Category: manga

1122: Peko Watanabe

1122_WatanabeRelationships in manga, notably in shojo and josei, tend to be pretty same-y, in that they are usually between a girl/woman and a boy/man. (Which is fine. All you hetero people can sit back down. I’m not about to start denigrating your lifestyle here or anything.) And they tend to follow the same set patterns: boy wants girl who does not want boy, girl wants boy who does not want girl, mutual want but: obstacles, mutual non-want but: forced together, and then the rarest of beasts: mutual want, happy relationship. Of course, there are variants and various degrees of rapey-ness, but on the whole, we get a whole lot of one lady-one man in mainstream manga. And sure, I can turn to my beloved BL, but even there, the preponderance of work is one dude (or dude-creature) for one dude (dude-creature).

None of these relationship patterns are good or bad in and of themselves. It’s just, I am so interested in all the ways we human beings relate to each other and how those relationships change depending on the perspective we come at them from. So I get excited about work that presents new perspectives on relationship styles. Which is why when I saw 1122 prominently displayed in my favourite bookstore, I was intrigued enough to pick it up. It was part of a display of josei manga that had been featured on TV recently, and whoever did the featuring had some pretty good taste; Aoi Ikebe’s Zassou and Princess Maison, along with Ryo Ikuemi’s Anata were also prominently displayed. The little blurb for 1122 noted that this couple had their own way of doing things when it came to sex and love. They were *gasp* in an open relationship. (Or: official cheating, in the Japanese, which I love. Sounds like they went to city hall and got certified to cheat or something.)    (more…)

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Hatarake! Suima-san: Maiko Dake

Suima_DakeNew year, new fires to put out. My 2018 has been off to a surprisingly and unpleasantly eventful start, leaving me and my brain with little time for our favourite indulgence: reading books and writing about them. Which is all the more disappointing given the staggering amount of books we have amassed in the last couple months in the land of bookstores, aka Japan. So many books! And more than a few that I would like to be writing here about. My brain has things to say about the printed page! But for me to write something on every single book I read that I found interesting enough to say a few words about, I would have to give up my day job of reading books and rewriting them in another language. And then I would have no money to buy the books to write about. So!

Perfect is the enemy of good—isn’t that what they say? So let’s give up on the idea of writing about all the books, and just focus on writing about some of the books. This seems infinitely more doable and a good brain resolution for the new year. Some of the books is still plenty of books. And Suima-san seems like a good book to kick off this brain resolution, given that the book is basically a New Year’s resolution in and of itself. (more…)

Tongari Boshi no Atelier: Kamome Shirahama

Atelier_ShirahamaFar too many of my posts here are basically me moaning about how some great Japanese book will never be licensed in English, so it’s a treat to come across something like Tongari Boshi, which is both a great Japanese book and something that is sure to be licensed in English. I am so sure this will happen that I had to google it right now to make sure it hasn’t already been announced. (It hasn’t, so this is where I make my customary plea to publishers: Whoever licensed this, please hire me to translate it.)

Tongari Boshi is the whole package: great art and a great story that bridges the gap between cultures effortlessly for a charming package that is just so very good. I only picked it up because Shirahama, who does work for Marvel and DC Comics as well as being a manga artist, had a booth at Tokyo Comic Con in Artists’ Alley a hop, skip, and a jump away from the TCAF crew. Even still, I wouldn’t have paid her much attention were it not for a member of said crew who raved about her exquisite line work and dragged me over to interpret for him when he went to talk to her.

Being more of a word person than a drawing person (hence my calling as a translator), I couldn’t really appreciate this incredible linework in the moment. I mean, sure, her illustrations were lovely, and she seemed to be able to control her pen, but that is basically what I expect from an artist, so I wasn’t getting all gobsmacked about it. But she was a very lovely person, and I always try to support the art of lovely people I meet, so I picked up her book when I got the chance. And then I ran right out to pick up the second volume and am now eagerly awaiting the third volume (February 2018!). (more…)

Fune wo Amu: Haruko Kumota/Shion Miura

FuneNovember very nearly murdered me, friends. I’m still standing, happily, but dang, there were a lot of fires to put out last month. And although there was some fun had as I ran around doing just that, I’m pretty happy to be stepping into December with nothing but my usual (too heavy) workload. ’Tis the season for illumination! I need to not be chained to my table-that-functions-as-a-desk in my Tokyo apartment! I must go and enjoy the non-denominational displays of winter electricity scattered around this city, and indeed the country! I’m off to Kyushu later this month, where I have high hopes of seeing impressive arrangements of a variety of light bulbs, as well as meeting the defacto Kyushu ambassador, Kumamon. (I know the other prefectures have mascot characters, but honestly, does anyone actually care about them? When was the last time you saw Jimo-kun show up for a fan meet-and-greet at Tokyo Comic Con? Never, that’s when. So don’t talk to me about any of the other mascots of Kyushu.)

Don’t worry, though. Even with the TCAF crew in town for Kaigai Manga Festa and more Tokyo fun, even while preparing a talk on the translation of visuals between cultures, even while attending amazing translation seminars, and yes, even when staying up far too late for too many nights in a row to meet deadlines that past me set because she was overly optimistic about present me’s abilities, I was still stopping by bookstores and picking up books, and then reading said books. Because reading is like breathing for me, and honestly, it’s the only thing that keeps me from totally losing my marbles when I am pressed up against the wall by past me’s optimistic scheduling of present me. (more…)

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? (more…)

Autumnal BL: Decorative Gourd Edition

Kusama_Mizushiro.jpgOkay, I’ll be straight with you: there aren’t actually any decorative gourds here. I just wanted to contribute to the general online narrative of autumn being all about decorative gourds and pumpkin spice lattés. I wanted to be part of the group, you guys. But I promise you the BL part of that title is one hundred percent truth! There is for real BL in here. Classic BL! Also newer BL because I couldn’t actually pick just one title to write about. Because I am indecisive. Despite the fact that I have extremely strong opinions. The two apparently do not go together. I am indecisively possessed of strong opinions.

Like my declaration of fall being for SFF. Such a strong opinion! I ran with it for several weeks! But now, as autumn slips away and the days become shorter in their inevitable march toward winter, my strong opinion also fades and drifts into the hazier territory of “maybe fall is for BL?” Because I have been reading BL lately. It’s a good thing my translation/interpretation lets me become passionately devoted to and interested in a topic or person for a brief period of time because that is apparently how my wishy-washy, fervently devoted brain works, and I don’t know how I’d ever make a living in any other line of work. (more…)

Iwa to Niki no Shinkon Ryoko: Yumiko Shirai

Iwa_ShiraiFall is still for science fiction, friends, so I hope you’ve been devouring some of the many great books being released these days. Or maybe you’re digging deep into the backlist of SF pubs like Tor or Angry Robot or Haikasoru and finding new treasures you missed the first time around. Or perhaps you are building a little fortress of all the great SF comics in the bookstore. (You should ask the clerk if it’s okay before you do this, though.) (It will be, of course, and the clerk will join you in this mission gladly, but it’s always polite to ask first.) I am over here lamenting the lack of SF manga not only in translation, but in Japanese. I think the fantasy part of SFF is pretty well represented in both Japanese and translation, but where is all the SF?! And I don’t mean mecha stuff. I mean, giant robots are great and all, but I want the science fiction of dystopian/utopian futures, distant planets, and cultural criticism couched in alien manners.

Basically, I want Yumiko Shirai. And fortunately for all of us, hot on the heels of her being the third manga artist to win Japan’s version of the Nebula, the Nihon SF Taisho, for the masterwork that is Wombs, she is trying her hand at shojo manga. SF isn’t unheard of in the shojo world—Moto Hagio and Keiko Takemiya both gave us some fine shojo SF back in the day—but I feel like I don’t see too much of it these days. (Please feel free to loudly correct me in the comments if I am just blind to a rich variety of shojo SF being published right now.) We all know how much I love Shirai and also how I am on a sort of mission to expand my reading in women/girl-oriented genres, so you can only imagine my great delight upon hearing about the release of Iwa to Niki no Shinkon Ryoko. “A true force in the world of SF takes on shojo manga!!” the obi declares, and I am excited. (more…)