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

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

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

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