I feel ill-equipped to talk about My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU simply because the show talks about school life better than anything I could say. Through the pitfalls and perils of being in school, the show has a handle on what it’s like to be the object of scrutiny and ignorance. Even as the characters fumble around, trying to understand each other, we learn that the show values them figuring themselves out more. Even when it’s being happy or sad, the cast finds themselves learning about an inner reservoir they didn’t know they had.
Jiro Taniguchi is a wonder to behold. You could read one of his books, marvel at the artwork and not even have to read the dialogue. I’m not saying you will follow every window but you could get by without them. The man is a modern wonder. He hasn’t written a magnus opus (well, I think he has but I’m not everyone) but there’s a world in all of his books. I’ve written before about this effect in his books where you try and peer around buildings and people because you want to see more. I am happy to read and write about Taniguchi for as long as I can keep reading his stuff. With that, I commend to you, The Walking Man.
Continue reading Jiro Taniguchi MMF: The Walking Man
Finding time to read a book these days is something that I didn’t give much thought to when I was younger. I mean, bookshops had been around forever? They weren’t going anywhere. Then the Internet arrived. Bookshops shrugged. It’s the Internet, where people posted images on Geocities and browsed Usenets. Then the iPad arrived. Bookshops shuddered and when the Kindle arrived, things have never been the same since. So in the English speaking world, the power the big book chain shops had acquired was demolished, literally, brick by brick. Today I can find, maybe, five or ten bookshops in my city. Of them, I would trust three of them for recommendations. But in Japan, it’s different. The book publishing industry seems to be, er, booming? OK, that’s a lie. Japanese publishers are also feeling the pinch from eBooks and online reading services. But the used book shops do well. People always want to read the books they read when they were young. Or find that classic book they had put off but now want to read. Or even, the books that people have never heard of and that wait in the patient hope someone will read them. There must be people to read those books and they must have stories of their own, right?
Continue reading Kingyo Used Books 1 – 4 Overview
Today we’re talking with Ed Sizemore about Seimu Yoshizaki’s Kingyo Used Books. Released by VIZ under their SigIKKI line, and also part of their Signature line as well, I really enjoyed this series and wish more people read it. Ostensibly about the goings on in a used manga shop, it’s more about the people who come and go and also gives a crash course in famous and obscure manga.
Comics Worth Reading (Johanna Draper Carlson’s site and an excellent resource for manga)
Ed’s entries on Comics Worth Reading (Ed used to have a regular column there and still writes for it)
Please buy Kingyo Used Books through our Amazon links. It helps maintain the podcast.
Side note: I’m now writing almost all the time now for Otaku News with news and review pieces. Check it out and look for my handle in the headers and see else I’ve screwed up on. I’m also writing a monthly column for MangaBookShelf called Shoujo I’m Scared Of.
Fumi Yoshinaga is a name that I’d heard before. Mostly, about Antique Bakery. So when the MMF decided to focus on her, I knew that she did Yaoi and I wanted to avoid those titles if I could. Not that I have anything against Yaoi, just that I’m not really ready to review Yaoi. Hell, I have a pile of LuvLuv titles from Aurora Publishing sitting in my storage lockup that I’ve read but not reviewed because I feel I’m not ready to review them. But two titles popped up in the discussion boards: Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! and All My Darling Daughters.
Visiting the dealers room at Otakon, I found myself looking for these titles as I would have to special order them back home. Picking them up, I decided to read them on the plane journey home. Was I glad to have read and now review them? Between the two of them, Not Love… is more easy going and out and out funny. But AMDD, to shorten the title, was a different rhythm and therefore had a different impact on me.
Yukiko, a thirty something woman, lives with her mother Mari. One day she comes home to find her mother has started dating and moved in a young man, Ken, who she met at a host club. Of course, Yukiko thinks that Ken is trying to con Mari out money or God knows what else. However a revelation Yukiko discovers about herself forces her to move out into the big world for the first time. From what I saw of Ken, he seems like a nice guy who can see through Yukiko’s anger and knows that there’s more going on than her just being angry at he and Mari. And so she moves out to stay with friends. Now any other kind of manga would have the story be about Mari and Ken’s relationship developing and Yukiko coming to terms with it. But Yoshinaga doesn’t dwell on it, instead focusing on Yukiko and the people she lives with and hangs out with and their lives. From Mr. Izumi, whose student wants to give, um, “gratification” but not be in a relationship with him to Wakabayashi who tries to find a husband despite not having it in her to be discriminatory.
The stories are varied and Yoshinaga does a good job making me care about people I have literally just met. There’s something about how the casts good and bad points are laid bare and there’s nowhere to go. In Izumi’s case, his relationship with his student starts off sleazy (I don’t know how to say that she started it without it seeming like she’s at fault) and he’s not comfortable with it at all but by the end of their relationship he feels that the girl is on a better path without him. I love the story of Saeki, one of Yukiko’s childhood friends. To put a long story short, when she, Yukiko and fellow friend Yuko were all in school, they all had dreams and hopes for the future. And, well, for some life turns out as they wanted and for others, not so much. Saeki’s story could be yours and mine and it made all the more poignant by the fact that she and Yukiko don’t interact with each other during the story except for one postcard. I found myself *blinking* a lot during her story. Finally the last story deals with Yukiko as we end our journey with her. There’s a fine sense of resolution with her and I am so impressed that Yoshinaga managed to end the story with a great sense of connection between Yukiko, Mari and Mari’s Yukiko’s Grandmother.
Artwise, Yoshinaga treads a fine line between very watercoloury pencil lines for her characters to more absurdist artwork that is more frequent in Not Love… The pace of the story means that I can appreciate her artwork more as I leaf back through the book. There’s a stillness to some of the pages that makes you feel every sigh, sob and laugh. The cover and cover inlays of the book are in colour and I would love to see more of Yoshinaga’s work in colour. There’s a kind of vintage vibrancy to her colour work that I feel like.
Ultimately, the book is less about the trials of Yukiko, Mari and the others than it is about the mirror being put against our own lives as we struggle to make it in the world. You will see something of your own life in these pages and it’s nice to let it out for air once in a while. Ms. Yoshinaga’s All My Darling Daughters helps you do just that.
Psst: (Shameless promotion) If you want to buy this from Amazon, click on the image of the book and I’ll get a cut ;-D
WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS!
I always strive to find new things in anime and manga. Sometimes, they hit you like a bolt out of the blue. I’ll wouldn’t be the first person to say that growing up in Ireland, you realise as you discover the internet and people from other countries, their experiences and how they live their lives, just how much you were sheltered. I will not go into the societal structure of Ireland in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, suffice to say that we really were socially unprepared for the onslaught of the concept of the “different lifestyle”, that is to say anything the Catholic Church did not view as morally wholesome. You would surprised the things that you’d never consider if you didn’t know they existed. There was, of course, homosexuality in Ireland way before I was born. But consenting intercourse between two males was illegal and a criminal offense until 1993! Imagine being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (as people identify themselves now) in Ireland? God, I can’t begin to grasp how, well, dangerous it was. You could actually be arrested for trying to show your affection for someone you were attracted to! Thankfully some other countries are further down the road in how they observe, treat, interact with and get along with other people who don’t fit into the society “norms”. In Japan, from what I can ascertain, LGBT people have an easier time in society. Mark you I said easier, as everyone has problems in the society they live in. But I’d never paid any attention to the mechanics of actually being in that group until very recently, as I said at the beginning. So with that in mind, I began searching out for manga or anime that addressed this demographic (can you call it a demographic group?) group. I’ve found some I think fit the bill. But I came across an upcoming manga alert and in it, there was one that I was immediately drawn too. Mostly because I was waiting to watch the anime version of it. So, the focus for today’s review is on the idea of wrapping your head around the fact that you are different. Different from everyone else (every adolescent believes that they are going through tough times on their own) and different enough to not know what to do.
Wandering Son by Shimura Takako is a heartfelt story of two people who I desperately feel for and for their families and friends. Shuichi Nitori is a nice lad who has a loving family and somewhat bossy sister. Yoshino Takatsuki is a girl with a similar, if slightly larger, family situation. But there’s one thing else that the two children share commonality on: they both want to be the opposite sex. Shuichi wants to be a girl and Yoshino wants to be a boy. And they are painfully making their way through the steps of both of them discovering their idenities, sexual or otherwise.
The main thing that drew me to this book was the fact that unlike a lot of western media that plays off the fact that a transgender teenager would have to deal with their friends and peers ostracising or bullying them for being different, Wandering Son goes straight for the heart, tackling the more important idea of how the person in the story feels. Reading the first volume, I can feel their awkwardness at them coming to the decision that they are different from other people and that they need to do something about it.
For me Takako is a great storyteller as she’s imbues her characters with a sense of self. Shuichi keeps having these nightmares, that’s all you can call them right now as they give only scary insights, where he’s interacting with Yoshino and suddenly he’ll be attacked by a loved one and wake up. This is something that informs his character, in what way I can’t say, yet I know these dreams are not just for show. If there is a trigger for Shuichi, it’s a dress that through a mixture of Takatsuki and a girl called Saori Chiba, a girl who goes to class with him. Yoshino gives a dress to Shuichi, making an off-hand remark that Shuichi would look good in it, and then offers it to Shuichi’s sister who gladly accepts. But seeing the dress hanging in the sibling’s bedroom triggers something in Shichi and one day when no one’s around, he tries it on. He answers the door to a stranger and they mistake him for a girl. Then he answers the door to Saori. And she doesn’t even blink. For Yoshino, it’s the fact that she can’t stop biologically being a girl despite how much she wants to be a boy. And when the boys tease her about needing sanitary napkins, she batters them. Just like a boy. I’m not one for violence but there was something satisfying about seeing them slightly bloodied. The leads feel alive, full of doubts and hopes. I feel for them every time they seem close to busting out and suddenly retreat. I can’t figure out though, how much is specific to be a transgender person and how much is run of the mill adolescence. I must admit that some of the trials the children face, I can identify with having been there myself. No, I’m not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender but I’ve been five inches tall in my classroom hoping that I find some way of not suffocating surrounded by people who couldn’t grasp what I was feeling. I know what it’s like being this close to your family and being unable to talk with them about your problems but that when you finally do, it’s like the nicest wave to crash over you and cocoon you, ever. I want to tell Shuichi and Yoshino that these trials they face, like all things in life, will pass. That the greatest strength lies in their ability to look beyond the mountain in front of them.
I can’t figure out some of the characters, though. Shichi’s sister, Maho is coming across in a kind of duality. On one hand, she’s treating her brother as any sibling would (bickering and so on) but on the other, she’s seen in dreams as a more hateful figure. Maybe I’m reading too much in this here. Also, Saori. Saori is a likable, if a little weird, girl. She’s completely accepting of Shuichi and all. She helps Shu by suggesting that the class put on a play for their group project where the boys dress as girls and the girls dress as boys. She hopes that this will allow Shu some breathing room.But when she buys him a dress, Shu seizes up and can’t accept it from her. She, in turn, burns the dress in front of Shu and Yoshino. She then is seen praying to God for forgiveness. Now, I’ve skipped over the parts in between this behaviour but you get my drift. I can’t tell if Saori will be a good or bad influence on the two lead characters. Only time will tell.
The two children, Shu and Yoshino, have an interesting relationship. On the surface, Yoshino seems the stronger of the two with her daring attitude and pushing and teasing Shu to go out in a dress. And she has the courage to travel away from her home to dress as a boy. She wants to be a boy more than anything. But under stress, Yoshino sometimes cracks and Shu finds in himself strong support that in the initial pages is not immediately evident. The book ends with Shu making the observation that the “other” him is something that he knows can’t be bought. All the money in the world can’t buy the feeling being the other him gives to him.
The artwork is done in a kind of pastel, almost children’s drawing book kind of way. Takako is to be commended for such a deceptive look to the work. The artwork looks rough as if the author was rushed but it’s all a smoke screen and at times feels like it’s half done. It plays out in such a childlike way that you don’t notice that she’s wrapped you up in a blanket from which there is no escape.
And I don’t want to escape from this story. I want to be alongside these characters as they discover who and how they are. I want to see them triumph in ways that many of us never get to. Most of all, I want to be there at the end even if it ends in failure. My heart breaks when I see people suffer for no good reason except they only want to be themselves. All the “there, there’s” in the world can’t make up for a person who feels they are not and will never reach their full potential.
Matt Thorn must receive a pat on the back for the translation work he’s done here. Some translations askew the need for Japanese honorifics but here Matt explains the need to use it in Wandering Son. If you’re in the mood for more of his work then I suggest you pick up a copy of A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio also by Fantagraphics. Plus Fantagraphics get high marks for such an excellent job, in particular the design work by Alexa Koenings. Such a stellar job, I hope Fantagraphics continue with their manga endeavours.
Finally, I must stress that any missteps I made in regards to LBGT persons in my review, I do so apologise. I try in my reviews to be as inoffensive as possible and as I prefaced at the beginning, my worldview is slightly rustier than most as it hasn’t had time to develop fully. Give me some time, I’m getting there.
Let me leave you with this thought, dear readers: My online dictionary defines potential as:
1. possible, as opposed to actual
2. capable of being or becoming
3. a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed.
With that in mind, let me further posit this amazing idea. This is not the story of two children with the potential of becoming fully grown transgender people. It’s the story of two children with the potential of becoming fully grown people, full stop. I submit to you that’s all we as human beings can only be convicted of if we truly honest with ourselves.
As always you know how and where to contact me. If you would like to follow Shimura Takako and you can read Japanese, here’s her twitter page and likewise for Mister Thorn. If you want to help my website out and get a copy of Wandering Son for yourself for the not unreasonable price of $12.69, click on the cover for Wandering Son at the top of the page.
P.S. Want to have a look inside the book? Check out this video Fantagraphics posted on their website: