torachan: a cartoon owl with the text "everyone is fond of owls" (everyone is fond of owls)
What are you currently reading?
Right now I'm reading volume six of Chii's Sweet Home, which I have actually read before but had loaded on my phone to reread so I could buy further volumes off itunes. BUT now I see that volumes seven and eight have been scanned, so I will just download those instead. XD

What did you recently finish reading?
Well, I didn't do this last week, so I will include last week's and this week's reading! I read the fifth and final volume of the Kindaichi 20th Anniversary series. It was good! I was worried that after this anniversary thing they might cancel the series again or something, but the end of the volume made it clear that wasn't happening. However, at least for now it looks like rather than another new Kindaichi mystery, we're getting a backstory series about his nemesis. The cool thing is, this new series is actually being released for free in both English and Japanese through a new online manga magazine app called Manga Box. I downloaded the app but have yet to check it out.

I feel like I also read something else last week, but I guess not? I did read like an issue of Jump, so maybe that was it. I'm still super behind there, though I know there have been some cool spoilery things going on in One Piece, so I should catch up there.

Then this week I started reading this super awesome series called Ohana Holoholo which I think I had downloaded because I saw people on my tumblr dash talking about it. Sadly I can only find the first two volumes scanned and there don't seem to be ebooks of it, either. But I love it SO MUCH I think my Christmas present to myself will be buying the next three (I believe it's up to volume five) on Amazon Japan and having [personal profile] kiwimusume send them to me.

(I would try the bookstores here first, but apparently the Kinokuniya in West LA closed and the little bookstore in Mitsuwa has a terrible selection in general and even more so when it comes to josei titles (everyone in the US has a terrible selection of josei titles) and I doubt I'd have any luck if I went all the way down to Book Off and whatever that bookstore in the Torrance Mitsuwa is, either, and the cost of renting a car to get there (even with zipcar) would be the same as having them shipped from Japan, SO.)

Anyway, what is so awesome about this manga? Let me tell you. It is a slice-of-life story (my favorite!) about queer people (even more favorite!). The gist is this: five years ago Maya and Michiru lived together and were lovers, but then one day Michiru just up and disappeared. Maya was sad, but not terribly surprised, because Michiru is the kind of person you might call a free spirit if you were being nice, or selfish and flighty if you weren't. The years pass and at a new job Maya finds herself face-to-face with Michiru, who now has a young son. Her husband has died and she is still the same person she was, barely able to take care of herself, much less a kid.

So when Maya is looking for a new roommate, she asks Michiru to move in with her, but this time on a strictly platonic basis. As the manga goes on, it's clear that Maya still has feelings for Michiru, but doesn't want to get hurt again. It's also clear to the reader that Michiru has feelings for Maya, too, but doesn't know how to win Maya's trust again.

There's also their downstairs neighbor, Niko, who spends all his free time with them and dotes on Michiru's son. As it turns out, Niko and Michiru have something in common: Michiru's late husband was Niko's lover, and Niko was devastated by his death (possibly even more so than Michiru).

And there's the little boy, Yuta, who is quiet and sensitive and a little odd and one of the cutest kids I've ever seen in a manga.

I ship Maya and Michiru hard and I really hope they get together in the end but this manga is much more than just a romance.

It's being scanlated, though only the first volume and a bit of volume two is done. You should definitely check it out if you like chosen family, slice-of-life, yuri that's not about schoolgirls who are totally not gay just love each other, or just really good manga.

What do you think you'll read next?
Well, I really want to read more of Ohana Holoholo but that's not going to happen for a while! :(

But basically I have given up on the idea of reading any more books before the end of the year (I doubt if I started one now I'd finish it before the end of the month), so my goal now is to read as much of the manga on my phone as possible and try to clear it off because there is really a ridiculous amount on there? Also to catch up on Jump, though that is less of a priority. So we'll see!

I also bought vol. 13 of Aozora Yell and vol. 2 of Chitose Etc. off itunes while I was on there hoping desperately for ebooks of Ohana Holoholo so I will probably read those soon, too, even though they are in ibooks not comic zeal so sometimes I forget I have manga there.
torachan: (Default)
Catching up on my reviews, here are some one-shots I've read recently. None of these have official US releases, but they have all been fully scanlated by Kotonoha (I translated Kokoro no Kanashimi myself, can't speak for the quality of the other two).

Title: Kokoro no Kanashimi
Author: Nishioka Kyoudai
Number of Volumes: 1
My Rating: 4/5

Summary: A collection of bizarre, dreamlike short stories.

Review: I really disliked Kami no Kodomo, the first manga I read by this brother/sister mangaka team, but I enjoyed these short stories a lot more. The art is unique and interesting and goes very well with the decidedly odd, often dreamlike tone of the stories.

Sadness of the Heart on Kotonoha

Title: Love My Life
Author: Yamaji Ebine
Number of Volumes: 1
My Rating: 4/5

Summary: Ichiko nervously introduces her girlfriend to her father, only to find out that her dad is gay, too, as was her (now deceased) mom. The revelation unsettles her, making her wonder if she (or her girlfriend) would ever choose a traditional life over what they have, as well as whether or not her parents really loved each other.

Review: Ichiko's questions are answered fairly early on, and the manga turns into more of just a slice-of-life story about her and her girlfriend and their day-to-day problems (not all or even mostly relationship problems, though there is that; there's also Ichiko taking steps towards realising her dream of becoming a translator like her dad, and her girlfriend figuring out what she wants to do in life). I enjoyed it overall, especially as a nice change from typical yuri manga with its gay-for-you-ness and general isolation of the couple from any other queer characters (between Ichiko, her girlfriend, her best friend & his boyfriend(s), her dad and his boyfriend, her mom, her mom's former lover & her new partner, there are far, far more queer characters in this story than there are straight (the only straight characters I can think of are the girlfriend's father and a girl at Ichiko's university who has a crush on Ichiko's best friend)). This was also made into a movie, which is available in English (region 1). I saw the movie quite a while ago and enjoyed it, too.

Love My Life on Kotonoha

Title: Omoide Emanon
Author: Tsuruta Kenji & Kajio Shinji
Number of Volumes: 1
My Rating: 3/5

Summary: Onboard a ship in 1967, a college student meets a mysterious girl, Emanon ("no name" backwards) who, after seeing him reading a novel in which memories can be passed from one person to another, confides to him that she is three billion years old mentally. Physically she's seventeen, but she has memories dating back to the beginning of life on Earth.

Review: This has lovely art and is intriguing, but I find it annoying that it's not actually about Emanon, but about this guy who meets her and how that affects him. Her story is much more interesting to me and I wish we'd actually gotten more of that. It's based on a novel (which turned into a series) and at first I wondered if the novel(s) might actually be about her, but the summary of one of the other ones on Amazon is the same sort of thing (boy meets Emanon and his life is changed by her). :-/

Memories of Emanon on Kotonoha
torachan: a happy cartoon guy with the text "it's like a blast of happy up my ass" (blast of happy in my ass)
I have been translating Nakamura Ching's Gunjo for the scanlation group Kotonoha for a while now and just last week finished the final chapter of the first volume (the series is still running, but it will be three vols. total, and the first vol. is more than double the length of a regular manga, so it's longer than it seems) and while the scanlations are only up through chapter five (plus a special unnumbered backstory chapter), I really, really recommend it.

When I first heard the summary, that it was about a lesbian who kills the husband of the woman she loves (who doesn't love her back, and in fact treats her like shit), and the two go on the run together, I was dubious. It sounded like it could be really skeevy, but omg it is so, so good.

When I say this woman is a lesbian, she really is. This is no "gay for you" story. She has been a lesbian since high school, dates other women besides the woman whose husband she kills, and there are other lesbian characters as well. And as the story goes on, you find out that things are a lot more complicated than they seem. This is not a story about evil lesbians. It is not a story about evil women of any sexual orientation. There is a reason for everything, and you will sympathise with both main characters (as well as the many minor characters who get their turn (all women, all of whom are more complicated than they seem on the surface)). It's a manga that really critiques society.

And while I can't see a very happy ending for two women on the run from the law, if they do end up dead at the end or something, it won't feel like a Dead Lesbian story because they are not the only queer people in it. They are dysfunctional, but there are other queer people living their lives and being happy (I won't give spoilers, but the final chapter of vol. 1 focuses on one of the minor characters and is awesome in that regard).

I really can't say enough good about it, and I don't want to get into particulars too much because I think it's really best read without spoilers (though it is definitely not a pleasant story and there is domestic abuse as well as sexual assault). It's also really well drawn. The art has this visceral, raw quality that is just perfect for the story it's telling.

Also, I wondered due to the content of the story if the author was queer herself, and according to this interview (in English), she is indeed:
Q5: What were your motivations for creating Gunjo?

I wanted to draw the keen loneliness of a lonely person. I wanted to turn our kindness and cruelty (the kinds of emotions that we can't control with our own wills) into a manga. And also, because I am gay. Living a life of hiding I was gay was unpleasant, so I wanted to give myself the chance to admit I was gay.

Openly queer manga creators are pretty rare (while there is a lot of manga with same-sex couples (both f/f and m/m), most of it is of the fantasy "gay for you" variety written by and for straight people), so this is definitely a woman I want to support and spread the word about.

I would recommend it even to people who are not that into manga, because it is just an awesome story and a smart story. You can read in English online or download the first six chapters on Kotonoha's website.

You can also buy volume one and volume two (just released last month) off Amazon Japan.
torachan: (Default)
Title: Girl Friends
Author: Morinaga Milk
Number of Volumes: 5
My Rating: 4/5

I really haven't read a whole lot of yuri manga, but I liked this a lot. The story is pretty basic, Mari and Akko are best friends and eventually girlfriends, and there's really not any other plot than their budding romance and their friendship (both with each other and with several other girls in their class). But it was just really cute and didn't feel overly fanservicey or gross. I don't know whether the title is two words specifically to highlight the fact that it's about both girls who are friends and girls who are dating, but it even if it wasn't intentional, I really like that it's two words, because so much of the manga is about just being friends. Even once Mari and Akko are dating, there's a lot of focus on their friendship with the other girls. It's just a very cute series and I really enjoyed it.

There's no official English release, but it has been fully scanlated.
torachan: (Default)
Mutou Hiromu "Never Give Up!" - 2/5
I think the best thing I can say about this series is that it wasn't as horrible as I thought it was going to be after reading volume one. Obviously, that's not a huge compliment, which is why it's got a low rating.

The plot is that Kiri is a very masculine-looking girl, tall and skinny and angular, and Touya is a very pretty, short boy. Kiri has had a crush on Touya since she was four, when she vowed that she would grow up to be a princess suitable for Touya. Now they're in high school and she's still not very feminine-looking (though is not really tomboyish personality/interests-wise) and Touya is still short and pretty. They both think they're unsuitable for each other, so they can't admit they like each other. Things only get worse when Touya starts modelling, and Kiri ends up modelling with a male model called Tatsuki.

I always read stuff like this that plays with gender in hopes that it will be interesting and different. This wasn't. It spends the whole series reinforcing gender stereotypes, with a liberal dose of homophobia along the way. Plus, it was one of those series where you're told they like each other, but never really shown a reason why (especially why Kiri likes Touya). Overall it was just cliched and annoying. And the ending, oh God... Not only do they get married at eighteen, but they get married at eighteen after him spending two years overseas. So they haven't seen each other in two years, and as soon as his plane lands, it's off the plane and to the church to get married. D: That was kind of ridiculous.

I have also started reading Girl Friends by Morinaga Milk. My determination to only read finished series is apparently not very strong, because this only has two volumes so far (though I read all the chapters that have been released, which is most of what will be volume three as well). I really, really love it.

I've never read any yuri manga before, because, well, like yaoi, it's more about the fanservice and fantasy than anything realistic, and that's just not my bag, baby. But for some reason when I saw this, I couldn't not download it. The art is very sweet (and really good, too), and that ended up being my impression of the whole thing. It's just a really sweet, fumbling romance between two high school girls. And despite the cutesy art style, the fanservice is low and it's actually quite realistic. It's also slow. Like, the whole first volume or so is building up their friendship, and while there are hints that something more (as of yet unrecognised by either girl) is going on, it's really just about them and their friends hanging out and having fun.

Anyway, I love it like burning and want to check out other stuff by the author. Also I want the rest of the series to be magically done now so I can read it.


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