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

Comet in Moominland: Tove Jansson

Comet in Moominland

I love Moomin! Let’s get that out of the way, so we all know how totally not impartial I am when it comes to the Moomin books. Moomin helped me learn Swedish. When I lived in Sweden, I used to walk home from school and stop at the grocery store along the way to pick up some Dumle—the greatest candy ever created and why won’t they export it to Canada—and the newest Moomin comic. And then I would head home and get sugared up on Dumle and all the adventures in Moominland. I think that was my first experience with comics as a language learning tool, but it’s stuck with me. When I used to tutor French and Japanese, I was always pushing comics on my students as a fun way to pull their language skills up. And when I was first learning Japanese, I pushed myself into literacy with stuff like Chibi Maruko-chan (furigana is your best friend, Japanese learners!). So you could say that Moomin helped me learn Japanese too.

My love of all things Moomin—especially Little My—is well known among my friends, and last year seemed to be the year the copyright on Moomin expired or something because there were Moomin goods everywhere I looked when I was in Japan, so naturally, my last birthday was the Moomin birthday. I was delighted to receive a magnificent array of goods, including a mug which came in a box that was just as perfect and worthy of keeping as the mug. So well done, Moomin merchandise designers. You are making even packaging I want to keep on my shelf. Continue reading

How Are You?: Miki Yamamoto


I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have this thing about lips in art, comics in particular. They often end up weirdly central for me, a constantly occurring part of the book that I can’t stop noticing. Sometimes, the style of the lips can ruin a whole story for me and I just have to put it down. And it’s never the same style. It’s just a vague something that catches me and won’t stop nagging at me as I read. When I first read Kyoko Okazaki, I was glad her writing and art otherwise was strong enough to pull me through all the lips. And I’ve noted before how weirdly fascinating I find the lips of Usamaru Furuya. So when I saw How Are You?, I could tell just from the cover that I was going to have some trouble with those lips. The obi tried to tempt me with the announcement that Yamamoto had won the Tezuka New Artist Prize last year and that this book was actually written like a graphic novel—i.e., not serialized in a magazine—but then my eyes would slip back up to the woman on the bridge and those lips, and I would reach for something more lip-friendly.

And then I went to this talk between est em and Naito Yamada to celebrate the release of the third volume of Ippo where I ran into Ken Niimura, a great manga maker himself (whose work has actually been released in English, so go check it out!). The talk was in a bookstore (they have lots of events so if you are in Tokyo, you should go!), so after the talk, Ken and I got a beer (books and beer!) and poked around the shop’s manga, recommending things to each other. And he was really adamant about one recommendation in particular: How Are You?. He has never steered me wrong before, so I pushed aside my lip-related misgivings and grabbed a copy. Continue reading

Yoru no Taiko: Naoto Yamakawa

Yoru no Taiko cover

Okay, okay, I know I am always talking about TCAF, but that is only because it is so much fun. And because it often keeps me so busy. Even when I am not actually interpreting for and taking care of our amazing Japanese guests, I’m getting ready to by reading their books, watching interviews with them on YouTube, randomly stalking them online, etc. Which means that a lot of the stuff I read tends to wind its way back to TCAF in some way. Especially now that we’re exhibiting at the Kaigai Manga Festa every fall. There’s actual TCAF in the spring and then Tokyo TCAF in the fall, so you can see why half of the stuff I post here mentions TCAF. Don’t hate me. Just come to the festival and it will cast its spell on you too!

And this year while interpreting for the Canadian artists and selling Canadian books and fun things (like this Kate Beaton tea towel! So adorable!) to the Japanese public, I slipped away to check out Comitia around us and see if I could find any fun doujinshi (I did and you’ll be hearing about those once the boxes of books arrive!), and get great Comitia 30th anniversary goods. Natsume Ono sake set! So adorable that I still haven’t been able to bring myself to drink any of it! I also wanted to hunt down Yumiko Shirai and some other artists who had mentioned on Twitter that they would be there. I found the other artists, but for the life of me could not spot Yumiko Shirai. Where did she go?? Was I just blind? Maybe. The program insisted she was there, as did the big map for the Comitia thirtieth anniversary anthology. So maybe my eyes were broken, because I could not find her. Continue reading