Kaguyaden: Chiho Saito

KaguyadenDang. This year’s already got me on the run and it’s barely just begun. I’ve been chained to my desk the last three weeks, translating one book after another and just barely keeping up with my deadlines. I have this terrible habit of taking way too much time with novels in particular because there are so many more words and I want them to be the most perfect translation babies of all but perfection is impossible so I just keep picking at them and polishing since there will always be some new flaw to fix. And then I look up at my calendar with a gasp and realize I really need to get to work on all the other books in my schedule. After all, they are all my precious translation babies, equally deserving of my tender translation affections. However, devoting my attentions to my future children means no extra attentions for my bastard child aka this blog. But maybe I’ve dug myself out of that hole and can actually come and ramble here about books again?? Fingers crossed!

But before the rambling begins, I have to say thank you to all of you who made the Kickstarter Magician A a success! Not only did we reach our target, we also made it to all of our stretch goals! So everyone wins with fancy French flaps and super nice paper when the book eventually makes it to bookstores sometime later this year. And all the Kickstarter backers double win since they get the beautiful book plus an exclusive interview zine in which I talk with creator Natsuko Ishitsuyo about her career and her work, and we take a little side trip into spirituality and mythology. I’m hoping to post some of the interview here at some point, as a little teaser taste of what you can expect to find in the pages of Magician A, so once again, fingers crossed! Continue reading “Kaguyaden: Chiho Saito”

Veil: Kotteri

Veil_KotteriFriends! As I write, Magician A is almost fully funded. It’s so exciting to see people getting excited about this book I love! And gratifying! I was sure there was an audience for a book like this in English, but it is one thing to know that in your head and another to see the love your precious baby is getting out there in the world. If you haven’t already pledged to get a slightly smutty treat early next year, maybe you could do so now?? I really want everyone to read the interview I did with Ishitsuyo earlier this year, but that’s a stretch goal, so we need to get those numbers up. Pep talk! Then you can hear all about how I went to a shrine and paid a priest to pray for the success of the English translation! (Yes, it was a weird experience.)

And now that I have sufficiently promoted myself, how about we talk about some books? The internet is doing some interesting things to the world of manga. I’ve commented before on the trend of including the number of Twitter followers an artist has on the obi of manga, and we’re seeing more and more of the series artists are publishing independently on pixiv or their own platforms being picked up by publishers and released in book form, the most notable of which is probably My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. That book (and its sequels) exploded in a way that I think no one really expected, no matter how many views Kabi’s work had gotten on pixiv. The (well deserved) success of Lesbian opened the door to a wave of autobiographical essay manga spilling in from various corners of the internet. And fictional manga was soon to follow. But while the memoir comics tend to stick to a monotone colour palette, the fiction was branching out and experimenting with colour and form in a way that was not exactly done traditionally in manga. Continue reading “Veil: Kotteri”

Girls in Love: Shimura/Nakamura

GirlsLoveBefore we talk about books, I have an important announcement! You may remember how I read a book called Majutsushi A a couple years ago and fell utterly in love with it and the stunning talent of the artist, Natsuko Ishitsuyo? And how I said no one would ever publish it in English? I was wrong about that last bit! Because I am publishing it in English! Well, it’s actually Peter of The Beguiling who’s doing the publishing part of things, but I did do the translation and worked together with a great team of people, including editor Penny Clark, letterer Karis Page, and many Beguiling staff members, to make the publication a real thing that is happening in this world. And now you can buy this translation baby we have worked so very hard on for the last year. Support our campaign on Kickstarter and be the first in line to hold this pretty princess in your hot little hands! 

Thank you for indulging me in this bit of self-promotion. With that out of the way, we can get to the important thing here: the books. As always, one of my first stops upon escaping from painfully wintry Toronto to pleasantly temperate Tokyo was the bookstore, where I stocked up on the latest volumes of all my favourite series, plus a couple of new series by favourite authors. Weirdly enough, both of those new books are girls’ love and published within a week of each other, so I figured why not compare and contrast these different takes on the world of women who love women. Continue reading “Girls in Love: Shimura/Nakamura”

Ijuin Hayato-shi no Fuon Naranu Nichijo: est em

ijuin_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”

Watashi no Uchu: Ayako Noda

Uchu_NodaOctober knocked me flat on my butt, as it does every year. And yet I am completely taken off guard by the frantic speed at which the days whip past when I still have so very much work to do before the calendar page montage reaches November. I have a couple series that always have a volume due for translation by the end of October. The Toronto International Festival of Authors is at the end of October, and I interpret for whichever Japanese author they invite across the ocean to be a part of the CanLit scene for a week. (This year, it was Kyoko Nakajima, whose first work in English translation The Little House has a tender queer aspect to it and name-drops Nobuko Yoshiya to ensure that the subtext is text and you don’t miss or willfully misinterpret it.) And of course, I usually embark on my winter life in Tokyo sometime in November, meaning there are all kinds of things that need doing in October before I can fly across the ocean to warmer climes. I know that this is how October is going to be, and still I wander through September blithely, certain that I have all the time in the world, that this October will be different. Reader, it was not.

So I spent the last month translating and reading and stalking Kyoko Nakajima online which left me little time to read anything that wasn’t written by or about Nakajima. But no worries! I am making up for that time away from my personal reading in spades this month. And first up is a book surprisingly long neglected by me, the debut manga of Brain darling Ayako Noda. How could I have left it unread for so long? Noda is an artist who has done nothing but dazzle me over the last few years. I cherish each of her new releases and struggle with my desire for her to hurry up and make more books, and my wish for her to live a healthy, happy life and not die young of overwork because the manga industry is a truly punishing one. But for some reason, it has taken me until now to read Watashi no Uchu. I think I was a little afraid it would be bad, thus tarnishing her perfection in my mind, however slightly. The cover of the first volume is all off-beat high school drama, and honestly, that’s just not my jam. I could’ve just read the back to discover that actually, it is much more than off-beat high school drama, but we all know that I avoid reading the backs of books. I like to go in fresh, without any cover copy to lead me in one direction or another. Continue reading “Watashi no Uchu: Ayako Noda”

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”