Although I bought and read all these doujinshi in 2015, I’m still calling it the 2016 edition because, like last year, I am writing about them in 2016 and it feels plain weird to call it the 2015 edition. Plus, there is already a 2015 edition from last year when I wrote about doujinshi I bought in 2014. And so, like the centuries and the years they contain, I will always be one number off in the rounding up of doujinshi. I apologize for the confusion.
What’s done is done, however, so let’s just get to the books.
Despite the fact that I was in Japan for a really long time last year (almost five months!), I spent a large part of that time on Cat Island. And Cat Island does not have doujinshi fairs. Unless the elderly farmers that populate the island were keeping something from me. (And now that I’ve thought of it, I hope they were! I love the idea of secret elderly farmer doujinshi!) And once I got to Tokyo, I was busy as usual with the horde of Canadians that descended upon the city to show their wares at the Tokyo International Comic Festival and Design Festa. Not to mention meetings with people to convince them to keep hiring me to read books and all those books they’ve already hired me for! So I didn’t really get to dig around in the world of doujinshis as much as I would have liked to. (I missed J Garden, for instance.) But the goods I did get are full of awesome, so I’m chalking this one up in the win column.
Like I found this crossover between Koban by Chika Ishikawa and Hatarake, Kentauros! by est em! For real! It is adorable and ridiculous and everything I could have hoped for from such a crossover. em does one story in which Kentaro from Hatarake starts working with the guys from Koban, with lots of fourth-wall breaking as the Koban guys remark on how much hotter they are in est em’s style. Ishikawa continues the story in the ridiculous way that she is a master of, with some very nice sight gags. The book finishes off with a handwritten back and forth between em and Ishikawa. I laughed.
I also came across this old Tomoko Yamashita, Saraba Yoru yo, from 2004. The cover is striking, but the contents are pretty standard high school boy drama. What’s interesting is getting a peek at Yamashita when she was still finding her footing. Hammer & Nails is interesting for the same reason. A 2005 collaboration between a pseudonymous est em and someone called Tony (anyone know who this actually is?), the four stories feature the same characters getting all BL with each other in a mostly PG kind of way.
And at Comitia, I got some new stuff! From people I love! Including Naoto Yamakawa, who actually remembered me from last year! Which was super weird and cool! He said he had even read my write-ups of his books here and thanked me for them. Super weird and cool! So I got his latest Ra no Oto/Kagi no Oto, which is actually another collaboration between him, Toshimasa Yasumitsu, and Zenzai Bunko (or at least I think that’s how that name is read).
Yamakawa has two stories, the titular “Kagi no Oto”, in which the protagonist visits a friend in a rooming house, but accidentally opens the wrong door. He apologizes and shuts the door, only to hear the sound of it locking behind him. In “Suzuki-kun ga Naita Hi”, Suzuki bursts into tears all over his friends when he runs out to buy a light bulb for his bathroom. Both stories are odd and sweet, weird moments that Yamakawa is so good at. A short essay/poem by Bunko about taking a second to listen, full of questions about what you can hear at this moment, separates the two stories, while the book is capped by a visual/text poem by Bunko and Yasumitsu. All are lovely and made me stop and pause to live in the world of this book.
I also grabbed an older doujinshi by Yamakawa that I hadn’t seen before, Fushigi Shojo ni Naritai Negai, which collects nine stories of varying lengths, several as short as a single page. It was interesting to read this alongside the latest stories he’s done. I feel like the newer stories took more moments to breathe and just be than his busier older stories. Still, I love the busy drawings of these stories too. And I love the breadth of subjects he turns to here. From a story about a man who encounters a hole in the street and contemplates all the possibilities it might contain to a tale of a girl who dreams of basically being a manic pixie dream girl, the slim volume contains simple human moments, fantasy, and mystery.
I only managed to get one book by someone I’d never heard of before, Summertime’s Blue by Ameno Sun. I walked by their table and the cover just reached out to me, so I bought it. And enjoyed it. Five interconnected stories about a group of six friends. The storytelling’s a little rough in places, but the art’s got a very good hand-drawn feel complete with the nose lines that I find so charming and compelling in Noda’s work. I’m interested in seeing if this duo makes the jump to mainstream manga. I’d love to see how they move forward from here.
But back to people I know! Love Love Hill! They are so great! I love their Life on the Hill comics, and Life on the Hill 5 is no exception. Featuring Dirchansky’s scale of charm, Kim’s adventures teaching manga drawing to kids, and Wai’s sad stroll down bedbug lane, there are a lot of good comics in here. I will never stop laughing at Kim’s student deciding the guy in her drawing is just. not. hot enough.
And more est em! Or more specifically more est em in books with other people! Trance Cider is an adult sexy times collective with Sachiko Takeuchi and Naito Yamada. Takeuchi’s Onnanoko/Otokonoko looks at sexy times between two girls and two guys in the first volume, but then turns into a deconstruction of what it means to perform femininity that is kind of amazing in volume two. An unseen partner chops off a woman’s hair and cuts her clothes off with a knife, beating and battering her, all while declaring “men like long hair” or “white underpants get a man excited”. It’s pretty intense. Maybe the theme for volume two was deconstructing gender performance, since em’s story “SX-70” is a man and a woman making themselves up as the opposite and then taking mix-and-match Polaroids of head, torso, and legs to create various versions of their combined selves in their underpants and less.
And Alenzyas! A super collection of superheroes! The basic concept of the collection is that each artist designed their own hero and villain characters, and then these were shuffled so they all drew a story with a fight between their own hero and another artist’s villain. It’s a very cool concept that leads to some pretty great stories. Ken Niimura’s contribution “Test” wins most adorable, pitting in battle through sound effects alone two children who are imagining the over-the-top super heroics as they race through their neighbourhood. Takeshi Miyazawa’s “Nyatsu no Rival” has a murderous mind-controlling cat trying to kill a man who seemingly cannot be killed. Takehito Moriizumi’s “Ai wa Doko Made Fukaku” is the most subdued entry, an atmospheric story with the most lovely encroaching darkness as the titular Ai slips into the shadows, quite literally. And hats off to Mukai, whose work I’m unfamiliar with, but who offers up a charming hero in Nighthawk, the boy carried through the air by his pet hawk to fight crime.
The last of these many fine volumes is a slim book by Yumiko Shirai, a Wombs one-off revealing a little of the back story and character of the doctor taking care of the pregnant teleportation brigade. Full of all the movement and thought I’ve come to expect from Shirai, this doujinshi really made me wish book five of Wombs would come out already. I am dying to know how she wraps up this nutbar SF adventure. (It’s out at the end of this month, but I’ve already been waiting almost two years! Wombs! Read it, people!)