Archive for the Miscellaneous Category

So Pretty / Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture

June 11th, 2017

Koyama Press is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year and, at TCAF, they had a special event as part of their celebration. In conjunction with the Japan Foundation in Toronto, they held a book premier event for So Pretty/ Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture by An Nguyen and Jane Mai.

The event was fascinating. Items of Lolita dress and culture were displayed as if they were exhibits in a museum or art gallery.

This was a really unique perspective, that allowed us to see the craftsmanship of the items, as opposed to seeing them as part of an ensemble,in which they are one piece of a larger statement.



The food itself focused on cute. Pocky, cupcakes and cookies adorned with cute girls from the comics in the book accompanied by fruit and cheese platters gave the whole thing a festival air.



The cookies were fantastic, decorated with characters and items that were illustrated in the book. You were literally able to eat a piece of the book!



After thanks and intros and the usual preliminaries, An and Jane took the stage to explain their experience  and fascination with Lolita dress and culture.  Here they explain the different sub-types of Lolita dress.



I have now had a chance to read the book and I recommend it to anyone who wants to see Lolita culture not from an anthropological, outsider (haha, “objective”) perspective, but from people deeply embedded  in a culture, the history of which is surprisingly hard to trace.

The book includes personal essays by An and Jane, as well as comics by both of them, and an essay and interview with Takemoto Novala, creator of Shimotsuma Monogatari, which was released here in the west as a book and movie titled Kamikaze Girls – both of which are well worth your time. The manga by the same name is less fabulous, but still a pleasant read. None of these essays really get deeply into historical roots of Lolita, but they do discuss why that is more complicated than it may initially seem. The essays touch on things like the assumption that Lolita is related to “Lolita complex” and why it is not, but mostly they are personal looks at the elements of Lolita culture that fascinate, consume and obsess those people inside the culture.

An’s comics are often about camaraderie and community of Lolita culture, where Jane’s often touch on the endless cycle of consumerism and self-abnegation – even self-erasure – that feeds the Gothic Lolita life.

In the end, the title is a brilliant summation of the sense of self we see in Lolita, that the outside is more and more beautiful, but the inside may be rotten, or even empty.

That said, the book, which starts on an extremely macabre note, ends with a poignant and touching story of friendship that expands past the initial boundaries of the community. Whether you find this book positive or negative will most likely depend on your relationship with your own obsessions. ^_^


Overall – 8

I found this book to be an extremely intimate portrait of Lolita, deep without being substantive; a fascinating reflection of the authors’ relationship with Lolita culture. It’s a good read and a valuable piece of research in English into a enduring Japanese subculture. From one subculture enthusiast to another, I raise a stick of Pocky to An and Jane and wish them success!

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The Tarot of the Silicon Dawn

June 9th, 2017

No joke, today I’m reviewing a Tarot deck.

It’s not the first time I’ve reviewed cards. In 2006, I reviewed a few Yuri-ish Japanese card games, and in 2015, I picked up a Rose of Versailles karuta set.  Just like those sets, there is at least a little bit that ties this deck to us here on Okazu. In fact, there’s more than just a little bit.

My wife called The Tarot of the Silicon Dawn to my attention after noting that the art was very cartoon-y, but in a Steven Universe kind of way. I took a look at the cards and knew I needed the deck. When the thing arrived, I was absolutely convinced that this was a very Okazu-ish deck. Not only is the card art deeply inspired by otaku interests of several kinds, the write-ups are very snarky and intriguing. The creator, Margaret Trouth, is very upfront about her loose use of Tarot conventions, her shifting meanings around to make more sense to her (and – need I say it? – to me, as well.) Here was the big selling point for me – she has cards that don’t exist in conventional decks, like the 99 of each suit, the 8 1/2, History, The Vulture, Aleph and four “The Fool”s. You can see the whole deck on Margaret’s site.

Trouth is also creating an ongoing comic called Decrypting Rita, which Comics Alliance called “story of a lesbian robot whose perception of reality slips across multiple dimensions.” By which point I knew I has found a deck that was for me…and possibly for us. ^_^

The physical cards are gorgeous. The art is symbolic and multi-layered yet simplistic and comicky. Some cards have a clear varnish which show images when held so the light slides across the cards. This includes the 99 of each suit, which are otherwise black.

As great as the art is, it’s the meaning which really appeals to me. Here is part of the description for her Queen of Swords:

A stern taskmistress, a trickster, a librarian. She stores away facts and hints to arrive at surprising conclusions, and will use them however she sees fit. Her social mask is carefully constructed and worn with deliberation; now and then she lets people see beneath it. A little fey, a little alien. What’s she planning when she looks at you? She’s the only Queen who will. And why is she wearing a fox mask, anyway?

Her mirror is her stories, the ones she keeps and treasures. Are they about you? Are they about her? Are they about others? And will she share?

Mannered and seemingly unapproachable; remote and tightly wrapped. Get to know her and perhaps she’ll reward you. She might not; she’s kind of picky. Kind of prickly, too; watch out for her sharp edges. There’s an endless network of tight-wound steel in the cage of her heart, and it can cut you to fragments if it’s opened. Brave that, and you may find her surprisingly loyal in her acerbic way. Just be careful of her long-range plans.

Queen of Swords is one of my two signifier cards. So…yeah. ^_^


Art – 8
Story – 10 “Tarot is a big pack of lies and misinterpretations” <– The first words of the little white book that explains the cards

Overall – 10

It’s a great deck and pleasantly not-bound-by-alchemical-heterosexuality; full of thoughtful and whimsical cruelty. Just the way I like things. ^_^

By the way, I chose the Chevalier of Swords for the post image mostly because I liked it, but….

“Rapier wit and dashing style, a Musketeer who’s a boon companion in adversity. Riding a dark bird before the storm, heralding its coming. He slices through Gordian knots with decisive suddenness, striking through to the core – or does he slash vainly at the edges of the problem, never finding its truth? Wild and acrobatic, even balletic: he’s Fred, wanna be Ginger?

The most intellectual of the Chevaliers, he’s using a thin sword designed for precision pinpoint attacks, relying on his speed and his skill at parrying to defend himself. Quite the swashbuckler, he’s as likely to score points on his opponent with an insult as with his rapier. Perhaps he grows up to become the King of Pentacles, spinning stories about the wild adventures of his youth. Or perhaps he misjudges, gets into something he can’t clever his way out of, and dies tomorrow.

In comic-books, this guy is Spider-man. He lives on his wits, reflexes, and luck. He’ll probably die on them someday too, if he doesn’t admit it when he starts to slow down.

Of course, he might not be a hero. All that dashing and dexterity makes for a damn fine pickpocket or cardsharp or conman, too. Check your pockets after that smoldering kiss.”

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Steven Universe Soundtrack, Volume 1

June 2nd, 2017

Sometimes, you just need the world to have a #1 movie about an Amazon and the debut of the much-desired Steven Universe Soundtrack. ^_^

There’s not much I can really say about this soundtrack to convince you to get it. Either you enjoy Steven Universe, find the music an integral and pleasant part of the series as a whole, or, well, you don’t.

If you do like the music, and have a habit of singing “It’s Over Isn’t It?” for days and days at a time, then you, too, will want to run out and get this-digital only album. It’s available on iTunes, where it soared to #5 in the album charts right away and also on Google Play

I find that not only did I remember every episode every song belongs to, I find myself thinking Lapis and Peridot *really* need a duet. Or, I should say, I really need Lapis and Peridot to have a duet. ^_^

I hadn’t realized that Rebecca Sugar herself sings the beautiful ED, “Love Like You.” And now I get to enjoy Olivia Olsen’s version of “Haven’t You Noticed (I’m a Star)” on repeat as well.  And probably the full-version of the OP “We Are The Crystal Gems”  and “Do It For Her”. Which makes me realize that Deedee Magno Hall as Pearl is the winner in terms of songs for me. The depth and honesty and pathos of the writing for Pearl is extraordinary. 

Yes. I’m fangirling. Yes. This will surprise no one.

And now I undoubtedly will sing “It’s Over Isn’t It?” for days and days. And days.


Overall – 10

And days. 

Soar like a comet and get this album and we can all sit around sharing jams and jam.

Tell me what your favorite track is in the comments


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Okazu Welcome to Summer Special Lucky Box! – Claimed!

May 29th, 2017

Thank you everyone who wrote in to claim the Lucky Box. It’s been claimed.


It’s that time of year again …time for a Lucky Box!

I’ve collected a pile of the randomest stuff I have sitting around the house, and shoved a DVD box set, a pile of manga magazines, some comics, manga, random goods, stickers, clearfiles, whatnot and candy into a USPS medium flat rate box and offer it to you as a Lucky Box!

This Lucky Box is $50 and is first come, first serve.  See below for eligibility

There’s only the one, so I promise you will get well more than your money’s worth. I got loads of stuff here and I want it to not be here any more. I’m motivated to make it fit in that box!

How to be eligible to buy a Lucky Box:

1- You must live in the Continental USA (contiguous 48) only, no APO/FPOs – sorry about that, really.

2 – You must be over 18, I am not policing which books you get.  

3 -Email me at anilesbocon01 at hotmail dot com with the subject “Lucky Box”. Use an email you check regularly. Please include your name, age, mailing address.  

4- I will contact you at that point and give you details about payment by Paypal. Please be prepared to check your email and get payment out so this post doesn’t linger like a dead animal. Thanks in advance. 

This whole process will be handled with utmost capriciousness. ^_^

I’ve literally spent the last few minutes trying to cram one more thing in the box. I hope you enjoy all that crap! ^_^

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Marine Corps Yumi Manga, Volume 5 (まりんこゆみ)

May 11th, 2017

I made it all the way to the end of Marine Corps Yumi, Volume 5 (まりんこゆみ) before completely losing my shit.

In Volume 5,we start getting into the nitty gritty of non-com life as an American marine stationed in Japan. A large portion of the book is about joint training with the Navy, Army Air Force and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, which includes a discussion for the Japanese readership of the crucial difference between the pronunciation of “Corps” and “corpse.”

Of course the reactions to the quarters and food vary significantly and some of the best bit are when the Marines look at their new space and think “Kkay” while the Army begins to complain and the Navy women are like “Cool! Look at all the SPACE!” 

Yumi acquits herself so well she’s “traded” to the JSDF for a while and we get important, super critical analyses on Japanese and American junk food (apparently we die without donuts,) and the rituals that accompany the ends of joint training, such as trading clothing items, like overshirts.

We get to see corpsman Erica Bush be actively horrible to anyone who needs help (“I’ve been cut.” “Here’s a bottle of water, now get lost.” “I have a broken bone.” “Here’s a bottle of water, now get lost!”) except Linda to whom she is overattentive. ^_^ 

Rita meets a guy working for the JSDF and there were more than a few autobiographical shades in that story. ^_^

It was all very amusing and I didn’t get choked up once.

Until the final pages, which included pictures from Ana’s memorial service, including – and this is where I lost it – a display of her challenge coins.  That was it. Goddammit, Ana. Seriously pissed you’re not here.


Art – 8
Story – 8 This volume had a lot of laugh-out-loud moments
Characters – 8
Yuri – 3, But Erica’s a complete dick about it. ^_^
Service – 5 

Overall – 9

Marine Corps Yumi is still ongoing in Japanese and I’m still tuning in regularly. It’s funny and poignant. Thank you Nogami-sensei for keeping it going. 


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