“Japanese comics are very explicit”

The following is an email I received recently from a co-worker (shared with permission):

Hello,

I had a patron make a comment about a new manga series we received, called Trinity Seven. The patron told me that most Japanese manga are quite explicit and that these items should not be out for children to see. The items in question do have warning labels on them, however the covers are very suggestive and they were displayed on one of the panels facing the stairs…

The manga in question were on our New Titles Display on the second floor of the library, which is a quiet floor and houses our teen and adult collections.

The series, Trinity Seven, does indeed feature titillating cover art:

However, I very strongly disagree with the sentiment that “most Japanese manga are quite explicit”.  Certainly some are explicit, very much so. There are tons of explicit manga out there. But there are also tons of manga that aren’t explicit- manga on a wide range of themes and topics. My library has manga titles for all ages.

Just as with other comics and graphic novels (or books, or audiobooks, or DVDs!) , manga are a format, not a genre. Manga are generally quite heavily influenced by Japanese style and culture, but within the world of manga there are titles in any genre imaginable.

Family friendly, romance, horror, action, mystery, informational, slice-of-life, humour, fantasy, I could go on and on.

When we visited Japan last year (BEST 3 WEEKS OF MY LIFE, YO), I saw manga comics and characters everywhere- in advertisements, as mascots, in cafe and restaurant themes, informational signage, decor, art installations, convenience stores, and in the hands of people young and old.

Here are just a few manga series that I have enjoyed that might challenge what many people think of when they think of manga:

 

Tokyo Tarareba Girls 

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The sharp new comedy from Akiko Higashimura, creator of Princess Jellyfish!

I spent all my time wondering “What if?” Then one day I woke up and I was 33.”

Rinko doesn’t think she’s that bad-looking, but before she knew it, she was thirtysomething and single. Now she wants to get married by the time the Tokyo Olympics rolls around in six years, but that might be easier said than done! 

By Akiko Higashimura.

 
Akiko Higashimura is one of my favorite mangaka. If you haven’t read Princess Jellyfish yet, you should- it’s hillarious. Similarly, this newer series is also just as hilarious and is filled with a cast of interesting, mainly female, characters. It’s refreshing to see main characters who are in their 30’s, as many manga focus on the high school demographic.
 

A Silent Voice

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Years ago, Shoya Ishida led his peers in tormenting a hearing-impaired classmate, Shoko Nishimiya. When she transfers schools, Shoya finds he has gone from bully to bullied, and is left completely alone. Now Shoya struggles to redeem himself in Shoko’s eyes and to face the classmates who turned on him.

This emotional drama is one of the most critically-acclaimed manga of the decade, earning an Eisner nomination and accolades from teachers and the American Library Association. An animated film adaptation from Kyoto Animation has swept the globe, arriving in US theaters in October 2017.

“A very powerful story about being different and the consequences of childhood bullying … Read it.” —Anime News Network

“The word heartwarming was made for manga like this.” —Manga Bookshelf

By Yoshitoki Oima

The unique plot of this manga drew me in. It’s certainly different than the types of stories I usually read, but it touches on important themes of bullying, isolation, shame, and wanting to make things right.

OISHINBO

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The best selling and most beloved food manga of all time!

Created by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki 

As part of the celebrations for its 100th anniversary, the publishers of the Tōzai News have commissioned the creation of the “Ultimate Menu,” a model meal embodying the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine. This all-important task has been entrusted to journalist Yamaoka Shirō, an inveterate cynic who possesses no initiative—but also an incredibly refined palate and an encyclopedic knowledge of food.

 

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Oishinbo is one of the first manga that I read which challenged my own preconcieved notions of what manga could be. It is funny, informative, and well written. For those who want to learn about Japanese food and culture, this manga is highly recommended. Fans of films like Jiro Dreams of Sushi and The Birth of Sake will love Oishinbo.

 

Happiness

 

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The latest foray into the darkest corridors of adolescent dread—with vampires—from manga master Shuzo Oshimi (The Flowers of Evil).

Nothing interesting in happening in Makoto Ozaki’s first year of high school. HIs life is a series of quiet humiliations: low-grade bullies, unreliable friends, and the constant frustration of his adolescent lust. But one night, a pale, thin girl knocks him to the ground in an alley and offers him a choice. Now everything is different. Daylight is searingly bright. Food tastes awful. And worse than anything is the terrible, consuming thirst. The tiny shames of his old life have been replaced by two towering horrors: the truth of what will slake his awful craving and high school itself.

By Shuzo Oshimi

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I absolutely adore vampire stories, and Happiness was certainly a happy find for me. I love the unique art style of Shuzo Oshimi, and this vampire tale feels more realistic than many I’ve read.

Fans of horror should also definitely check out the works of Junji Ito!

 

Neko Ramen 

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Saved from a hard life on the streets by a caring ramen shop owner, former kitten model Taishou now takes pride in his noodles and shows little tolerance for dissatisfied customers. Original.

by Kenji Sonishi

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This is a manga I happened upon in a bookstore and simply had to read. It has a special kind of absurd humour- I especially love how Taishou’s main customer, Tanaka, breaks the fourth wall from time to time because he realizes how completely absurd Taishou’s various shop-improvement ideas are (not to mention the fact that he is a cat… running a ramen shop… something that Taishou doesn’t seem to notice or care about!)

Neko ramen features lots of small story arcs and yonkoma (4-square panels), so it is a convenient manga to read if you want something you can put down and pick up again easily on work breaks, between bus rides, etc, but if you’re like me you’ll devour each volume in one sitting!

Yotsuba&!, 

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Hello! This is Koiwai Yotsuba, Yotsuba Koiwai…um, YOTSUBA! Yotsuba moved with Daddy to a new house from our old house waaaaaaay over there! And moving’s fun ‘cos people wave! (Ohhhh!!) And Yotsuba met these nice people next door and made friends to play with (one of ’em acted like one of those bad strangers Daddy told Yotsuba not to go with, but it was okay in the end). I hope we get to play a lot. And eat ice cream! And-and-and…oh yeah! You should come play with Yotsuba too!

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Yotsuba took me by surprise. I read it because I wanted a quick read and my library had multiple volumes. I got hooked on the stories of her antics, especially because they gave me real, true belly laughs. Yotsuba feels more like a real kid than any child I’ve read in print. Kids truly say and do the darnedest and most unexpected things.

 

My Brother’s Husband 

 

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ABOUT MY BROTHER’S HUSBAND, VOLUME 1

Yaichi is a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo; formerly married to Natsuki, father to their young daughter, Kana. Their lives suddenly change with the arrival at their doorstep of a hulking, affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan, who declares himself the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin, Ryoji. Mike is on a quest to explore Ryoji’s past, and the family reluctantly but dutifully takes him in. What follows is an unprecedented and heartbreaking look at the state of a largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture: how it’s been affected by the West, and how the next generation can change the preconceptions about it and prejudices against it.

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This is a sweet, sad, and thought provoking story. Curious young Kana, asking questions without a filter as children do, acts as a provoking force for Yaichi in addressing topics that might be considered uncomfortable to discuss in Japanese culture today.

 

My Neighbor Seki

 

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Toshinari Seki takes goofing off to new heights. Every day, on or around his school desk, he masterfully creates his own little worlds of wonder, often hidden to most of his classmates. Unfortunately for Rumi Yokoi, his neighbor at the back of their homeroom, his many games, dioramas, and projects are often way too interesting to ignore; even when they are hurting her grades.

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My Neighbor Seki is one of those manga I bought on a whim, and I’m glad I did. I definitely identify with Rumi, the student who just wants to pay attention in class but keeps being distracted by her classmate’s Rube-Goldberg type creations. The humour is magnified by Rumi’s incredulous inner dialogue, the obliviousness of the teachers, and the silent but ever-escalating antics of Toshinari.

 

The session I am holding at the Alberta Library Conference on Friday is called There’s a Graphic Novel for Everyone (Yes, Even You!), and covers Manga in several parts, but I could also easily imagine creating a There’s a Manga for Everyone (Yes, Even You!)– maybe something I can consider submitting for next year’s conference!

I love learning about new series, especially ones that are unique or unconventional, so please leave me a comment if you have any recommendations, dear readers!

A Rather Overdue Love Letter to Elijah Wood from Alberta’s Unfortunate Fangirl

Dear Elijah Wood,

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My friends have been tagging me in posts like these ^ with lots of exclamation marks to let me know you are coming to the Calgary Expo next weekend; this is because I have awesome friends who know that I enjoy travelling to the nerd expos, that I am a huge fan of yours, and that LOTR was my first ever fandom. Unfortunately I won’t be able to realize my dream of meeting you this time, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Now, about The Lord of the Rings. My Dad got me into the books when I was 10 years old. He wanted to make sure I read them before the movies came out, and for that I am eternally grateful. The books were (and are) life-changingly excellent, and catapulted me into a lifelong love of reading. The movies took my interest to the next level- Dad and I bonded over the cinematic masterpiece of the trilogy as each movie came out. I got “the shakes” after watching The Fellowship of the Ring in the theatre because it affected me so much (ok, maybe that was also partially due to sitting tensely and staring at an illuminated screen for 3 hours straight).

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^ Freaking iconic!

LOTR became my obsession, I was seeking it, seeking it, all my thought was bent on it. I had a literal shrine in my bedroom with everything from a paper-mache Sting dagger to a Gandalf the White cardboard standee that my shy mother somehow haggled off of a movie store employee because she knew it would bring me joy. I took a replica One Ring off of a bookmark and attached it to a necklace that I wore to school regularly- I remember being called “Ring Girl” because of it. I got a set of plastic Fellowship figurines for Christmas one year and took them into the snowy woods with my camera, attempting to recreate scenes from the movies. (The resulting photos were about as impressive as you’d expect).

Elijah, you were also my first ever crush. Because I’m a freaking weirdo, I realized you were my first crush in The Fellowship of The Ring when Frodo was stabbed with the Morgul blade by the Nazgul and his eyes became all pale and creepy.

Frodo_Entering_the_Shadow_World

^ boyfriend material

I had an account on one of your fansites where I posted in forums for the first time in my young life, squeeing enviously over posts where other girls recounted times they met you in person at various events. I frequented lordoftherings.net and refreshed the page every 10 seconds so I could hear every version of the randomized intro “Hi, this is [actor name] and welcome to lordoftherings.net”, but I especially got excited to hear your voice.

While my tween obsession of near-stalker levels has faded, I am definitely your fan forever.

I tried drawing you as Frodo a few weeks ago. I wish I could say that I cut the left side of the picture like that for artistic or compositional reasons, but really it was because I made your right eye freakishly large. Sorry.

I’m a married woman now, but once a fangirl always a fangirl. I’m an eternal Ringer- as both a Lord of the Rings fan as well as a member of a handbell choir- how about that. Speaking of handbell choir, I was in the novice group previously but I lost my mind and managed to shoehorn my way into the advanced group when I found out they are learning none other than THEMES FROM THE FREAKING LORD OF THE RINGS!

Last year I had the privilege of meeting and getting a picture with Mr. John Rhys-Davies at the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. He complimented me on my cosplay. I told him “you’re my favorite dwarf forever” and he said “aw, I love you”. My little hobbit heart grew three sizes that day.

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I also managed to get a pic with Sauron himself. He’s actually a really nice guy.

The year before that I met Billy Boyd and was entranced by his Beecake concert. Bought all the CDs!

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^ (Sorry Billy, the real picture is on an external harddrive tucked away somewhere and I am too lazy to find it at the moment, but here is a blurry picture of the picture of me and Billy Boyd, screen-grabbed from a picture of me holding the picture of me and Billy Boyd!)

I’d very much love the opportunity to meet you too, Elijah. I was more than ready to drive or fly to Calgary to see you.

But Elijah, would you believe that the very weekend you are visiting is the same weekend I am going to my first ever Library Conference, and as a speaker? I have worked at a library for 7 years and in September I am beginning my Master program with the goal of becoming a librarian. At the Alberta Library Conference in Jasper, Friday afternoon, I am doing a presentation session on the versatility of the graphic novel format. I’m super passionate about it and excited for the opportunity (been prepping it and working on my public speaking skills for several months!), but I can’t say i’m not bummed out that I am missing the opportunity to see you at the expo in Calgary.

So, since I can’t say it there, let me say it here- I think you’re Terrific with a capital T, you gave us the perfect Frodo and made my tween heart flutter- thank you for coming to Alberta- I hope you have fun in Calgary, and I’m sorry I’ll miss you when you’re here!

-Sincerely, Shauna

P.S. if you have time, feel free to swing by Jasper and crash the Alberta Library Convention! You know you want another adventure in the mountains! XD

Nelvana of the Northern Lights

Today I checked out Nelvana of the Northern Lights by Adrian Dingle, edited by Rachel Richey and Hope Nicholson.

I’m glad that this book was made so that the general public have a chance to learn about Nelvana, a part of Canadian comics history and one of the first female superheroes.

The introductions give an interesting look into the process and passion of those who helped get this book into print. I’m greatful that the introductions put into perspective that this series is a product of its times- unfortunately there are some culturally insensitive caricatures within the series. As Benjamin Woo States in the intro, it is ‘tempting to imagine an alternate history where the character could have continued to mature with its readers and the country as a whole… What if we had sixty years of Nelvana comics to look at, instead of the handful of stories that were actually produced?’

Library Haiku

Someone on the Library Think Tank FB group had the super fun idea of making up library Haiku.

Haiku are such a brilliant form of poetry, because they force you to pare down your sentiments to the bare essentials. They lend themselves well to humor but also to poignant, meaningful, and thoughtful reflections.

I find they are quite addictive to make. Here are some I came up with this afternoon:

 

 

That groaning squeaking

Is it the library ghost?

Just the creaking stacks.

 

 

 

“Libraries are dead”

he said, yet hadn’t

been in one in years

 

 

 

Precariously

Books sway in my grasping arms

One falls. My toe. Ouch.

 

 

 

Don’t pull the book cart

behind you as you’re walking

or you get torn heels

 

 

 

Friendly gentleman

Struggling with homelessness

You are welcome here.

 

 

 

Programs, access, fun

Singing children, books and tech

It’s a library.

 

 

Why do libraries matter today?

When I recently announced joyously that I had finally been accepted into the Master of Library and Information Science program, I got a variety of responses. Mainly “woohoo!”s and things like that, but also the occasional question about why I chose this career, or even something as refreshingly candid as this comment from an online friend in a Kakao group chat:

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Oof.

There is a certain nostalgia associated with libraries. Many people (and this included me to an extent before I began working in a library 7 years ago) have an idea in their heads of what a library is. Perhaps they are even rather fond of this very concept of a library, and they romanticize it lovingly in their heads. Theirs is a quiet, austere place filled with rows and rows of books. Their library might resemble one they frequented as a child, or saw in a movie. In their memory, the library is a place that you turn to when you are in need of a book, or a quiet place to study. In their library, bespectacled, cardigan wearing women “shhh” you for turning the pages too loud.

This idea of a library endures, supported by some popular media and the notions of those who maybe haven’t visited their public library in recent memory.

However, this library is not my library.

Certainly, some of the above aspects are present in some parts of some libraries some of the time.  But, the libraries of today offer so much more than that outdated model.

Libraries offer services in line with the times and are constantly updating to best serve their patrons in this age of rapidly changing technologies and emerging means of information sharing. In the libraries of today, you may access multiple services in a visit without so much as seeing a book.

People of all ages and all walks of life are welcome in the library, where they are treated with respect and dignity, and able to access information, technologies, entertainment and services that they might not be able to access otherwise. The library is a space where you aren’t expected to buy anything, there’s no catch.

I know I am not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, (check out this legendary twitter smackdown if you haven’t already: https://twitter.com/i/moments/922965302761025536?lang=en ) but this is a message that needs to be reinforced again and again, as clearly there is a need to defend libraries from the detrimental actions of those who don’t understand them.

I’ll shout it from the rooftops if I have to:  Libraries are for everyone to access information, education, entertainment and services that enrich their lives and foster lifelong learning. 

Here are just some of the kinds of things you might be able to do at your public library today at little or no cost:

  • check out an ipad or ereader on loan
  • use a free wifi connection
  • get one on one homework or reading help
  • access full-text, peer-reviewed articles for assignments and research
  • borrow the latest video games, movies, magazines, and music (FOR FREEEEEE)
  • utilize a community makerspace with tools and technology
  • attend a resume building workshop so you can get that job!
  • 3D print whatever your mind can fathom
  • practice yoga, zumba, tai chi, meditation, etc.- namaSLAY!!!
  • meet up for a weekly parenting or breastfeeding support group
  • reserve a study or meeting room
  • attend a movie night and enjoy popcorn and the big screen
  • participate in a writers circle
  • access resources for preparing for a Citizenship exam or other exam
  • receive cuddles from a therapy animal program
  • create crafts or learn how to paint a masterpiece step by step, maybe with some wine and cheese- like paint night, but cheaper!
  • participate in a cosplay competition or learn how to create cosplay looks
  • get help accessing genealogical records and researching your family ancestry
  • peruse board games and card games to take home, or to play at the library (Cards Against Humanity anyone?)
  • print and scan important documents
  • share at a seed-swap or learn about beekeeping
  • learn a new language in a conversation group
  • download audiobooks, ebooks, videos, music, and more from home or on the go with your library card
  • “borrow” a human through a Human Library project
  • visit (or add to) a community art display
  • get referrals to a variety of social services
  • find help fact-checking that dubious looking article your aunt sent you on Facebook
  • dress up with some razzle-dazzle for a seniors social dinner and dance

oh yeah, and you can also check out books!!!

My library is a vibrant, busy, exciting place, full of possibilities. My library is for everyone.

Truly, libraries are vital community hubs. I can’t imagine a world without libraries. It hurts to try imagining.

 

 

 

Candy Journalling

A couple of years ago my hubby bought me a Japanese subscription candy box for my birthday. It was the perfect present, as I absolutely love Japanese culture AND candy.

The wrappers of Japanese candies and snacks were so cute and interesting that I couldn’t bare to throw them away. But what does one do with a bunch of old candy wrappers?

I decided to start a Candy Journal. I’ve kept at it, and I am now at 81 pages! I love looking back at all the yummy candies I’ve tried. It also helped me to make more educated candy decisions when we went to Japan last year! 🇯🇵💙