Cage of Eden, Vol. 21

May. 29th, 2017 05:20 pm
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Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Yoshinobu Yamada. Released in Japan as “Eden no Ori” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Mari Morimoto

It’s been six and a half years since I last did a full review of Cage of Eden on this site. The series pretty much was the definition of “this is worthy of a Bookshelf Brief”, featuring a lot of fun action, thrilling adventures, and copious nudity. It’s been over in Japan for a while now, and for a while I wondered if it would ever end here – this final volume comes out a full year after the last one did. But now it’s here, giving us more of what I just said above. There’s huge beasts killing off a few villainous guys whose names I can’t even remember. There’s deadly slime mold that almost, but not quite, manages to kill off our heroes who we do care about. There is an explanation of everything that has been going on, though it is quite rushed. And as for romantic resolution… the hand-holding on the cover is the best you’ll get.

While I did enjoy this last volume, the whole thing screams “your popularity is waning, wrap it up in 4 chapters even though you won’t have time to fit anything in”. As such, much of the back end of this volume is devoted to Akira’s mother, and her POV as her son’s flight is lost with everyone on board presumed dead. The grief and loss she shows is actually some of the best writing in the volume, and helps to make up for the “and therefore I became the heir to a huge scientific conspiracy” that follows. As for the solution to how the class is on the island and why, it’s a reasonable one given the vaguely science-fictional stuff we’ve already seen, and probably a bit more satisfying than Lost, a series that Cage of Eden hes reminded many people of. The ending is wide open, as we never do find out what happens to everyone once they return to Japan… it’s intentionally left as a blank slate.

As for the romance I mentioned earlier, it’s even lampshaded by the author. Despite the occasional overture towards romantic triangles and the obvious attraction and love Akira and Rion feel for each other, the closest we get to a payoff is one last bathing scene, with the peepers helpfully telling us that no one has gotten any, not even Yarai ad his teacher. Honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised. Cage of Eden has always, despite the occasional attempt at depth, been more about surface impressions than anything else. And also, a lot of romance manga these days ends with no resolution to avoid annoying readers. That said, I think even the most hardcore of those fans might have forgiven at least Alira/Rion. Still, we’ll always have that hand-holding.

Cage of Eden was exciting, sometimes horrifying, frequently blatantly sexist, and tried to aim a bit higher than it could really reach, but overall I’m happy I read it. It’s a good example of a typical Shonen Magazine title from about 10 years ago, and I’m glad we got to see it finish up here.

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Posted by Sean Gaffney

SEAN: It’s an odd week with the majority of titles being digital ones. I’m not blown away by anything, but I guess I’ll go with the debut of Real Girl, a Dessert series that almost seems to be a genderbent version of a very common shoujo trope.

KATE: That’s some slim pickings… oof. If I had to choose a title — and death was not an option — I’d cast my vote for The High School Life of a Fudanashi. After reading several relentlessly grim books, I could use a silly palette cleanser. Fudanashi looks like it fits the bill: it’s a 4-koma title about a straight boy who likes BL but feels weird about telling his friends. It will either be a hoot or a dreary compendium of “But I’m not gay!” jokes. Let’s hope it’s the former.

MICHELLE: I intend to check out Kasane and Real Girl, but of all the options, I’m most happy that the digital release of Nodame Cantabile continues briskly, so I’ll pick volume twenty of that series this time.

ASH: Like Kate, my pick this week goes to The High School Life of a Fudanshi. The premise has promise, but it also has the potential to go completely off the rails (and not in a good way). I’m curious to see which direction the series takes!

MELINDA: There’s not a lot for me this week, but I’m cautiously edging towards The High School Life of a Fudanshi, with the understanding that it could turn out to be either awesome or horrifyingly offensive. I’m open to finding out which.

ANNA: There really isn’t much that’s an automatic pick for me, so like Sean, I’ll go with Real Girl as I enjoy genderbent shoujo from time to time.

Morning

May. 29th, 2017 03:25 pm
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Posted by Nicola Griffith

Here are some pictures of flowers I took yesterday and a snip of sound I recorded first thing this morning: nothing but birds. (It recorded at low volume, though, so you might want to turn it up.) I think it’s going to be a lovely day.


 


Ch12 - p55

May. 29th, 2017 12:00 am
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Posted by Ashley


Everyone keeps suggesting Bastion is going to kill all the party attendees! But no. Just the piano.
 
The V3 Kickstarter is over! Thank goodness. The final total was 73k+ which is preeeetty respectable, I'd say! Of course now the work really begins, on my part. I'm going to have to go on hiatus after this scene is over, but that's still a few weeks away. Just wanted to warn you though! I don't want to half-ass volume 3, it's got good stuff in it, and I want to get it to the printer as soon as I can so everyone can get their copy.

はなです。

May. 28th, 2017 11:00 pm
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Posted by mugumogu

 

暑かった5月某日。
抜け毛&フケがすごかったのでシャンプーをすることに。
今回ははなさんから!
On the fine day, I shampooed them.
It was Hana first.

はな:「何これぜんぜん納得いかないんだけど。」
Hana:[What is this? I cannot believe it!]


シャンプー自体は年に1回か2回ほどですが、はなも大分慣れた様子。
最初は大騒ぎだったのが、スピーディーにシャンプーしてしまえば、
特に騒ぐこともなく終了。
I wash them once or twice in a year.
Hana seemed to be used to shampoo a little.
She hardly made noise.

 

ただ、シャンプーが終わって写真を撮っていたら大きな声で怒られた。
However, she was angry when I took a photograph after shampoo.


はな:「呑気に撮ってんじゃないわよー!!」
Hana:[You should take me out early from here without taking a photograph!]


ということで、はい、お疲れさまでした。
Sorry! Let’s do towel dry.

 

Week in Review, 5/22-5/28

May. 28th, 2017 09:00 pm
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Posted by A Day Without Me

haruki murakami underground

I HAVE NO SCREENCAPS FOR THIS WEEEEEEK

Been a strange, busy week, and I didn’t quite manage to watch much anime. I’m supposed to be working on my dissertation, although I can’t quite claim to have made as much headway as I believe I should’ve.

By the way, I gave blood this week! I’d signed up for it a few weeks ago, so it wasn’t to do with the attack in Manchester. I was a little surprised that they would let me donate since I’m a foreigner, but I’m really happy that I could. I’m type O-, which means I’m a universal donor (my blood can be transfused to anyone), and I started donating blood right away when I became old enough to. If you’re able to give blood, I would strongly encourage you to go out and do so; I know not everyone can, and you shouldn’t feel badly if you can’t, but if you can, please consider it.

Anonymous Noise, ep. 7

Gueeeessss whaaaat? Momo’s terrible! In fact, Momo is even worse than he has been so far! For fuck’s sake, Nino, stop pining after this creep – ugh, I don’t care how much you cherish your precious childhood memories, this guy is absolutely bad news. Sheesh, he manages to both encourage the guy who has a crush on you to assault you (rape is manly!) and makes it clear that he wants to control you as a possession. Eww!

Have we hit peak absurdity yet, by the way? We’ve got two bands comprised of high schoolers who are almost all friendly with one another, and whose identities are secret from the world (and likewise a mystery to some of the members of the other group), and of seven of them, six go to the same school. I almost feel a sense of admiration for the sheer guts it takes to commit to something so totally off-the-wall and impossible to believe.

Thank goodness we’ve got Miou around.

Starmu S2, ep. 8

Y’know, I am starting to feel a bit uneasy about the pacing here – the show is two-thirds done, and noises keep being made about needing to actually pick which of the second-years will be playing roles in the play, but nothing has actually been done about that.

I have enjoyed this season a fair bit, but I’ll admit I could’ve done without the whole Ageha storyline. The show both didn’t seem to give it quite the screentime it needed to be compelling and gave it more screentime than felt warranted, as odd as that may sound. The fact is, with the amount of screentime it got, it couldn’t really elevate above the sort of status as any of the fairly inconsequential angst cases in each episode, which also meant it feels like it sapped time that could’ve been better used for other purposes. The boys of Team Hoshitani have been a bit neglected this time around, and I find myself a little disappointed, because while they’re certainly archetypes, they nevertheless wormed their way into my affections last season.

Anyway, while on some level I recognize that I should feel some sympathy for Ageha’s plight, the boy was simply too creepy in his obsession for me to get behind a redemptive arc for him.

Bahamut: Virgin Soul, ep. 7

Well! The whole sure has been dug now, huh?

Better episode than the previous, although it seems I may be in the minority on that particular sentiment. I was a little thrown by the way they handled the scene involving Nina failing to become a dragon, though, as it felt like it was halfway between trying to be serious and trying to be funny, and it didn’t quite hit either. And, too, if it was meant to be a bit humorous, well, feels rather incongruous given the circumstances in which it happened, huh?

I’m still worried about Charioce’s story becoming one of “oh, no, I have realized the error of my ways, how could I have ever used public executions to draw someone out of hiding and enslaved an entire portion of my kingdom’s population?!”. Nina’s shouting at him after the sentencing and his body language and reactions to it during that scene are keeping that fear of mine alive. Ditto for the fact that Charioce was unable to kill Azazel due to Kaisar’s interference.

By the way, the three-way swordfight – that feel when your liege and your love/hate boyfriend are trying to kill each other, amirite? But I’ve been told I’m supposed to be shipping Kaisar with Favaro. Sorry, didn’t see the first season!

A Silent Voice

I saw it! And I am going to do a full review. I will comment at this juncture, though, that there was one particular event in the final third of the movie which genuinely was so bad it almost ruined the entire film for me. I also am a little dismayed that they couldn’t manage to actually get a deaf voice actress to voice Nishimiya; I realize that deaf voice actresses may, in fact, not exist in Japan, although I do suspect there are probably some deaf actresses floating around. (Actually – did you know that pop star Ayumi Hamasaki is slowly going deaf?) That being said, I did enjoy it on the whole, and its motivated me to finally get my arse back in gear and go read the rest of the manga (I’ve read about three volumes).

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

This just seemed like the right thing to pick up off the shelf this week in light of a terrorist attack occurring in the country in which I live. I’ve had it on my shelf for several years now, but the two times I tried to read it before, I just wasn’t in the right state of mind or feeling. I’ve carried it across an ocean and across a continent in the time I’ve owned it, and, this time it was the right time to read it. My mum bought my copy for me used at the Harvard Book Store (not affiliated with the university); they’ve got a pretty good used section, and you can hear the trains in the tunnels below if you venture into the used section. If you’re ever in the Boston area, you should check it out…

Underground’s English title I think gives a different impression of what sort of book this is than I think it turns out to be. Murakami does spend time questioning what Aum Shinrikyo’s actions and existence mean about Japanese society of the late 20th century, but the bulk of the book is given over to interviews which he conducted with survivors of the sarin gas attacks of March 20th, 1995; he also interviews some members of Aum itself. It is interesting to note the points at which survivor testimony intersects, although these moments are comparatively few. The point of the book, ultimately, is to let the people he interviewed tell their own stories, not to necessarily track down the exact “truth” of what occurred on the subway that day. He does provide some guidance in terms of the events in a more “factual” sense (perhaps, even, a legal sense) by prefacing sets of interviews from people who were on the same train with the basic outline of the perpetrators and their actions that day, but this operates as guidance rather than in-depth lessons.

I enjoyed the insight granted by Murakami in his discussion of his approach in finding interview subjects, and then in the method which he utilized in conducting his interviews. Perhaps this portion should be required reading for anyone who would seek to interview people about trauma which they’ve undergone…

It is too bad, though, that about half the interviews which were included in the Japanese release of this book are not included in the English translation. This isn’t acknowledged in the book, but its easy to notice because Murakami states that he interviewed sixty-something survivors, but if you check the index, there’s only about thirty survivors listed as having sections. I’m not sure why there is that difference – perhaps some interviewees didn’t wish to have their portions made available abroad? It’s still a very good book even in this reduced form, but its hard for me to let go of the fact that I am only experiencing it in that reduced form.


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Posted by Ash Brown

TCAF 2017 Poster - Sana Takeda

©Sana Takeda

I didn’t actually realize it until I started writing up my random musings for the 2017 Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF), but this year was actually my five-year TCAF anniversary! For the first two years I coordinated the trip with a friend (a different one each year), but for the last three years my TCAF adventures have been combined with a Toronto family vacation. 2017’s TCAF trip leaned a little more heavily towards family activities than in years past, but I still found the opportunity to enjoy what the festival had to offer. And seriously, TCAF has a tremendous amount to offer. It’s the only comics-related event that I currently attend, and it’s absolutely worth challenging my social anxiety and general awkwardness.

Although there are TCAF-related events throughout May, the festival-proper usually takes place on Mother’s Day weekend which was May 13th and 14th this year. As mentioned, much of the emphasis of my trip this year was on family vacationing. We made a long weekend of it, leaving on Thursday and returning on Sunday. On Thursday, after treating ourselves to breakfast at a favorite local restaurant and taking the young one to a weekly language development play group (which I hadn’t actually had the opportunity to visit before since I’m usually working when the class is held), the four of us (three adults and a toddler) piled into the car on headed out.

If we were to drive straight through from where we live in Michigan to Toronto, it would take about four and a half hours but we arrived a little over six hours after we left. Things always seem to take a bit longer when kids are involved, not to mention the fact that we also happened to stop for a leisurely picnic lunch once we were in Canada and well on our way. I don’t remember exactly what time we finally pulled into Toronto, but it was late enough that I missed the book launch party for Jane Mai and An Nguyen’s newest collaboration So Pretty / Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Culture which I had hoped to attend. Instead, we all took our time settling into the room for our stay and then ordered tasty takeout from a place that was a surprising combination of pizzeria and Asian fusion.

On Friday, the whole family spent most of the day at the Ontario Science Centre, which was fantastic. We mainly focused on the interactive areas geared towards younger ages and so certainly didn’t see everything there was to see; I would like to go back sometime and explore even more of the centre because we all had a great time. After resting up in our room for a bit, we eventually made our way down to The Distillery Historic District for dinner, drinks, and other diversions. In the past, Friday night would have been the night that I would take off for the Sparkler Monthly mixer, but this year that party was held on Saturday evening instead. (Sadly, this also meant Sparkler’s party conflicted with the annual queer mixer.)

After spending most of Thursday and Friday with the family, I was mostly off on my own on Saturday enjoying the first day of TCAF. As in years past, I started my morning off wandering the exhibitor areas before they got super crowded. I mostly explored the Toronto Reference Library,  which had three floors of exhibitors this year, but eventually made my way to the exhibitors situated in the Masonic Temple as well. I wasn’t quite as social as I have been at previous festivals, but I did make a point to at least say hello to the creator’s that I recently supported through Kickstarter who were at the festival. I spent a fair amount of time going through all of the exhibitor’s online portfolios before arriving in Toronto, making notes to myself of the tables that I wanted to be sure to stop by, but in the end I really did try to see everything there was to see. One of the things I love about TCAF is the wide variety of comics at the event, but I especially appreciate the number of queer creators and the amount of queer content present.

Ontario Science Centre Rainforest

Exploring the rainforest at the Ontario Science Centre

In addition to all of the phenomenal exhibitors, TCAF also has a strong lineup of panels, workshops, and creator spotlights. As usual, it was a tremendous challenge deciding which events I wanted to go to, especially as so many of the conflict with one another. In the end I settled on six, all but one of which were held on Saturday. There were definitely others that I wanted to attend, too, but for one reason or another (such as waking up with a migraine on Sunday morning or a cranky toddler) I wasn’t ultimately able to fit them all into my schedule.

Since I’m a musician on top of being a huge fan of comics, one of the panels that immediately caught my interest was “Sounds and Vision: Music in Comics,” moderated by Phillipe Leblanc, which explored how artists portray and convey music and sound in a visual medium. Although I haven’t actually read any of their comics (yet), I did recognize the panelists by name–Dave Chisholm, Nick Craine, Anya Davidson, Sandrine Revel, and Eric Kostiuk Williams. All of the creators on the panel had at least some musical background, formal or otherwise (Chisholm even has a doctorate in jazz trumpet), and consider music to be one of their passions. In some ways the two artforms, music and comics, are incompatible since each one requires so much time to master as an artist, but they can still be brought together. If nothing else, creators’ experiences as musicians can inform and influence the stories they want to tell. Effectively incorporating music into a comic requires more than just putting music notes on a page. As Chisholm pointed out, musical notation isn’t really music either–it’s simply ink on paper, a visual shorthand (much like comics themselves). In order to convey the intended feeling of the music, comic creators must instead rely on page and panel design to capture a sense of tempo, movement, and flow. Creative use of typography can also be effective, especially when lyrics are involved, and imaginative onomatopoeiae can serve as a device to form a visual soundscape. Often a literal representation of music isn’t what is demanded by a narrative, it’s the emotional resonance and impact of that music that needs to be seen, whether it’s the focus of a comic or simply being used as a background element to help set a scene.

After spending a little more time browsing the exhibitor areas, the next panel that I attended was simply titled “Sports!” which included Michael Nybrandt, Ngozi Ukazu, Sonam Wangyal, and Jarrett Williams as panelists and RJ Casey as a moderator. While in Japan sports comics have been immensely successful, the subgenre hasn’t thrived in the same way in the North American comics industry. Although there have been some independent sports comics with impressive followings, such as Ukazu’s Check, Please!, in general sports comics continue to be a hard sell for many major publishers. In the 1990s there were some unsuccessful mainstream attempts that basically tried to turn sports comics into superhero narratives rather than focusing on the underlying human story, something that didn’t work well at the time. There’s also the question of audience since there is a lingering and inaccurate stereotype that “nerds don’t like sports.” (Ukazu commented that it might actually be more difficult to sell sports comics to sports fans than to comics fans.) Sports stories provide ready-made and easily understood narratives which allow the incorporation and exploration of other subjects such as politics, religion, and performance of gender, making those issues more acceptable or palatable for readers. Emotional highs and lows are inherent to the stories, often directly tied to the athletes’ successes and failures in competition. Sports comics can risk becoming repetitive since the most basic story arc is the often same–someone will win and someone will lose–but while the ending may be already be determined, how the comic arrives at that ending is not. Changing the implications of winning and losing can introduce new dynamics and not all the conflict and drama has to happen within the context of the sport itself.

TCAF 2017 Haul

TCAF Haul 2017!
(minus a t-shirt and poster)

While the first two panels I went to were both held at the Stealth Lounge at The Pilot, my next three panels were located at another of TCAF’s primary event locations, the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel which allows for larger gatherings. It’s a good thing, too. Glen Downey, who was moderating “Creating While Depressed,” noted that it was one of the most well-attended TCAF panels with which he has been involved. The subject matter being discussed appeared to strike a very personal chord with many of the people in the audience, myself included. The panelists–Meredith Gran, Tara Ogaick, Meredith Park, and Shivana Sookdeo–were all very candid and open, sharing their own experiences as creators who have to carefully balance their mental health with their creative work. They talked about how damaging the idealized stereotype of the “tortured artist” is and how the romanticized portrayal of depression found in popular culture is often vastly different from actual experience. In reality, people with depression are creating despite depression rather than because of it. For them, comics can be an outlet for expression and a way to alleviate some of the symptoms of depression, but at their lowest points it may be impossible for them to produce any work at all. It is at those times when communication and honesty are particularly crucial in order to clearly delineate limitations and establish realistic expectations not only for themselves but for the people with whom they might be working. The panelists also emphasized the importance of finding a supportive, close-knit community. Although they were specifically speaking as artistic creators with depression, I found that their experiences strongly resonated with my own and could be more broadly relatable.

My fourth panel of the day was “21st Century Webcomics,” featuring Michael DeForge, Blue Delliquanti, Priya Huq, Matt Lubchansky, and moderated by Tom Spurgeon. I don’t actually follow as many comics online as I used to–I find reading digital content difficult and/or frustrating for a wide variety of reasons–but I am still a huge supporter of webcomics, frequently buying print editions if they exist. As with any medium, webcomics have evolved over time especially as advances in the creation of digital artwork have also been made. Likewise, the relationship between webcomics and print comics have changed and there is less of a sense that they are at war these days. Instead, webcomics are often used to support their print equivalents. Because they are online, webcomics are inherently more discoverable and more widely accessible which helps to build an audience and further promote a creator’s work. Webcomics can also give a creator the opportunity to experiment with new methods and formats of expression that simply aren’t realistically feasible or even possible in print, such as the use of infinite canvass, animation techniques, or interactive elements. Creators have a tremendous amount of freedom when it comes to webcomics, allowing personal or experimental works to be produced and distributed that more traditional or mainstream comic publishers might initially be reluctant to take a risk on. However, while it was hoped that the Internet would allow creators to more directly deliver their content to readers and flatten out publishing hierarchies (which to some extent has occurred), the reality is that there has been a rise in intermediaries. More and more, creators find they frequently have to rely on multiple external systems and platforms like Kickstarter, Patreon, and social media to sustain their work.

“LGBTQ Comics Abroad,” moderated by Justin Hall, was the one panel that I wanted to be sure to make it to above all others not just because the subject matter had to do with queer comics but because Gengoroh Tagame was participating. (Even if someone isn’t a fan of Tagame’s works, his immense historical knowledge and experience as a gay comics creator makes his panels well-worth seeking out.) The other panelists included A.C. Esguerra, Molly Ostertag, Tommi Parrish, and Martina Schradi. Anne Ishii was also there, technically to assist with interpretation for Tagame, but she also had her own thoughts and experiences to bring to the discussion. The panelists talked about their work and the state of queer comics within their own countries (Japan, United States, Australia, and Germany) but also the challenges presented when considering international audiences. Queer identities are formed differently from culture to culture, and some of the nuances of those differences can be difficult to convey or translate, however there are still some shared and common experiences that are not limited by borders; social mores and contexts will often vary, but universal themes can still be found. The online environment has presented an opportunity for queer comics to be successful in ways that are currently difficult through traditional publishing, although the mainstream comics industry has been slowly making progress. The Internet allows for an unprecedented ease of global access to and distribution of queer content; it has been possible for numerous communities and support networks to be established which aren’t limited by geographic boundaries. But along with the good, there is also the bad–the piracy, scanlations, and extreme levels of fan entitlement present online can be hugely damaging.

TCAF 2017 Poster - Eleanor Davis

©Eleanor Davis

As mentioned, Saturday night I went to the Sparkler TCAF Mixer. I brought the little one along with me to allow the family’s other two adults to have a child-free dinner date. A good time was had by all and I had the chance to catch up with not only the Chromatic Press/Sparkler Monthly folks but some of Seven Seas’ people as well. There’s a bit of an overlap between the two groups even though the demographics of each company’s audience are currently the inverse of each other. (Interesting tidbit: According to a recent Sparkler Monthly survey, while women form the core readership, at present Chromatic Press has more nonbinary readers than male readers.) Expect some really great things and exciting announcements to come from both publishers in the near future.

Sunday ended up being a much shorter day than was originally planned (I was really hoping to attend the So Pretty / Very Rotten discussion on Lolita culture at the Japan Foundation, for one). However, I and one of my partners were able to at least make it to The Pilot for the panel “Looks Good Enough to Eat: Comics and Food” before we all headed back to Michigan. We sadly missed out 2016’s food comics panel, so we were particularly happy to be there this year. Perhaps unsurprisingly considering my well-known love of food comics, I was already familiar with the work of most of the panelists: Sarah Becan, Emily Forster, Robin Ha, Jade Feng Lee, and Kat Verhoeven. Along with moderator Lauren Jorden, the group discussed what appealed to them about creating and reading comics that prominently feature or incorporate food. The subgenre of food comics is actually quite diverse, including comics explicitly about food (recipe comics, autobiographical works, or journalistic reviews) as well as comics that use food as a theme or aesthetic. Everyone has to eat, which can make food comics particularly accessible; it’s a shared experience that can serve as a gateway into comics. Food is a multisensory experience, so it can be challenging when working in a medium that primarily relies on one. However, an important part of eating is the visual experience, so to that extent comics are a natural fit. Comics can evoke a feeling or mood that can’t be captured in the same way with photography or other visual artforms. Often there is a strong emotional component to food comics. Even when the subject matter is specifically about food, food itself isn’t just food–it’s history, community, culture, relationships, and personal expression. And comics can be all of those things, too.

And with that,  and after one last tour through the exhibitor areas, the whole family prepared to depart for home. Though I didn’t end up doing everything that I had originally planned or hoped to do,  but I still had a fantastic trip. Toronto is a terrific city and TCAF is a phenomenal festival. However inadequately, I’ve tried to convey some of that greatness here by highlighting a little of what I learned and experienced. However, there’s so much more that I could have (and perhaps should have) written about because there’s so much more to the festival. I definitely plan on attending TCAF for the foreseeable future.

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Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Hiro Ainana and shri. Released in Japan by Fujimi Shobo. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

There is a bit of a cliche about the typical isekai hero. The abbreviation used, I believe is ‘OP’, as in ‘overpowered’. In fact, it gets applied to light novels heroes whether it’s an isekai or not, but generally tends to mean that the hero wins most of his fights with ease, has very little difficulty amassing a group of girls who like him, and wanders through the story being a cool wish-fulfillment character. Of course, when you examine the works more closely, no one here is ever QUITE that bad. Taking the two most obvious examples, Kirito has various issues in both his real and gaming life (which admittedly the author does not emphasize as much as he should), and Tatsuya has genuine issues communicating properly with people much of the time due to literally being engineered to not have strong emotions. Hell, even Arifureta’s hero spends almost half the book suffering as a bullied loser before he goes through hell and becomes Grimdark Araragi. And then there’s Death March’s Satou.

Even Satou’s very name, one of the most common last names in Japan, screams generic. The author seems to have this misguided opinion that being above the age of 25 somehow manages to let you control all your emotions perfectly, and so Satou strides through situations with barely a raised eyebrow. His briefly getting mildly annoyed at the villain at the end of this volume is a major breakthrough, something he even lampshades. Hell, you know the scene in KonoSuba where Kazuma goes through hell in order to get laid with a brothel employee only for everything to conspire against him? Here, Satou can simply go to a brothel, level up in many erotic ways (which he refuses to tell us), and suffer no punishment other than being briefly yelled at by his loli slave, who he spends most of the book chastising in any case. You could argue that Touya from Mixed Bathing and Touya from Isekai Smartphone are generic nice guys too, but at least they have normal reactions and are somewhat fresh-faced and shiny. Satou is “been there, done that”.

Oh yes, speaking of that loli, Arisa is the major new cast addition this time around, and is also from Japan, though we don’t know the details yet. Given her behavior, I suspect that she’s much older than her fantasy appearance here. But on that note, can we dial down Satou reminding us he’s not a lolicon just a bit? I realize he’s surrounded by young girls (most of whom he owns – the slavery aspect to this work is still very uncomfortable, especially as his reaction is along the lines of “well, that’s the way it is”) but it’s annoying given that the author clearly IS a lolicon and is happy to give us lots of service whether asked for or not. Other new characters include Arisa’s companion, who is painfully shy except when discussing Arisa, and also cursed to look ugly to everyone (except Satou), a generic mook villainess who is #7 of a group of eight, so is naturally named Nana by Satou because he is awful, and a cute realtor who seems to want to be ravished by her boss. Oh, and an elf princess, also very young.

Is there anything in this book that isn’t painful? The last third or so, where he’s battling his way up a huge tower full of monsters, shows the author can be decent when he’s writing fight scenes. At one point, Satou has to literally breakdance his way past the villains, the only time in the entire volume I laughed out loud. But for the most part, if you’re interested in an isekai published in North America, literally any other novel is better than this. Congrats, Death March, you’re the first light novel I’m dropping for simply being bad, rather than dark (Black Bullet, Goblin Slayer, Grimgar) or offensive (Siskan).

Girls’ Last Tour, Vol. 1

May. 27th, 2017 08:38 pm
[syndicated profile] mangabookshelf_feed

Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Tsukumizu. Released in Japan as “Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou” by Shinchosha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Kurage Bunch. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Amanda Haley.

As I read this manga, I kept wondering which of the many slice-of-life series starring young girls drawn in a moe style it reminded me of. I’d said on twitter that it was like a post-apocalyptic Yotsuba&!, but at times it also reminds me of Strawberry Marshmallow, Sunshine Sketch, and Non Non Biyori. The key thing that connects all of those titles is that they’re all slice-of-life – note that Girls’ Last tour doesn’t really remind me of other post-apocalyptic mangas where survivors wander the remains of the Earth. Because while that’s the gimmick here, it’s not what keeps people coming back to the title week after week. You come back to see Chito and Yuuri, the two leads, discuss reading, or find hot water so they can take a bath, or meet up with other survivors who help them get up to higher levels of the wasted world they drive their small, cute tank through. It’s… relaxing.

It’s never really made clear, at least not in this volume, exactly what happened to the world that the two girls are wandering through, and honestly it’s not all that important yet. All we know is that there are multiple levels, they are decaying and falling apart, and that for the first 2/3 of the book or so, the girls are the only two survivors we meet. Their concerns are basic: food, heat, shelter, and finding a way to get to a level where there might be more of all three. As you’d expect with a slice of life title, the girls have contrasting personalities. Chito is serious, studious, and does most of the thinking for the two; Yuuri is cheery, dazed, a bit of an idiot, and provides the muscle and shooting skills. And yes, they drive around in a tank and have guns, though we don’t really run into much of anything in this first volume that would require them. Unlike a lot of the slice-of-life seinen titles out recently, there’s not even any faux yuri tease in this – the girls are simply friends, with one perhaps finding the other one more aggravating than she’d like.

About 2/3 of the way through, they meet an older man who is trying to map out the desolate landscape they’re both exploring. Sadly, thanks to a malfunctioning elevator, his maps end up scattered to the four winds (this is even lampshaded right before it happens, with one of the girls talking about the poor design of the freight elevator they’re riding and how it needs railings). This also shows off that even if the girls can slide into moe sameness a bit (I still tend to forget their names), they both have a drive to explore more, to find out what’s beyond the next level, and they convince the understandably distraught mapmaker to do the same thing. Girls’ Last Tour is exploring a landscape quietly and peacefully with two cute young girls. It’s not just a slice-of-life moe manga, it’s trying to be the last slice-of-life moe manga you’d read before the end times cast the universe into heat death. And for the first volume, at least, that’s not too bad.

Manga the Week of 5/31

May. 26th, 2017 08:52 pm
[syndicated profile] mangabookshelf_feed

Posted by Sean Gaffney

SEAN: Believe it or not, under 20 releases is now a quiet week. Welcome to the Manga Boom, here’s your accordion. So what’s out next week?

J-Novel Club has an odd license. Despite being available to them, no one thought the company would license Invaders of the Rokujouma!? for two reasons: 1) It’s 23 volumes and counting in Japan, and 2) it already had a well-regarded fan translation of the first 22 volumes. But J-Novel has licensed that fan translation, is giving it an edit, and doing a fast release of the first three volumes of the series, with more to come monthly, apparently. As for the title itself, it’s a harem comedy, so moving on…

ASH: It’s probably not a series that I’ll ever pick up, but that’s an interesting publication history!

SEAN: Kodansha has more digital Del Rey rescues. Alive 16, Nodame Cantabile 20, and Yozakura Quartet 12.

…and I guess that Kodansha has Battle Angel Alita 1-3 out digitally too. I knew it was coming, but not so soon. This is the original BAA (as opposed to the Last Order reboot), with a new translation.

Their lone print release this week is the 60th volume of Fairy Tail, which should be wrapping up in Japan soon.

Kodansha also has new digital releases. Kasane is an award-winning work, and runs in the magazine Evening. It appears to be a dark thriller with lots of bullying and abuse overtones. But, magic lipstick!

Real Girl (3D Kanojo) is a shoujo/josei title from Dessert, involving a nerdy outcast type who ends up working with a cool beauty, the sort he hates, but gradually comes to realize that cool beauties are people too.

ANNA: I have mixed feelings about these digital releases, I’m so happy that more shoujo/josei is coming out, but having been burned before by the crash and burn of digital manga programs in the past, I’m concerned about some of these titles actually being finished. Also, it would be great to have some more josei print manga! Even with these handy reminders for the Manga Bookshelf team, I’m having a hard time keeping track of all the digital releases that I’m interested in.

MICHELLE: There certainly are a lot of them! That said, I will give these two new ones a try. And yay for more Nodame, as well!

ASH: I’m glad that these titles are being licensed at all, but I’d definitely like to see more of the released in print, too.

MELINDA: I share Anna’s concerns. I’m glad these are being released, but I’m still reeling from the loss of some JManga series I was really invested in (that have not, to my knowledge, been picked up by anyone else), and I admit I still mistrust digital.

SEAN: If it helps, the JManga title To All Corners of the World was rescued by Seven Seas and will be out in November in one (print) omnibus.

Seven Seas has a few new titles next week, starting with a (gasp!) novel, The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku, based on the seemingly unstoppable Vocaloid idol.

The manga debut is The High School Life of a Fudanshi (Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu), a comedy title from Zero-Sum Online about a straight guy obsessed with BL, and his drive to find someone else to share his obsession with.

ASH: Knowing a few straight fudanshi myself, I’m rather curious to see how the series handles the topic.

MELINDA: Cautiously interested.

SEAN: And there’s a 5th volume of Shomin Sample, which must have run out of girls showing us their panties on the cover by now. (checks) Sadly, apparently not.

Vertical has the 8th Ninja Slayer, for all your Ninja needs.

They also have a light novel based on the Seven Deadly Sins manga, subtitled Seven Scars They Left Behind. Judging by that title, I wouldn’t expect a lot of laughs.

Yen Digital has some new volumes for us, as we get the 10th Aphorism, the 10th Crimson Prince, and the 10th Sekirei.

And while it’s not Vol. 10, Yen On does have the first four Sword Art Online novels now available digitally, for those obsessed with reading light novels on their phones (like me).

Are you taking a week off? Or getting something here?

[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Hi Captain,

So, I’ve been attending a salsa dance class the last few months. The class is structured so that you are welcome to come as a single person, and the participants shuffle through partners throughout the class. It’s a lot of fun and the men are generally pretty respectful and appropriate.

My problem is that a young man has been attending the last two weeks, and while he is very polite, his body odor is HORRENDOUS. I really cannot overstate how bad it is. By the middle of class he is sweating profusely, such that there is perspiration dripping off of his nose, and yes, onto his dancing partners (or at least *this* dancing partner, which is my main concern).

I really don’t want dance with him, but I don’t know how to refuse or what to do about it without being rude. I can totally see his attendance in this class as a suggested “assignment” from a therapist or other advice giver (such as yourself!) to get out there and be around people, even if it’s something he’s not comfortable doing.

Do you have any scripts that I can use? I do want to be kind.

~Dreading Dance Class

(She/her pronouns)

Dear Dreading Dance Class,

I’ve gotten a lot of “how do I tell someone they smell” and a lot of “how do I deal with this awkward dance partner” questions that I haven’t answered yet – thanks for this question that lets me combine both!

You don’t have to dance with him (or with anyone that you don’t want to) and if his turn as your partner gets a “No thank you/Not this time/Oh, sorry, I need to use the rest room/catch my breath/make a quick phone call” for now while you work up to talking to him about it, that’s okay. This is as true for The Dance Partner Who Never Stops Talking, Too Much Perfume Lady, and The Brotherhood of the Traveling Hands as it is for Febreezio The Fragrant.

Ideally dance teachers and studios should communicate ground rules for class and issue periodic reminders, for example:

  • Dancing means getting really close to people, so we expect that you’ll wear clean clothes and freshen up before class. Don’t forget to brush your teeth/use breath mints, too.
  • Everyone sweats when they dance so please remember to blot/mop yourself up occasionally – handkerchiefs or bandanas are useful for this!
  • Please avoid strong cologne or perfume due to allergies.
  • We like everyone to dance with everyone else and feel welcome, but you can refuse to dance with anyone or sit a dance out for any reason. If someone doesn’t want to dance with you, or sits out a dance, don’t take it personally – in 5 minutes you’ll have a new partner.
  • If you feel like someone is dancing too close here is how you signal that!/Here is how you signal or ask for permission to dance closer.

Of course, posting general “for everyone” rules definitely don’t magically solve the issue. We all know that Sylvia-in-your-office-who-cuts-a-sliver-out-of-each-of-the-free-cookies-in-the-break-room definitely doesn’t think she is the problem when the office manager sends out the “Please can everyone just take the whole cookie from now on? You don’t have to eat the whole thing, but it’s gross when they’ve all been handled and look like there are bites out of them” emailThe office manager needs to send the email and have a “Sylvia, could you please stop doing that” talk.

When you join a scene or a hobby or a workplace or any social enterprise, certain expectations come with that (There is no talking in the Diogenes Club). If Febreezio doesn’t already know that “It’s okay if you are a naturally sweaty person but dancing close to people means doing what you can to manage your sweat”/”Your usual hygiene game is not cutting it for this level of close contact and physical activity” someone in that scene – you, or the teacher, or another old hand – is doing a kindness if they tell him directly as soon as possible. Communicating those expectations is not persecution.

He will definitely not enjoy the conversation and not feel good! Nobody likes to get told that they stink! It’s embarrassing! But it will also be wicked embarrassing if everyone suddenly needs to take an urgent phone call when it’s their turn to dance with him.

If you want to have the conversation, pull him aside privately (not on the dance floor) and try this script:

Hey, X, can I talk to you real quick about something awkward? Great.

I’d love to dance with you sometime, but I’ve noticed you don’t smell so great today and you don’t mop up when you get sweaty. Can you make sure to freshen up before next class, and bring a handkerchief or bandana with you to mop up sweat?

Casting it as a thing you’ve had to deal with personally can help:

“When I first started coming to dance classes I definitely underestimated how sweaty I’d get. I needed to raise my deodorant game for one thing, and I also realized I needed to bring a clean shirt with me to change into between work and coming here. I’ve noticed you having some of the same issues. Can you make sure to freshen up before next class, and bring a handkerchief or bandana with you to mop up sweat?”

Whatever you do, keep it short and treat it like a normal, reasonable request that you think he will want to follow in order to make you more comfortable as a dance partner.

If you talk to the teacher about it, try:

X is new here, and I’ve noticed that he doesn’t smell so good or mop up when he sweats, so I don’t want to dance with him. I don’t want to hurt his feelings and I want him to have fun and be included here. Can you speak to him about it or do you have suggestions for how to approach it with him?

The teacher should take him aside and say something like:

We’re very glad you’re here, but I’ve noticed* some issues with body odor and sweat today. Please take a shower, use deodorant, and please make sure you’re wearing clean clothes before you come to dance lessons next week, it’s part of being a good dance partner. Also, bring a handkerchief or bandana with you to mop up if you get sweaty.” 

Notice the list: Clean clothes, shower, deodorant, bandana to mop sweat. Now is not the time for vague euphemisms like “be more aware of hygiene.” Either the guy doesn’t know he smells, or he does know but he doesn’t have a good practice to make it stop. You’ve come this far into Awkwardtown, might as well be specific and tell him what exactly you’d like him to do.

As for your worries about driving him away from dance class forever, let’s get some perspective: What if a therapist did recommend for him to come here? What if he is really really really nervous about dancing? What if he comes straight from working a really physical job and doesn’t have time to shower and this is his only outlet for exploring the pleasure of dance? What if it’s a medical issue? What if these are his only clothes what if the closest washing machine and shower are 10 miles away from his house and uphill both ways?

Is that really your baggage to take on?

Isn’t it also patronizing to project all of those possible explanations, excuses, and reasons onto other people? After all, he is an adult man who signed up for and attends a dance class, so isn’t it likely that he can:

a) Take steps to clean himself up before doing a social activity (See Jimmy’s trunk full of wet wipes on this week’s Better Call Saul)?

b) Experiment with and adjust his hygiene strategies if it is in fact a medical issue?

c) Handle 5 minutes of awkward conversation about it?

d) Make choices about how he deals with uncomfortable feelings, whether that’s “Clean up a little better so I can enjoy dancing” or “flee forever…too mortifying…ack?”

When someone is doing something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s very easy to get lost in diagnosing all the reasons they might do it. Compassionate people try to walk in the other person’s shoes, and it’s even more pronounced when you factor in how relentlessly women are socialized to protect men’s feelings. But if you avoid a difficult conversation with someone who is making you uncomfortable because you can’t stop worrying about the reasons or stop generating possible excuses for them, it won’t help the person or solve the problem. It will just put you through a lot of emotional labor without making a single thing better for anyone.

 

*Important: If you are ever a peer or an authority figure who has to deliver embarrassing news to someone, and if it can possibly be avoided, don’t start with “We’ve had complaints” or “Everyone talked about this and we think ____” or “Some people have suggested that you…” I understand the temptation to displace the awkwardness onto the anonymous authority of the group, but it just makes it worse for the person and also risks derailing the conversation with “Who complained?” “What exactly did they say?” The first time you have the conversation with someone, let them save a little face by not making it them vs. the whole group or the whole world. You’re already here delivering the awkward news, so use your “I” statements and own the problem.

Appendix: I’m not a dancer but as a teacher and a manager and a dater and a person with a body, this has been my approach Private Conversations About Smells (And Other Body Awkwardnesses).

Case Studies #1-???: Conversations With Stinky College Students

Odor/hygiene problems are almost always co-morbid with the student falling behind academically, so that’s usually my angle.:

Me: “You’ve been missing a lot of class/You didn’t turn in your last assignment. What’s going on?

If The Stink has crossed to a Truly Problematic place, then I add: “Also, is really awkward and I hate to put you on the spot like this, but I’ve noticed that you don’t seem like your usual self in class lately – you don’t smell good/your clothes aren’t clean – is everything all right?

As you can imagine I find out all kinds of stuff, from “I live in a homeless shelter” to “I don’t know how to do laundry and I’m too embarrassed to ask” to “Showering wastes crucial earth resources and deodorant is just a conspiracy from Big Pharma to make us CONFORM!” … to depression, grief, sexual assault, and other really hard stuff, so I never, never assume what the problem is.

Results/Follow-up:

  • Obviously, deadline re-negotiation and referrals to many campus resources for the hard stuff.
  • For the “Oh, Buddy” Freshmen: “Have you Googled ‘how do I do laundry?’ “No” “Maybe try that? Oh look, here’s a couple of tutorials” “Ok!” “Cool, I don’t want to smell you next week.” “LOL, you got it.”
  • For the “I’m stinky FOR THE EARTH, DEAL WITH MY RIGHTEOUS STENCH” student I’ve had luck with “I get that but if I can smell you from here it’s gotten out of hand for what’s okay in a small classroom or working on a film crew in close quarters. Can you research some environmentally-friendly solutions or schedule the weekly bath for right before my class? I’d sure appreciate it.”

Case Studies: SexyTimes Stink! 2000-present day

Brevity and directness are kindness:

  • I’d very much like to put my _____ on your _____ or your _____ in my _____ but I think you/I/we both need a shower first.
  • Oof, it’s a little funky down here. Can we pick this up after a shower? Awesome.

If you’re close enough to someone that you’re going to put your ______ on their ______, then you’re close enough to say “Bodies are gross sometimes, let’s agree to take mitigating measures.

Case Studies In Which I Was A Manager Of Someone With Awkward Hygiene Stuff

Script/Mad Lib:

“Hey, this is awkward and I hate to put you on the spot, but [you don’t smell good][you aren’t wearing clean clothes to work][you’re probably not aware but when you lean over in that top your whole chest area and bra can be seen (true story!)][that white shirt is see-through please wear an undershirt][there is some other specific thing about your hygiene or physical aspect that is giving me cause for concern].”

If appropriate:

“Have you noticed that, too? That’s not like you at all, so…[Is there anything going on we should know about][Have you had a medical checkup lately][Visited a dentist to talk about that?][Do you need a couple of days off to catch up on Life Stuff like laundry?][Need to make a Target run for something that doesn’t have holes in it before our client meeting?]”

As with students, people who had difficult life reasons got referred to whatever resources could be had, and everyone got a “Hey, this is informal right now – I just wanted to check in with you and talk about it before it becomes a real issue. Please [do the stuff we talked about][take a few days to get it together][take another look at the dress code and let me know if something is unclear or seems impossible] and it will go back to being a non-issue.

By way of contrast, here’s a story about what not to do about The Stinky Guy:

Case Study: The Saga of The Smelly Hippie Guy I Shared An Office With For A Year In The Late 1990s Before I Had Therapy/When I Was Still Terrified Of Conflict

Me: :Agonizes for months about whether to say anything:

Him: :continues to stink:

Me: :Complains about him to everyone who would listen…except him.:

Him: :keeps it funky:

Me: :Tries to get my office moved: :Have a choice of sticking with stinky-but-quiet guy or sharing with a lady I hate who never stops talking: 

Me: :polls my work friends at length re: The Noise or the Funk?:

Me: (sigh) :inertia + Funk:

Him: :wavy stink lines come off him sometimes:

Me: :executes a complex series of trades with everyone in the office until I am his Secret Santa: 

Me: :gives THE GIFT OF TINY FANCY MAN-SOAP & DEODORANT: (We travel a lot for our work so this can be played off as “I got you some awesome travel supplies!”)

Him: “Sweet! Thanks! Hahaha! Are you saying I stink?”

Me: “Hahahaha no. No. Hahahaha. No. Why would you think that?

Him: “Right on!” :gift disappears into desk drawer:

Also Him: :rocks on with his funky self:

Me: :Periodically checks his desk drawer to see if the soap package has been opened or moved:

(It hasn’t moved)

(It never moves)

Him: “I’m going to start biking to work, is it cool with you if I have my bike in here?”

Me: “Sure!”

Me: :buys a scented candle and moves it slowly closer to him each day when I burn it:

Office Manager: All Staff Email: “Reminder: No candles or open flames in the office.”

Me: :buys a carved wooden incense burner and some incense from a street vendor down the block. For some reason tell him that I got it on an international trip:

Him: “I like this incense you brought back!”

Office Manager: All Staff Email: “No incense, either! No fire at all!”

Me: :sprays Glade:

Him: “Ugh, could you not spray that stuff? It’s full of chemicals.”

Me: “Oh…ok.”

Him: “Yeah, and also I just can’t stand the way it smells.”

Me:

giphy (13)

.gif of John Krasinski saying “Oh my god” and pouring wine.

Another month goes by. It’s my turn to take over our department’s “Word of the Week” email. It’s a fun game so I’ll describe it for any office workers reading: Junior staff would secretly take turns picking an unusual word and gaining bragging points by using the word as much as possible in meetings and office communications throughout the week. Points were awarded based on sophistication and correctness of usage, frequency of use (more points for being the seventh person who says “I think we’ve crossed…the Rubicon… here” in the same meeting than for being the first), whether we could say it without laughing, whether we could make the one Cool Boss who has caught on to the game laugh or (better yet!) use it, and (best of all) whether we could make the expression catch on widely among senior staff.

My words that month: noisome, malodorous, putrescent, fetid.

Him: :adopts some kind of all-rotten egg, all-compost lunch routine:

Also him: :keeps on reekin’ on:

Another month goes by. It’s almost a year to the day that we started sharing an office. In summer. In Washington, D.C. aka SWAMPY MCHUMIDPLACE.

Me: :Walks into our office and gags because it smelled like old socks have been dipped in ball sweat, wrapped around road kill, and slow-roasted over a dung fire:

Me: “DUDE, it’scoolthatyoulikebikingtoworkandeverything but it is getting RANK in here. THERE ARE SHOWERS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF THE BUILDING, PLEASE USE THEM!!!! Or bring a change of clothes with you. OR SOMETHING.”

Him: “Whoa!”

Me: (small voice) “I’msorryIdidn’tmeantoyell”

Me: (small voice) “But you stink.”

Him: :smells his own pits: “Wow yeah I am kinda stinky today. Sorry.”

Me: (almost a whisper) “Not just today.”

Him: “There are showers?”

Me: “Yeah! Top floor.”

Him: “Is there a code or a lock or anything I need to know about?”

Me: 7-2-0-1#

Him: “Sweet! I’ll bring a towel with me tomorrow.”

Me: “And…every day?”

Him: “And every day.”

Me: “Thanks.”

Him: “No worries! I hope this wasn’t bothering you all this time?!?”

Me: “Hahahaha…no, of course not. All good. Just…clean yourself.”

Him: “Got it.”

Me: “MaybethatsoapIgotyouisstillinyourdesk?

(It was)

(I had checked 2 days ago)

Him: “GOT it.”

Me: “OkI’mgoingtolunchnow…bye…can I bring you anything back…”

Him: “All good…”

Me: “Ok!”

Him: “Seriously, Jen, it’s all good.

Me: :goes to lunch, brings him back a cookie and a brownie and a coffee:

And lo, he did take regular showers, and behold, a bike makes a pretty good good rack for holding a damp towel, and indeed, when his towel started to get funky I said “Hey time to wash that towel, yeah?” and he smelled it and said “Good grief, yes, I’m sorry!” and we never spoke of it again.

Letter Writer, your conversation with this dancing guy is going to be easier than that, right? Right.

 

 

 

 

 


[syndicated profile] mangabookshelf_feed

Posted by Katherine Dacey

The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal recently touched off a fierce debate about whether colleges should teach comics as literature. In a provocatively titled article “Graphic Novels Are Trending in English Departments, and That’s a Problem,” writer Shannon Watkins argued that a crisis was brewing in higher education, as more and more colleges taught graphic novels alongside or instead of “standard text-based curricula.” She raised two objections to comic studies: first, that comics are an inherently political medium, and second, that comics demand less of the reader than purely textual works. Both objections are easy to refute, in part because Watkins’ arguments rest on anecdotal evidence; it’s hard to argue that comics are a “trend” if you don’t provide hard numbers to support your claim that universities are ditching The Iliad for Watchmen or Fun Home.

As for her argument that graphic novels are compromising the true mission of colleges and universities by “push[ing] a social justice agenda” instead of teaching the classics, Watkins ignores the political impulse behind “Great Books” courses. My alma mater, for example, created its core curriculum in 1919. The faculty viewed courses such as Contemporary Civilization and Literature Humanities as a lens through which to view the present moment; by reading the great novels, essays, dramas, and philosophical tracts of the previous 2,000 years, they hoped to develop students’ ability to solve such 20th-century problems as “how to achieve political and legal forms which are at once flexible and stable; how to eliminate human and material waste of every kind; how to preserve national integrity and still enjoy the benefits of international organization; and finally, how to provide an education that will advance personal and social interests, cultural and industrial.” If that isn’t political, I don’t know what is.

Watkins is on firmer ground when arguing that reading comics and reading text are different skills. In one of the most quoted sections of her essay, she argues that “Texts without pictures require students to exercise abstract reasoning in comprehending the meaning of the text, leaving the accompanying visualizations to their own imagination.” Watkins then leaps to the conclusion that “the images found in graphic novels… remove much of the need for students to exercise their intellects in order to process the main ideas.” Yet she never supports this claim with any substantial research on literacy or cognition; instead, she suggests that reading comics dulls the intellect, an idea popularized by Frederic Wertham in The Seduction of the Innocent (1954). “By no stretch of critical standards can the text in crime comics qualify as literature, or their drawings as art,” he opined. “Considering the enormous amount of time spent by children on crime comics, their gain is nil. They do not learn how to read a serious book or magazine. They do not gain a true picture of the West from ‘Westerns.’ They do not learn any normal aspects of sex, love, or life” (89).

For additional perspective on the controversy, I encourage you to read Heidi MacDonald’s essay at The Beat, in which she explains why Fun Home is not, in fact, a “political” text, and Maren Williams’ article documenting efforts to ban controversial graphic novels from the College of Charleston, Duke University, and other schools around the country.

Now on to the rest of this week’s manga, anime, comics, and pop culture links…

Seven Seas just added two new titles to its Winter 2018 schedule: Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale and Fauna and the Dragonnewts’ Seven Kingdoms, both of which look charming and weird in equal measure. [Seven Seas]

Erica Friedman explains how lesbian activism gave rise to yuri manga. [Okazu]

Brigid Alverson compiles a list of seven essential sci-fi manga, from Knights of Sidonia to Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace. [B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog] 

Should you watch Netflix’s adaptation of Blame? Serdar Yegulalp considers what’s lost and gained by condensing Tsutomu Nihei’s manga into a two-hour movie. [Ganriki]

Leave it to a Japanese bakery to design a cat-shaped loaf of bread. [Sora News 24]

Tickets for the 2017 J-Pop Summit just went on sale today. Joining this year’s line-up of musical acts are Babyraids, Misaki Iwasa, Yanakiku, and Band-Maid. Too broke to go? Consider volunteering! In exchange for donating your time, skills, and enthusiasm, you’ll receive a free, one-day pass to the festival. [J-Pop Summit]

To promote their book So Pretty/Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute CultureJane Mai and An Nguyen provide an illustrated primer on lolita style. Their book is now available from Koyama Press. [The Paris Review]

Scholar Kathryn Hemmann reviews Indian Summer, a novel by Kanai Mieko that was published “the same year as Yoshimoto Banana’s famous girls’ literature novella Kitchen.” Though Mieko’s novel “has more of a satirical bite” than Yoshimoto’s, “both stories reflect the heady energy of [Japanese] consumer culture at the end of the bubble years.” [Contemporary Japanese Literature]

Google’s AlphaGo software just defeated the world’s greatest living Go player. [The New York Times]

If you’re planning to read Delicious in Dungeon — and I hope you are, because it’s a hoot — check out this excerpt from Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Birth of D&D first. It will give you a new appreciation for D&D’s influence on comics, movies, and television. [Wired]

And speaking of gaming culture, Sam Riedel takes an in-depth look at the fallout from 2014’s Gamergate scandal, noting just how little meaningful progress has been made towards addressing nerdom’s misogyny problem. [Bitch Media]

Last but not least, Star Wars debuted 40 years ago this week. It’s hard to understate its impact on popular entertainment and merchandising, and difficult to fathom its box-office success: it remained the top-grossing film in America for 20 weeks in 1977. (By contrast, Finding Dory, last year’s top-grossing film, was the box-office champion for just four weeks.) Justin Bank and Sean Alfano have sifted through the New York Times’ original coverage of the film — and the phenomenon — and compiled a terrific assortment of links, from Vincent Canby’s original review to a editorial arguing that Star Wars needed more sex. Ah, the 70s… [The New York Times]

05/24/17 PHD comic: 'The trick'

May. 26th, 2017 02:28 am
[syndicated profile] phd_comics_feed
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The trick" - originally published 5/24/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Strike the Blood, Vol. 6

May. 26th, 2017 07:57 am
[syndicated profile] mangabookshelf_feed

Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Bourque.

Sigh. And here we are again, blank screen. It’s you vs. me, as I try to fill you up with another 500 or so words about the latest volume of Strike the Blood. The goal, as always, is not to simply cut and paste from the previous five reviews. As always, this goal tends to be thwarted by the plot, characterization, and writing in Strike the Blood, whose cookie-cutter quality means that the same things happen over and over again. Let’s face it, the big surprise in this volume was that for once Kojou is not biting a different girl to gain more superpowers… though in an icky way, I suppose that his possessed younger sister may count. I’d prefer to think that it does not. Other than that, though, it’s business as usual at Strike the Blood, Inc.

Even the covers depress me, as you can’t even get the ‘new harem member gets the cover’ cliche that you do with most other series of this sort. No, Strike the Blood now has 16 volumes out in Japan, and it’s Yukinas all the way down. The ‘new girl’ this time, sort of, is Nina Adelard, an immortal alchemist with a tragic past that’s tied into Kanon’s own tragic past. She spends most of the book either occupying Asagi’s body or taking on her appearance, and I suspect her ending up as a “fairy-like” creature will allow her to take on a role in future books similar to a magical girl mascot. (It also reminds me of Index, as much of this series does, though for once I believe that Strike the Blood actually did this first.) The plot involves lots of alchemy and liquid metal, and a few guards end up dead in horrible ways, but aren’t dwelled on.

Asagi also ends up dead briefly, which might have had more impact if there was any chance that it would stick. We do get more concrete proof that as long as she’s on the island she’s effectively immortal. Unfortunately, with no computer problems to solve this time, Asagi is in full on “tsundere anime girl” mode, which means wacky cooking antics and exploding stoves. (Yukina, of course, is also in cliche mode, reacting any time Koujo even briefly pays attention to another attractive female.) Everyone else fills their function: Kanon is waifish and still somewhat broken, Natsuki flits around saving the day and being the cute loli teacher. and Yaze continues to get hints that he may one day be relevant to the plot without actually being so in this book.

And so as ever I’m left with saying the same thing. The writing is good, moves quickly, the fights are exciting. But this could be written by the Light Noveltron 3000. And there’s still no real sign of any developing main plot, anything that might carry over from book to book. Things are neatly wrapped up, and I suspect Book 7 will have another danger to the island that is also neatly wrapped up. Strike the Blood is, when you get down to it, Strike the Blood. It is shaped like itself, and can’t really be reviewed as anything but that.

Ch12 - p54

May. 26th, 2017 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] unsounded_feed

Posted by Ashley


I imagine his playing is a lot livelier than the plod's was. If you get a Javascript notification on this page, I promise everything is safe. Let it run if you wanna see the animation.
 
KICKSTARTER ENDS SUNDAY! We're very near to the bookmark and sticker stretch goal - don't wait to pledge! This is also your only chance to pick up an eel or squish pin - they won't be stocked in the shop afterwards. Won't it be great to have this banner off the front page on Monday? :D

まるです。

May. 25th, 2017 11:00 pm
[syndicated profile] maru_feed

Posted by mugumogu

 

まるの10歳の誕生日に、たくさんのお祝いメッセージをありがとうございました!
Thank you for many messages for Maru.

24日の夜はケーキでお祝い。
I celebrated his birthday with a cake on the night of 24th.

まる:「どうせ食べられませんよ。」
Maru:[But I cannot eat it.]


大丈夫です。
ちゃんとまる&はなのケーキも作りますから!
Don’t worry.
I cooked your cake!


ハートの形の馬肉とささみの二層仕立て、まるのお手手添えの
完成です!
This is heart-shaped cake of horseflesh and white meat.


大きいのでふたりで一緒に食べてくださいね。
As this cake is big, please eat together.

と言ったのに、まるはひとりでガツガツと食べ、はなは自分の
分がないとうろうろ探す。いつもはまるのお皿に顔を突っ込んで
食べているのに、最初から一緒のお皿という考えはないらしい。
However, she looked for her dish.

まる:「ガツガツガツガツ!」
はな:「あたしのないー!」
Hana:[Where is my dish?]


ということで、急きょ取り分け。
Here you are!

 

でも少なかったのであっという間に食べ終わり、まるが食べている
お皿に顔を突っ込むはな。
Hana finished eating it in no time and plunged her face into his plate.

はな:「いっただきー!」
Hana:[I help you!]

でも美味しい時のまるは、大きな頭できっちりガード。

まる:「もぐもぐもぐ。」
はな:「おっきな頭がじゃまー!」
Maru:[No, thank you.]

 

美味しかったようで、ふたりできれいに平らげました!

[syndicated profile] asknicola_feed

Posted by Nicola Griffith

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about how readers respond to narrative, particularly fiction. Cognitive poetics, the neuroscience of narrative empathy, evolutionary and literary theory—it’s easy to get lost in the different but passionate arguments. So I try to answer simple questions: Why do readers respond more strongly to some fiction than to others? How does the writer immerse the reader in a story? What is it about this particular word, or sentence, or paragraph that persuades the reader to trust the writing?

I’ll be teaching What Readers Like—And Why, a one-day workshop for Clarion West, on Sunday, 8 October, 10am-4pm, in an accessible space on the University of Washington campus, Seattle. Space is limited to 14, and will cost $150 for six hours of face-to-face discussion, exercise, and workshop. My plan is to create a template that participants can use as a guide to analyse their own and each others’ work, to help them answer questions about how, as readers, they responded at various points in the text. My hope is that writers can then take that template home and use it to strengthen their own writing.

It will be the fourth time I’ve taught a one-day class for Clarion West. All the classes are different but they do tend to fill fairly quickly. I don’t know when exactly the class opens for enrollment but I wanted to give those who might be interested a heads-up. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, so I’ll do my best to post another reminder closer to the time.


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