So 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
The 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
Before 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
The 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
I 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
The questioning gender/sexuality train picks up where it left off in the earlier volumes, but with a new cover design. I am all aboard the train, but less on board with the new covers. Which might seem petty, but I have stated my “judge a book by its cover” policy on more than one occasion. The kissing designs of the first three books were both enticing in a provocative way, especially with the obis proclaiming that what looked like girls kissing were actually boys dressed like girls, and revealing of the characters and their relationships.
The slight smile on Paro’s face as he kisses a wide-eyed Marika, the total embarrassed sincerity of both Marika and Yui as Yui goes in for the kiss, the self-awareness of Paro and the slight defiance of Yui as they move to kiss each other, these covers almost perfectly capture who they are in relation to each other. Each kiss is set in a colour that really shows the reader the level and kind of emotion connecting the two kissers. And it’s satisfying to go back to these covers having read the books and see the hints of the story in them.
But the new covers belong to the blandest of shojo school romance stories. I like the inclusion of the female characters on the backs since they do play larger roles in these volumes, and picking up on the color themes of the first volumes also brings these covers closer to the first three, but overall, they just feel less daring and interesting. I’d even like them more if they were just stark white backgrounds, the way the first three are jet black. But these polka dots seem like such a cop out and the poses way too standard school romance. Continue reading
So right about now, I am in full blown panic mode, getting three months of stuff together to move back across the ocean to the frozen tundras of Canada and wondering how exactly three months went by so quickly. I could swear that I just got here. I can’t quite get the hang of this time thing. I mean, I read Books Two and Three of Bokura no Hentai not long after I arrived in Japan, and I am just getting around to writing about them now. Even after the gentle prodding of a kind reader to maybe post something about my impressions of the later volumes of the series. I feel like I just read these books, but clearly my sense of time is broken. (Also, my memory and my ability to sleep. I am clearly half a person. Applications for assistants to help me get my shit straight are welcome.)
But the soft, rounded lines of Kuchibiru to Garnet reminded me that I still hadn’t gotten back to Bokura no Hentai. If it wasn’t for this documentation of the battles my brain wages with books, I might never remember anything I read. So a solid high five to me and my brain for actually typing all this stuff out! I at least am glad for this record of my noodle-y ramblings. Continue reading