersection of two of my pet interests—vegetarianism and labour—and thus, worthy of reading. And yet? I never get around to reading it? Something else always pushes its way to the top of the reading list, and Sinclair and his early twentieth century classic slip down to the bottom.

But! T. gifted me with the recent-ish Penguin re-release with the terrifying cover for my birthday last year, putting me in a do-or-die sort of position. (Unread gift books tend to weigh on me more heavily than unread books I buy myself.) So when I was packing for Japan (where I am now, but I’ll be back in Canada before you know it) and I was looking through my pile of unread books for the lone English book I was permitting myself, The Jungle seemed like the perfect choice.  Continue reading

Duncan the Wonder Dog – Show One: Adam Hines

I have to thank The Beguiling for putting this in my hands. I was wandering the store, looking for something new, something I hadn’t tried, something unexpected and exciting, and P. reached for this enormous tome. After first confirming that I am a vegetarian, and the reasons for my vegetarianism. Which was intriguing in and of itself. What kind of book prefers vegetarian readers? And it was sealed in plastic so all I had to go on was the fact that it wanted vegetarians and the enticing drawing/photograph of a lamb in red on the front, despite the fact that the title so clearly asserted the importance of a dog.

I finished Duncan the Wonder Dog a while ago, and have since been mulling it over, turning the whole thing round in my mind, trying to decide just what to say about it. Not because I didn’t like it, but because there is just so much to say that I honestly don’t know where I should start. Hines is enormously ambitious in Duncan and not afraid to push his story and his art to the limits. The book is huge, almost four hundred, dense pages long, each page twice the size of your average graphic novel, and yet, I felt like he could have filled many more of these enormous pages with collages, cartoon-ish people, haunting landscapes, pure abstractions and all the other million styles he manages to cram here.  Continue reading