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

Versailles of the Dead: Kumiko Suekane

img_7194Hibana is maybe knocking it out of the park? I mean, we all mourn the early demise of IKKI, a great magazine with a great editor that featured some pretty amazing talent, like Taiyo Matsumoto, Yumiko Shirai, and est em. But the magazine that rose up in IKKI’s ashes has already made an impressive footprint of its own in the manga scene, despite being relatively new to that scene. This is the magazine that gave us this brain’s beloved Ikazuchi Tooku by Ayako Noda aka Niboshiko Arai, and Akiko Higashimura’s latest, Yukiba no Toru. So seeing Hibana on the spine of a tankobon is enough to make me raise my eyebrows and pick the book up at the very least. Because you never know what surprises this magazine is going to serve up next.

And apparently, the latest surprise is revisiting the story of Marie Antoinette with zombies. The Pride and Prejudice and Zombies strain of fiction has arrived at last in Japan! Normally, I would roll my eyes at the mash-up, being not much of a fiction mash-up person, but the Hibana name along with the utterly ridiculous Versailles of the Dead title had me sighing with resignation. I’ll just read the first volume, I told myself. Just to see what it is. But what it is is surprisingly entertaining?

Continue reading

Majutsushi A: Natsuko Ishitsuyo

img_7144You know you are in for something when a manga artist chooses Ishitsuyo—“strong-willed”—as her pen name. You might not like whatever that something is, but you’ll probably remember it. Fortunately for me, Natsuko Ishitsuyo is exactly what I want to read, and I am frankly astounded that Majutsushi A, a collection of six short stories, is her debut work. It’s so assured and unlike anything I’ve come across in the world of manga before. My only critique of the book is that it’s not longer. Big words, I know, but I don’t say them lightly.

I’d heard nothing about Ishituyo before I stumbled across Majutsu in my neighbourhood bookstore when I went in to wait for the light to change, as I often do. When a bookstore is so conveniently located on the corner of a street you have to cross on your way home from the train station, you should stop in whenever you have to wait for a long light change. Because you will occasionally discover magic treats like this one. But the bookstore on the corner tends to be more mainstream, and their new release shelf rarely features anything that interests me, mostly run-of-the-mill shojo and shonen, with some mainstream BL tossed in for variety. So it was almost shocking to see the stark black and red and the strange portrait gracing the cover of Majutsu. The sly smile playing on the woman’s practically compels you to pick the book up. Kudos to the cover designer on this one! Continue reading

Joshikosei ni Korosaretai: Usamaru Furuya

korosaretai_furuyaThe 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

Kafka’s “The Castle” and Other Stories: Takehito Moriizumi

Kafka_MoriizumiIt’s like the powers-that-be in the world of Japanese publishing know what I want before I have even seized upon those nebulous desires myself. Even as I was remarking that I would love to see Moriizumi’s work in a beautiful slim hardback of some kind, that very book actually existed in the world, unbeknownst to me! I am truly the luckiest of readers.  And yet I avoided this good fortune of mine. I would see this lovely edition in the shops, but be put off by its size (closer to magazine than book, awkward for stuffing into shoulder bags). “I don’t want to have to drag that home,” I would say to myself. “I’ll pick it up later.” Until finally, in my last days in Tokyo at the end of the year, I came across it once more. With my flight only days away, I knew there was no more “later”.

And it wasn’t just the size I was struggling with. The idea of adaptations of “classic” works was somewhat off-putting to me. I will always prefer original works over adaptations, and a volume of adaptations of stories by old white dudes (plus one old Japanese dude who occupies the same place of privilege in his society as the white dudes do in theirs) was especially uninteresting. My patience for stories by and for people occupying the most privileged ranks of their societies is threadbare. I have read and loved many of those manly authors (we all know how dear to my heart D.H Lawrence is), but I have been forcefed those stories for my entire life. Given a choice, I would much rather hear stories from other perspectives. Like Nigerian-American sci-fi fantasy! Continue reading

Random Anniversary 3: My Brain

drawings_and_paintings-brains-brains01Has it already been a full journal? The time really does run away like wild horses over the hills. This book is adorned with Hattifatteners, so I was particularly sad to reach the final pages in a Singapore cafe, but such is the way of the journal. At the start of every new book, we know that it must end someday, no matter how cute the characters plastered across the cover. (Cue “Circle of Life” chorus.)

The Hattifatteners have watched over me as I went to see them dancing across the page under the pen of Tove Jansson herself, or skipped off to witness the delights of Mad Max not once, not twice, but thrice. (And I just ran across the DVD at Bic Camera today, so you know what I will be watching again soon.) Those weird little white mushroom marshmallow creatures joined me on cat island where a lot of old people spoke to me in some serious dialect and I tried to follow along as best as I could. Trips to Tokyo, Osaka, cat island, Singapore, Tottori, Shimane, Izumo, Kamakura, Nara. The delights of new vegetarian restaurants in many of those places. Seeing one of my favourite bands both in Toronto and Osaka. Even the theatre on both this side and the Canada side of the ocean. Those Hattifatteners have seen me through some things. Continue reading

Wagamama Chie-chan: Takako Shimura

Wagamama_ShimuraIs it just me or is Takako Shimura insanely prolific? Although I’ve only ever really followed her bigger series Wandering Son and Sweet Blue Flowers, I feel like I’m always coming across a new one-off tanko or a short story in some magazine or another. I follow her on Twitter too, and it seems like every other day, she is announcing some new project or retweeting reactions to another (lately, those reactions have been about her new art book, which is drool-worthy). And I know that in the very competitive, high-pressure world of Japanese manga, you pretty much have to work all the time if you want to continue to earn your living drawing comics while not being Rumiko Takahashi. But seriously! Does Shimura even sleep?

Right now, her big serialization is Musume no Iede, which looks lovely, and I have no doubt I’ll get around to reading it one of these days. But in my last big order of books from Japan (big because at the time, I was not expecting to be in Japan until November, but it turns out I’ll be there in August now, so I have a lot of books to devour in the suddenly short time before I leave), I got a recent one-shot by Shimura, Wagamama Chie-chan. And it is both very different from and so much in the same vein as her other non-BL work. Continue reading