Doujinshi Round-up: 2016 Edition

AlenzyasAlthough I bought and read all these doujinshi in 2015, I’m still calling it the 2016 edition because, like last year, I am writing about them in 2016 and it feels plain weird to call it the 2015 edition. Plus, there is already a 2015 edition from last year when I wrote about doujinshi I bought in 2014. And so, like the centuries and the years they contain, I will always be one number off in the rounding up of doujinshi. I apologize for the confusion.

What’s done is done, however, so let’s just get to the books.

Despite the fact that I was in Japan for a really long time last year (almost five months!), I spent a large part of that time on Cat Island. And Cat Island does not have doujinshi fairs. Unless the elderly farmers that populate the island were keeping something from me. (And now that I’ve thought of it, I hope they were! I love the idea of secret elderly farmer doujinshi!) And once I got to Tokyo, I was busy as usual with the horde of Canadians that descended upon the city to show their wares at the Tokyo International Comic Festival and Design Festa. Not to mention meetings with people to convince them to keep hiring me to read books and all those books they’ve already hired me for! So I didn’t really get to dig around in the world of doujinshis as much as I would have liked to. (I missed J Garden, for instance.) But the goods I did get are full of awesome, so I’m chalking this one up in the win column.

Continue reading “Doujinshi Round-up: 2016 Edition”

Shashinya Kafka V1: Naoto Yamakawa


At some point, nearly every native English-speaking person who has ever studied Japanese has railed against kanji, those lovely little logograms inherited by the language from written Chinese oh-so-many many centuries ago. Sometimes, we grumble about what a language even needs four different writing systems for; other times, we drunkenly announce that kanji are stupid and we should just get rid of them already. I mean, we tell anyone who even seems to be listening, even Japanese people can’t write them. Then nearly every native English-speaking person who continues with their studies of Japanese will do an about-face and be the one at that bar defending kanji against the drunken beginner. And so the cycle of foreigners learning Japanese is complete.

I had my own period of grumping about kanji, back when I didn’t know that many of them and they just seemed so pointless. After all, we have katakana, hiragana, and romaji, which all function quite nicely in a comprehensible phonetic way. Kanji just seemed like an extra giant headache that I did not want to deal with. But slowly, the more I read and studied and learned, the more I came to appreciate those annoyingly non-phonetic characters. (I will definitely agree that the lack of instant sound-out-ability is a total annoyance when encountering a new character. Although what a delight when you guess at how to pronounce it based on knowledge of other kanji, and you turn out to be right!)

For one thing, if you’ve ever read a children’s book after passing the basic beginner level of the language, you know how annoying it is to try and read something written entirely in kana. It is stilted and awkward and awful. But more than that, kanji themselves add such a rich depth to the language and allow written Japanese to say so many more things than spoken Japanese. These deeper nuances are often the most frustrating part of my translation day, since a given English word is stuck with just one meaning for the most part, whereas a kanji compound could have a different furigana reading sitting next to it, allowing it to be two words/concepts in one. But some words can also be written with two or more kanji to allow for a slightly different nuance. You can have thinking in the neutral sense of thoughts in your brain, or you can have thinking with the slightly flowery sense of love in those thoughts. You can straight up meet a person, or you can meet them with romantic intent. Continue reading “Shashinya Kafka V1: Naoto Yamakawa”

Yoru no Taiko: Naoto Yamakawa

Yoru no Taiko cover

Okay, okay, I know I am always talking about TCAF, but that is only because it is so much fun. And because it often keeps me so busy. Even when I am not actually interpreting for and taking care of our amazing Japanese guests, I’m getting ready to by reading their books, watching interviews with them on YouTube, randomly stalking them online, etc. Which means that a lot of the stuff I read tends to wind its way back to TCAF in some way. Especially now that we’re exhibiting at the Kaigai Manga Festa every fall. There’s actual TCAF in the spring and then Tokyo TCAF in the fall, so you can see why half of the stuff I post here mentions TCAF. Don’t hate me. Just come to the festival and it will cast its spell on you too!

And this year while interpreting for the Canadian artists and selling Canadian books and fun things (like this Kate Beaton tea towel! So adorable!) to the Japanese public, I slipped away to check out Comitia around us and see if I could find any fun doujinshi (I did and you’ll be hearing about those once the boxes of books arrive!), and get great Comitia 30th anniversary goods. Natsume Ono sake set! So adorable that I still haven’t been able to bring myself to drink any of it! I also wanted to hunt down Yumiko Shirai and some other artists who had mentioned on Twitter that they would be there. I found the other artists, but for the life of me could not spot Yumiko Shirai. Where did she go?? Was I just blind? Maybe. The program insisted she was there, as did the big map for the Comitia thirtieth anniversary anthology. So maybe my eyes were broken, because I could not find her. Continue reading “Yoru no Taiko: Naoto Yamakawa”

Chokodoshujin (Books Two and Three): Naoto Yamakawa

ChokodoshujinI am not much of a believer in coincidences, but sometimes things overlap in an oddly perfect way. Like this month’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by the always interesting Otaku Champloo, being on historical manga just as I was gearing up to finish this autobiography on Ryunosuke Akutagawa. In my head, Khursten and I were somehow momentarily telepathically connected and when I was contemplating the shelf of unread books and what I should read next, her thoughts on history nudged my hand towards Chokodoshujin. Although really, given that Chokodoshujin was sitting between the latest volumes of Natsume Ono’s Tsura Tsura Waraji and Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Tale, I suppose it was inevitable that I would read something historical next. But I’m still going to credit this one to psychic powers.

So! Continuing with Naoto Yamakawa’s retelling of famed author Akutagawa’s life and last days! Biographies are such weird things to me. I mean, if you’re interested enough to pick it up, you probably already know the basic story: the subject’s big accomplishments, how/when they died. Continue reading “Chokodoshujin (Books Two and Three): Naoto Yamakawa”

Chokodoshujin: Naoto Yamakawa

Another book that’s been waiting for me for months. And by another favourite author too. Clearly, I need to devote more time to reading. (Because there is no way the solution to this backlog of books is buying fewer books.)

Naoto Yamakawa has had me as a faithful follower for years, since I stumbled upon Kohi Mo Ippai (One More Cup of Coffee) at a mainstream bookstore with a seriously weird manga section way out in the suburbs (back when I lived in the suburbs. Oh, those glorious days of the two-hour commute!). I’ve always been a devoted coffee drinker, and the idea of a volume of short stories revolving around the central pillar of coffee was definitely a selling point, but what really won me over is the art.

Yamakawa is one busy, busy artist who I picture as having constantly cramped hands. Because the level of detail in his work is incredible. Everything is tiny lines! Seriously, this guy does not settle for simple filling stuff in, or shading with tones of grey. Nearly every part of any page of any of his books (for real! He is consistent as hell) is covered with tiny lines: hatching, cross-hatching, circular hatching (is that a real thing?), all the kinds of hatching in the world. All these little lines give his pages such a richness and depth. He’s basically the opposite of the minimalist est em. Continue reading “Chokodoshujin: Naoto Yamakawa”