Designer: Yukari Ichijo


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”

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”

Yuria-sensei no Akai Ito: Kiwa Irie

Yuria_KiwaAs you may have heard, Inio Asano came to TCAF this year. He was great, the fans were (mostly) great, and a great time was had by (mostly) all. What you may not have heard was that his then-girlfriend, now-wife Akane Torikai joined him on this trip. You didn’t hear about this because it was all on the down-low, under her real name, much like the time husband Anno accompanied Moyoco when she was a guest. And maybe the name Torikai doesn’t mean anything to you either way, and that is the great shame of this story. Because Torikai is an accomplished manga artist herself, but of course, working in the josei field, her work goes largely unnoticed by English audiences. (Insert obligatory plea to read more josei so we can have more josei.) She also hasn’t been translated into English, so that’s probably a bit of a stumbling block, too.

But she is great and nice, and when we met her for drinks a couple weeks ago, she was kind enough to give me the two volumes of her latest release, so trust me, you’ll be hearing more about Torikai soon enough. But over the course of the evening, we of course got around to talking about other manga, and she got very excited telling me about this one new series. Fortunately, she followed up with an email the next day; otherwise, I would have been left scratching my head and wondering if I made up that conversation about a great-sounding manga. Because drinking. Thanks to her email, though, I did not have to question my faulty memories and even had a title and an author name to take with me to the bookstore. So off I went! Continue reading “Yuria-sensei no Akai Ito: Kiwa Irie”

Giso Furin: Akiko Higashimura

GisoFurin_HigashimuraI’m reading about adultery a lot lately. I don’t think it’s on purpose, like I have some unconscious grudge against monogamous relationships so I’m reaching for books that see said relationships destroyed through infidelity and lies. But I can never know the depths of my subconscious, so who knows? Maybe I am on a secret quest to wipe out faithful partnerships from the face of this earth. Or maybe it’s just a topic that more and more josei artists are taking up, and I am trying to read more josei works. At any rate, I just finished the latest volume of 1122, which is painful in a physical way and if you have the dangling kind of junk between your legs, proceed with caution.

And then I stumbled upon the latest Higashimura the other day, Giso Furin, which means “fake adultery” but which my mind keeps presenting to me as “fake furin” in a pleasingly alliterative mix of English and Japanese that only us bilinguals will appreciate. Despite this, I want the English title of this series to be “fake furin.” It’s just so satisfying with those “f”s. Of course, I will never have to argue about this with any potential publisher because this is yet another josei title that I very much doubt will ever see the light of day in English. The only way we’re going to see more josei in English is if people start buying the existing josei in English. So while we’re here, might I point you towards Moyoco Anno’s Sakuran or Higashimura’s existing English works, Tokyo Tarareba Girls and Princess Jellyfish? Or maybe you could pre-order her forthcoming Blank Canvas? And let’s not forget the great Kyoko Okazaki. Also, if I may be so bold, perhaps you could consider picking up a copy of my translation of Asumiko Nakamura’s Maiden Railways from new manga publisher Denpa? Show publishers that readers want josei so that they will license more josei, okay? Thanks, good talk. Continue reading “Giso Furin: Akiko Higashimura”

Heaven’s Wind: Angus Turvill (ed.)

heavenswind_img2.jpgFrom desert to snow to the gentle warmth of late fall in Tokyo, I have experienced a lot of weather in the last couple of weeks. And a lot of jet lag. My body clock may never recover, to be honest. I am not meant for this jet-set life; there’s a reason I’m a freelance translator and not, like, the head of an international house of couture. (I imagine they fly a lot? I don’t know. I work at home; I’m very out of touch with the world.) So I’m more than happy to settle into Tokyo life for the next few months. Especially happy to pick up on my Tokyo bookstore life and get all the brand-new manga that I’ve been watching appear from my Toronto apartment.

But there is still a backlog of books to deal with before we get to all that juicy new stuff. Like this lovely bilingual collection of stories released earlier this year by the Japan Society! I ordered it straight away, but since its arrival, it has languished in the shelf of unread books because of the many other books in the queue before it, the general overwhelming busy-ness of the last couple months of my life, and a vague sense that this was not the book I wanted to read at that time. Sometimes, a book will seem like the perfect book for the moment on paper, but when you actually pick it up, it feels wrong in your hands somehow. And when that happens, I always respect what the book and the moment are saying and turn my attention to a different book. If you’re not in the mood for that particular book, you end up not appreciating it and really wasting everybody’s time. Continue reading “Heaven’s Wind: Angus Turvill (ed.)”

Around: Niboshiko Arai

Around_AraiFall is for reading! Or eating! Or art! Honestly, I can’t tell which. It seems like Japan loves to proclaim that any variety of things are the perfect activity for fall. There are far fewer activities dedicated to any of the other seasons, for some reason. I guess it makes sense not to push anyone to do anything in summer; it’s so hot you will die if you exert yourself. But winter seems like a reasonable time to try and do a thing or two. And spring? Isn’t that season all about starting anew? But fall gets stuck with the lion’s share of activities for the year, so we better hustle to get it all done before winter comes and renders us all useless and unmotivated until next fall.

My fall has been all about overextending myself. Foolishly. But everything’s sort of happening all at once, plus people coming at me with jobs I can’t really say no to. Like, I just got back from the United Arab Emirates, interpreting for a bunch of Japanese authors at a book fair. Authors I like and one of whom I have translated. It is pretty hard to say no when someone comes knocking at your door with something like that. I got paid to go ride sand dunes like a roller coaster with a certain best-selling mystery author, and then we went to a camel farm! I also held a falcon very reluctantly, while the falcon’s owner/trainer/random man with a falcon ran off suddenly and left me there with a bird of prey on my arm whose eyes I was afraid to meet because I didn’t want to seem aggressive and have it rip my face off right there in the desert. Continue reading “Around: Niboshiko Arai”