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

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

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

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

Itaitashii Love: Kiriko Nananan

Itaitashii Love

I learned a few things while I was in Japan this year: That it is really cheap to rent a car in Okinawa, but the rental car GPS will lie to you. That a certain cafe in Nishi Shinjuku is the best place in all the land to get serious work done. That when people warn you that Kansai is really cold in the winter, they aren’t kidding and you should bring some gloves and a hat.  And that I hadn’t read Kiriko Nananan, although I was sure I had. So sure in fact that when she came up in conversation with my Kansai-based friends (who endured the chill so much better than Canadian me), I chatted away like I knew anything about her. Because I was sure I did. Her stark blacks and whites, deceptively simple lines, and josei stories about young lovers seemed so familiar to me.

But back in my favourite Tokyo bookstore, I realized that I had only ever been exposed to Nananan in the context of other artists, other discussions. I had never actually sat myself down and read one of her books. Maybe because I always thought that I had. Or maybe because I had somehow convinced myself that she wasn’t one of those artists I had to read; the bits and bits I had seen were enough. But obviously I was deluding myself, because this book was fascinating from start to finish. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of reading an artist with such a personal, polished style bringing such insight to everyday-type moments.  Continue reading

ACCA 13 Ku Kansatsuka: Natsume Ono


I was in a bookstore the other day when this guy next to me picked up the sample copy of Golondrina and started flipping through it. I had to really bite my tongue to keep myself from telling him to just buy it because it is great and he would totally love it. I am not normally such a bookstore busybody, but I really want this series to continue (and to be published in English), so I feel a rather strange compulsion to support it through whatever means possible, even if that means accosting strangers in a bookstore in Japan.

To envision how weird this might be for the person I would be accosting, keep in mind that I am a tall-by-Japanese-standards, white woman speaking Japanese. Casual conversation with me generally raises eyebrows and inspires profuse apologizing from the person speaking with me, like they are deeply inconveniencing me by forcing me to speak Japanese. So it is really less weird and awkward for everyone if I don’t accost strangers in bookstores to recommend weird bullfighting manga.

Fortunately, next to the piles of Golondrina were piles of Natsume Ono works, including her latest, which I didn’t even know she was working on. I thought she was currently only serializing her samurai era manga in IKKI, but I was wrong. Continue reading

Bokura no Hentai 2/3: Fumiko Fumi

Bokura no Hentai

So right about now, I am in full blown panic mode, getting three months of stuff together to move back across the ocean to the frozen tundras of Canada and wondering how exactly three months went by so quickly. I could swear that I just got here. I can’t quite get the hang of this time thing. I mean, I read Books Two and Three of Bokura no Hentai not long after I arrived in Japan, and I am just getting around to writing about them now. Even after the gentle prodding of a kind reader to maybe post something about my impressions of the later volumes of the series. I feel like I just read these books, but clearly my sense of time is broken. (Also, my memory and my ability to sleep. I am clearly half a person. Applications for assistants to help me get my shit straight are welcome.)

But the soft, rounded lines of Kuchibiru to Garnet reminded me that I still hadn’t gotten back to Bokura no Hentai. If it wasn’t for this documentation of the battles my brain wages with books, I might never remember anything I read. So a solid high five to me and my brain for actually typing all this stuff out! I at least am glad for this record of my noodle-y ramblings.  Continue reading

Kuchibiru to Garnet: Zinia Uno

KuchibiruIt’s a safe bet to say that if something’s been published by Ohta, I’ll at least pick it up and take a look. After all, they publish the only manga magazine I read and I’ve written about at least half a dozen of their titles here. And when I was in Sapporo (surprise Sapporo!) a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover an entire Ohta section in the manga department of this enormous bookstore I stumbled across. A delight I do not feel when I encounter any other publisher’s section (except maybe Beam. They do good work too). Being in Sapporo, I felt like I should get something Sapporo-ish or at least Hokkaido-related to read on the plane back to Tokyo, but that Ohta section proved too much for my brain to resist and I grabbed Kuchibiru to Garnet, which had only just been released that week.

Like many other Ohta titles I’ve talked about, I was half following this in Erotics f, and the chapters I read were intriguing enough to get me to pick up the book sitting there in the Ohta section. I also liked Uno’s contribution to the Dame BL anthology, so I was willing to drop my hard-earned manga yen on her new book, especially since it is a one-shot so no big commitment to any new series. (I am already reading too many series and I need one of them to end now, so I can divert my reading time to the many other books waiting patiently to be read.) Although Kuchibiru could easily have been stretched out into a few more volumes, I did appreciate the compactness of the story and the lack of fluffy filler that occasionally graces the pages of serialized manga. Continue reading

Helter Skelter: Kyoko Okazaki

helter skelter

Here is a thing I never do: watch movie adaptations of books I love. Or even books I’ve read. And the converse is also true: I never read the book a movie I’ve seen is based off of. This is such a fixed and longstanding rule for me that when I declared my intention to boycott the Ender’s Game movie because of the author’s outspoken and virulent homophobic bigotry, a friend noted dryly that I wouldn’t have gone to see it anyway because I had already read the book. And he was right, although I tried to pretend that he wasn’t to make my declared boycott more effective somehow. So I surprised even myself by reading Helter Skelter.

The book had been on my reading list for some time, but was one of those things I always forgot to get when I was in Japan. I don’t read a lot of ladies’ or shojo stuff, but even I know that Kyoko Okazaki is a seminal force in the world of manga for woman, shaking things up with her open and provocative attitude toward sex, drugs, and more sex; she likes ye olde controversy. Current manga juggernaut Moyoco Anno also worked as her assistant. And Helter Skelter is supposed to be her masterwork, not to mention basically the last thing she was working on before she was hit by a drunk driver and forced into an early retirement at the young age of thirty-three. So if you happen to be a person who makes her living from manga, Helter Skelter is one of those books you should read.  Continue reading

Doujinshi Round-up: Random Edition


I have been buying a lot of doujinshi these last few weeks. I don’t usually buy so much doujinshi, mostly because I always forget about the many doujin events that happen here in the big city and I can never find anything that I want when I go to the bookstores. But this year, I have been to not one, but two doujin events! And the bookstores have been offering up unexpected goodies. It’s a doujin miracle!

Some of the unexpected goodies are by artists I know and love, and some are by random artists that I came across at Comitia (which hosted the Kaigai Manga Festa where I was the OFFICIAL INTERPRETER for TCAF) or J-Garden (which is incredibly weird, limited to JUNE parody works or original BL stories. On a sad side note, Takako Shimura was apparently there, but we missed her.). So I figured why not divide them up along those lines? Here then, is the first official doujinshi round-up: the random stuff. And it is very random.

The most random and the winner of all the gold stars in the world is Mahoshojo Musashi (Magical Girl Musashi) by 387. Musashi is a 35-year-old, chain-smoking high-school janitor and magical girl. Yes, it is exactly as wonderful as it sounds. Continue reading