Doujinshi Round-up: 2017 Edition

Doujin 2Is 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! Continue reading

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Shitashigena Akuma: Various

Comics Hoshi ShinichiIt is no secret that I love Shinichi Hoshi, even while I accept that his work may pose some fodder for difficult thought. (O ladies, where are you?) But I realize we cannot hold people of the past to the standards of the now, so I try not to let the blatant sexism of latter-day Hoshi ruin the delight of his tiny stories full of big ideas. (This is similar to the way I have read pretty much everything Robert Heinlein, by the way.) Hoshi’s short shorts are so magical and surprising. I love that there was a publishing industry in this world that was willing to just publish whatever he dreamed up, even if I don’t love the balance of ladies in them: space dog circus diplomacy, sneezes of bees (and those words don’t come close to rhyming in Japanese, eliminating one obvious source for that idea), whatever.

And these tiny stories of his really lend themselves to adaptation in pretty much any form. His prose is always slightly dispassionate, peeking in from a distance, and pared down to the truly necessary basics, leaving plenty of room for the interpretive eye of another artist. So I’m not surprised that someone decided to adapt them into manga; I’m just surprised I hadn’t heard anything about it. And it’s not just this one manga collection—it’s a whole series of manga adaptations of Hoshi’s work. And I only discovered that any of them at all exist because my honto.jp account was all, hey, you might be interested in this. And I was! Continue reading

USCA Volume 2: Keita Mori (ed.)

USCA2The cover of USCA (pronounced you-ska, as the silver katakana over the roman letters informed me) notes in English that it is an “independent manga magazine for the next generation”. Which leads me to assume the next generation speaks English? And also to hope that I will see some weird and interesting new manga being done in Japan right this second that is not welcomed by the old boys’ club that is AX. (Don’t get me wrong, I like AX, but it can get pretty dudely and punk rock snobby.) I ran across volumes two and three of USCA at Village Vanguard (the store where you will always run across a weird book you’d never heard of, but will probably like), and I got stuck on which one to pick up. They both promised me indie manga, they both had Tsuchika Nishimura’s name on the cover, and both had pretty interesting cover designs that made me want to read what was inside. But when I saw that volume two posed the question, “Don’t you wonder sometimes ‘bout sound and vision?”, my choice was made.

Unlike the serialization format of most manga magazines, USCA is made up entirely of one-shots (or at least this volume is). Seventeen authors penning seventeen different versions of the next generation’s manga. Like any anthology, it can be a little touch and go; some stuff is great, some is interesting but fails in the execution, and some is not anything I’ll be thinking about ever again. Continue reading

Comitia 30th Chronicle Volume 1: Kimihiko Nakamura (ed.)

ComitaCoverV1

For their thirtieth anniversary, in addition to delightful treats like a sake set designed by Natsume Ono (the sake in which was delicious, by the way), beloved doujinshi event Comitia released three books cramjammed full of comics by a few of the many artists who have exhibited at the quarterly event over the last thirty years. And all three books are massive, which meant that I had to limit myself to just one for fear of breaking my back on the train home. Volume one clocks in at just under seven hundred pages on some pretty nice paper bound quite beautifully in a sturdy cover stock featuring the covers of the different Comitia guides over the years, covered up by a lovely cream jacket with a translucent peek at the color cover below it. A pretty (and heavy) package for a whole lot of comics action. (Apologies in advance for terrible images. I can’t open the book far enough to get it to lay anywhere near flat on my scanner.) Continue reading

Bijutsu Techo: Boys’ Love

Bijutsu Techo

I am the most belated of book readers. I cannot and will not deny this. Even when I race out to the bookstore and pick up a book the day it is released, even if I then run home with it and dig in immediately, once I finish it, I’ll set it down on my desk with the best of intentions. I’m going to write about this one tomorrow! I’ll say to myself. And then tomorrow will come, and my hands will be super sore from a long day of typing out the translations that pay my rent, and I’ll look at the book on my desk and think, Okay, I will definitely get to that tomorrow. Yup! But the next day, just as I’m about to dig in and start writing ye olde thoughts, a friend will line me for drinks, and I will give that book a lick and a promise before racing down to my neighbourhood pub. Where I will no doubt talk about this book. And oh! What thoughts I’ll share with that friend! 

And then I’ll get used to seeing the book on my desk, and it will stop being a thing I need to do something about; it will transform into a desk object, like the cup of pens or my computer speakers. Once this transformation occurs, the book can remain there indefinitely until the day comes when I realize I need to write about a book, but do not feel like writing about any of the books that have not yet turned into desk objects. This is when I will rediscover a book and bring it back from the land of objects into the land of books. This is what happened with the December issue of Bijutsu Techo, a special issue of the art magazine devoted to “untangling the expression of ‘relationality’”. Continue reading

Phantasm Japan: Nick Mamatas, Masumi Washington (eds.)

PhantasmJapan

The thing I like about doing translations for short story collections is that when I get my comp copy, I actually want to read the book. I mean, I am honestly delighted each time I get a book I translated from the FedEx guy. He’s pretty nice and it is such a thrill to see the words I agonized over all tidied up and on the printed page. And I will never get tired of seeing my name in the back. But I never actually read the books. I have already read the words they contain far, far too many times. They are burned onto the backs of my eyelids.

Because when you translate a book, you don’t just read it and then you’re done. You read it, and you read it, and you read it again, and then maybe you skim it for a numbers check (always double check the numbers!!). And then you read it again. You maybe read the book more often and more deeply than its author did. Because the author knows what she meant. The translator has to discern this from nothing more than the words on the page. Continue reading

Granta Japan: Yuka Igarashi (ed.)

 

Granta Japan

Even if I wasn’t the target audience for this Japan-centered edition of the British lit magazine Granta, being a Japanese translator and a lover of Japanese literature, I would still have picked up this issue, if only because of the great cover. I am such a sucker for great covers. And Granta often has great covers, which often make me pick them up at the bookstore, so hat tip to their art department. Nice work, gang!

Although I had assumed, looking at the cover in the bookstore (high fives to local indie Book City for generally being awesome!), that it featured a hunk of some mineral photographed so as to be reminiscent of Fuji, the only thing you ever need to signal that we are talking about Japan now (a symbol used to hilarious effect in the new Godzilla, but that is not a discussion for right now. Corner me at a bar one of these days and I will tell you these thoughts I have), this fake Fuji is actually part of a series of photographs called Primal Mountain by Yuji Hamada featured in the magazine. Spurred by the deluge of unreliable information they were getting in Japan in the days after the earthquake disaster of 2011, Hamada began photographing these fake mountains of tin foil up against the very real Tokyo sky.  Continue reading