Strange: Yuruco Tsuyuki

Strange_TsuyukiThe copy on the obi for Strange, Yuruco Tsuyuki’s debut story collection, says “the best encounter of your life”, but I’m assuming that’s code for “your new favourite gateway BL,” code that only seasoned fujoshi can understand. The cover is an obvious fujoshi shoutout. I mean, sure, that could be a woman on the cover next to that tiny man, but years of reading man-on-man action have taught me that those large hands and muscular thighs are those of a man who works at a joso club of some sort. Plus, the rest of the obi copy informs us that the book contains stories about six pairs of men, another siren song for the rotten girls.

But this sneaky little book is not BL. It is a little dip of the toes in the water of men with feelings for each other, a skip away from the toxic masculinity on display in the everyday, a vision of how great the world can be when men aren’t afraid to be vulnerable with other men. It is still, however, a hop, skip, and a jump from BL town. Give it to your friends who don’t know how much they will love BL yet. Convert them to the cause in a stealth mission. It’s time for the fujoshi revolution, friends. Continue reading

Atami no Uchujin: Yuriko Hara

Atami_HaraI’ve mentioned before that I used to live in Atami, right? Years and years ago, but I still go back frequently to visit friends and go on the natsukashii tour that one friend in particular loves to take me on. (This always involves drinking too much and an enka “lesson” at karaoke. I kill at “Midaregami” and “Juuku no Haru”.) And I think of Atami as my Japanese hometown, so I have a special place in my heart for the sleepy seaside resort. Although I would never live there again. All those tourists having fun while you are trudging to work hungover is seriously the worst. But visiting is great! I understand now what those tourists see in the town. Hotels with rotenburo and ocean views, what’s not to love! You should totally go!

So naturally, when I went to the bookstore within hours of stepping off the plane on this side of the ocean again, Atami no Uchujin caught my eye. The title was enough to get me to pick up this debut collection of stories by Hara, the strange half-erased character on the cover had me considering buying it, and the Beam Comix stamp on the spine sealed the deal. (Creators take note! It often takes random elements you will never understand coalescing in a singular moment for people to buy your work. All you can do is in the end make the work!) I don’t like everything Beam puts out, but they are always interesting, at least, and generally more daring than your average manga magazine. Their debut authors are worth taking a chance on. (For me. The more shojo-oriented among you, for instance, may not feel the same.) Continue reading

Inori to Shomei: Takehito Moriizumi

Prayer_MoriizumiI know some of you are rolling your eyeballs all the way to the back of your head, so far you are taking a good look at your brain. Ugh, I hear you say to yourself. Another Moriizumi book. We get it already. Your brain likes Moriizumi. And to that, I would say, yes. Yes, my brain does like Moriizumi. But I would also object to the idea that my brain and I spend too much time with his work. Because he keeps making gorgeous and fascinating manga that pushes up against the boundaries of commercial manga in a lot of ways, and that is always worth looking at and discussing. And it is important to discuss artists you like so that they keep getting opportunities to do the work that you like. Seriously, take a minute now to tweet at or email or smoke signal an artist you’re head over heels with and tell them how great their work is. They might be having a bad day and could use the boost. Or they might be having a great day and just really appreciate knowing that their work is reaching its audience and having an impact on them.

But the biggest reason why I feel compelled to continue discussing Moriizumi until I am blue in the metaphorical face is the same reason I am constantly talking about Fumiko Fumi and Yumiko Shirai and all those other artists I love: because he is still not published in English, and that is a figurative crime. I want to share his lovely books with all my monolingual friends, and all I can do is bore them to death with how I wax poetic about these beautiful pages. So allow me to bore you here, dear monolingual friends, with yet another peek at an enticing work you can’t read. But you bilingual friends! Lucky you! Another treat for your comics-loving eyeballs! Continue reading

Canis the Speaker: Zakk

Speaker_ZakkIt’s been a while since I wrote about BL, not since Niboshiko Arai graciously offered up the twin delights of Kagakubu no Megane and Adana o Kure. I’ve been reading it pretty steadily, of course—got to maintain my fujoshi membership, after all—but most BL I read doesn’t really require further discussion. Stuff like Moichido Nandodemo and Dental Darling are fun and interesting in their own ways, but there isn’t too much to pick apart. Yes, I laughed out loud when I came across Dental Darling, but I can’t write a thousand words about the ridiculousness of a dentist BL. (Although in hindsight, it was probably inevitable, and I’m actually surprised there haven’t been other dentist BL. I mean, the possibilities of that chair alone!) And Moichido was beautiful and heartrending with its lovely tale of a romance ripped apart by a sudden accident and retrograde amnesia. They learn to love each other again, of course, because this is a happy-ending type BL. And that is literally all I have to say about this kind of story.

But then there is the BL like Ever After or Itoshi no Nekokke that I have Thoughts about. And the BL I have Thoughts about will not leave me alone unless I spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating over them here. Canis the Speaker is definitely one of these. For so many reasons. First of all, although it’s a spin-off of Zakk’s earlier Canis: Dear Mr. Rain and Canis: The Hatter, it has basically nothing to do with that series, and actually goes to a much darker place than those earlier books, so the question of why slap the Canis on it at all continues to perplex me. I feel like it’s not doing the “brand” (as it were) any kind of favours. There’s not usually a big overlap between readers who like this kind of story that requires all kinds of trigger warnings and those who want a story where sexy times are more of the clothes-on, romantic-nuzzling type thing you see in the earlier Canis. Continue reading

Testosterone Rex: Cordelia Fine

testoWith TCAF being this very weekend (come check it out! I will be at the Queer Mixer along with new footage from the Queer Japan film that we will show you! </shameless self promotion>), you’d think my brain would be one hundred percent comics all the time these days. And it mostly is! The other day, I devoured So Pretty/Very Rotten by Jane Mai and An Nguyen, a satisfyingly thick volume of comics and essays on Lolita fashion that I very much enjoyed. But An is a friend of mine, so I would feel weird about going on here about how great her book is. (But it is, though! You should read it. Also, if you’re in town for the big comics party, there’s a related art show at the Japan Foundation, and Jane and An will be talking about the book on Sunday moderated by yours truly. You should come! </shameless self + friend promotion>) I also read Canis the Speaker, and I have many thoughts, but my brain is still processing them. We work slowly.

But when I saw a new Cordelia Fine book on the shelf on my local bookseller, I couldn’t not pick it up. I loved her snarky takedown of gender constructions in Delusions of Gender, and Testosterone Rex with its subtitle of Myths of Sex, Science, and Society promised to deliver more of the same. And it does! This time, rather than straight up gender constructs, Fine tackles the myths surrounding testosterone and the idea that this hormone runs rampant in the male half of the species, creating this uncrossable divide between men and women. Unsurprisingly—and spoiler alert—she finds that all of this is pretty much garbage in a bunch of different ways. Continue reading

Himotoku Hana: Renaissance Yoshida

himotoku_Renaissance YoshidaI first encountered Renaissance Yoshida in the late, great Erotics f. While I admired the way she stepped out of the typical manga mould with her shaky lines and awkward sex scenes, I never quite managed to get into that serialization. Her line work was almost too shaky, to the point of being uncontrolled, verging on scribbles at times, and she never quite sucked me in. In retrospect, I wonder if this wasn’t because I was reading a chapter every other month in the magazine, which didn’t really allow me to sink into the story. And now that I’ve read Himotoku Hana, I’m pretty sure Yoshida is the kind of artist you have to submerge yourself in, drown along with her.

Unsurprisingly, drowning with her hurts. The subtitle of Himotoku hidden under the jacket is “Songs of Self-Abuse”, and yes, that’s basically what the entire book is. So consider yourself warned. What happens in these pages is painful to watch and often R-rated, although not in a rape-y way, so rest assured on that front. But you might not want to click through if watching someone destroy themselves through sex is a little too real-world painful. Continue reading

Kamome no Koto wa Yoku Shiranai: Ikumi Nakada

Kamome_NakadaWay back when I first encountered Nakada’s work in the Popocomi anthology doujin series, I wished that she would graduate to working in mainstream manga so that I could read more of her lovely stories. And then she did! So I’m assuming now that Japanese manga publishers have been carefully but belatedly scouring this blog and my wish is now their command. I must be careful to only use this power for the publication of good manga and never bad.

Surprisingly, it was Kadokawa that took a chance on Nakada to publish her stories first online in Young Ace UP and then in the print version of the magazine. I tend to associate Kadokawa with more “manga-y” manga, more fan service and mainstream art styles than what Nakada serves up. And indeed the ads at the back of Kamome could not be more unrelated to what Nakada is doing with her art and stories. So I worry a little about what kind of a readership she’ll find with Kadokawa and if a poor response there will keep more of her work from getting published, thus depriving me of her lovely comics. But I reassure myself with the fact that she got a good enough response for them to actually put out this tanko, so fingers crossed that we’ll see more. Continue reading