LP Life Partner: Yuki Ozawa

LP_OzawaA whole bunch of us are spending a lot more time tucked away in our homes right now, washing our hands compulsively and realizing that the only thing we ever truly loved was touching our faces, and as someone who has been a freelance translator for over a decade now, it is wild to see the chitchat on the chitchat machine. People don’t know what to do with themselves! People dread the thought of spending their days in their houses, unable to go to the places! People love to go to the places! What could possibly occupy them in their homes?? Meanwhile, I can’t imagine going to the places. What would I do there?? Why would I leave my home, where I have all the things I want and need? So not a lot has changed here at Brain Central. I still have deadlines, and I am still standing at my desk translating the manga and novels that will be sent out into the world for you to read in the future. A future that hopefully is free of quarantining. Although my brain and I are doing the responsible thing and social distancing, that mostly applies to those times when we would leave the house to go work at a café for a change of pace. We are no longer getting any external changes of pace.

What to do for a change of pace then? The answer is obviously going to be books. I mean, this is Brain vs Book not Brain vs Apartment Yoga or something. To take a break from translating books, I naturally shift to reading books. It might not seem like much of a change of pace, but sitting and reading for an hour is so satisfying deep in my soul and is maybe the only thing that keeps me sane some days. I feel refreshed after a solid chunk of reading! And the best part about reading is that, for a while at least, you can forget that we are apparently in the dystopian future timeline. And if you read the right books, you can even dream about a different future timeline! Like one with a robot of your dad! Continue reading “LP Life Partner: Yuki Ozawa”

Shumatsu no Wakusei: Oya


A thing happening in the marketing of books lately is to note the number of followers or likes the artist has on Twitter—most often, but occasionally, it will be Instagram or Pixiv—on the obi, and talk about how this popular web thing is at long last a book. It’s like Japanese publishers recognize the power of the internet, but still aren’t that sure how to harness it. So they slap some numbers on the cover and hope that people will worry about being left out of the group and pick up a copy. And in Japan, that is not the worst strategy since one of the greatest compliments you can pay a restaurant here is that it always has a line-up. I have with my own eyes seen people join a line simply because it was there and whatever was at the end of it must be good if there was a line. Given this kind of consumerist mindset, it’s not actually a bad strategy to count on Twitter followers to get new readers to pick up a book.

My issue with the “find something on the internet and publish it with follower count info” is that publishers are snapping up web manga and comic essays in hope of grabbing the next My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, but more than a few of these books are boring or bad or could have used some extra time with an editor. So I’ve grown a bit wary of those internet numbers on the obi, a sign of something possibly half-baked in the pages of the book it adorns. Which is why I passed over Shumatsu no Wakusei the first few times I saw it in the bookstore. Although I was intrigued by the cover and the title, that Twitter likes count on the obi made me pull my hand back every time I saw it.

But push a good cover on me enough times, and I will break eventually. (Hard stare in the direction of Color Recipe in particular here) I always judge books by their covers, and my curiosity about what’s inside inevitably gets the best of me. And so it was with Shumatsu and the girl staring forlornly at me from space and the end of the world. Continue reading “Shumatsu no Wakusei: Oya”

Mandarin Gypsy Cat no Roujou: Akane Torikai

Mandarin_TorikaiHoly smokes! Last Friday of the year! I hope you’ve all sent out your New Year cards already and are ready to settle in for some solid holiday laziness. I will be doing plenty of loafing about, reading manga and eating mochi since I have been told that this is the optimal way to spend the New Year. Don’t worry, though! I will be careful with the mochi. You won’t see me on the NHK news on New Year’s Day as one of the tragic revellers who choked to death on a holiday treat. (Honestly, it’s a bit surprising that mochi is still a thing people want to eat given how often people choke on it. Maybe we should just all eat mochi-shaped cookies instead.)

And if you, like me, are intending to expend the bare minimum of energy this holiday season, then perhaps you are looking to stock up on books to read, so that you can stack them up next to the sofa or your bed or the kotatsu to eliminate even trips to the bookshelf and maximize laziness. Perhaps that quest for books has led you here to me now. So I’m happy to inform you that I have got your back on this one. In December alone, I read these great books that you also might enjoy! But if you’ve already read those and all of the other books I wrote about this year or none of them really appeals to you (although I must question why you are even here in that case), here is one final offering for 2018. Continue reading “Mandarin Gypsy Cat no Roujou: Akane Torikai”

Osaka Kanjo Kekkai Toshi: Yumiko Shirai

Osaka_ShiraiIs this where I’m supposed to do the year in review? It is the second last week of December, after all. I should really be turning my head around to look at the many happenings of 2018 and reflect on all the books I read this year. But, as I said on a recent episode of Manga Machinations when they were kind enough to have me on to discuss my work as an interpreter, I’m actually really awful at that “best of” stuff. I have a terrible memory that makes it impossible for me to pinpoint when I read or did something without double-checking my journal, these pages here, or the internet at large. Much like when I am asked about where I’m from and my default answer is the last place I lived, my default response for my best of the year/decade/life is always the last book I read and liked.

Which is why I must now update my pick for 2018 that I gave on the podcast from Yuria-sensei to Osaka Kanjo. (Watch this space for a potential new best of 2018 next week!) Because how could I resist a new series by long-time Brain favourite Yumiko Shirai?! She is on the list of authors whose new work I will read without question the second it comes out. The only reason I didn’t read this one sooner was because I was in Canada when it came out (and was forced to place a large order of books for work two weeks before this was released) and then once I got back to Tokyo, none of the smaller bookstores I looked in had it in stock. But finally. Finally! I have read it, and I have Thoughts. Which is why we’re all here, right? Continue reading “Osaka Kanjo Kekkai Toshi: Yumiko Shirai”

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”

Belka, Why Don’t You Bark?: Hideo Furukawa, trans. Michael Emmerich

cvr9781421549378_9781421549378_hr-1Fall is for science fiction! I am standing by this statement with more science fiction. Or rather speculative fiction? The question of whether or not Belka is science fiction kept coming up as I was reading. The publisher is Haikasoru, and their whole deal is science fiction and fantasy in translation from Japanese. But the events of Belka are pretty firmly grounded in historical events and don’t feel so science fiction-y or fantasy-y. Still, it delves deep into the psyche of dogs and pushes reality to some eyebrow-raising limits, so speculative it is? So let’s just change our reading/battle cry to fall is for SF and move on.

This is only one of Furukawa’s many books that I have read in the last month or am currently reading. (I may never finish the behemoth that is his translation of Heike Monogatari into modern Japanese, though.) Because I am interpreting for him during his upcoming appearances at the International Festival of Authors, and as I noted on Twitter the other day, interpreting for someone basically means you become their most devoted, secret stalker for a brief period of time. You find every interview they’ve done in any publication anywhere; you read everything they’ve ever committed to ink or pixels; you watch all the videos of them on YouTube, including their appearances on a terrible wide show twenty years ago that is probably not relevant in any way to the project at hand. And you never, ever tell them that you have done all of this. Because they would no doubt—and possibly rightly—feel that it was creepy. Because what you are doing is not so different from the sort of stalking that gets people to take our restraining orders. Only your motivations are different: You just want to be ready for when some rando from the audience asks a question about that terrible wide show and you have to interpret it for your artist. Continue reading “Belka, Why Don’t You Bark?: Hideo Furukawa, trans. Michael Emmerich”

Iwa to Niki no Shinkon Ryoko: Yumiko Shirai

Iwa_ShiraiFall is still for science fiction, friends, so I hope you’ve been devouring some of the many great books being released these days. Or maybe you’re digging deep into the backlist of SF pubs like Tor or Angry Robot or Haikasoru and finding new treasures you missed the first time around. Or perhaps you are building a little fortress of all the great SF comics in the bookstore. (You should ask the clerk if it’s okay before you do this, though.) (It will be, of course, and the clerk will join you in this mission gladly, but it’s always polite to ask first.) I am over here lamenting the lack of SF manga not only in translation, but in Japanese. I think the fantasy part of SFF is pretty well represented in both Japanese and translation, but where is all the SF?! And I don’t mean mecha stuff. I mean, giant robots are great and all, but I want the science fiction of dystopian/utopian futures, distant planets, and cultural criticism couched in alien manners.

Basically, I want Yumiko Shirai. And fortunately for all of us, hot on the heels of her being the third manga artist to win Japan’s version of the Nebula, the Nihon SF Taisho, for the masterwork that is Wombs, she is trying her hand at shojo manga. SF isn’t unheard of in the shojo world—Moto Hagio and Keiko Takemiya both gave us some fine shojo SF back in the day—but I feel like I don’t see too much of it these days. (Please feel free to loudly correct me in the comments if I am just blind to a rich variety of shojo SF being published right now.) We all know how much I love Shirai and also how I am on a sort of mission to expand my reading in women/girl-oriented genres, so you can only imagine my great delight upon hearing about the release of Iwa to Niki no Shinkon Ryoko. “A true force in the world of SF takes on shojo manga!!” the obi declares, and I am excited. Continue reading “Iwa to Niki no Shinkon Ryoko: Yumiko Shirai”