Canis the Speaker: Zakk

Speaker_ZakkIt’s been a while since I wrote about BL, not since Niboshiko Arai graciously offered up the twin delights of Kagakubu no Megane and Adana o Kure. I’ve been reading it pretty steadily, of course—got to maintain my fujoshi membership, after all—but most BL I read doesn’t really require further discussion. Stuff like Moichido Nandodemo and Dental Darling are fun and interesting in their own ways, but there isn’t too much to pick apart. Yes, I laughed out loud when I came across Dental Darling, but I can’t write a thousand words about the ridiculousness of a dentist BL. (Although in hindsight, it was probably inevitable, and I’m actually surprised there haven’t been other dentist BL. I mean, the possibilities of that chair alone!) And Moichido was beautiful and heartrending with its lovely tale of a romance ripped apart by a sudden accident and retrograde amnesia. They learn to love each other again, of course, because this is a happy-ending type BL. And that is literally all I have to say about this kind of story.

But then there is the BL like Ever After or Itoshi no Nekokke that I have Thoughts about. And the BL I have Thoughts about will not leave me alone unless I spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating over them here. Canis the Speaker is definitely one of these. For so many reasons. First of all, although it’s a spin-off of Zakk’s earlier Canis: Dear Mr. Rain and Canis: The Hatter, it has basically nothing to do with that series, and actually goes to a much darker place than those earlier books, so the question of why slap the Canis on it at all continues to perplex me. I feel like it’s not doing the “brand” (as it were) any kind of favours. There’s not usually a big overlap between readers who like this kind of story that requires all kinds of trigger warnings and those who want a story where sexy times are more of the clothes-on, romantic-nuzzling type thing you see in the earlier Canis. Continue reading

Testosterone Rex: Cordelia Fine

testoWith TCAF being this very weekend (come check it out! I will be at the Queer Mixer along with new footage from the Queer Japan film that we will show you! </shameless self promotion>), you’d think my brain would be one hundred percent comics all the time these days. And it mostly is! The other day, I devoured So Pretty/Very Rotten by Jane Mai and An Nguyen, a satisfyingly thick volume of comics and essays on Lolita fashion that I very much enjoyed. But An is a friend of mine, so I would feel weird about going on here about how great her book is. (But it is, though! You should read it. Also, if you’re in town for the big comics party, there’s a related art show at the Japan Foundation, and Jane and An will be talking about the book on Sunday moderated by yours truly. You should come! </shameless self + friend promotion>) I also read Canis the Speaker, and I have many thoughts, but my brain is still processing them. We work slowly.

But when I saw a new Cordelia Fine book on the shelf on my local bookseller, I couldn’t not pick it up. I loved her snarky takedown of gender constructions in Delusions of Gender, and Testosterone Rex with its subtitle of Myths of Sex, Science, and Society promised to deliver more of the same. And it does! This time, rather than straight up gender constructs, Fine tackles the myths surrounding testosterone and the idea that this hormone runs rampant in the male half of the species, creating this uncrossable divide between men and women. Unsurprisingly—and spoiler alert—she finds that all of this is pretty much garbage in a bunch of different ways. Continue reading

Himotoku Hana: Renaissance Yoshida

himotoku_Renaissance YoshidaI first encountered Renaissance Yoshida in the late, great Erotics f. While I admired the way she stepped out of the typical manga mould with her shaky lines and awkward sex scenes, I never quite managed to get into that serialization. Her line work was almost too shaky, to the point of being uncontrolled, verging on scribbles at times, and she never quite sucked me in. In retrospect, I wonder if this wasn’t because I was reading a chapter every other month in the magazine, which didn’t really allow me to sink into the story. And now that I’ve read Himotoku Hana, I’m pretty sure Yoshida is the kind of artist you have to submerge yourself in, drown along with her.

Unsurprisingly, drowning with her hurts. The subtitle of Himotoku hidden under the jacket is “Songs of Self-Abuse”, and yes, that’s basically what the entire book is. So consider yourself warned. What happens in these pages is painful to watch and often R-rated, although not in a rape-y way, so rest assured on that front. But you might not want to click through if watching someone destroy themselves through sex is a little too real-world painful. Continue reading

Kamome no Koto wa Yoku Shiranai: Ikumi Nakada

Kamome_NakadaWay back when I first encountered Nakada’s work in the Popocomi anthology doujin series, I wished that she would graduate to working in mainstream manga so that I could read more of her lovely stories. And then she did! So I’m assuming now that Japanese manga publishers have been carefully but belatedly scouring this blog and my wish is now their command. I must be careful to only use this power for the publication of good manga and never bad.

Surprisingly, it was Kadokawa that took a chance on Nakada to publish her stories first online in Young Ace UP and then in the print version of the magazine. I tend to associate Kadokawa with more “manga-y” manga, more fan service and mainstream art styles than what Nakada serves up. And indeed the ads at the back of Kamome could not be more unrelated to what Nakada is doing with her art and stories. So I worry a little about what kind of a readership she’ll find with Kadokawa and if a poor response there will keep more of her work from getting published, thus depriving me of her lovely comics. But I reassure myself with the fact that she got a good enough response for them to actually put out this tanko, so fingers crossed that we’ll see more. Continue reading

Zassou-tachi yo Taishi wo Idake: Aoi Ikebe

Zassou_IkebeYes, as promised, the second in my hat trick of new books by favourite artists! I have thoughts on Fumi Fumiko’s latest that will have to wait for another day. But have no fear! Like John Wick, they will come whether you like it or not. But in these tumultuous times when it seems like the world is getting more horrible every time you check Twitter, what I need is a reminder that everything is not awful. And while Fumi’s Joso Danshi to Menhera Ojisan is good and interesting and worth reading and all that, it’s also full of people being awful, not necessarily for awful reasons, but just because they are human, and sometimes, human beings don’t get things right even when their intentions are in a good place. Zassou-tachi is untouched by awful things. It is the book you need to soothe your soul when the onslaught of awful becomes too much for you.

The title is a twist on the Japanese saying “Boys, be ambitious (shounen yo taishi wo idake), which it turns out was originally said in English by this old American guy and then translated into Japanese, so that strict teachers and fretful mothers could exhort generations of Japanese schoolboys to get their shit together. I’ve heard and seen this expression any number of times in my many years in Japan, but I always assumed it was some holdover from the militaristic World War II culture that somehow managed to make it into the modern era. I pictured drill sergeants shouting it as they sent young men and boys off on kamikaze missions or something. It sounds ominously euphemistic for “go die for the emperor”, and I never understood why it was still in use these days. Until reading this book! I started googling the saying for a little insight into why Ikebe would use it as a springboard for her own title, and I stumbled upon the weird world of a white man founding a university in Hokkaido. Continue reading

Doujinshi Round-up: 2017 Edition

Doujin 2Is it that time of year already? Time flies when you are poring over stacks of doujinshi. And where did all these stacks come from?? This is supposed to be the 2017 edition of this annual tradition, in which, as we all now know, I discuss various doujins I picked up in 2016 because I like to make things difficult. And I did indeed pick up some of these last year at Comitia or J. Garden or Mandarake or just directly from the author in weird happenstance. But I came across doujin from 2003 in this pile! So, uh, clearly, the round-up devolves yet again into basically just some stuff I read lately that may or may not be recent or even attainable anymore by the casual doujinshi reader. Sorry. I feel like I’m supposed to be getting better at this book-reading thing after writing here for the last six years now, but clearly that is never going to happen. So let’s all dial our hopes to anything but up and just look at some books already! Continue reading

Sennetsu: Ayako Noda

sennetsu_Noda

So I guess Ayako Noda is the new star of my heart? I’m not sure exactly at what point old loves like Haruko Kumota and Keiko Takemiya stepped aside to let her shine through, but judging from how eagerly I was counting down to the release of the first volume of Sennetsu, it is clear that Noda has inspired an almost frightening cultish devotion in me. All of which is to say you should never look to me for an unbiased look at her work. I love her. And that love is in a way similar to the love I bear for Itoshi no Nekokke in its white hot intensity. But whereas my love for Itoshi is gentle and rock steady, my love for Noda’s work is overly excited and a bit roller-coast-y. I see the cracks in her storytelling, the sometimes awkward and impossible human figures, and yet my heart pounds with every page.

This passion, it’s a thing I’ve been thinking about for the last couple years, this idea that when you’re an old, your love of art changes in unexpected (to you) ways. The fiery, uncritical passion of my loves when I was a teenager has shifted into something more measured, something more self-aware. I feel like I’m able to look deeper into works and examine them on more levels than I was way back when I was wrinkle-free, but I also feel the loss of that blazing fire, the ability to simply be consumed by a work and burned up by it. I will never be able to see Weetzie Bat or Geek Love or any other book I read and loved in my teens and twenties as anything other than magical and perfect. Even if in my head, I can step back and examine them with a more critical eye, my heart is filled with that pure love. Continue reading