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

Boys’ Love Face-Off: Ten Dance or Count

Ten MangaI’ve been catching up on my BL reading these days, after realizing I hadn’t read even half of the titles that ended up on all the year-end best-of lists. I may not be the most hardcore of fujoshi, but I do have a reputation to maintain and I had been neglecting my duties as an advocate of BL to the larger manga-reading public. Plus, so much great stuff was published last year that really, I’ve been neglecting my duties to myself as a reader and lover of comics. So in order to rectify this gross oversight, I bought a ton of BL while I was in Japan, some of which I read, some of which I packed into boxes bound for Canada to surprise myself with months after my return. And two of which, strangely, I packed unread into my luggage.

It wasn’t that I was especially eager to read these two series. It was more a case of no more room in boxes + some room in my suitcases + when I bought them = coming home with me. Which is fine, but why did that equation lead to two series with titles that start with “10”? Was I unconsciously alphabetizing my purchases? I’m waiting for the rest of the boxes of books to arrive to see if I was, in fact.

Until then, I felt like it was basically perfect to read these “10” series alongside each other and make them duke it out for supremacy in my heart, a manga battle royale. WHICH SERIES WILL TAKE HOME MY LOVE? Continue reading

Doujinshi Round-up: 2015 Edition

Popocomi2First off, I’m calling this the 2015 edition of the doujinshi round-up—which has previously included the people I know edition and the random edition—because I’m writing and posting it in 2015. But I bought all the doujinshi here today last year because that’s when I was in Japan. Also, I didn’t read most of them until 2015 because the box of doujinshi I sent to myself way back in December only arrived last week. Still, it feels weird to call it the 2014 edition when it is 2015, so here we are.

So! What doujinshi was I fortunate enough to happen upon in my rounds of the doujin events/shops this fall? Some pretty great stuff, actually! High fives to you, independent manga makers! You are doing great things. The independent manga maker I was most pleased to run into again was the author of Mahoshojo Musashi, the first volume of which I enjoyed immensely last year. So naturally, I bought everything else she had written in the series, all while gushing about how much and how unexpectedly I enjoyed the first collection. She took it all like a pro, nodding appreciatively and thanking me while she took my money. And that is how it should be. Continue reading