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
The proliferation of manga-related art shows I mentioned before didn’t just start this year. It’s been gradually gaining momentum, and I have made a point of going to see any that happen to be on while I am in Tokyo. Which is an increasing amount of time lately. In fact, I am somewhere above the ocean at the time this post reaches the interworlds. Or maybe I’ve landed by now? I can’t keep the time differences straight. At any rate, I’ll be enjoying Tokyo at my favourite time of year for the city: Oshogatsu! The New Year’s holidays when everyone goes back to their hometowns and the city is a ghost town for a few brief, glorious days (except the tourist areas like Asakusa. Don’t go there, friends. It will be even more crowded than usual). There’s something almost magical about Kannana-dori being empty of traffic in the middle of the day.
But pretty much everything is closed, so I doubt I will be seeing any manga exhibits in the first few days I am on the ground. So let’s talk about exhibits I saw last year in the cold of winter! My frequent partner in Tokyo adventures joined me on a quick jaunt to say hello to former TCAF guest Usamaru Furuya at his show at the Vanilla Gallery, where he was just working on his latest manga in the middle of the room. A nice way to combine being at the gallery for his fans with drawing some pages to meet his deadline, I guess. We chatted and caught up for a while, and then he was kind enough to sign the first volume of the aforementioned manga, Joshikosei ni Korosaretai. Continue reading
Years and years ago, when my Japanese was very much not up to the attempt, I read Osamu Dazai’s Ningen Shikkaku. And it took what felt like months to read this slim novel, months I spent looking up every other word in my crappy paper dictionary, because electronic dictionaries were way out of my price range and I did not have a computer. (And even if I had, I lived in such a remote area, I couldn’t have gotten an Internet connection in my apartment.) I didn’t put all this effort in because I am a sucker for punishment. (Although I can be.) It was Yozo Oba, the novel’s very troubled protagonist, that kept me going. I related to him in so many ways. He seemed like a reflection of my own worries and fears about life.
Oba is constantly playing a part, fearful of humanity and the ways of the people around him. This eventually leads him down a dark, dark path to some serious mental problems, alcoholism, and sure, why not, some drug addiction too. (In fact, this is one of the parts of the novel that remains most firm in my memory: the local chemist offering him heroin to help him kick his addiction to alcohol. Um… It was the forties. They still thought heroin could save the day, I guess.) Continue reading
Ever since Usamaru Furuya was kind enough to join us at TCAF a couple years ago, I have been trying to read more of his work. He’s always been one of those manga artists that’s on the periphery for me. I like his work when I read it, but I don’t generally go out of my way to find it. And reading Erotics f, I’ve gotten to follow his Crusade of the Innocents, which is incredible in many ways and I look forward to talking about the books collecting the serialized chapters once I actually buy and read them. Suffice it to say, though, he is one of the more interesting manga artists working today (for me at least) and I’m interested in seeing where he’s coming from.
So when I saw Jisatsu Circle at the weird bookstore that has the weird collection of manga, I grabbed it and readied myself to dig further into the weird world of Furuya. I have to say that I actually feel weird myself talking about Furuya’s work at all. He’s one of those artists that gets a lot of art attention and coming from a non-art background, I have my doubts about my abilities to communicate just what makes his work so interesting. I mean, the thing that is totally characteristic of his work for me are the mouths. So many open mouths! With very nearly the same shape! Drawn almost identically! Seriously. There is a thing going on with mouths in Furuya’s work. It is almost hypnotic. Continue reading