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”
Before 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”
It’s no secret that I buy a whole lot of books. This whole blog is basically a record of my inability to resist a tantalizing book cover. I do borrow from the library, too—libraries are the best and we should all support them however we can—but the way I live on both sides of the ocean is not really all that conducive to frequent library use. If I don’t finish one of my own books before I head back to Tokyo or Toronto, I can just leave it and come back to it upon my eventual return. Not so with the library book! Plus, I am a book nerd through and through. It is a such a great pleasure for me to own a book, to find the perfect place for it on my many shelves, and simply bask in its paperial beauty.
The other reason I prefer to buy my books is because you never know when you will want to read any particular book. I firmly believe that every book has a time, and it’s not always the time when you first come across it. I often buy books because a friend has recommended it or I saw something about it on Twitter, but I rarely have the time to read it the second I buy it. I’m usually reading one (or four) other books already, so the new book goes on the shelf of unread books to await its turn. Sometimes, that turn comes right away, as is generally the case for my favourite of favourite authors who I am always in the mood to read (yes, I’m looking at you, Ayako Noda) or the latest volume of a series I’m actively following (Sanju Mariko is still so good!). But for some books, it can take actual years for them to make their way to the head of the queue. Continue reading “Yobidashi Hajime: Asumiko Nakamura”
It’s a good time to be a Nakamura fan. We’re getting not one, but two new translations of her work in English (both by me and I couldn’t be happier about it), there’s art shows and new editions and more to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her classic BL Dokyusei, the gorgeous set put out by Ohta and Libre to celebrate her fifteenth year as a manga artist, and now we have what the extra insert tells me is her first long-form fantasy story. Even if we only had that last one, though, it would be a great year for Nakamura.
It seems, however, that this new series did not spring from her brow fully formed like Athena. Although the first volume was published just this summer, in a delicious edition with a dizzying number of full-colour pages and black-and-white pages that are a beautiful bleached white, its earliest chapters date back to 2011. I actually have the issue of Erotics f that was home to the third chapter, the first of three about the king and his aide, complete with a pictorial of Nakamura’s work process on the story and a long interview with her. This chapter manages to tell such a complete story in only nine pages that upon first read way back all those years ago, I never expected to read anything else about this strange relationship. And yet seeing it newly published in this beautiful volume, it seems like it was always meant to be part of a larger story. Continue reading “Oukoku Monogatari: Asumiko Nakamura”
Fun 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”
Time for swooning fan girl action! I am not even going to try and hide the deep, abiding love I feel for Asumiko Nakamura. So much pretty! So many beautiful lanky lines! Starburst eyes! Cinematic panels! And then as if all the art was not enough, thoughtful storylines! She really brings it. She’s also got an oddly broad appeal. I can be talking to someone who basically hates everything I like when it comes to manga, but then Nakamura’s name comes up and we both swoon and get all dreamy-eyed. She is maybe magic.
And she’s another artist that I wish we could see more of in English. A lot of her BL has underage action, so obviously that is never making it to the English side of the ocean, but she’s working more and more outside of BL, so illegal sexy times are not so much of a problem anymore. I mean, her latest work is a series of vignettes revolving around trains. But for you monolinguals, there is one option available to you now, thanks to the hardworking manga lovers over at Vertical! Utsubora! And it is one of the best things she’s done, a complete story in two volumes (Japanese) or one book (English). Why aren’t you reading it already?!
I actually was reading this in Erotics f when it was being serialized, but just like with Machiko Kyo’s U, I didn’t get to read every chapter because of the whole they-don’t-sell-Erotics–f-in-Canada problem. And because Utsubora is a “super suspense” manga, as the cover of the book tells me, missing even one chapter means you are left scratching your head at later chapters as you try to figure out why the editor is ripping apart the novelist’s office like some cheap hoodlum. Continue reading “Utsubora: Asumiko Nakamura”
Given that I will be sitting next to Taiyo Matsumoto being his English voice when this is posted (come see us at TCAF!), I feel like I should be writing about another of his books here, especially given that in the last couple of months, I have read basically all of them. And they are all good and worth writing about, but it is sort of a masculine overdose. I am not at all opposed to work with male protagonists and characters, but when I read too many books without women in them, I am forced to wonder what kind of weird procreation systems the worlds in these books are equipped with. And when I start fleshing out those systems in my head myself, I know it is time to read something with more of a female perspective.
So it is kind of hilarious that I reached for Bara no Iro no Ho no Koro to give me that perspective, considering there are literally two women in its nearly two hundred pages. But you know, it’s Boys’ Love or walking that line at least, by a lady creator who has created some fine lady characters (one day, we’ll talk about Utsubora), and maybe, like any good fujoshi, what I was really looking for was some poignant boy-on-boy action. Something Bara Iro has in spades. Although no actual boy loving, which prompted one Japanese blogger (forgive me, I can’t find the link again) to categorize it as “Boys’ Love (?)”. Continue reading “Bara Iro no Ho no Koro: Asumiko Nakamura”
I first came across Nakamura’s languid, lanky style in—what else—Manga Erotics F, with the serialization of her mystery story (You can see videos of her in action on an Erotics f piece here!) But this was the serialization of Utsubora and I came into it halfway through, so although I loved her ridiculously drawn-out lines, I couldn’t really decide on her storytelling skills. And you know where this story is going: Me, Japan, bookstore, books, oh hey!, Nakamura section. The only decision left was which book to buy.
Remembering Khursten’s thorough and deeply informative profile on Nakamura, I decided to check out some of her BL work in the form of Dokyusei (Classmates). Mostly because I already knew she had chops in the world that Erotics f caters too. But BL is a different, more finicky place and I was interested in seeing if she could balance the luxurious languidness of her beautiful lines with the sexy needs of boys in love.
Turns out? She can. Continue reading “Dokyusei: Asumiko Nakamura”