Inga no Sakana: Arai Niboshiko

inga_AraiWell, here we are once again in the sweaty throes of summer, turning our attention to some even sweatier throes on the pages of our favourite BL titles. Normally, I would be sweating it out in both the seasonal and bookular ways in Japan, but as we all know, these are not normal times. None of my usual noodling around the bookstores of Tokyo this summer. I, like so many of my fellow fujoshi, am locked up in my apartment and locked out of the country that is my second home with no chances to stumble upon two lithe young men intertwined on the cover of a book in the ever-expanding BL section.

But not even a plague can stop the power of women who love fictional men who love men! Because we are fierce and determined and have shelves of hot man/man action already in our homes, Tokyo bookstores be damned! And in the lead up to this, our most sacred holiday, I discovered a beloved title on my own shelves that I haven’t written about before. So let us celebrate 801 this year with the blushy genius of Arai Niboshiko!

You might remember her as the star of this brain’s 801 celebrations a couple of years ago. Or perhaps you’re more familiar with her mainstream work as Noda Ayako. Either way, there’s always something hot simmering beneath the surface of everything this talented artist touches. Her new series Double might be a stealth BL, but it’s a serious slowburn, so I’m still withholding judgement on that one. But there’s nothing stealthy about Inga no Sakana. These boys are in love! Continue reading “Inga no Sakana: Arai Niboshiko”

Random Anniversary 6: My Brain

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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”

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”

Moratte Kudasai: Niboshiko Arai

Moratte_AraiSo often these days, the world seems like a blazing dumpster fire in the middle of a heatwave in summer. The stench! The nightmarish heat! The constant and baffling dehumanization of other human beings for no apparent reason at all! And sure, we all want to (and should) work to make things better for ourselves and our fellow members of a society that is crumbling into the dark void of a bottomless ocean. But all the gloom and doom that greets us every time we open Twitter can really eat away at the soul and make us contemplate never interacting with the world again.

So a holiday like 801 is especially critical in these trying times, a reminder that there is still something pure and good in this world. And that is hot guys making out with other hot guys for our voyeuristic pleasure. Thus I invite you, my fellow fujoshi, to step away from the Nazis on Twitter and the mansplainer who is a Facebook friend of your mom’s friend’s friend who inexplicably replies to your innocuous comment about the recent heatwave to tell you climate change is a liberal conspiracy, and walk into the warm and welcoming world of hot man sex. Let these horny dudes wrap you up in a gentle and possibly sticky hug. Continue reading “Moratte Kudasai: Niboshiko Arai”

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? Continue reading “Random Anniversary 4: My Brain”

Sennetsu: Ayako Noda

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So I guess Ayako Noda is the new star of my heart? I’m not sure exactly at what point old loves like Haruko Kumota and Keiko Takemiya stepped aside to let her shine through, but judging from how eagerly I was counting down to the release of the first volume of Sennetsu, it is clear that Noda has inspired an almost frightening cultish devotion in me. All of which is to say you should never look to me for an unbiased look at her work. I love her. And that love is in a way similar to the love I bear for Itoshi no Nekokke in its white hot intensity. But whereas my love for Itoshi is gentle and rock steady, my love for Noda’s work is overly excited and a bit roller-coast-y. I see the cracks in her storytelling, the sometimes awkward and impossible human figures, and yet my heart pounds with every page.

This passion, it’s a thing I’ve been thinking about for the last couple years, this idea that when you’re an old, your love of art changes in unexpected (to you) ways. The fiery, uncritical passion of my loves when I was a teenager has shifted into something more measured, something more self-aware. I feel like I’m able to look deeper into works and examine them on more levels than I was way back when I was wrinkle-free, but I also feel the loss of that blazing fire, the ability to simply be consumed by a work and burned up by it. I will never be able to see Weetzie Bat or Geek Love or any other book I read and loved in my teens and twenties as anything other than magical and perfect. Even if in my head, I can step back and examine them with a more critical eye, my heart is filled with that pure love. Continue reading “Sennetsu: Ayako Noda”

Kagakubu no Megane/Adana o Kure: Niboshiko Arai

img_5235 One of the things I was most looking forward to upon my most recent return to the land of the rising sun was the next volume of Ikazuchi Tooku Umi ga Naru by Ayako Noda aka Niboshiko Arai. I loved the first book so much that I was basically counting the days until the second one came out. I was even preemptively looking forward to the third book. And maybe the fourth. And maybe I was planning how I would read the series forever alongside my beloved Itoshi no Nekokke.

But then, tragedy! The story ends in volume two! I was honestly crushed. I wanted to keep reading about Kao and Ko forever, even if the story only hangs together in the loosest way. Start trying to untangle threads, and you’ll find yourself at dead ends. But Noda writes it with such charm and enthusiasm that she sort of pulls you in whether you like it or not. And her art! I could stare at her turned-up noses and blushing cheeks all day! And yet! It was all cut so sadly short at volume two. How would I go on, I wondered. What would I stare at all day?

So, as one does, I turned to the internet in this dark time. I opened Twitter in the hopes of coming across a particularly endearing picture of a cat or a dog doing something silly to lift my spirits. And I discovered something even better! A new BL book from Noda’s alter ego Noboshiko Arai! And then another one! Both coming out the same day! Even if I couldn’t stare dreamy-eyed at the dimension-crossing love of Kao and Ko, I could at least stare at some blushy boys getting busy. In glasses even! The world suddenly seemed bright again. Continue reading “Kagakubu no Megane/Adana o Kure: Niboshiko Arai”

Ikazuchi Tooku Umi ga Naru: Ayako Noda

Noda_IkazuchiThe great thing about living on a mountain in the middle of nowhere on cat island is that said mountain on said island is in Japan, and Japan is nothing if not convenient. The closest bookstore is an hour away from me by bus, a fact which would have caused me no undue amount of concern ten years ago. But we live in the future now, friends. If I want books to keep me company up here in the wilderness, then I will have books. I will order all the books my brain desires through the magic of the Internet, and they will be delivered to me the next day by a man in a truck who somehow can figure out exactly where on this mountain I live through the magic of GPS (because, you know, Japan may excel at convenience, but it is not the greatest when it comes to connecting addresses with places).

A large number of the books in that first magical order I placed were for work—rather than dragging books I’m translating with me from Canada back to the land of their production, it’s easier to just buy the books again here and sell them to Book Off or something when I’m finished with them—but some were the next installments of series I’m following (NOZAKI-KUUUUUN!), and one was a random book that I’d never heard of before. My brain likes to mix things up. Continue reading “Ikazuchi Tooku Umi ga Naru: Ayako Noda”