Neko Shoten: Sasakumako

Neko_SasakumakoIt is no secret that I like books. Although perhaps the title of this blog makes it sound like my brain is on a mission to eradicate them from this world, nothing could be farther from the truth. I love books! I read them for fun, I read them for work, I cram them into every little available space in my house. (Fun fact: My linen closet doubles as a book shelf for comp copies!) My entire life basically revolves around books, and few things give me as much quiet, solid pleasure as noodling around in a bookstore, looking at all the books. Even if I have no intention of buying one, it is such a warm comfort to be surrounded by them, to pick one up and read the cover copy and then gently set it back in its place. One of the sadder parts of returning to Canada is the sparsity of bookstores, although I am very fortunate to live near two great independent shops, Glad Day and Bakka Phoenix. Between the two, my English-reading needs are basically covered. But nothing can replace that moment of delight I experience so much more often in Tokyo of stumbling upon a previously unknown bookstore. 

It is also no secret that I like cats, like all good citizens of the internet. I only just this very day happened upon a podcast that is nothing but a cat purring, and it made the sun shine a little brighter in my heart. I will take any and all opportunities to hang out with cats, including going to great lengths to inconvenience myself by fostering rescue cats and timing my life in Tokyo around whatever cat I have living with me in Toronto. (If you are in the GTA and looking for some cat companionship, you are certain to find your perfect match at the rescue organization I work with!)

So I am obviously the target market for a manga about a cat bookstore. Sasakumako could not have my number harder if she came to my house, became my best friend, and spent the next twenty years of her life with me. Although I suppose I am fairly easy  to read since the book was a gift from a publisher who I have known considerably less than twenty years, and she still knew exactly what I would want to read: a book about a bookstore staffed by cats. And while I was looking up the title of the book to put in a link so you could all take a peek at it yourselves, I discovered there is not one but two cat bookstores in Tokyo, so clearly the fantasy depicted in these pages is well on its way to becoming a reality. Once the cats get opposable thumbs, we won’t need humans in the bookstore at all! Continue reading “Neko Shoten: Sasakumako”

Hitori Hitoneko: Ami Uozumi

Hitori_UozumiEvery time I move between Canada and Japan, I overestimate my abilities, stamina, and time to a degree that is honestly quite shocking. I have been doing this round-trip life for a decade now, so you’d think I would have at least a vague grasp of what I am capable of doing in what period of time. But no. Every single time, I grow increasingly frantic as I push further into the crumple zone—the plane is going to leave whether I am on it or not, and that unyielding wall jams my days back up into each other like the front end of a car in a crash. Miraculously, however, I did once again manage to throw my apartment into my suitcases and get them to the airport on time. Even more miraculous perhaps is the fact that for the first time in I can’t even remember how long, said cases were not overweight because of all the books I bought. Friends, I showed admirable restraint on my bookstore visits during my summer in Tokyo.

That is not to say that I did not buy any books. That would be absurd. My suitcases were still filled with fun treats for my brain to battle. I simply tried this idea of only buying books when I was ready to read a new book. Plus a couple extra. I am not a monk over here. But during the last frantic week of the crumple zone, I make a concerted effort not to buy any new books because I am panicking about how much space I don’t have in my luggage. This effort is constantly thwarted, though, because people keep putting out great books that I want to read. Or author friends spring their latest release on me over dinner the night before I leave and said release just happens to be a 500-page tome. (Please stop writing doorstoppers, author friends. Think of my poor, struggling suitcases.) Or I happen to spot the latest from an author I’ve enjoyed battling before, like Ami Uozomi, whose live-in lesbian cooking/romance manga charmed the pants off of me. And this one promised cats, too! How could I resist the possibility of queer cat manga?? I am not made of stone. Continue reading “Hitori Hitoneko: Ami Uozumi”

Louvre no Neko: Taiyo Matsumoto (+ Saho Tono)

Louvre_Matsumoto.jpgWe haven’t talked about Taiyo Matsumoto in a while, have we? Which is a damned shame because he is a startlingly brilliant artist, and I wish he’d give us more chances to talk about him. But he is not the fastest artist, and while I have seen things (lovely things!) and know things (exciting things!), I’m not allowed to say anything about any of it, so I have kept my mouth firmly shut about all things Matsumoto since the heartbreaking end of Sunny.

But now! Finally! A new work out in print! Louvre (or Les chats du Louvre as the French subtitle would have it) is the latest in a line of comics commissioned by the great Parisian museum itself together with the publisher Futuropolis. Previous Japanese entries in this notably dude-heavy (one woman in the course of fifteen books? Seriously??) series are Jiro Taniguchi’s The Guardians of the Louvre (a very touching homage to which pops up toward the end of Louvre) and Hirohiko Araki’s Rohan at the Louvre, and it’s clear that Matsumoto with his European influences and interest in pushing the boundaries of manga was maybe the perfect mangaka to join their ranks. How he decided that the perfect story for the Louvre was the surreal, wandering tale of a herd of anthropomorphized stray cats and a little girl, however, will likely remain a mystery for the ages. Continue reading “Louvre no Neko: Taiyo Matsumoto (+ Saho Tono)”

Nekojou Mu-Mu: Machiko Kyo

Nekojou MuMu_KyoCan I pander to you, fellow book battler? Can I finally join everyone else on the internet and talk about cats? Will you respect me less if I talk about cat manga? Will it change our relationship? I promise not to post cute cat photos. (Unless they happen to be included in the cat manga.) (Which they do.) It’s just that one of my favourite artists, Machiko Kyo, wrote a whole book of stories about her adorably standoff-ish and utterly beautiful princess of a cat, and I am powerless before this combination of artist and subject matter.   

I have spent any number of words extolling the virtues of Kyo’s delicate watercolour style/watercolour-like use of markers, her warm, loose lines, and minimal backgrounds. I continue to be baffled/not baffled at the fact that she still has had absolutely nothing published in English. The brain part of me is the one that’s baffled: her work is so lovely and engaging; she writes things across a wide range of genres, so she really does offer something for everyone; and now she’s written a manga about her gorgeous and ridiculously expressive cat. Why are English publishers not lining up at her door?? But the rest of me, the part of me that works in the manga publishing industry in North America, is not baffled in the slightest. Kyo doesn’t make stereotypical “manga”; her work ends up being “comics in translation”, which is a much harder sale to make. And you know, economic realities, blah blah. Continue reading “Nekojou Mu-Mu: Machiko Kyo”

You Are a Cat!: Sherwin Tjia

YouAreaCat

So you may or may not be aware of this, but I wrote a book. It features a lot of things, including some pirates who, because of circumstances detailed in my head but not in the book, have no boat; an explosion or two in places where I may or may not have worked; an attack rabbit named Mr. Fluffy; a large gathering of robotic Gothic Lolitas; and, relevant to our discussion here today, an army of house cats. The cats keep their own counsel and move according to their own agenda, and are actually not the main focus of the book. But they are great for getting people’s attention at the many book fairs I attend with my publisher, where I try to persuade passers-by to buy my book.

I made a stop-motion animated trailer for it with plastic toy cats and faceless wire puppets. (Animation is a great hobby if you like spending hours alone in the dark moving tiny objects in tiny increments and then photographing each and every move. I do not recommend it for the more social among us. Although buying all those tiny cats meant talking to a lot of toy store clerks, all of whom gave me very strange looks when they realized I intended to buy all of the tiny cats they had in stock.) Continue reading “You Are a Cat!: Sherwin Tjia”

Gad Sfortunato: basso

Hello, rotten girls and boys! I hope your Yaoi Day was magical and full of hot men lusting after other hot men! In the spirit of the holiday, I thought I’d follow up my special interview with est em with a post on another favourite around these parts, Natsume Ono. Or as she is known in BL circles, basso.

I have to be honest with you. This post very nearly did not happen. Because I am currently fostering three two-week-old kittens and it turns out? Baby cats are very needy. And adorable. And delightful. So I’ve been spending any time that I’m not working to pay my rent with my translation day job (and even some of that time) tending to the most giggle-inducing trio I have ever encountered. I may just quit that translation thing and spend my days posting cat videos from now on.

But first, hot guys! The titular hot guy, Gad, is a tattoo artist and a bit of a playboy. Or rather he plays his cards close. But he has some deep rivers and all that. Each chapter in the book is a self-contained incident involving Gad and another man, usually in his circle of friends. Who apparently all want to do him. Which is fair, because hey! Gad is a hot guy with an air of mystery about him.  Continue reading “Gad Sfortunato: basso”