Night Worker: Ebine Yamaji

Night Worker_YamajiI struggled with this book. Not so much with the actual content as with simply buying it. I was really attracted to the art, but the title seriously put me off. Given how women in Japan are stuck with a seventies version of feminism even now, I had visions of it being some terrible portrayal of sex workers, and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to stoke that kind of anger in myself. So I passed it over time and time again at the bookstore, even though it’s published by Beam Comix, who put out a lot of stuff I like, including the “magazine for comic freaks”. Also, that cover is seriously so enticing. How did I keep resisting it?

And then one day, I was in the bookstore, not too long before my return to Canada, and there it was again, like it had been so many visits before. But this time, I told myself that I could throw six hundred yen away on it to satisfy my curiosity. Even if I only proved to myself that the book was a terrible representation of sex workers that should be buried in a deep hole never to be seen again, at least I would stop wondering about it. You can guess where this story is going, right? We’ve been hanging out here for long enough to know that my brain and I would never devote a hundreds of words to eviscerating a book, right?

Yes, I loved it. And I have learned a lesson about judging a book by its title. Judging by cover: Totally okay. Judging by title: Simmer down, sister. Life is all about learning, friends. Continue reading

Doujinshi Round-up: 2016 Edition

AlenzyasAlthough I bought and read all these doujinshi in 2015, I’m still calling it the 2016 edition because, like last year, I am writing about them in 2016 and it feels plain weird to call it the 2015 edition. Plus, there is already a 2015 edition from last year when I wrote about doujinshi I bought in 2014. And so, like the centuries and the years they contain, I will always be one number off in the rounding up of doujinshi. I apologize for the confusion.

What’s done is done, however, so let’s just get to the books.

Despite the fact that I was in Japan for a really long time last year (almost five months!), I spent a large part of that time on Cat Island. And Cat Island does not have doujinshi fairs. Unless the elderly farmers that populate the island were keeping something from me. (And now that I’ve thought of it, I hope they were! I love the idea of secret elderly farmer doujinshi!) And once I got to Tokyo, I was busy as usual with the horde of Canadians that descended upon the city to show their wares at the Tokyo International Comic Festival and Design Festa. Not to mention meetings with people to convince them to keep hiring me to read books and all those books they’ve already hired me for! So I didn’t really get to dig around in the world of doujinshis as much as I would have liked to. (I missed J Garden, for instance.) But the goods I did get are full of awesome, so I’m chalking this one up in the win column.

Continue reading

Manga Henshusha: Shunsuke Kimura

MangahenshushaThe new year has been hitting me over the head with a cast iron pan. Part of that is no doubt jet lag. Four months of languishing on the other side of the ocean will really mess with your body clock, and only now, a week after my return to the frozen shores of Canada, am I finally able to make it through an entire day without being accosted with abrupt and intense bursts of sleepiness. And part of it is just the usual scrambling to meet deadlines, with added moving back into my apartment and trying to remember where I put everything. All of which leaves me with no time for noodling around with books. Which is true sadness since my favourite thing in the world is to noodle around with books.

And this book is one I have been living with for months now. I started reading Manga Henshusha on a trip to Osaka from Cat Island in October since it was the thickest book I had to hand, and I was afraid the other slim volumes on my desk would simply not last me for the two-day journey. (Other bibliophiles, I’m sure, share my fear of finishing a book in the middle of a trip with nothing else to pick up after it.) But it’s also a book I’ve been looking forward to reading since it was released in the spring of last year. Because I am obviously interested in all the bits and pieces of the manga world. Take that clock apart and look inside. Plus, cover illustration by Natsume Ono! Continue reading

White Note Pad: Tomoko Yamashita

White Note Pad_YamashitaThis is Tomoko Yamashita’s year, my friends. Ten years ago, she made her professional debut as a manga artist, and the powers-that-be are taking advantage of this tidy round number to shove her in our faces in any way possible. Reissuing her old BL, collecting all the bits of ephemera from the many pamphlets and free inserts into the various editions of her books, putting out a book of interviews and conversations she’s had with other BL artists (including brain favourite est em!). There was even an art show (Complete with limited edition goods!) (Yes, I bought them.) (Don’t judge me!) at a weird building that is half grade school, half art center. All of which means that it is a very good time to be a fan in Japan.

But it also means that her latest serialisation—the first volume of which was released at the beginning of the month—get a little lost in all the noise. There’s just so much Yamashita to revel in! Fortunately, bookstores know their business, and they have White Note Pad prominently faced in the new books section to remind us Yamashita fans that she actually has a new book out that we can enjoy while we look back on and celebrate her ten years of keeping us lost in her dreamy worlds. Continue reading

Sunny Sunny Ann!: Miki Yamamoto

IMG_4804I know I ask this question about a lot of artists, but seriously, why is Miki Yamamoto not published in English? Why are we not putting her on our year-end lists this December? Even as I ask the question, I know the answer (short version: capitalism sucks), but you know, it’s frustrating. As always, I am sitting here wishing that the English-speaking world was less afraid of looking outside its own limited sphere to embrace more works in translations, and more specifically, more interested in less stereotypical forms of manga. Like the recently discussed Akino Kondoh, Miki Yamamoto is doing something unique and deeply interesting in manga, and I want to stamp my foot and make people pay attention to her.

Sunny Sunny Ann! is looser in many ways than her more recent How Are You?, but similar undercurrents run through both works, not the least of which is the lips that I am training myself to be okay with. But where How’s Lisa is a stranger in a strange land, a white woman marrying a Japanese man, the titular Ann is basically creating her own land and living there on her own terms. She lives in her car, so that she has the freedom to wander. The idea of living in a house, in one fixed location, is completely repugnant to her. She’s also not particularly interested in having a job, preferring instead to be paid for sex by a few men in the community she orbits whenever she needs money. These men are all local business owners she knows well, which creates some interesting tensions that could be a whole book in and of themselves. In particular, the strained triangle between her and the cafe owner and his wife could yield some very interesting stories. And I would most certainly read that book. Continue reading

New York De Kangaechu: Akino Kondoh

IMG_4744After my months of peaceful silence up on the mountain on Cat Island, so many days of just me and the cats and whatever terrifyingly large spider decided to show up and give me seven to twelve heart attacks that day, I decided to jump across the ocean and a time zone to have an actual vacation in Singapore. For those of you who have jobs where you go to a specific place everyday and someone pays you to be there for a certain number of hours, the idea of an actual vacation may seem par for the course.

But for a workaholic freelancer like me, a certain portion of my day always ends up being work stuff, even when I’m travelling. In fact, I travel more often because I know I can work while I am away, so I’m not actually losing any income because I decided to run off to Europe or wherever. Also, freelancing (at least the way I do it) is a constant hustle. The lack of job stability is the price you pay for the freedom to run away to Cat Island for two months. But I decided if I was going to go all the way to Singapore, I should spend that time there in Singapore. And I did! And it was great! I understand why people take vacations now!

And then I came back to Tokyo to jump headfirst into busy worktimes interpreting for the many (most ever!) Canadian artists who came to show with TCAF at Kaigai Manga Festa and Design Festa this year. And also to translating books. A lot of books! In between events with Canadians and meetings with J-artists! So in the first few days I was back, I used up all the relaxation points I earned vacationing in Singapore. Now, less than a month later, I am thinking so fondly of those sweet, sweaty days and dreaming of another vacation. Fortunately, however, I always have books to sweep me away onto momentary mini-vacations. Continue reading

Random Anniversary 3: My Brain

drawings_and_paintings-brains-brains01Has it already been a full journal? The time really does run away like wild horses over the hills. This book is adorned with Hattifatteners, so I was particularly sad to reach the final pages in a Singapore cafe, but such is the way of the journal. At the start of every new book, we know that it must end someday, no matter how cute the characters plastered across the cover. (Cue “Circle of Life” chorus.)

The Hattifatteners have watched over me as I went to see them dancing across the page under the pen of Tove Jansson herself, or skipped off to witness the delights of Mad Max not once, not twice, but thrice. (And I just ran across the DVD at Bic Camera today, so you know what I will be watching again soon.) Those weird little white mushroom marshmallow creatures joined me on cat island where a lot of old people spoke to me in some serious dialect and I tried to follow along as best as I could. Trips to Tokyo, Osaka, cat island, Singapore, Tottori, Shimane, Izumo, Kamakura, Nara. The delights of new vegetarian restaurants in many of those places. Seeing one of my favourite bands both in Toronto and Osaka. Even the theatre on both this side and the Canada side of the ocean. Those Hattifatteners have seen me through some things. Continue reading