Cocoon: Machiko Kyo

cocoonThis is a place for books, it’s true, specifically a place for my brain to battle books. But my brain is up for almost any challenge and will take on any media—music, painting, sculpture, magazines—if that is what has to be done. And as an amateur fighter, my brain particularly enjoys the battles with the cinema. This year has been an especially great one for cinema (if you have not seen The Tribe or White God, you are seriously missing out, my friend), but even in such a banner year, some films simply batter my brain into delighted submission. And Mad Max: Fury Road (or Fury Death Road, pushed to the extreme in the Japanese title) is one of these films. It is a masterpiece, exquisitely crafted and so beautiful my eyeballs would happily drown in it. I keep going back to the theatre to see it again and again. I will probably keep shelling out to see it until they finally pull it from the screens. Go see it. It is magic.

Given my deep and enduring love for the death road of fury, you can imagine my delight when I turned on a podcast of an interview with Machiko Kyo recently, and she recounted how she had seen it four times so far and was planning to go a fifth. The interview then devolved into excited conversation between Kyo and the two hosts of the show about how great the movie is. As Kyo went into detail about what she loved and why, my love for her grew ever deeper, and I remembered that I haven’t actually read anything by her in a while, an unfortunate oversight. Luckily, I happened to have Cocoon on the shelf of unread books. Continue reading

Nobara: Haruko Kumota

nobaraBy the time you are reading this, I am busy making friends with some cats on an island in sweaty, summery Japan, hopefully with a cheap, trashy Chu-Hi in hand. But while I am writing it, I am in full panic mode, scribbling notes to myself about things I need to do before I leave and piling random foodies and gifts (okay, mostly quinoa for me) on top of a suitcase to be packed in theory in a thoughtful, careful manner several days before I leave, but in reality, to be crammed together the night before I set out on my journey as I weep at all the things I still need to do before getting on the plane. I am not the best traveller, you guys.

But if there’s anything that will distract me in times of panic, it’s ridiculous puns and in-jokes that are funny to no one but me. Which is of course why I could not stop myself from tweeting the chapter end pages in Nobara as I read it. Each one features the young girl of the cover, Mone, in scene with one character or another from the main story, “Nobara”, or one of the other two shorter stories accompanying it in this volume, “Mimi-kun” or “Lullaby of Birdland”. That in and of itself is not particularly funny; in fact, it’s more adorable than anything. If it weren’t for the caption! I don’t know if Kumota speaks English and so chose that caption deliberately, but I am going to pretend that she does and did (even as I highly doubt that this is the case). Continue reading

Rafnas: Yumiko Shirai

Rafnas_ShiraiWe all know I have hearts in my eyes for Yumiko Shirai’s eerily beautiful landscapes and ink washes and general lack of screen tone, as demonstrated amply by the way I gushed over her previous work. We also know that I do love an incredibly bizarre premise for a story and offer gold stars to any author who simply throws me into that story without holding my hand. So Rafnas, Shirai’s latest, should have been an easy high five. And yet it doesn’t all come together for me.

The story is on a similarly nutbar level as Wombs, maybe toned down a notch depending on how you measure these things. The title does not refer to tough eggplant, the image my brain immediately conjured up when I saw the title the first time (the title in Japanese is “rafunasu”, and rafu can be “rough” while nasu means “eggplant”. [And let me just tell you that a lot of silly entertainment can be gained from imagining a gang of eggplant toughs roaming the neighbourhood in leather jackets, cigarettes dangling from lipless mouths, looking for a fight to pick]), but rather to the name of the planet on which the whole thing is set, Rafnas. Continue reading

Sorairo no Kani: Fumiko Fumi

Sorairo_FumikoFumiBefore I knew that I would be leaving for Japan basically two months earlier than my expected annual pilgrimage, I put in an order for enough manga to keep me going until November. Some of this was the latest volumes in series I follow, like ACCA (getting complicated!) and I Am a Hero (tenterhooks and sadness!), some of it was directly work-related (still a secret!), and some of it was just random authors I like. What I didn’t realize at the time I placed the order was that the majority of the random author section was taken up by Fumiko Fumi. It’s like after reading Sakikusa no Saku Goro, I declared to myself that I was all in with this artist and let my subconscious take over. I’m not exactly complaining about this, since I really am all in with this artist. But so many books in a row by the same artist in a row and all the thematic stuff starts to run together.

Or so it would with any other author. But Fumiko Fumi apparently likes to shake things up from book to book. One volume is her debut collection of yon-koma, another is a shojo one-shot, and yet another—the focus of our interest today—is a collection of loosely connected stories speculating on the nature of death and rebirth and destiny. Because of course. Continue reading

Boys Loving!


Happy 801, fellow fujos! Posting has been light around here as I try to get myself sorted for my annual pilgrimage to Japan (this year involves cats, an island, and fruit trees!), but I would be deeply remiss were I to overlook this the greatest and perviest of holidays, a day when we who love boys who love boys for our voyeuristic pleasure remember just what a pleasure it is and just what voyeurs we are.  Continue reading

Wagamama Chie-chan: Takako Shimura

Wagamama_ShimuraIs it just me or is Takako Shimura insanely prolific? Although I’ve only ever really followed her bigger series Wandering Son and Sweet Blue Flowers, I feel like I’m always coming across a new one-off tanko or a short story in some magazine or another. I follow her on Twitter too, and it seems like every other day, she is announcing some new project or retweeting reactions to another (lately, those reactions have been about her new art book, which is drool-worthy). And I know that in the very competitive, high-pressure world of Japanese manga, you pretty much have to work all the time if you want to continue to earn your living drawing comics while not being Rumiko Takahashi. But seriously! Does Shimura even sleep?

Right now, her big serialization is Musume no Iede, which looks lovely, and I have no doubt I’ll get around to reading it one of these days. But in my last big order of books from Japan (big because at the time, I was not expecting to be in Japan until November, but it turns out I’ll be there in August now, so I have a lot of books to devour in the suddenly short time before I leave), I got a recent one-shot by Shimura, Wagamama Chie-chan. And it is both very different from and so much in the same vein as her other non-BL work. Continue reading

Deathco: Atsushi Kaneko

Deathco_KanekoCan I start with a complaint? Do you mind? I know I can get quite grumbly, which is a bit off-putting, but sometimes, there are things that need to be said. Important things like we need to stop putting subtitles on non-fiction books. I get why publishers do it, I just really dislike it. But this, this thing on the cover of Deathco, I don’t even get why it’s done. Atsushi Kaneko’s Deathco. It’s basically the most pompous thing ever. Anytime I see (artist name)’s (title of the work), I want to burn that work and slander it and pop stink bombs near everyone who was involved in slapping that title on the cover. It’s so unnecessary; the artist’s name is already on there. He’s getting credit for writing the thing. Is Atsushi Kaneko so famous that a work will just fly off the shelves if his actual name is in the title? This sort of titling seems solely designed to imply that the artist is so full of himself, he insists his own name come before the title of the work. And in this case, I doubt Kaneko is this much of a bag of hot air. I’m sure it’s just one of those unfortunate English cover things that happens with Japanese manga from time to time. Like “my lovely like a cat” as the English title on Itoshi no Nekokke. But every time I look at the cover, I want to growl at it.

That said, everything else about Deathco is pretty great! Seriously, that English title thing is my only real complaint. A minor complaint that is not really a complaint–more like a fond wish for a perfect world–is that the cover colouring that looks like glow-in-the-dark ink is not actually glow-in-the-dark ink. I really want it to be glow-in-the-dark ink. Continue reading