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”

Momo no Kikikajiri: Machiko Kyo

Momo_Kyo.jpgAs always, my favourite thing about being back in Tokyo is being able to pop into a bookstore whenever and wherever I want, unlike in Toronto, where I have to make a specific trip to find books. But Tokyo is just littered with the things. Books everywhere! My second favourite thing, though, might be getting to go to tiny art shows in tiny event spaces. I always like to stop in at the Sanyodo on the corner when I’m in Omotesando; they usually have an exhibit by an artist I’ve never heard of on the second floor. Plus books on the first floor! Vanilla Gallery in Ginza is always good for strange erotic art and half the time (it seems) they’re having an Usamaru Furuya show. But mostly, I end up popping in on random shows that get tweeted into my timeline from some part of the Japanese twittersphere. Sometimes, I have no idea what part that might be, but other times, it’s an artist I follow. Which is obviously the most exciting kind of random show.

The recent Machiko Kyo show at Title was one such exhibit. It closed a couple days after I arrived, but I managed to fight back my jetlag for long enough to make the trek to Ogikubo and look at some of her original pages for her Sennen Gaho + 10 Years. It was perhaps the tiniest of tiny art shows I’ve ever been to; there were maybe twelve pieces on display. The larger part of the small space was taken up with merchandise, which is the way of all Japanese shows. And like a good consumer, I did my part, picking up yet another clear file (what am I going to do with all these clear files??) among other things, but they also had a solid selection of Kyo’s back catalogue set out. We all know that my brain is a fan, so there wasn’t much there we hadn’t already battled. But then my eyes caught sight of Momo, a full-colour treat that was serialized at Hanatsubaki and wrapped up earlier this year. A treat my brain had not battled yet. So naturally, I grabbed the two slim volumes and headed to a café to dig in. Continue reading “Momo no Kikikajiri: Machiko Kyo”

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”

Ano Ne: Machiko Kyo

Ano Ne Machiko KyoAs always, when my life grows too frantic with translation and interpretation and long plane trips across the ocean, it is my noodle-ly rambling about books that suffers. I’ve been reading books this last month (many of them very good!) (one of them deeply and frustratingly bad!) because I basically never stop reading books, but I haven’t gotten the chance to write about them. Because I’ve been herding Canadians for TCAF at Kaigai Manga Festa (I hope you stopped by and said hello!), and I’ve been powering through 16-hour days to meet a bunch of deadlines (to keep you lovers of Accel World and Naruto busy with things to read). And then I flew back across the ocean just in time to get chilly in Canada because I am a secret masochist. But the Canadians have been herded, deadlines have been met, and I am chilled to the bone, so it is time to talk about some of the books I have been reading!

Ano Ne is a sweet treat for a couple reasons. One is obviously that it is by Brain favourite Machiko Kyo. But really, the sweetest treat is that my thoughtful friend and well-known comics impresario picked these up for me in Kyoto when he was at the Manga Museum, and Kyo just happened to be signing there that day. So not only was he kind enough to buy me the two books that make up this story, he even got her to sign them for me. So everyone go follow him on Twitter or something in appreciation for his contributions to my reading life.

I didn’t really notice/understand this until I started reading the book and putting those pieces together, but the title is deliberately written in roman letters on the cover in such a way as to make the “o” small so it looks like a period. So when you look at the title in English, it looks more like “anne.” This is, of course, a direct reference to Anne Frank, and I say “of course” because this was written not long after Cocoon when Kyo is still pretty into thinking and writing about war. So it was only inevitable that she would turn her dreamy watercolors on the Holocaust. Continue reading “Ano Ne: Machiko Kyo”

Nekojou Mu-Mu: Machiko Kyo

Nekojou MuMu_KyoCan I pander to you, fellow book battler? Can I finally join everyone else on the internet and talk about cats? Will you respect me less if I talk about cat manga? Will it change our relationship? I promise not to post cute cat photos. (Unless they happen to be included in the cat manga.) (Which they do.) It’s just that one of my favourite artists, Machiko Kyo, wrote a whole book of stories about her adorably standoff-ish and utterly beautiful princess of a cat, and I am powerless before this combination of artist and subject matter.   

I have spent any number of words extolling the virtues of Kyo’s delicate watercolour style/watercolour-like use of markers, her warm, loose lines, and minimal backgrounds. I continue to be baffled/not baffled at the fact that she still has had absolutely nothing published in English. The brain part of me is the one that’s baffled: her work is so lovely and engaging; she writes things across a wide range of genres, so she really does offer something for everyone; and now she’s written a manga about her gorgeous and ridiculously expressive cat. Why are English publishers not lining up at her door?? But the rest of me, the part of me that works in the manga publishing industry in North America, is not baffled in the slightest. Kyo doesn’t make stereotypical “manga”; her work ends up being “comics in translation”, which is a much harder sale to make. And you know, economic realities, blah blah. Continue reading “Nekojou Mu-Mu: Machiko Kyo”

Cocoon: Machiko Kyo

cocoonThis is a place for books, it’s true, specifically a place for my brain to battle books. But my brain is up for almost any challenge and will take on any media—music, painting, sculpture, magazines—if that is what has to be done. And as an amateur fighter, my brain particularly enjoys the battles with the cinema. This year has been an especially great one for cinema (if you have not seen The Tribe or White God, you are seriously missing out, my friend), but even in such a banner year, some films simply batter my brain into delighted submission. And Mad Max: Fury Road (or Fury Death Road, pushed to the extreme in the Japanese title) is one of these films. It is a masterpiece, exquisitely crafted and so beautiful my eyeballs would happily drown in it. I keep going back to the theatre to see it again and again. I will probably keep shelling out to see it until they finally pull it from the screens. Go see it. It is magic.

Given my deep and enduring love for the death road of fury, you can imagine my delight when I turned on a podcast of an interview with Machiko Kyo recently, and she recounted how she had seen it four times so far and was planning to go a fifth. The interview then devolved into excited conversation between Kyo and the two hosts of the show about how great the movie is. As Kyo went into detail about what she loved and why, my love for her grew ever deeper, and I remembered that I haven’t actually read anything by her in a while, an unfortunate oversight. Luckily, I happened to have Cocoon on the shelf of unread books. Continue reading “Cocoon: Machiko Kyo”

U: Machiko Kyo

UI have to apologize in advance: there will be nothing but crappy photos of manga on these pages for the next couple of months. Sorry. Although life in Japan offers up many delightful treats and adventures, it is, unfortunately, scanner free. Which is made even more unfortunate by the fact that one of the delightful treats Japan has in plenty is manga. So I am reading a ton of great things that I want to write here about (because great things always deserve to be widely read), but the images I can show you from these amazing books are all going to be shot with my tourist snapshot machine or worse, my phone. Please do not judge the works on my refusal to buy a decent camera or learn how to use the one I have. From here on out, images are at best a rough look at the general idea of the overview of what you might find in the pages of the noted manga.

I figured the best way to start off would be with authors whose works I’ve already gushed over in the past. That way I can at least link you to some decent images of their work and you can get a sense of just where the bar is for images while I am across the ocean. (Hint: The bar is low, very low. It is hard to take a picture of the page of a book while you are holding it, trying not to break the spine.)  Continue reading “U: Machiko Kyo”

Kako to Mirai: Machiko Kyo

I am in Japan now, in case you haven’t been following my inane updates via Twitter, which are mostly about things I get to eat again and what I’m watching on TV, so really, no big loss to you if you haven’t been. But in Japan, when I’m not eating cherished treats or watching random manga adaptations on TV, I am busy buying and reading books. Yes, I realize I am the most boring traveller ever. But reading new books is one of my favourite things about travelling, so I am not boring to me. Nor to my fellow book lovers. So there.

I’ve only been back about two weeks, but I’ve already managed to hit an embarrassing number of book stores and buy a daunting stack of books. And because I am a manga translator by trade, and a manga lover by hobby, you know that the majority of that stack is made up of manga. I am both fussy and not fussy when it comes to the manga I add to the pile. I’ll see something at the shop that intrigues me for some unclear reason or another, and head over to the cash register with it. Other times I will come across an author that I have seen in other contexts and realize I really want to read more of that author.  Continue reading “Kako to Mirai: Machiko Kyo”