I am in Japan now, in case you haven’t been following my inane updates via Twitter, which are mostly about things I get to eat again and what I’m watching on TV, so really, no big loss to you if you haven’t been. But in Japan, when I’m not eating cherished treats or watching random manga adaptations on TV, I am busy buying and reading books. Yes, I realize I am the most boring traveller ever. But reading new books is one of my favourite things about travelling, so I am not boring to me. Nor to my fellow book lovers. So there.
I’ve only been back about two weeks, but I’ve already managed to hit an embarrassing number of book stores and buy a daunting stack of books. And because I am a manga translator by trade, and a manga lover by hobby, you know that the majority of that stack is made up of manga. I am both fussy and not fussy when it comes to the manga I add to the pile. I’ll see something at the shop that intrigues me for some unclear reason or another, and head over to the cash register with it. Other times I will come across an author that I have seen in other contexts and realize I really want to read more of that author.
Which is the case for Machiko Kyo. And I have Erotics f to thank for introducing me to her gentle watercolours. And also, according to my friend I., multiple impressions. Because when I was at one bookstore or another poking around in the dark section of the store (we are, apparently, still being careful with our power consumption in Tokyo, and therefore, cannot light the areas of stores that I am interested in), I noticed the name “Machiko Kyo” and thought to myself, Hold up! I know this person. She posts delightful pictures of her cat on Twitter all the time. But when I picked up one of the books on the shelf, I realized that she is more than just a cat-photo poster, she is the artist in Erotics f that I have been admiring for the better part of a year. And then it was just a matter of which of the slim volumes there I should buy first.
Kako to Mirai ended up winning out simply based on the cover copy: “Time travel with grapefruit?!” Um, yes. Okay. I am interested in how grapefruit and time travel are related. Because to be honest, I did not think that they are. Reading Kako to Mirai has taught me a valuable lesson.
The story in this one-off volume starts off weird and noodles its way into weirder in the most natural way. Kako opens her fridge in the middle of the night and Mirai falls out.
An awkward conversation later, they learn they share the same last name, Genzai. And here, the whole thing is more interesting if you know that “kako” means “past”, “mirai” means “future” and yes, “genzai” means “present”. (Also, Kyo’s pseudonymous last name means “today”. Lots of time action!) Within the first lovely full-colour pages, we learn that, true to his name, Mirai is indeed from the future. The year 2060, to be precise. And in that future, he lives in the same apartment as Kako, but instead of the brand-new condo this flat is in Kako’s and our time, in his time, it is a run-down dive rented to him very cheaply by some distant relatives. The Tokyo that this building is in has turned into a desert, where water is very, very hard to come by and people travel by camel. And train. This is still Tokyo, after all.
Once Mirai figures out how he got to Kako’s time through the fridge (yes, this is where the grapefruit comes in), he hatches a scheme to bring water from the water-rich Tokyo of the present to sell to the water-hungry dwellers of the future and make a fortune. Naturally, things are never that easy and of course, the whole thing goes off the rails in weird ways. Also, Mirai has a pet miniature camel that is one thousand percent adorable. Mirai wants to marry it, which is deeply concerning, and Kako often has a deeply concerned look on her face when it comes to Mirai and Mameko (the camel), but this is never portrayed in a sexy-times way so it is not concerning in the way you might be worried. His love for the camel is actually pretty adorable. Kind of like the love you declare for things when you’re in elementary school and your conception of marriage is that you get to be with that thing all the time forever which is basically your idea of heaven.
The story definitely charmed my socks off and made me eager to read more of Kyo’s stuff, but the art is still the winner for me. The watercolours, the suggestive lines, the sparseness, I love it all. She’s one of those artists that can evoke a whole range of movement and images with a single well-placed line. And that well-placed line always looks so effortless. It all looks like she just was noodling about with her brushes and came up with this perfect little story. It reads effortless, which you know means a lot of effort behind the scenes.
All of which amounts to another trip to another bookstore for me to find some of her other books to feast on. I keep telling myself that at some point I will have to go back to Canada and something will have to be done about all these books. But that time is not now. Now is the time for reading more.
(Forgive the not-so-great images. I don’t have access to a scanner right now, so it’s just me and my camera.)