Archive for the Nakamura Ching Category


LGBTQ: Okaasan Futari Itemo Iikana!? (お母さん二人いてもいいかな!?)

January 18th, 2016

2momsIf you read a lot of manga, especially shoujo and shounen manga, you’ll have encountered author’s notes and quite possibly you’ll have thought something like, “Really? You’re writing a note to millions of fans and all you have to say is that you like jelly?” But, when you think about it, we all know manga creators are put through a grinder of deadlines and appearances and it’s probably not all that surprising that they have relatively bland personal lives. If you’re out partying, you’re not at the drawing board, so…. But yeah, it would be nice sometimes to know a little more about the manga artists we love. Maybe the name of their lover, or about a hobby besides drawing manga.

In Okaasan Futari Itemo Iikana!? (お母さん二人いてもいいかな!?), Nakamura Ching-sensei, writing here under her real name, Nakamura Kiyo, gives us an  unprecedented honest and intimate look at her personal life. She lives with her wife (in name only, as Japan does not legally recognize same-sex marriage), Satsuki, and is stepmother to Satsuki’s three sons.

The book takes a good hard look at Kiyo’s and Satsuki’s relationship, opening up a few cans of worms along the way. We learn of Kishie-san, Nakamura-sensei’s deceased first wife, and about abuse in Satsuki’s  and Kiyo’s past (Of which we knew some from Dare mo Korinai.) This books includes thoughts about the tentative legal standing their relationship has and the importance of acceptance by the people around them.

But mostly, this is a book about life with a wife and three sons. An intimate, sometimes touching, look at the personal life of a lesbian couple in Japan today, and an extraordinary look into the life of a favorite manga creator.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

In places this volume is very difficult, in others triumphant…just like life.

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Dare mo Korinai Manga (誰も懲りない)

March 13th, 2014

Before we get started today, I’m going to ask you to watch a video. Abuse trigger warning, but if you think you can manage it, will you try?

Did you look away, maybe check how long the video was, or see what time it was?

If you looked away, why? You don’t know these people. This is not even real. It’s a Public Service Message that makes a point. It makes it well. And for a second, it was too hard to look at.

We don’t want to hear about someone else’s abusive situation. We don’t like being asked to confront that we are pretty helpless in the face of someone’s pain. The feels, they hurt. It’s even worse when the victim is a child. Between murderous rage and abject misery there is almost nothing we can actually do to change a story. Tweeting a message, writing a check to an NPO…these are things we do to salve our own pain, and we hope they salve someone else’s, because admitting that we really haven’t done all that much makes us feel bad.

As I’m reading the exceptionally well done, but emotionally brutal, Dare mo Korinai (誰も懲りない) by Nakamura Ching-sensei which was serialized in Quick Japanクイック・ジャパン, I’m caught between praying to my gods that this is not autobiographical, and forcing myself to not look away in case it is.  I’d translate the title as “Some People Never Learn” and in regards to Nakamura-sensei’s manga, I may be one of those people. No matter how hard it is, I keep coming back for more.

Way back, when I started Yuricon, I wrote a serial for our mascot, Yuriko. At some point in the first book, Shoujoai ni Bouken, (which is online, for free, along with the sequel.) I have Yuriko tell a story about how, when her parents found out she was gay, they threw her out of the house. At that point, she had not spoken to any of her family in years. When that chapter went live, I received dozens of emails from people who were desperately afraid I had lived that, and dozens more from people who actually had. I reassured the former that I had not and sympathized deeply with the latter.  This also came to mind as I read Dare mo Korinai. A good writer writes something you like, a very good writer writes something you can’t imagine is fiction. I kept telling myself, “It’s fiction…it’s fiction” knowing that for someone out there, it isn’t and I feel powerless knowing that.

Nakmura-sensei described the book on social media as a kind of epilogue to GUNJO.  Sometimes when you’ve been working on a really emotionally intense project, you have so much built up inside that the only way to get it out is to get it out. You scream, you write, you draw, you make fun of the rage so it stops being something that hurts as much. Or you cut into it, plumbing the depths of the pain to see where it goes.

Dare mo Korinai, follows the life of Toshiko, a smart, talented girl from a well-off family whose life is shredded by abusive family members and stomped by family politics. Her lesbian lovers are no better for her and the best thing you can say about her life by the end is that she survives. But, by god it hurt to watch.

Ratings:

Art – 8 All hand drawn, without the detailed photographic backgrounds of GUNJO
Story – 9 but buckle up, it’s not an easy ride
Characters – I can’t.
Lesbian – 5 Yes, but no.
Service – Same

Overall – 8

So often I say that when I’m reading a book that I find painful, I wish to pluck the main character out, feed her, and give her a better home in a better story. I hope Toshiko finds herself in a happier story some day.

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Yuri Manga: GUNJO, Volume 3 (羣青下)

June 20th, 2012

The third and final volume of GUNJO (羣青 下) is no easier to read than the previous two volumes. In fact, there are several moments that still manage to shock and appall, even with all we’ve been through.

“What would you kill for?” The brunette, Megane-san, asks the blonde’s, Sensei’s, sister-in-law, and she in turn asks her husband. It is a question that is buried deep in the heart of this volume.

Things we thought we knew, turn out to be not true, and the depth of the despair of Megane-san’s life only becomes truly apparent when she’s all but shed her last layer of emotional armor. Still, it is in moments where kindness manages to be felt for a mere moment, that brutality is the most harsh, and in the middle of the most intense violence when gentleness can be felt most clearly.

One of the questions asked back when I reviewed the first or second volume was – how much time has passed? I can answer that now – it’s been about a week, going on two.

As I read this story, probably about halfway through what would become the second volume, I conceived a wish – a hope. It was an insane hope, because there was nothing at all in the story that lead me to think it could ever come true. I desired, most of all, to see the two characters – the beaten, abused, unloved woman, and the woman who killed for her – smile. It was a ridiculous wish that could never happen.

The final half of this final book is the literary equivalent of lancing an infected wound to get the infection out. There’s really no other way to describe it. Page after page of confession, admission, digression, discussion finally brings the two characters through the last of their despair to the inevitable end of their story.

GUNJO is over and I have nothing left to say about it. It’s been wonderful, it’s been painful, it’s been sublime.

In the end, there’s only one question left for you to ask – Did they ever smile? You’ll have to read it and find out.

Ratings:

Overall – 10

Once again, I want to thank Nakamura Ching-sensei for creating this extraordinary story. 

Without question, GUNJO is the best manga I have ever read, and it encroaches deeply on the “best book I have ever read” list.

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Yuri Manga: GUNJO, Volume 2

April 11th, 2011

There will be massive spoilers in this review. I cannot discuss how powerful the story is or the reactions I had without them. If you object, skip to the ratings.

Today, we speak of desperation.

In my interview with Nakamura-sensei, she called GUNJO (羣青 ) a story about the “profound loneliness of a lonely person.”

In Volume 1 (上), we learned why the brunette would be driven to desperate acts, as a way to escape a life of despair and pain. She had nothing to lose. And we can understand that, we can forgive that. Abused women fighting back makes sense to us.

In Volume 2 (中), we are forced to deal with the other half of that act…executed by a woman who had everything to lose.

The beginning of Volume 2 starts with the chapter that made it impossible for me to continue to write chapter-by-chapter reviews of this story. This is when I began thinking of reading GUNJO in terms of “eating the most delicious razor blades you’ve ever had.” Each chapter hurts so magnificently, it has become my equivalent of cutting. I read a chapter to see how low into despair I can sink, how intensely I can feel their loneliness, how miserable they can make me feel. I read this every month to see if I can still summon hope.

In Volume 2, we do the most absolutely emotionally draining thing possible, we stop watching the main couple, with their dysfunctional relationship and dangerous dynamic, and take a step aside to really understand everything the blonde has thrown away. I don’t believe I’ve ever shed so many tears over a book as I did in these chapters. Watching the blonde’s ex re-create her life, find out how close they were to making it permanent (or, as permanent as possible for two gay women in Japan in the present), watching as the loss of her lover forces the ex to come out to her parents, and express how she *would* have spent the rest of her life with that woman. And then, when it all seems like she’s put it behind her and is ready to move on, we watch her give up completely…and kill herself. The blonde, who has everything to lose, has lost everything.

Then, when we think that we can put that behind us and we can move on, the ring her lover had bought her….the ring with which she was intending to propose…is given to the blonde, along with the story of her lover’s death. Now she has to deal with new loss on top of old.

But the book doesn’t end there. Profound loneliness has no cure. It wants no cure. The brunette, a woman who has run until she has been cornered by life, has new ammunition to make the one person who cares about her hurt. So she does. She batters the blonde with emotional torment until the blonde throws away the very last relics she has of her former life, 550 yen….and the wedding ring.

Ratings:

Art – 10
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Lesbian – 10
Sevice – 1

Overall – 10

There is no respite here. There is no moment when we can breathe a sigh of relief.

All we can do is feel the desperation and the loneliness of despair. And wait. For Volume 3.

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Girls Jump Magazine

January 16th, 2011

/singing/ You know Shounen and Business and Super and Weekly, and V and Young and Monthly and Ultra….but do you recall, the newest Jump magazine of alllllll……..?

Announced at the end of 2010, Shueisha added the seasonal Girls Jump ( ガールズジャンプ) to the lineup. The premise was to approach popular and off-beat female manga artists to draw manga for a young adult male audience. The inaugural issue is a combination of talent, creativity, flavored with a dash of wtf that makes for a truly compelling read.

Anyone who is reading current popular manga will recognize at least a few of the names in this collection. For our purposes here at Okazu, the three names that will draw our attention are Suekane Kumiko (Afterschool Charisma,) Nakamura Ching (GUNJO) and Torino Shino (Ohana Holoholo,) but there are any number of excellent storytellers in this volume.

The manga I liked best was a Furuya-esque piece called “Uki Mieru” by Tomii Masako, in which everything – by which I mean every random thought that could be expressed as an individual image – that a girl thinks, is visible to those around her. Because the story is set at Christmas, there’s a lot of happy shinyness going on there, and a lot of other stuff too.

Suekane Kumiko had a story that I found snortingly amusing called “Christmas Koroshiya” in which a young man who had wanted to become an assassin when he was young, imagines killing all the happy, shiny couples around him.

I can’t not discuss Nakamura-sensei’s “Vespa.” If you’ve ever wondered what life in a beehive is like from the perspectives of the bees, then you really need to read this. In a sense, it’s kind of a hopeless love story between a nameless drone and the Queen.

While these three stories were my favorites, they hardly give you a taste of the variety in art and story encapsulated in the volume. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to pin my newly coined “fifth genre” label on this – it is not precisely josei, nor truly seinen, but something new and interesting, for people who want to read it.

Ratings:

Variable , Overall – 8

Should there indeed be a next issue, it already has a guaranteed place on my must-read list.

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