Random Anniversary 6: My Brain


These random anniversaries have a way of slapping me in the face with the extremely twisty road that is my life, and this anniversary is perhaps slappier than most. Over the course of this particular journal–a smart spring-green affair that was a gift from one of my favourite people–I went from running through the streets of London to buying extremely mislabelled “vegan” food in the night markets of Taipei to a narrow escape from a burgeoning plague in Tokyo to an actual pandemic in Toronto, where I have now been locked up in my apartment for the last three months using my sewing skills to craft masks for all my friends and family, only scurrying out for groceries and beer. It is honestly overwhelming to step back and take a real look at how life used to be and how it is now, especially because my science brain is only too well aware that the normalcy of the Before Times is probably never coming back.

And that’s a good thing in a lot of ways! The plague is certainly laying bare all the ways capitalism has failed us, and so many people suddenly have nothing to do but reassess the way we live in this world and discover the need to burn it all to the ground and rebuild a society that supports all of us, especially the most vulnerable among us, instead of a bunch of venture capitalists and tech bros and the general class of rich white people. Plus, we’re all expert handwashers now! And we have a new fashion possibility in the face mask. Continue reading “Random Anniversary 6: My Brain”

Ijuin Hayato-shi no Fuon Naranu Nichijo: est em


Although I am a professional manga person, I am sometimes shockingly ignorant of manga. Not on purpose, of course. But there is a lot of manga out there in the history of manga and I am just one person with one set of eyeballs. Plus, I also like to read novels, non-fiction, and a variety of work in English, too. It’s just not possible for me (or anyone really) to have read all the manga. So I’ve never read Ashita no Joe or Cardcaptor Sakura or Slam Dunk or really any of the really famous titles. I read the first couple volumes of Vagabond on the recommendation of my hairdresser at the time? I’ve always been more interested in randomly picking up whatever title I happen upon at the bookstore than “educating” myself on the “classics”, a stance I take with pretty much all books. All those lists of “a thousands books you have to read before you die” can go to hell, as far as I’m concerned. Read what you love, read what draws your eye. You’re not over here writing a history of the canon or anything. (Unless you are and then you should probably read all those big old books.)

Which is not to say I haven’t read any of the classics. Just that I read them when they come to me in a more organic way. Which is why I didn’t read Kaze to Ki no Uta until just a few years ago. And I utterly adored it, most likely because I wasn’t forcing myself to read it in the name of reading all the manga. So it will come as no surprise that I have never read a single one of the thirty-five volumes of City Hunter. Nor have I seen any of the anime or films based on the manga. Until recently, all I knew about City Hunter was the name. And then est em stepped into the picture Continue reading “Ijuin Hayato-shi no Fuon Naranu Nichijo: est em”

Random Anniversary 4: My Brain


Almost two years to the day since my brain last celebrated the end of a journal, a sign that me and my brain need to work on spending more time with our journal and less time on Twitter. But the gratification from Twitter is instant, while the journal is more of a slow burn, and present me always needs cookies right now, all too often to the detriment of future me.

What happened in these two years documented in a little purple notebook that I got in Singapore? Who knows?? The notebook in question is tucked away in my Toronto apartment, while my brain and I are here in Tokyo. Recent happenings that are most certainly included in the journal include interpreting at TIFF in September and for author Hideo Furukawa last month (reasons why posting here has been especially light), but further back than that, and my poor memory grows hazy. I was in Japan a lot last year? Maybe? I lectured a bunch of hapless university students in America about gender in translation? I had some birthdays and my body continued its relentless march towards our inevitable decline? Continue reading “Random Anniversary 4: My Brain”

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 “Doujinshi Round-up: 2017 Edition”

Ii ne! Hikaru Genji-kun: est em


It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? For a while there, it felt like I was reading some new est em every other week, but then came the long dry spell after IKKI ended. Golondrina was supposed to have wrapped up in the next, unserialized volume already (last year, I think?), but we are still waiting for that, sadly. IPPO is coming out at its slow and steady pace. Other than that, though, the manga world has been sadly missing est em’s unique voice lately. No BL one-shots, no hilarious centaur books, nothing to tide us over in the between books in her ongoing series. Until now!

Ii ne! Hikaru Genji-kun started in Feel Young last year, and I read the first couple of chapters in the magazine. But then I had to go back to the land of icy tundras, and my easy access to Feel Young ended. So I’ve been waiting ever since for the release of the tankobon. Because the first chapters felt silly and fresh, like em was coming up for air after the serious action in Golondrina. She so often focusses on the drama and reality of relationships between people and all the heartbreak and difficulty that accompany that, that I forget sometimes just how truly funny she can be. The aforementioned centaur book is the last time I can remember where she just let herself run free with a silly idea, but even in the more serious centaur book (as serious as a book about centaur love can be), there were some truly hilarious moments. (I’m thinking of you, peeper horse in “Black and White”.) Continue reading “Ii ne! Hikaru Genji-kun: est em”

Doujinshi Round-up: 2016 Edition

AlenzyasAlthough 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.

Continue reading “Doujinshi Round-up: 2016 Edition”

Ever After: est em

Ever after

I have to say that I am mostly done with people reimagining other creative works. Like if I see another Disney princesses in some unexpected situation/getups or Alice in some other land than Wonder, I may very well pluck out at least one of my eyes to fling at the screen. I get why these sorts of reinterpretations exist, though. It’s an homage of sorts, like a fanzine or a parody doujinshi, a way of showing your love of the thing, a way of proving that you are a real fan. Or more cynically, maybe it’s just the artist taking advantage of a surefire way to draw some eyes to their work. And I’m not entirely unsympathetic to any or all of these goals. But I am tired of seeing the same work rehashed in the same old ways. After a while, it stops bringing anything new to the table. Although maybe I’m just getting old and I will soon start shaking my fist at the kids on my lawn.

But maybe it’s just I’m tired of the things that get remixed, because when est em tweeted that she had a new book of BL-ified fairy tales out, I was halfway to the bookstore before I had even finished reading the tweet. After all, this was no mere genderflipping of Ghibli characters by an artist I’d never heard of, this was one of my favourite manga artists turning those old classics into boy on boy action. And what action! (Sorry, I just had to write that. Apologies for ridiculousness.) The tagline on the back cover of the book says it better than I ever could: “All fairytales are made from one percent fact and ninety-nine percent boys’ love.” Continue reading “Ever After: est em”

Brain Battles Authors


TCAF is upon us! That magical time of year when artists from all over the world descend on Toronto to make our lives better with new books! So no time for battling books this week; my brain and I are too busy battling authors! Including Japanese guests Moyoco Anno, est em, and Akira Himekawa! All the fun is here! So come say hi and if you can’t make it all the way to Canada for your comics fun, then check out this interview I did with est em over at the Comics Journal. But be warned: It is very long!

Doujinshi Round-up: People I Know Edition


Given that I spent some time talking about the random doujinshi I have encountered on this trip to Japan, you might well expect that there was some non-random doujinshi involved in my reading lately, and in that, you would be correct. I have indeed been reading the doujinshi of people who are, in fact, known to me, as I hope they are to you. And if they’re not, I would suggest you check out the non-doujin works of these artists because they are six kinds of awesome and they could use your support. Oddly enough, they’ve all been published in English, so if you have manga dollars to spend, these would be a good place to put them. 

You know that I basically cannot spend anytime in Japan without picking up something by Brain favourite est em. She is just so prolific and her work is just so worth talking about. And for some reason, Mandarake was practically overflowing with her doujinshi work the last time I was there. Did someone sell off their collection? Did she herself decide to replenish their stock? I have no answers, only smutty doujins. Smutty, horsey doujins.

Because of course, I picked up some of her centaur phase work. Both Equus and Equus/Duo contain stories collected in the Equus book published by Shodensha. I don’t have Equus here to compare these doujin versions with the mainstream version, but from my memory, they are pretty similar, if not essentially the same. Continue reading “Doujinshi Round-up: People I Know Edition”

Sono Otoko, Amato ni Tsuki: est em

Sono Otoko Amato ni Tsuki

It’s been a while since the est em fanclub met. Thank goodness Ohta Publishing thoughtfully put together this collection of interconnected shorts from est em. Otherwise, it would be another day of crying into our pillows, waiting waiting waiting for more est em. The est em fanclub actually got very lucky in August, which saw the publication not only of Sono Otoko, Amato ni Tsuki but also Book Three of Golondrina. No crying into our pillows anymore!

I’ve gotten to the point with est em where I don’t even check what her new books are about. I just see the words “est em” next to a title I don’t know, and before I know it, I’m at home with the book in my hands. Which is why I replied “politician BL maybe, I don’t know, the guy on the cover’s wearing a suit” in response to a fellow est em fan asking what the new title was about. It turns out that no, Sono Otoko has nothing to do with politicians. It’s not even BL. The tiny French subtitle tells the story: “Une histoire d’un amateur de friandises”. A story of a connoisseur of sweets. If you pay attention to more than the suit on the cover, you can clearly see a bar of chocolate in his inner jacket pocket. So not politics. I think the suit blinded me. Guys in suits! Continue reading “Sono Otoko, Amato ni Tsuki: est em”