Random Anniversary 6: My Brain

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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”

Otokonoko Doshi Renaichu: Kaoru Oshima/Fumiko Fumi

Otoko_FumiFor the past few years, there’s been this bubbling undercurrent of fascination with the “otokonoko” in Japan. I think it’s always been hanging around the edges of BL, lurking in the background, but has been getting a little more mainstream currency thanks to artists like Hideyoshico and Fumiko Fumi. It also helps that the art magazine Eureka did a special otokonoko issue a couple years back, bringing the boys who dress as girls more into the public eye. These days, you can go to specialized otokonoko bars and cafés or even transform into one yourself with the help of specialized shops. Naturally, most of this action is where the action usually is, in Tokyo, but you can still see otokonoko on TV across the country, and even outside the capital, you can find places that welcome joso along with the larger LGBTQ community.

The TV appearances and things are easy to dismiss in a way because it’s sort of a specialty of Japan (and so many other places) to take the “novel” and hold it up to the spotlight while ignoring the actual reality of that lived experience in Japanese society (think Matsuko Deluxe vs the general trans experience or Naomi Watanabe vs an average fat girl or Hard Gay vs actual gay life). So of course, with the increasing awareness of otokonoko, a spot opened up at the talent table for wide show appearances, and stepping up to fill that seat was Kaoru Oshima. Originally an actor in gay porn, Oshima started living the otokonoko life, dressing and presenting as a woman full-time, and became the first otokonoko actress in the world of Japanese porn. Eventually, he left the world of porn to become a full-time writer and TV personality. Continue reading “Otokonoko Doshi Renaichu: Kaoru Oshima/Fumiko Fumi”

Random Anniversary 4: My Brain

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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”

Joso Danshi to Menhera Ojisan: Fumiko Fumi

Menheru_FumiThe years keep rolling by, and yet my love of men enjoying the pleasures of other men never fades. Here we are at another 801, this gloriously smutty day when we all reaffirm our love of hot guys smooching, and I am still reading, writing about, and translating their books. So welcome to all of my fellow fujoshi, young and old, who also enjoy a little phantom peen in their lives! Celebrate this world we live in with something pornographic! Or deliciously sweet! There are no rules in this world of man-loving, save for the defining rule that men must love men in some fashion.

How are you celebrating this year? There’s so much to be thankful for! SuBLime continues to bless us with new licenses and licence rescues in English, and the BL industry has maybe never looked better in Japan. BL corners in even the smallest bookstores, and even BL sommeliers to help us find the perfect smut for our own personal fujo requirements! And the scope of what’s possible with BL only seems to get bigger. Like a story about a high-school cross-dresser hooking up with a man with depression twice his age! Sounds like it could only end well, doesn’t it? (Spoiler alert: This is BL. It does.) Continue reading “Joso Danshi to Menhera Ojisan: Fumiko Fumi”

qtµt: Fumiko Fumi/Sayawaka

Scan 8I read the first two volumes of qtµt just after volume two came out at the end of May, and I have been sitting on them ever since because I honestly don’t know what to make of this bizarre collaboration between author Sayawaka and artist (and Brain favourite) Fumiko Fumi. Every time I think about it, a tiny bomb goes off in another part of my poor, beleaguered head. Wait, so did she—Boom! But then how do they—Kablam! Does that mean—Pakow! While I have heard bands that I had no idea how to react to the first time I encountered them (Moe and Ghosts being the most recent notable example), I think this is the first time I’ve ever felt this way about a book. Given the unfamiliar territory my brain and I suddenly find ourselves in, I figured the best course of action would be to wait for the next volume and see how this strange mess plays out. But every time I see the books on my shelf, the explosions start again, and I realized I was going to have to hammer it all out here or risk having too little brain still intact to tackle volume three.

The English tagline on the cover informs us that “The girl(s) don’t even know love, truth, and lies, either.” Which…sure? I guess so? What does that mean? The questions start so early on with this series. The obi is littered with blurbs. “Whoa, I’ve never seen this before,” declares anime screenwriter Mari Okada. And yes, I have to agree with her. “Terrible things happen to cute girls, so I’m happy,” announces the writer of Madoka Magica, Gen Urobuchi. And again, I can’t say that he’s wrong. But why are terrible things happening to cute girls? What is the point here? That is where my brain goes off the rails. Actually, that is one of several places my brain goes off the rails. Let’s get down to it. Continue reading “qtµt: Fumiko Fumi/Sayawaka”

Bokura no Hentai—The End: Fumiko Fumi

IMG_5794So it had to end. Everything that begins ends, except Crest of the Royal Family. That series will outlive us all. But Fumiko Fumi is not writing an epic, time-travelling drama featuring pharaohs and American heiresses, and so her tale is not one that can continue through the ages. And of course, I knew that when I started reading Bokura no Hentai, but it didn’t really hit me until I saw the final volume sitting on the shelf. I stared at it for a minute, in slight disbelief, even though I saw Fumi tweet about the last chapter. But perhaps it came too soon; I couldn’t bring myself to read it. Volume 10 languished in the pile of books I brought back with me from this last trip to Japan. What if it’s terrible? I asked myself. What if it’s too beautiful and I cry all the tears? Clearly, I could not be trusted to read this volume on public transit.

And for a series I have enjoyed/thought about this much, I decided that the best thing to do was to go back and read the whole thing from the beginning. After all, I read the first volume in 2012; my brain could do with a refresher on the details. And maybe reading it all in one go, I’d find some new insights into the whole saga of Marika, Yui, and Palow. I’m not sure how much insight I gained, but it was a pleasure to read an entire series from start to finish without interruption. Reading it all in one go really made me realize how seamless it is, how Fumi was thinking ten volumes ahead right from the start. Well, maybe nine. The last volume isn’t quite everything it could have been. Continue reading “Bokura no Hentai—The End: Fumiko Fumi”

Manga Henshusha: Shunsuke Kimura

MangahenshushaThe new year has been hitting me over the head with a cast iron pan. Part of that is no doubt jet lag. Four months of languishing on the other side of the ocean will really mess with your body clock, and only now, a week after my return to the frozen shores of Canada, am I finally able to make it through an entire day without being accosted with abrupt and intense bursts of sleepiness. And part of it is just the usual scrambling to meet deadlines, with added moving back into my apartment and trying to remember where I put everything. All of which leaves me with no time for noodling around with books. Which is true sadness since my favourite thing in the world is to noodle around with books.

And this book is one I have been living with for months now. I started reading Manga Henshusha on a trip to Osaka from Cat Island in October since it was the thickest book I had to hand, and I was afraid the other slim volumes on my desk would simply not last me for the two-day journey. (Other bibliophiles, I’m sure, share my fear of finishing a book in the middle of a trip with nothing else to pick up after it.) But it’s also a book I’ve been looking forward to reading since it was released in the spring of last year. Because I am obviously interested in all the bits and pieces of the manga world. Take that clock apart and look inside. Plus, cover illustration by Natsume Ono! Continue reading “Manga Henshusha: Shunsuke Kimura”

Sorairo no Kani: Fumiko Fumi

Sorairo_FumikoFumiBefore I knew that I would be leaving for Japan basically two months earlier than my expected annual pilgrimage, I put in an order for enough manga to keep me going until November. Some of this was the latest volumes in series I follow, like ACCA (getting complicated!) and I Am a Hero (tenterhooks and sadness!), some of it was directly work-related (still a secret!), and some of it was just random authors I like. What I didn’t realize at the time I placed the order was that the majority of the random author section was taken up by Fumiko Fumi. It’s like after reading Sakikusa no Saku Goro, I declared to myself that I was all in with this artist and let my subconscious take over. I’m not exactly complaining about this, since I really am all in with this artist. But so many books in a row by the same artist in a row and all the thematic stuff starts to run together.

Or so it would with any other author. But Fumiko Fumi apparently likes to shake things up from book to book. One volume is her debut collection of yon-koma, another is a shojo one-shot, and yet another—the focus of our interest today—is a collection of loosely connected stories speculating on the nature of death and rebirth and destiny. Because of course. Continue reading “Sorairo no Kani: Fumiko Fumi”

Sakikusa no Saku Goro: Fumiko Fumi

Sakikusa_Fumiko FumiThe more I read Fumi’s work, the more I like it. If she keeps this up, she’ll turn into my brain’s most second-tackled author (after est em, who may never lose her crown if she keeps producing good work at the pace she has been). I decided to buy the first volume of Bokura no Hentai based on the tagline alone, fell in love with the series and Fumi’s gentle touch when it comes to gender and teenageriness, but I didn’t push beyond that really. My brain and I were happy with these kids and their complex crossdressing lives. And I really don’t need to add more weight to my already pressed bookshelves. Plus, as I noted before, I felt a weird resistance to exploring more of her work. But then Memento Mori broke down that wall with a weirdly delightful tale of death and love and sexuality, and turned me into a hardcore Fumi fan. She could scribble some stick figures on a napkin at this point and I’d buy it.

So I was happy to run across Sakikusa no Saku Goro once more, when I was receptive to actually buying it. I’d seen this book before, but snobbishly dismissed it based on the copy on the obi: “The dream-like ending of the days of their youth.” Yawn. I don’t care about dreamy youth. I am old and grumpy. I shake my fist at the dreams of the youth that get on my lawn. But I really should have paid more attention the first time I came across this one in the bookstore. After all, it’s published by Ohta Publishing, who never steer me wrong, even when it looks like they are going to. I really need to just trust them already. Continue reading “Sakikusa no Saku Goro: Fumiko Fumi”

Memento Mori: Fumiko Fumi

Memento MoriI have been crushing on Bokura no Hentai since it came out, basically, but for some reason, it never occurred to me to explore other things by author Fumiko Fumi, although that is normally the first thing I do when I find some book I love. Generally, the second the last page is turned, I am out the door and back at the bookstore looking for every other thing that author has written. But I’ve had a peculiar resistance within me when it came to Fumi, one I’m not sure I can explain since I don’t really understand it. I think I had this sort of fear that Bokura was a fluke, that the nuanced story of constructing identity and gender was a one-off and that all her other work would be panty shots and fan service or something. I have no idea why this fear lay in my heart. Maybe simply because I love Bokura enough that any hint of fan service in any work by the same artist would tarnish the whole thing for me? Whatever it was, I have walked by Fumi books in the bookstore on more than one occasion. Continue reading “Memento Mori: Fumiko Fumi”