Is it that time of year already? Time flies when you are poring over stacks of doujinshi. And where did all these stacks come from?? This is supposed to be the 2017 edition of this annual tradition, in which, as we all now know, I discuss various doujins I picked up in 2016 because I like to make things difficult. And I did indeed pick up some of these last year at Comitia or J. Garden or Mandarake or just directly from the author in weird happenstance. But I came across doujin from 2003 in this pile! So, uh, clearly, the round-up devolves yet again into basically just some stuff I read lately that may or may not be recent or even attainable anymore by the casual doujinshi reader. Sorry. I feel like I’m supposed to be getting better at this book-reading thing after writing here for the last six years now, but clearly that is never going to happen. So let’s all dial our hopes to anything but up and just look at some books already!
Let’s start with the mystery doujin. Chain Book: Hatsukoi is a sweet little collection of comics all revolving around the theme of first love. It came out in 2003. Why do I have it? The only familiar name in it is Shintaro Kago, who has a funny little parody of the jacket of an old enka singer 7-inch record, complete with illustrated instructions for a dance which in true Kago fashion ends with “get someone to cut your head off and place it on the ground.” But Kago was not a familiar name to me back when I ostensibly picked up this book, so I can’t begin to imagine why I grabbed it off whatever shelf. The reasoning of 14-years-past me is lost to the sands of time. And those sands are so deep that at least one of the artists in this volume, Yuki Kodama, has gone on to have a relatively successful professional career. (And his story might be the best in the bunch too. The camera stays in basically the same place, and people wander in and out of the frame, their stories overlapping and intersecting before finally returning to the first person to appear and resolving that tale.)
Also in the mystery category: Another Day—Dasoku-shi wo Sagashite, this one courtesy of 2012 me. Again, I have no idea what was going on my brain, but I’m glad this one finally made it in there via my eyes. Adorably nonsensical, the book tells the story of a lizard who receives a mysterious postcard from his friend Dasoku, suggesting they meet at such-and-such a place. Our lizard hero has no idea where that is, but he doesn’t let that stop him from setting out on a years-long journey through space to many different planets where he encounters a variety of random creatures and angel-like beings with magical powers. He simply bounces through the universe in the most good-humoured way, and it is wonderful.
A more recent mystery (2014) is Kumo wo tsukamu youna ohanashi by Okuhara Yume, a picture book style story that is cute as hell, about a little girl and a cat telling “stories that are like grabbing at clouds.” And not a mystery, but also from 2014: Jesse Jacobs’ Mathematical Solutions for a Global Crisis, part of the lovely mini kuš series! Jesse came with us to Kaigai Manga Festa in 2014 and was not only a lovely guest to have along, but also a great comics artist who gifted me with this little treasure about a “government decree” which states “all babies, henceforth, are to be born half-sized, exponentially” and then just follows that to its logical conclusion.
And now! Non-mystery books that actually came out last year and thus meet the previous standards of the doujinshi round-up (that have no doubt fallen by the wayside now. I’m sure next year I’ll be writing about a stack of doujinshi from 2047 spat out onto my sofa by a wormhole opening up in my apartment)! Mostly!
Like new issues of Popocomi (as seen up top)! I love love love this anthology series featuring women manga artists writing on a single theme each issue. Volume three is “Light and Women” and volume four takes up “Holes and Women.” Once again, the pieces from series regulars like Yuki Takahashi, Maiko Dake, and Ikumi Nakada are the stand-outs, but the story from Eri Masuko in volume four about a little boy encountering a sick little girl, written as images accompanied by narration rather than dialogue boxes, seriously knocked my socks off. There’s so much to love in these pages, and it looks like the world at large is getting that message. Both Dake and Nakada have made their commercial debuts, and I’m currently reading Nakada’s first tanko. (Yes, it’s awesome. Yes, we’ll talk about it when I’m finished.)
I actually went to the home of Popocomi to get these two issues, the bookstore/gallery Popotamu in Ikebukuro. I’ve tried to go before, but it can be pretty hit or miss with their hours (so double-check their site or their Twitter before you head over!). The owner was there and just as lovely as you’d expect, given that she runs a bookstore full of doujinshi and art comics and zines from overseas. She even made a map of the area for book lovers! Go support Popotamu, is what I’m saying here. They’re great, and I want to read more volumes of Popocomi.
This wouldn’t be a doujin round-up if it didn’t feature at least one book by est em, and rest assured, I have not one, but three works for you! Volume two of Aslan (yes, it was published in 2014. Shut up), the Turkish oil wrestling tale that will apparently wrap up in volume three (or has it already and I’m just way, way behind). And then there’s Love that Does Not Begin, the tale of a merman and a centaur falling for each other, featuring a wonderful take on the sea witch who does the magicking in “The Little Mermaid”. It fits so perfectly with her collection Ever After that I can’t help but wonder if it was meant for those pages and just didn’t make the cut for some reason. At any rate, I’m glad she released it as a doujin at least. It’s sweet and funny and a lovely reminder to be careful what you wish for. And then another Equus story, this time centaur in the time of war and samurai. est em does so few stories that feature very obvious Japan visuals, so it was a treat to see her take on ye olde days.
In other BL action, I came across Toudou’s Raison d’Être by Fumi Yoshinaga, a companion to Ichigen Me features some satisfying relationship insecurity between the two lovers. I also found not one, not two, but three R18 books from Aniya Yuiji. She is a hardcore doujinster! Kanpekina Shiiku is a companion to the tanko of the same name and is full of sexy sexing from the get go. Mr. CVS is also all sex, all the time, although the seme in this one is being accidentally reversed by his uke. He keeps trying to make his uke feel ashamed by the dirty things he makes him do, but of course, the uke loooooves it. And Mo Ichido After Episode is, as the title would suggest, a follow-up to the amnesiac BL, Mo Ichido Nandodemo, which is a sweet two-part book from onBLUE that I seriously enjoyed. She wrote it for the drama CD, but they ended up not using it, so she made a doujinshi out of it. There’s more tsundere snuggles than sex in this one, and it is a lovely cap to the series.
But the real winner of this year’s doujinshi round-up is Sachiko Takeuchi and her lovely, finely crafted doujinshi Nantoka Kyo mo Ikiteiru and Sachiko no Heibon Furubokko! Such beautiful production and design! It doesn’t show up in the images, but that is a metallic red on white and shiny gold on red on those covers. This is only a tease of what awaits readers inside though! The more Takeuchi I read, the more I love her! I so perfectly get her sense of humour that she is constantly cracking me up. And the range of expression she manages with relatively simple line drawings! Heibon is a collection of yon-koma she did for a magazine that never made it to the tankobon stage, so she collected them herself. They deal mostly with her everyday life and her relationships with her editors and her friends. Who all seem to be sex-crazed alcoholics, so that keeps things interesting. Nantoka is more essay style, but similarly focusses on her everyday life. And apparently, I will never get tired of reading about her everyday life because I was delighted with every page of both of these.
Look forward to more Takeuchi and est em because you know they are coming in next year’s round-up! And get ready for that delivery of future doujinshi via wormhole! What perplexing direction will comics have gone thirty years hence??