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

Yoru Mata Yoru no Fukai Yoru: Natsuo Kirino

Yoru Mata Yoru no Fukai Yoru

I know I said I got all this manga on my last sojourn in Japan, and that was no lie. And I promise I’ll devour all of them and barf some words onto this page for your manga consideration. But that will have to wait until all those books actually get to me. There’s only so much I can stuff into my overstuffed suitcases, and I tend to give priority to things the post is not so keen on me shipping, like chu-hai and inari-zushi ingredients. Books can handle the harsh journey by boat from the land of the rising sun, and when they get finally get here, it is like Bookmas, a celebration I can truly get behind. The books that did make it into my suitcases were basically longer reads, things that would tide me over in my final week and on the plane back to Canada (where a Mount Bookstoberead awaited me). Things like the latest Natsuo Kirino.

Kirino is probably one of my favourite Japanese authors and one I really don’t talk about enough here. Her work is so, so thoughtful, never boring, always engaging with the world around her in a critical way that is often startling. I’m always surprised she hasn’t made a bigger splash in North America, especially given how good the translation of Out is. (High five to Stephen Snyder for that one!) But then I am forced to remember how terrible the translation of Grotesque is (not entirely the fault of the translator; I have heard the editor and publisher had a large hand in the hack job), and her waning popularity makes sense. Working in the publishing industry as a translator, I know very well that it’s pretty much impossible for the same translator to work on every title a particular author publishes, especially since so often, the publisher changes from book to book, and each publisher has the translators they prefer to work with. But I really wish this wasn’t the case, that a single translator could translate everything any particular author has published in English. Because an author has a voice and each translator’s going to interpret that voice differently, which is inevitably going to lead to a different voice in English. Continue reading

Ever After: est em

Ever after

I have to say that I am mostly done with people reimagining other creative works. Like if I see another Disney princesses in some unexpected situation/getups or Alice in some other land than Wonder, I may very well pluck out at least one of my eyes to fling at the screen. I get why these sorts of reinterpretations exist, though. It’s an homage of sorts, like a fanzine or a parody doujinshi, a way of showing your love of the thing, a way of proving that you are a real fan. Or more cynically, maybe it’s just the artist taking advantage of a surefire way to draw some eyes to their work. And I’m not entirely unsympathetic to any or all of these goals. But I am tired of seeing the same work rehashed in the same old ways. After a while, it stops bringing anything new to the table. Although maybe I’m just getting old and I will soon start shaking my fist at the kids on my lawn.

But maybe it’s just I’m tired of the things that get remixed, because when est em tweeted that she had a new book of BL-ified fairy tales out, I was halfway to the bookstore before I had even finished reading the tweet. After all, this was no mere genderflipping of Ghibli characters by an artist I’d never heard of, this was one of my favourite manga artists turning those old classics into boy on boy action. And what action! (Sorry, I just had to write that. Apologies for ridiculousness.) The tagline on the back cover of the book says it better than I ever could: “All fairytales are made from one percent fact and ninety-nine percent boys’ love.” Continue reading