Karasu ni Hitoe wa Niawanai: Chisato Abe/Natsumi Matsuzaki

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Ever since finishing the Yatagarasu series at the tail end of last year, I’ve been feeling a bit at sea. I fell too hard and fast for Abe’s impossibly brilliant tale of imperial crow people, murderous monkeys, and fallen gods, and a life without it seemed empty somehow. Yes, I can always go back and reread it (and I will!), but there’s something magical about discovering a great book for the first time, and you can only ever do that once. So moping slightly, I returned to Tokyo and its bookstores, with the hope of finding a new book to love to ease the pain a little at least. But when I scanned the titles on the shelves of the fantasy schedule, my heart leaped up into my throat. What I saw there was impossible—a new Yatagarasu book?! How can this be?, I said to myself. The series is complete in six books. And yet a seventh book stubbornly continued to exist on the shelf before my eyes, Karasu Hyakka: Hotaru no Sho. I took it in my hands and saw that the impossible was indeed real, new pieces of the world I have come to love, a collection of side stories.

Normally, I am not one for side stories. It’s sort of like a band from my youth getting back together. The thing was finished. Forcing it back to life never ends well. But I missed my crow friends, and the side stories were written concurrent with the series, so it felt more like Abe taking little day trips away from the series rather than trying to beat a dead horse. And they were great! I got some closure with Masuho no Susuki that I didn’t even know I needed, learned the truth about some parentages, and generally felt reinvigorated by these injections of Yamauchi straight into my bloodstream.

But alas! That book also ended, and I was right back where I started. (Well, until the next book of side stories comes out?? My hopes are high!!) And just when I started to slump back into reality, some beautiful books fell into my hot little hands. Three, to be precise, the current number of volumes in the manga version of the first book of the Yatagarasu series! It’s not quite the same as new pieces of that world, but they definitely present a new vision of it, and I’ll take what I can get. Plus, the books are truly gorgeous. I was lucky enough to get the deluxe edition of the first two, the deluxe part being an extra book. Two books in one! The bonus books are mostly taken up with side stories by Abe, which means, yes, new pieces of the Yatagarasu world. There are also character sketches and explanations of the process by which the manga came about, and all of it is fascinating and worthwhile. If you’re a fan of the novels, you should definitely get the deluxe editions of the manga if you can find them. Continue reading “Karasu ni Hitoe wa Niawanai: Chisato Abe/Natsumi Matsuzaki”

Kaguyaden: Chiho Saito

KaguyadenDang. This year’s already got me on the run and it’s barely just begun. I’ve been chained to my desk the last three weeks, translating one book after another and just barely keeping up with my deadlines. I have this terrible habit of taking way too much time with novels in particular because there are so many more words and I want them to be the most perfect translation babies of all but perfection is impossible so I just keep picking at them and polishing since there will always be some new flaw to fix. And then I look up at my calendar with a gasp and realize I really need to get to work on all the other books in my schedule. After all, they are all my precious translation babies, equally deserving of my tender translation affections. However, devoting my attentions to my future children means no extra attentions for my bastard child aka this blog. But maybe I’ve dug myself out of that hole and can actually come and ramble here about books again?? Fingers crossed!

But before the rambling begins, I have to say thank you to all of you who made the Kickstarter Magician A a success! Not only did we reach our target, we also made it to all of our stretch goals! So everyone wins with fancy French flaps and super nice paper when the book eventually makes it to bookstores sometime later this year. And all the Kickstarter backers double win since they get the beautiful book plus an exclusive interview zine in which I talk with creator Natsuko Ishitsuyo about her career and her work, and we take a little side trip into spirituality and mythology. I’m hoping to post some of the interview here at some point, as a little teaser taste of what you can expect to find in the pages of Magician A, so once again, fingers crossed! Continue reading “Kaguyaden: Chiho Saito”

Designer: Yukari Ichijo

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Well, here we are in 2019 all of a sudden. I spent my New Year holidays live-tweeting the annual Kohaku Utagassen, a tweetstorm furious enough to get my account locked, which was only really a problem because I have my Japanese SIM in my phone and Twitter kept sending an access code to my Canadian number. So I was stuck in a terrible Twitter void until I could find my Canadian SIM and stick it in my phone long enough to free myself from that dark prison. That was the entirety of my holiday drama. The rest of my time was squandered away on a temple visit in which I learned the history of the temple from the architect/restorer who happened to be in front of me in line for omikuji, eating mikan and mochi, and of course, laying around the house reading manga. I read a lot of manga.

Most of that manga was stuff that is still readily available at the bookstore, new volumes of ongoing series or new-to-me books published in the last few years. But I did dig into some classic shojo as well, thanks to the magic of Yahoo Auction. Which has only grown in power since I last used it a couple? few? years ago. So much classic manga on offer for so cheap! And the system is super streamlined, so there’s none of the back-and-forth emails that used to be the bane of my Yahoo existence. (I am a bad emailer. Do not email me. It will likely take me months to get back to you, and I’ll feel guilty about it the whole time.) Continue reading “Designer: Yukari Ichijo”

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”

Amagi Yuiko no Tsuno to Ai: Yoko Kuno

Amagi_KunoBeing in town for the latest round of the Japan Media Arts Festival meant that the whole song-and-dance was more on my radar than in other years. I always notice who the winners are and give a little high five to myself when artists I love win, but that’s generally the extent of my involvement. But it’s actually a whole thing, with events and talks around town and even a big exhibition at the National Art Centre, which is a lovely place to visit on its own, so any excuse to head out that way is a welcome one. This year, two artists I am particularly fond of won prizes—Aoi Ikebe for her Nee, Mama and Toru Izu for his Juza no Ulna—and there was even a conversation between Izu and Brain super fave Yumiko Shirai, and you know I was so there for that. They got into some of the nitty gritty of Ulna, including the secret behind the care Izu shows all the shoes in the book. (Spoiler: he is really into shoes.)

And all of this good fun is free! If you find yourself in Tokyo in the month of June, take advantage of government-sponsored art action. The coolest part is that you will probably discover some new stuff that you can fall in love with through these awards and the various related events. Like, I’d seen Amagi Yuiko kicking around the bookstore before, but it didn’t really register with me until I saw pages from the work as part of the Media Arts Manga Division exhibit. And those pages definitely intrigued me enough to pick up the book the next time I came across it. To be fair, I should have grabbed it the first time I saw it. It’s published by Beam and has an intriguing title and cover, a combination which has never let me down in the past. Continue reading “Amagi Yuiko no Tsuno to Ai: Yoko Kuno”

Kageki Shojo: Kumiko Saiki

Kageki_Saiki.jpgAdventures in the world of shojo continue! I’ve been noodling a little longer (lingering, loitering, getting side-eyes from suspicious shop clerks) in the shojo sections of bookstores these days, trying to see past the dazzling displays of tiresome and heteronormative romances (I’m sorry, romance-loving friends. Girl/Boy falls for boy/girl who doesn’t even notice her/him is just so dull to me. I want stories about people doing things other than falling in love and trying to get the attention of their crush) and dig deep into the possibilities shojo has to offer me. On one such trip to the bookstore, I ducked into an aisle to one side to avoid the curious gazes of actual shojos perusing the shelves. And lo! Awaiting me there was Kageki Shojo, an honest-to-goodness delight and a gem of a series. Why did none of you tell me what a great artist Kumiko Saiki is?! I could have been reading her work for years already instead of only stumbling upon it now.

Fortunately, it’s never too late for great books. And now that I’ve finished all five available volumes of Kageki, I can go back through Saiki’s catalogue. She’s been making manga since 1999! She’s got a lot of books for me to devour. My future right now is very bright, my good chums. I mean, when even the legendary shojo artist Riyoko Ikeda is blurbing her books, you know you are in for some very delicious treats. (Seriously! Can you imagine being a shojo artist and having praise from Ikeda printed on the obi for your book?? I would have the vapours and be calling for smelling salts.) Continue reading “Kageki Shojo: Kumiko Saiki”