2DK: Sachiko Takeuchi

2dkI was mostly familiar with Sachiko Takeuchi’s work in the Trance Cider circle, alongside Brain favourite est em and veteran artist Naito Yamada, and while I liked her work there, for some reason, I wasn’t particularly inspired to go seek out more of it. Which seems weird in hindsight, because I actually really like the pieces she’s done for Trance Cider. But then I got to meet fellow fujo and all-around superstar Khursten in the real in Tokyo this summer, and she told me all about the very interesting work Takeuchi’s been doing as a queer artist documenting her partner’s transition. This was particularly relevant to me as I was in the middle of working on the Queer Japan film project, and I only wish I had known all this in time to suggest to the director that we go have a chat with her too.

And then I was in the bookstore (my home away from home) and I came across a huge display of Takeuchi’s work. I’m not really sure why the bookstore had such a large (and long-lasting—it was up for at least two weeks) display of Takeuchi’s work, but I am glad it did because it reminded me of my conversation with Khursten and my interest in checking Takeuchi’s work out. I settled on 2DK out of the assorted works on display simply because they were the slimmest volumes. The peak of Mount Bookstoberead is higher than ever, and a couple slim books I can power through makes me feel accomplished in my reading life. Yes, my criteria for picking up a book are random and, at times, super shallow.

Moving_TakeuchiAnd hooray for that! Because 2DK is an untranslatable delight. Originally published on the Morning website, 2DK is the story of Komugi and Kinari, friends in otaku-dom who decide to move in together. The otaku-dom is why it’s untranslatable. So many notes to explain so much pop culture! Komugi works as a pastry chef and Kinari seems to be an art (or fashion/textiles) teacher at a university. They both seem to like their jobs and to be pretty competent at them, but what really matters to them are their fandoms. They spend basically every non-working, non-sleeping hour on watching DVDs, recorded Kamen Rider shows, Prince of Tennis musicals, and anything else that has one of their preferred actors in it. And they have a veritable army of preferred actors. Interspersed with these visual feasts are handshake events, a possible uniquely Japanese affair where attendees shake the hands of their favourite stars. It’s basically equivalent to the signing in North America (and most other Western countries?) where you can get your favourite star to autograph something for you. I have absolutely no idea how these handshake events came into existence in Japan, given that handshaking is generally not a thing there (unless you are a foreigner and then everyone thinks you are big into shaking hands. Which is annoying because I do not want to touch your hand.) They’re not so much into BL, but Komugi and Kinari as rotten a girl as I have ever encountered.

In a way, 2DK reminds me of Nozaki-kun. Although the series is not the yon-koma format of Nozaki-kun, it is in a four-page format with a handy punchline at the end of each chapter, like a yon-koma slightly stretched out. And like Nozaki-kun, it is funny as hell. Seriously. Takeuchi keeps cracking me up. Incredible character designs are definitely a big part of that. Kinari has perfectly round eyes with giant pupils that are almost always wide open, so she looks slightly maniacal at pretty much any given moment. Their estate agent (known as estate-san-agent-san) has his glasses drawn right into his face. Their neighbour, an international otaku swimming deep in fandoms in Korea, China, Japan, and who knows where else (known only as neighbour-san) has a stylish sweeping fringe that covers his forehead and part of his eyes, but not enough to keep the reader from noticing that he has no eyes.Fudosan_Takeuchi

But in the end, what really makes 2DK funny and fun is the same thing underlying Nozaki-kun, a real love of the subject matter and the warmth of the jabs at it. Nozaki-kun plays with all kinds of tropes of shojo manga and turns them on their head, but always in a loving way, with a real understanding of and respect for the genre. Similarly, 2DK pokes fun at how obsessed Kinari and Komugi are with their musicals and TV shows and actors, but it’s clear that Takeuchi is just as obsessed herself, so it never, ever feels mean. Half the time, I don’t even know who the actor/agency/group that they’re freaking out over is, and it does not matter at all. Takeuchi’s expressive illustrations and great use of colour and patterns in each chapter combined with the knowing wryness of her writing and the insane visual gags that pop up (like the recurring “Kinari has to put her eyeballs back in”) had me laughing my head off at pretty much every chapter.Eyeballs_Takeuchi

There’s also a real warmth to the relationship between Kinari and Komugi and in the relationships that develop between supporting characters, like Komugi’s Hyogo-dialect-speaking dad and Kinari’s single-parent-with-a-weird-ponytail Dad. The chapter where they go to a rock festival and then hit up karaoke afterwords is wonderfully off-kilter. None of the super fans in these pages is ever reduced to a two-dimensional caricature of a fandom nerd. And sometimes, the fandom nerd commentary feels so, so current, like when Kinari and Komari freak out at the Japanese equivalent of fake geek girls.Dads_Takeuchi

So far, it’s up to volume four, and it looks like volume five is going to be the last. I didn’t read the last chapter online because I am eagerly anticipating reading all the chapters together in volume five, but I did take a peek at the farewell-and-thank-you illustration up on the Morning site, which definitively states that 2DK is over. So I am already shedding tears as I wait for volume five. Will another meta-commentary on a fandom/genre pop up to take its place in my heart?? Or will I just have to wait for the next volume of Nozaki-kun and pray that Nozaki, at least, will stay with me forever? (Never leave me, Nozaki-kun.)


  1. I have to thank you for introducing me to Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. My favourite character is Mikoshiba, who is so silly but so unaware of how simultaneously attractive and ridiculous he is that every panel he is in, he is just so likable and cute. I know there is a lot scanlation out there for this series but I prefer to buy the Japanese version, it’s funnier in Japanese and this way I can also support the mangaka.

    I have added 2DK to my shopping cart at Amazon Japan. My friends and I are having another spree this month. I need more distractions, seems like the world is getting worse and worse (President Trump? Really? The flying spaghetti monster helps us all).

    1. I’m so glad you’re loving Nozaki-kun! It’s just such a fun series, I’m happy to share the joy. And Mikorin is one hundred percent adorable! And I don’t know if you know, but Yen Press actually licensed the series in English, and I hear the translation’s pretty good. So if you get tired of straining your Japanese brain, maybe check that out too. (Or recommend it to your non-J-speaking friends!)

      I think you’ll like 2DK too, and it should be the perfect distraction. You can giggle over all the silly hijinks of these otaku girls and forget all about the madness out in the world for an hour or two at least.

  2. I didn’t know that~ Thanks for the info, although I am not sure if my friends would bother with the English version, not when there are so many free scanlation around. I’ve tried several times to talk to them about this, that it’s important to support the artists etc etc but they’re like, why would you want to pay when there are free stuff out there? Okay then. I mean, I would get it if they cannot afford it, but these people make more money than me! Sigh.

    2DK is even better than I expected (I got lucky, the Kindle edition of the first volume was heavily discounted so I quickly bought it). You’re right that there is a lot of Japanese pop culture references (ゴーカイジャー? ハロプロ? What?). Kinari and Komugi have a cute friendship, they enable each other’s fandom obsession but never in a negative way (not sure if I am making any sense here). I wish I had real life friends like that. I am not deep into fandom but it’s fun to talk about BL or anime or manga and freak out over new releases once in a while. At least now we have the internet, so online bonding is the best I can get.

    1. Ugh, I have a friend like that too, although with him it’s TV and movies that he downloads illegally. And yes, he makes more money than I do, so it’s not a financial thing. It’s so frustrating. I mean, it’s stealing. And these are generally people who wouldn’t walk into a store and steal a coat off the rack, but they have no problems stealing art from people. I get so mad and frustrated by the mindset that you shouldn’t bother paying if you can steal it. That’s not okay!

      Anyway, I’m so glad you’re enjoying 2DK! It’s hilarious, right? And I get what you mean about how the way they enable each other’s fandom is not negative. They have this warm way of supporting each other in their obsessions. Like you, I’m not deep into any fandoms, but I have a couple friends who are also into BL, and it’s always fun to chat and get excited about books with them. And of course, I bond online too! That’s what this blog is all about, getting excited about books with other people!

      1. Well, a lot of people said that it’s difficult to get the manga/anime/movies outside of Japan and they don’t understand Japanese so they resort to scanlation. Some of the popular titles are translated to English, but maybe there isn’t a lot of stores that carry them and the number of titles are limited too. Scanlation is free and convenient, all you need is internet access. I am not sure about the impact on the publishing industry or the authors, but personally, I just feel it’s wrong not to pay people for their hard work. Producing manga, anime, films is not easy.

        Gah~ I think I will buy the next volumes. There are five volumes, right?
        Tell me about it. I am a half-arsed fujoshi, but even then it’s not easy to open to people and tell them ‘Oh, I like reading manga about sexy men in romantic and sexual relationships’

      2. The thing for me, though, is if it’s difficult/impossible to get outside of Japan, then maybe you just don’t get it? Like why are you entitled to the work? I can’t get my favourite snacks from Japan here in Canada, so when I’m not in Japan, I simply don’t get to eat those snacks. I get that a snack is a physical object and a book is not necessarily, but honestly, the basic idea is the same for me. If it’s not available (legally) where you are, then I guess you just don’t get it. “It’s hard to get outside of Japan” doesn’t work as an excuse for me. I’m with you, it’s wrong not to pay people for the things they make. It’s a lot of work to produce art.

        There are four volumes so far, but the fifth one should be out soon. It’s worth reading them all! You get to spend time with these great characters and watch them develop new relationships.

        Ha ha! I love how you put that! It really is not easy to tell people, “Oh, my hobby? I like reading comics about men having sex with each other.”

  3. I am sure some of the scanlation groups are genuine fans, but still. The scan aggregators are an even bigger problem. They make money from ads while hosting illegal content. The justification is sometimes funny. Oh, if only those uptight publishers were willing to license and translate the titles that I want. I dunno about you but last time I check, the publishers are not obligated to cater to you. They sell what they want to sell. To be honest, I used to read scanlation, but being the obsessive book worm that I am, I couldn’t stand waiting (you know us fujoshi just cannot deal with cliffhangers, what would happen after the seme cornered the uke like that? Duh, they’d have sex of course, but give it to me now!) so I reckoned the easiest thing to do would be just learn the bloody language. It takes time but it’s worth it. I honestly don’t know what sort of model that would protect publishers and authors. Seems to me that this is related to international copyright law and who is going to enforce it? Not only that, I feel that people just don’t care. If it’s available and it’s free, there would always be a demand. They probably think of scanlation sites as libraries anyway. A lot of them also think that scanlation has no economic damage, which I find a bit nonsensical.

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