Category: Japanese

Shumatsu no Wakusei: Oya

shumatsu_oya

A thing happening in the marketing of books lately is to note the number of followers or likes the artist has on Twitter—most often, but occasionally, it will be Instagram or Pixiv—on the obi, and talk about how this popular web thing is at long last a book. It’s like Japanese publishers recognize the power of the internet, but still aren’t that sure how to harness it. So they slap some numbers on the cover and hope that people will worry about being left out of the group and pick up a copy. And in Japan, that is not the worst strategy since one of the greatest compliments you can pay a restaurant here is that it always has a line-up. I have with my own eyes seen people join a line simply because it was there and whatever was at the end of it must be good if there was a line. Given this kind of consumerist mindset, it’s not actually a bad strategy to count on Twitter followers to get new readers to pick up a book.

My issue with the “find something on the internet and publish it with follower count info” is that publishers are snapping up web manga and comic essays in hope of grabbing the next My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, but more than a few of these books are boring or bad or could have used some extra time with an editor. So I’ve grown a bit wary of those internet numbers on the obi, a sign of something possibly half-baked in the pages of the book it adorns. Which is why I passed over Shumatsu no Wakusei the first few times I saw it in the bookstore. Although I was intrigued by the cover and the title, that Twitter likes count on the obi made me pull my hand back every time I saw it.

But push a good cover on me enough times, and I will break eventually. (Hard stare in the direction of Color Recipe in particular here) I always judge books by their covers, and my curiosity about what’s inside inevitably gets the best of me. And so it was with Shumatsu and the girl staring forlornly at me from space and the end of the world. (more…)

Sanju Mariko: Yuki Ozawa

sanjumariko_ozawaStill on the josei train, apparently. Maybe I will never get off it? Is this where I live now? All josei all the time? I wonder if the train will stop in Shojo Town or Seinen Village. Because I do like that stuff, too, but it seems my brain is particularly concerned with women and whatever the heck they’re writing about these days. Life circumstances? The man-hating feminist deep in my heart feeling free to finally stand in the sun? Who can say!

Whether it’s man-hating feminism or plain curiosity about books I haven’t read, I’ve had my eye on Sanju Mariko for some time now. Not just because it’s been on all the lists of amazing manga since it started running in Be Love a few years ago—although when a manga is on everyone’s list, it does make you curious—but because the protagonist of this series is an 80-year-old woman and when was the last time you saw that happen? Not the protagonist’s mom or the lady at the grocery store yelling at the cashier for messing up her order or the elderly woman the doctor just couldn’t save dammit who becomes the jumping off point for the doctor’s new life as a unicyclist, but the hero of the story, the one we care about and follow eagerly through the many events and obstacles. Seriously. If you know of a manga or movie or TV show from recent years that stars an elderly lady, please tell me about it, because I am entirely here for this. (more…)

Designer: Yukari Ichijo

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Well, here we are in 2019 all of a sudden. I spent my New Year holidays live-tweeting the annual Kohaku Utagassen, a tweetstorm furious enough to get my account locked, which was only really a problem because I have my Japanese SIM in my phone and Twitter kept sending an access code to my Canadian number. So I was stuck in a terrible Twitter void until I could find my Canadian SIM and stick it in my phone long enough to free myself from that dark prison. That was the entirety of my holiday drama. The rest of my time was squandered away on a temple visit in which I learned the history of the temple from the architect/restorer who happened to be in front of me in line for omikuji, eating mikan and mochi, and of course, laying around the house reading manga. I read a lot of manga.

Most of that manga was stuff that is still readily available at the bookstore, new volumes of ongoing series or new-to-me books published in the last few years. But I did dig into some classic shojo as well, thanks to the magic of Yahoo Auction. Which has only grown in power since I last used it a couple? few? years ago. So much classic manga on offer for so cheap! And the system is super streamlined, so there’s none of the back-and-forth emails that used to be the bane of my Yahoo existence. (I am a bad emailer. Do not email me. It will likely take me months to get back to you, and I’ll feel guilty about it the whole time.) (more…)

Mandarin Gypsy Cat no Roujou: Akane Torikai

Mandarin_TorikaiHoly smokes! Last Friday of the year! I hope you’ve all sent out your New Year cards already and are ready to settle in for some solid holiday laziness. I will be doing plenty of loafing about, reading manga and eating mochi since I have been told that this is the optimal way to spend the New Year. Don’t worry, though! I will be careful with the mochi. You won’t see me on the NHK news on New Year’s Day as one of the tragic revellers who choked to death on a holiday treat. (Honestly, it’s a bit surprising that mochi is still a thing people want to eat given how often people choke on it. Maybe we should just all eat mochi-shaped cookies instead.)

And if you, like me, are intending to expend the bare minimum of energy this holiday season, then perhaps you are looking to stock up on books to read, so that you can stack them up next to the sofa or your bed or the kotatsu to eliminate even trips to the bookshelf and maximize laziness. Perhaps that quest for books has led you here to me now. So I’m happy to inform you that I have got your back on this one. In December alone, I read these great books that you also might enjoy! But if you’ve already read those and all of the other books I wrote about this year or none of them really appeals to you (although I must question why you are even here in that case), here is one final offering for 2018. (more…)

Osaka Kanjo Kekkai Toshi: Yumiko Shirai

Osaka_ShiraiIs this where I’m supposed to do the year in review? It is the second last week of December, after all. I should really be turning my head around to look at the many happenings of 2018 and reflect on all the books I read this year. But, as I said on a recent episode of Manga Machinations when they were kind enough to have me on to discuss my work as an interpreter, I’m actually really awful at that “best of” stuff. I have a terrible memory that makes it impossible for me to pinpoint when I read or did something without double-checking my journal, these pages here, or the internet at large. Much like when I am asked about where I’m from and my default answer is the last place I lived, my default response for my best of the year/decade/life is always the last book I read and liked.

Which is why I must now update my pick for 2018 that I gave on the podcast from Yuria-sensei to Osaka Kanjo. (Watch this space for a potential new best of 2018 next week!) Because how could I resist a new series by long-time Brain favourite Yumiko Shirai?! She is on the list of authors whose new work I will read without question the second it comes out. The only reason I didn’t read this one sooner was because I was in Canada when it came out (and was forced to place a large order of books for work two weeks before this was released) and then once I got back to Tokyo, none of the smaller bookstores I looked in had it in stock. But finally. Finally! I have read it, and I have Thoughts. Which is why we’re all here, right? (more…)

Yuria-sensei no Akai Ito: Kiwa Irie

Yuria_KiwaAs you may have heard, Inio Asano came to TCAF this year. He was great, the fans were (mostly) great, and a great time was had by (mostly) all. What you may not have heard was that his then-girlfriend, now-wife Akane Torikai joined him on this trip. You didn’t hear about this because it was all on the down-low, under her real name, much like the time husband Anno accompanied Moyoco when she was a guest. And maybe the name Torikai doesn’t mean anything to you either way, and that is the great shame of this story. Because Torikai is an accomplished manga artist herself, but of course, working in the josei field, her work goes largely unnoticed by English audiences. (Insert obligatory plea to read more josei so we can have more josei.) She also hasn’t been translated into English, so that’s probably a bit of a stumbling block, too.

But she is great and nice, and when we met her for drinks a couple weeks ago, she was kind enough to give me the two volumes of her latest release, so trust me, you’ll be hearing more about Torikai soon enough. But over the course of the evening, we of course got around to talking about other manga, and she got very excited telling me about this one new series. Fortunately, she followed up with an email the next day; otherwise, I would have been left scratching my head and wondering if I made up that conversation about a great-sounding manga. Because drinking. Thanks to her email, though, I did not have to question my faulty memories and even had a title and an author name to take with me to the bookstore. So off I went! (more…)

Giso Furin: Akiko Higashimura

GisoFurin_HigashimuraI’m reading about adultery a lot lately. I don’t think it’s on purpose, like I have some unconscious grudge against monogamous relationships so I’m reaching for books that see said relationships destroyed through infidelity and lies. But I can never know the depths of my subconscious, so who knows? Maybe I am on a secret quest to wipe out faithful partnerships from the face of this earth. Or maybe it’s just a topic that more and more josei artists are taking up, and I am trying to read more josei works. At any rate, I just finished the latest volume of 1122, which is painful in a physical way and if you have the dangling kind of junk between your legs, proceed with caution.

And then I stumbled upon the latest Higashimura the other day, Giso Furin, which means “fake adultery” but which my mind keeps presenting to me as “fake furin” in a pleasingly alliterative mix of English and Japanese that only us bilinguals will appreciate. Despite this, I want the English title of this series to be “fake furin.” It’s just so satisfying with those “f”s. Of course, I will never have to argue about this with any potential publisher because this is yet another josei title that I very much doubt will ever see the light of day in English. The only way we’re going to see more josei in English is if people start buying the existing josei in English. So while we’re here, might I point you towards Moyoco Anno’s Sakuran or Higashimura’s existing English works, Tokyo Tarareba Girls and Princess Jellyfish? Or maybe you could pre-order her forthcoming Blank Canvas? And let’s not forget the great Kyoko Okazaki. Also, if I may be so bold, perhaps you could consider picking up a copy of my translation of Asumiko Nakamura’s Maiden Railways from new manga publisher Denpa? Show publishers that readers want josei so that they will license more josei, okay? Thanks, good talk. (more…)