Random Anniversary 6: My Brain


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”

Ju Sai Made ni Yonda Hon: A whole bunch of people


Something I have realized about myself over the last few years is that I really like reading about people reading. Not reviews or anything like that—although those are interesting too—but just people sharing their thoughts on the act of reading itself or on the books they are reading or the books they want to read or the books that have shaped the person they are. As a lifelong book nerd, it feels like I am sharing something weirdly special with the author. And it makes me rethink my own relationship with books and reading. Because I spend all day every day reading books, writing books, and writing about books, and sometimes, I wonder about that. You know how you get into the habit of doing things just because you’ve always done them? Like you always buy the same chips at the supermarket because you liked them once and now you just don’t even consider whether or not you might like some other chips because you like these ones just fine. Or you wash your hair every day because you have always washed your hair every day, and it’s never occurred to you that there could be another way of dealing with the dead cells on your head.

That’s me and books. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book tucked away in my bag or my desk or somewhere immediately accessible so that I could dig into it any time I had an extra minute or two. At parent-teacher interviews in elementary school, my teachers would complain to my parents that I was always reading. Which seems like something they should have been happy about? My grade five teacher was indignant that I was reading novels in class—the horror! the pearl-clutching!—so my parents shrugged and told her to give me something she wanted me to read and I would read that instead. And that’s still true now. I will read pretty much anything. I won’t like everything, but I’ll read it. And when you have such a strongly ingrained habit/way of life, sometimes you have to wonder: do I actually like this? Or am I just so used to doing this that I never think of doing anything else? Continue reading “Ju Sai Made ni Yonda Hon: A whole bunch of people”

Random Anniversary 4: My Brain


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”

Tanizaki Mangekyo: Various

tanizakiFun fact: I learned the word “mangekyo” long before I started learning Japanese, along with “tsuki ni kawatte oshioki yo” and “henshin”. So when I spotted the lovely cover of Tanizaki Mangekyo in the bookstore, my first thought was an unconscious, thrilled “Sailor Moon!” This collection of short stories has nothing to do with that pretty sailor soldier, however. And yet every time I see the title, I start singing that song to myself. (I still sing it at karaoke with J-peeps. Nothing like singing anime songs in Japanese to knock J-socks off!)

My second thought, based solely on the erotic reveal of Asumiko Nakamura’s lady on the cover, was that this was a collection of erotic/definitely R-rated stories and therefore I should refrain from reading this volume on the train. Some salarymen might be cool with reading rape-y naked lady stories during their commute, but I like to keep my public manga reading PG. So this sat around for a couple weeks, waiting for a slot in my house reading schedule. And when that slot finally opened up and I actually read the obi, I realized that this is a collection of manga adaptations of stories by famed Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki. And while he is known for his “destructive erotic obsessions” (thank you for that turn of phrase, Wikipedia editor), none of these stories is particularly dangerous to read on the train. Continue reading “Tanizaki Mangekyo: Various”

A-ko-san no Koibito: Akino Kondoh

ScanIt comes as a surprise to exactly no one that I am a pretty big fan of Akino Kondoh’s work. And not just her manga, but also her more art-farty stuff like her Kiya Kiya animation and series of drawings and paintings. I’ve been lucky enough to translate two pieces by her for Words Without Borders, and I will rattle on and on to anyone even remotely connected with the world of comics publishing about why they should publish her work already. For instance, not only is she super talented but she also lives in New York and speaks English, making her far more accessible for promotion duties like comics festivals than your average Japanese manga artist. But her work has languished in the realm of “alt-manga,” a land where Western publishers fear to tread. What to do with comics where buttons turn into bugs?! There’s no market for that, they say. (But there is, I argue. I am that market. I will buy all the comics and force them on my friends if that’s what it takes.)

So I am pleased that Kondoh is helping me out in my mission to get her books published in English by drawing what is possibly her most mainstream and accessible work yet, A-ko-san no Koibito. It’s josei! We all want to publish more josei, right?! Ladies got to represent! It’s published in Comic Beam, a step closer to actual mainstream manga than magazines like AX where she was previously published! It’s two books going on three, which means it’s popular enough with the readers for the magazine to keep it going! Come on, Western publishers, I don’t know what else this woman has to do to get you to publish her books in English. Continue reading “A-ko-san no Koibito: Akino Kondoh”

New York De Kangaechu: Akino Kondoh

IMG_4744After my months of peaceful silence up on the mountain on Cat Island, so many days of just me and the cats and whatever terrifyingly large spider decided to show up and give me seven to twelve heart attacks that day, I decided to jump across the ocean and a time zone to have an actual vacation in Singapore. For those of you who have jobs where you go to a specific place everyday and someone pays you to be there for a certain number of hours, the idea of an actual vacation may seem par for the course.

But for a workaholic freelancer like me, a certain portion of my day always ends up being work stuff, even when I’m travelling. In fact, I travel more often because I know I can work while I am away, so I’m not actually losing any income because I decided to run off to Europe or wherever. Also, freelancing (at least the way I do it) is a constant hustle. The lack of job stability is the price you pay for the freedom to run away to Cat Island for two months. But I decided if I was going to go all the way to Singapore, I should spend that time there in Singapore. And I did! And it was great! I understand why people take vacations now!

And then I came back to Tokyo to jump headfirst into busy worktimes interpreting for the many (most ever!) Canadian artists who came to show with TCAF at Kaigai Manga Festa and Design Festa this year. And also to translating books. A lot of books! In between events with Canadians and meetings with J-artists! So in the first few days I was back, I used up all the relaxation points I earned vacationing in Singapore. Now, less than a month later, I am thinking so fondly of those sweet, sweaty days and dreaming of another vacation. Fortunately, however, I always have books to sweep me away onto momentary mini-vacations. Continue reading “New York De Kangaechu: Akino Kondoh”

Hakoniwa Mushi: Akino Kondoh

Remember how I said I try not to gush? That whole blah-blah-blah about how I only talk about books I enjoy, but that doesn’t mean I’m here to rave about them? Yeah, I lied. Or at least, I am breaking that self-imposed rule once again, because holy smokes! Akino Kondoh makes my heart beat faster and puts stars in my eyes. I triple, quadruple heart her! So put your cynical pants aside and join me in a round of unabashed adoration.

Hakoniwa Mushi is her first collection of manga stories, and I was literally thrilled when I came across it at the oddly amazing bookstore I found in Nakano on this last trip to Japan. Why I never went into this place before I will never know (actually, probably because that sprawling Mandarake is in Nakano and I always end up going there), but their manga section on the second floor had one of the best selections of alternative stuff I’ve ever seen. It is where I found the previous lovefest manga, Papa ga Mo Ichido Koi o Shita. And when I was poking around in their alt-manga section, after having grabbed the latest issue of Erotics f off the shelf, I saw Akino Kondoh’s name and for a moment, I actually couldn’t believe my eyes. Her stuff is never anywhere. (Her publisher needs to do something about that!) Continue reading “Hakoniwa Mushi: Akino Kondoh”