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”

Shinjuku Lucky Hole: Kumota Haruko

LuckyHole_KumotajpgGiven how I’ve raved about Kumota’s many other books before, it’s strange to me that I’ve never taken a look at what has become a BL classic in the years since it was released. Or maybe it only feels like a BL classic to me because I love Kumota so much? At any rate, it’s classic enough that I have a Shinjuku Lucky Hole mug. (Yes, it is great. No, you can’t see it.) (Because it is with my Japan house and I am in my Canada house, not because I’m a selfish meanie. Of course I want you to behold its muggy glory!) And this is the book that taught me the word for “glory hole” in Japanese. (And looking that up now taught me that there is a doughnut place in Toronto called Glory Hole and I… I just can’t.)

So why did it take the release of a second volume six years after the first to get me on here talking about this hole of luck in Shinjuku? It’s not like with Itoshi no Nekokke, where I love it with such pure unadulterated love that I felt like all I could do is gush. Because I do have some issues with this one. I think it’s more that this is one of those books that slipped through the cracks. I read a lot of books, my friends, and I want to write about the majority of them here. But I also have a job that requires me to read a lot of books, and between all these books getting jammed into my head, there are just not enough hours in the day to write about and/or translate all of them. And so books that I totally planned to write about get shoved around my desks for months while I am stuck for the mental bandwidth to give them the textual glory they deserve, and by the time their moment in the sun rolls around, I realize I’ve forgotten too many of the details to write anything coherent and back onto the shelf the book goes. Continue reading “Shinjuku Lucky Hole: Kumota Haruko”

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. Continue reading “Fune wo Amu: Haruko Kumota/Shion Miura”

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”

Nobara: Haruko Kumota

nobaraBy the time you are reading this, I am busy making friends with some cats on an island in sweaty, summery Japan, hopefully with a cheap, trashy Chu-Hi in hand. But while I am writing it, I am in full panic mode, scribbling notes to myself about things I need to do before I leave and piling random foodies and gifts (okay, mostly quinoa for me) on top of a suitcase to be packed in theory in a thoughtful, careful manner several days before I leave, but in reality, to be crammed together the night before I set out on my journey as I weep at all the things I still need to do before getting on the plane. I am not the best traveller, you guys.

But if there’s anything that will distract me in times of panic, it’s ridiculous puns and in-jokes that are funny to no one but me. Which is of course why I could not stop myself from tweeting the chapter end pages in Nobara as I read it. Each one features the young girl of the cover, Mone, in scene with one character or another from the main story, “Nobara”, or one of the other two shorter stories accompanying it in this volume, “Mimi-kun” or “Lullaby of Birdland”. That in and of itself is not particularly funny; in fact, it’s more adorable than anything. If it weren’t for the caption! I don’t know if Kumota speaks English and so chose that caption deliberately, but I am going to pretend that she does and did (even as I highly doubt that this is the case). Continue reading “Nobara: Haruko Kumota”

Boys Loving!

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Happy 801, fellow fujos! Posting has been light around here as I try to get myself sorted for my annual pilgrimage to Japan (this year involves cats, an island, and fruit trees!), but I would be deeply remiss were I to overlook this the greatest and perviest of holidays, a day when we who love boys who love boys for our voyeuristic pleasure remember just what a pleasure it is and just what voyeurs we are.  Continue reading “Boys Loving!”

Itoshi No Nekokke: Haruko Kumota

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I’m not going to pull any punches here: I loooooooove this series. I love it like I love cuddling kittens. I love it like I love my sister’s dog Rex, who is basically the best dog in the world and deserves some kind of dog-bone medal or something. Uncomplicatedly. Unreservedly. I love it in the most uncynical way, with every sincere bone in my body (admittedly, there are not many of those, but still). These are the books I turn to when I come home full of despair at the awfulness of the world, at how horrible people are, at all the terrible, terrible things that happen outside the confines of the panels of manga.

Which is pretty much why I figured I’d never write about them. Although I almost always like the things my brain battles on these pages, I try not to be so unabashedly fangirl about it. But some books just utterly and completely win me over. And Nekokke definitely falls into this category. It is the story of Kei-chan and Mii-kun and their perfect, wonderful, charming, adorable love. (Did I mention I love this series?) When somewhat sullen, dark-haired Mii moves from Tokyo to Hokkaido in grade school, he meets and falls in love with the sunny, blond Kei. They grow up together and then Mii moves back to Tokyo once they graduate from high school. But not before he tells Kei that he’s actually been in love with him his whole life and asks Kei to be his boyfriend. Kei’s not gay, but he is infinitely agreeable and loves Mii more than anyone in the whole world. So he agrees. (I’m tagging him for the bi team.) They then spend three years apart, Mii in Tokyo and Kei in Hokkaido, until Kei moves to the big city to be with Mii. And this is where the first book in the series actually starts.  Continue reading “Itoshi No Nekokke: Haruko Kumota”

Fubin BL: Miho Kigoshi, Keiko Fukumoto (eds.)

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I’m not going to lie to you: I grabbed Fubin BL on one of my many book shopping trips in Tokyo because of the “The Latest BL from Takako Shimura” splashed across the obi in enormous letters. Shimura is always one of those artists I just enjoy reading, even though I rarely go out of my way to hunt her stuff down. But I love the perspective on sexuality and gender she brings to pretty much all of her work (like in Wandering Son, which I think is her only work in English) and the thought of a new BL piece from her after she has spent all this time really honing her gender-coloured storytelling seemed like too spectacular a gift from the BL gods to pass up. 

On first glance, I also thought the title was Furin BL (Adulterous BL), which made it sound like something along the lines of the Dame BL anthology. So all the way home, I was wondering to myself just what exactly adulterous BL was, only to discover when I pulled it out of the bag that it was actually Fubin BL (Compassionate BL). (The characters actually don’t look that much alike; I just wasn’t paying that much attention.) The idea of compassionate BL deflated my balloon a little, but either way, the collection does still have Takako Shimura and Haruko Kumota, another favourite, so I decided to give it a chance and learn what makes BL compassionate. Continue reading “Fubin BL: Miho Kigoshi, Keiko Fukumoto (eds.)”

Rakugo Shinju: Haruko Kumota

Rakugo ShinchuI think I might be getting into rakugo? Maybe? I don’t know. I keep getting involved in it not on purpose. It’s like rakugo is really going out of its way to make me love it. First, it was my friend/former student inviting me to come see him perform rakugo. (He is very good and cracked me up even when I could only understand half of what he was saying.) Then it was the Beguiling asking me to read this new Tatsumi book, a collection of manga adaptations of rakugo stories. And they were pretty great. And I ended up translating them into English, so I had to do a lot of studying about rakugo. I even got lessons from my friend and went to see more performances to get a better feel for the tempo of the whole thing, so that I could do Tatsumi’s work justice.

And now Haruko Kumota has taken a break from the world of BL to draw a very nioi-kei series about rakugo. I feel like by the time the series is finished, she will have convinced me to go hang out in a rakugo hall for the day. She is really showing off the charms of  this traditional storytelling, a kind of behind-the-scenes feel, even including little lessons on how rakugo performances work and how to get tickets in a couple books in the series (up to number four with volume five currently serialized in ITAN). She is bringing rakugo to the BL generation.  Continue reading “Rakugo Shinju: Haruko Kumota”