Otomen: Aya Kanno

Otomen_cvr_01_FINAL.inddTCAF! It happened! I’m not dead! All three are cause for celebration. As is the fact that I was able to find my way back to my own personality after an intense week of interpreting. Day after day of speaking for someone else tends to bring about an identity crisis in me. I have all these conversations with so many people, but I am not actually a participant in any of them; I’m just a voice. I always find this middle ground between two languages and two people to be such a strange place, especially given that the conversations I assist literally pass right through me. I generally have no recollection of anything anyone said. I’m too busy talking for everyone in the room to spend any energy on remembering what anyone said.

Which is why I’m glad I got to spend some time outside the interpreting context with TCAF guest and Otomen author Aya Kanno. At dinners, parties, a trip to Niagara, all the many extra-festivular events we took part in, I got the chance to have a tiny bit of self and hear her considered ideas on her work and gender and her growth as an artist, on top of the usual casual conversation you might expect to have at such extra-festivular events. One particularly interesting discussion we fell into was in relation to translation and the usage of words. I’m translating her latest work Requiem of the Rose King (which I will not be discussing here, given the obvious conflict of interest, but it is pretty amazeballs and I would totally recommend it if only for the adorable boar), and it was the first time she had had the chance to talk with a translator of her work (and my second time being able to talk with the author of a work I translated) (est em, in case you’re wondering). So we spent our time in the green room before panels talking about words and Shakespeare and the nuances of translation. Continue reading

Watashi no Naka no Otoko no Ko: Nao-Cola Yamazaki


Have you guys noticed how many great books there are? There are so many great books! I have to read so many books for my job that every so often, I forget that books are great because it is a job and it can be a chore. So then I will start grumbling to myself about how I have to read all these stupid books (even though they are generally pretty great books I am reading for this job of mine), and that is when I know it is time to recharge my reader self. By reading books, of course! But not work books. When I start feeling annoyed at the reading part of my job, I go to the shelf of unread books and pull something made of pure joy from it. A book that I do not have to read for my job, but rather one I have to read because it is just too great not to read. Ancillary Sword, the sequel to Ann Leckie’s magnificent Ancillary Justice, was recently one such book (and maybe I will write about that or maybe I will wait for the third book and discuss overall thoughts on the trilogy). Another was Nao-Cola Yamamzaki’s equally delightful Watashi no Naka no Otoko no Ko (The Boy Inside Me).

I actually read this one back when it came out in 2012 because I love Yamazaki’s writing, and any book with a title like that is just pandering to my interest in explorations of gender. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t write about it then; maybe I was in a deadline crunch? At any rate, I am writing about it now. I had a meeting earlier this month (about books, of course), and this title came up. And then suddenly, the whole book came flooding back to me, and I knew that I needed to read it again. I knew that it was one of those great books that reminds me of all the reasons I love reading and the fact that I get paid to read for a living. Continue reading

Bijutsu Techo: Boys’ Love

Bijutsu Techo

I am the most belated of book readers. I cannot and will not deny this. Even when I race out to the bookstore and pick up a book the day it is released, even if I then run home with it and dig in immediately, once I finish it, I’ll set it down on my desk with the best of intentions. I’m going to write about this one tomorrow! I’ll say to myself. And then tomorrow will come, and my hands will be super sore from a long day of typing out the translations that pay my rent, and I’ll look at the book on my desk and think, Okay, I will definitely get to that tomorrow. Yup! But the next day, just as I’m about to dig in and start writing ye olde thoughts, a friend will line me for drinks, and I will give that book a lick and a promise before racing down to my neighbourhood pub. Where I will no doubt talk about this book. And oh! What thoughts I’ll share with that friend! 

And then I’ll get used to seeing the book on my desk, and it will stop being a thing I need to do something about; it will transform into a desk object, like the cup of pens or my computer speakers. Once this transformation occurs, the book can remain there indefinitely until the day comes when I realize I need to write about a book, but do not feel like writing about any of the books that have not yet turned into desk objects. This is when I will rediscover a book and bring it back from the land of objects into the land of books. This is what happened with the December issue of Bijutsu Techo, a special issue of the art magazine devoted to “untangling the expression of ‘relationality’”. Continue reading

Henshin: Ken Niimura

Henshin_Ken Niimura

First things first: I know Ken. We hang out when I am in Japan. He is a solid guy with a penchant for champagne. He also has these great yellow glasses that I am very jealous of and wish I could pull off. So I cannot claim total impartiality when it comes to his work. Just like discovering a particular creator is an asshat can put you off their work, knowing that an artist is actually a pretty great person who deserves all the successes they are given in life can color your reading of a text. That said, Henshin is pretty great and I feel confident I would say that even if I didn’t know Ken was also pretty great.

And lucky you, monolingual readers! This one has been translated into English and published by Image, so you can actually read it instead of fondly daydreaming about what it would be like to read it, as I’m sure you do with so many of the books I talk about here. (Like last week’s offering. Which someone should seriously publish in English. Come on, publishers!) And in English, you get the larger page size, so more space to enjoy Ken’s delightful manga-plus comic art style! As an aside, it’s interesting to see a manga brought over to North America as an American-style comic rather than as a manga in the usual sense of the word on this side of the ocean. And for this book, that feels like the better choice. Fans of “manga” and all the baggage that word carries with it will probably not be so interested in this collection of short stories. It definitely belongs of the graphic novel side of the fence, even as it uses manga devices to tell those stories. Continue reading

Sakikusa no Saku Goro: Fumiko Fumi

Sakikusa_Fumiko FumiThe more I read Fumi’s work, the more I like it. If she keeps this up, she’ll turn into my brain’s most second-tackled author (after est em, who may never lose her crown if she keeps producing good work at the pace she has been). I decided to buy the first volume of Bokura no Hentai based on the tagline alone, fell in love with the series and Fumi’s gentle touch when it comes to gender and teenageriness, but I didn’t push beyond that really. My brain and I were happy with these kids and their complex crossdressing lives. And I really don’t need to add more weight to my already pressed bookshelves. Plus, as I noted before, I felt a weird resistance to exploring more of her work. But then Memento Mori broke down that wall with a weirdly delightful tale of death and love and sexuality, and turned me into a hardcore Fumi fan. She could scribble some stick figures on a napkin at this point and I’d buy it.

So I was happy to run across Sakikusa no Saku Goro once more, when I was receptive to actually buying it. I’d seen this book before, but snobbishly dismissed it based on the copy on the obi: “The dream-like ending of the days of their youth.” Yawn. I don’t care about dreamy youth. I am old and grumpy. I shake my fist at the dreams of the youth that get on my lawn. But I really should have paid more attention the first time I came across this one in the bookstore. After all, it’s published by Ohta Publishing, who never steer me wrong, even when it looks like they are going to. I really need to just trust them already. Continue reading

Tatsumi Yoshihiro Kessakusen: Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Kessakusen:TatsumiI wasn’t planning to write about this book now. I wasn’t even thinking about reading it now. I bought it when I was in Japan when it came out in November, mostly to support Mr. Tatsumi, since I’ve read most of the stories in this “masterpiece collection” in other places. So it was low enough on my list of books that I packed it up in the boxes I sent to myself to take a very leisurely trip to my home in Canada. And when the last of the boxes arrived a couple weeks ago, I noted this volume with a bit of surprise. Oh, right. I bought that masterpiece collection. And then I set it aside to read after all the things that were shiny and new to me.

If you follow a bunch of manga nerds on Twitter, you know the “but” that comes at this point: But Tatsumi-sensei died this week. And suddenly this book jumped to the top of my reading list, as did re-reading everything else he’s written. It was the best way I could think of to pay tribute to him (other than a literal tribute to him over at The Comics Journal). If you’ve read A Drifting Life (and if you haven’t, maybe get on that?), then you know how utterly devoted Tatsumi was to his art. He spent his whole life making manga, loving books, so taking the time to read his manga and love his books seemed like the best way to remember and grieve for him. Continue reading

Itoshi No Nekokke: Haruko Kumota

Itoshi no Nekokke

I’m not going to pull any punches here: I loooooooove this series. I love it like I love cuddling kittens. I love it like I love my sister’s dog Rex, who is basically the best dog in the world and deserves some kind of dog-bone medal or something. Uncomplicatedly. Unreservedly. I love it in the most uncynical way, with every sincere bone in my body (admittedly, there are not many of those, but still). These are the books I turn to when I come home full of despair at the awfulness of the world, at how horrible people are, at all the terrible, terrible things that happen outside the confines of the panels of manga.

Which is pretty much why I figured I’d never write about them. Although I almost always like the things my brain battles on these pages, I try not to be so unabashedly fangirl about it. But some books just utterly and completely win me over. And Nekokke definitely falls into this category. It is the story of Kei-chan and Mii-kun and their perfect, wonderful, charming, adorable love. (Did I mention I love this series?) When somewhat sullen, dark-haired Mii moves from Tokyo to Hokkaido in grade school, he meets and falls in love with the sunny, blond Kei. They grow up together and then Mii moves back to Tokyo once they graduate from high school. But not before he tells Kei that he’s actually been in love with him his whole life and asks Kei to be his boyfriend. Kei’s not gay, but he is infinitely agreeable and loves Mii more than anyone in the whole world. So he agrees. (I’m tagging him for the bi team.) They then spend three years apart, Mii in Tokyo and Kei in Hokkaido, until Kei moves to the big city to be with Mii. And this is where the first book in the series actually starts.  Continue reading