Unfortunately, for some mysterious reason my main source of dōjinshi does not accept payments from Italy at the moment, so the blog is going on hiatus until I can procure review materials again. See you soon!
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Suppose it's kinda nice to talk, for once, about a circle that is still around and pumping out stuff... I do enjoy my dōjin archaeology, but I get the feeling sometimes that the stuff I talk about is a bit too dead for its own good.
But not this time around! Circle FASHIONSNAP-02 may no longer be around, but its sole member U10 is still very active under a number of different names, pumping out roughly the same content. That is, stylish illustrations of gals sporting the kind of outfits you could see in places like FRUItS or Larme. Not my kind of outfit, nor my kind of content, but I have to say U10 has the skills to make it palatable even to a country bumpkin like me.
A thin but glossy 20 pages, full color deal, 2010's U10folio is but one of the many pinup collections U10 has put out in the last decade or so. The deals' quite simple: no backgrounds, just wiry, stylish gals dressed in that kind of mature, earthy tones fashion that has more or less taken the place of that loli nonsense from a few years ago. Most of the illustrations are 'originals', in the sense of 'mannequin with clothes on', but there are also a couple Hatsune Miku inspired ones (pretty good), and a few illustrations celebrating Japanese band Perfume (nuke from orbit). The tract's thin and detailed, and the colors have an almost watercolor-liek quality that I really dig. Text is minimal, kept to a brief and inconsequential foreword.
All in all, a nice collection of illustrations, nothing groundbreaking but still a nice take on a certain kind of fashion you might or might not be interested in.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
Aaand, this time around we're reviewing a nice, simple illustration dōjinshi, no fancy concept or postmodern deconstruction of the medium. Recur is a full-color, 21 pages illustration work by AsakuraG+, a circle founded in 2006 that is still quite active and pumps out an average of one dōjinshi per year, mostly dedicated to the Touhou franchise.
The artbook in question, from 2012, is an entirely original work, a sort of 'visual book' detailing, through large-sized illustrations and caption, the journey of a girl 'towards corruption'. She moves through a series of chromatically-themed, beautiful two page spreads that skillfully combine computer graphics with drawings, meeting on her way a bony psychopomp who leads her... back to our world? was it a dream all along?
The accent here is definitely on the production values: the colorful, glossy images really capture snapshots from a dream-like world, capturing well themes of ice, forest and wastelands. The girl protagonist, competently portrayed save a few minor inaccuracies, blends in with the landscapes rather than stand out, contributing to the overall tableau-like feeling of the illustrations. The book is nicely capstoned by a few pin-ups portraying the protagonist and the other characters in different outfits, suggesting that the young girl might actually be a recurring character - from what I could tell, she is in fact featured in a few of AsakuraG+'s other collections.
Overall a nice find, not too heavy on story but particularly stylish on the visual side of things - definitely enoug to make me want to seek more work from the author. In case you want more info, their site is awfully lacking updates, but they seem to be quite active on Twitter.
Monday, March 1, 2021
If you take a look at past reviews on this blog, you might notice that we're not new to dōjinshi with tie-ins to businesses or locations - I reviewed one that featured local business ads just a few weeks ago, and even earlier I reviewed a few of the manga and dōjinshi famous Tokyo maid coffeeshot Schatzkiste has put out. So, this week we're totally in our ballpark, as we review another dōjin offering that takes its inspiration from a Tokyo coffee shop...
Nested in the hustle of central Tokyo is R-za Dokushokan, a tiny coffee shop that, charming decor aside, has one peculiar trait: while on its premises you're not allowed to talk, and even orders have to be placed in a hush. Wonderful place, and I regret it wasn't already on my radar when I was over in Japan. Just look at their site's pictures... the ambience looks magic, and place in a metropolis where you can't blabber? fantastic.
And a magical place is, of course, the perfect setting for a magical tale, or even two. 午後の少女にお茶の時間を is a short but sweet b&w manga that takes place within the walls of Dokushokan, where one can go to give their overworked tongue a rest, as well as encounter a certain barista who has the power to take one into their own inner world. A lost girl and a pair of sisters take advantage of this magic and take a new perspective on life, all the while enjoying a nice hot coffee... or some edible ivy.
The stories are short and sweet, dialogue is sparse (as appropriate) and the style is super-simple, reminescent of shōjo manga from times past. The dōjinshi's author is not the bar's owner, who apparently mostly gave the story input, but amateur mangaka and doll lover 麻衣子of circle "Syoujyo Gahou"... who, unfortunately, recently seems somewhat inactive on the illustration side. Aside from the two short stories, the dōjinshi closes with a short feature on the coffee shop (with few B&W pics, unfortunately) and includes an extra brochure with a interview with the coffee shop owner and the author, in a pseudo-handwriting that I found all but impossible to decipher. Shame.
Overall, a nice and short offering that, once again, shows how dōjinshi do not need be about lustful teachers and Evangelion inflation fetishes. And the coffee shop goes right to the list of places to visit when I make it over to Japan again...
Sunday, February 21, 2021
One thing I soon learned while in Japan, is that japanese people love the everliving lights out of processed food. If you, like me, are the kind of person who likes their food raw and simple, be ready to either pay a premium or give up: raw vegetables cost a fortune, many times over those very same ingredients cooked and packaged conbini-style; bread is fluffy and utterly tasteless; most food you can find in supermarkets and convenience store can't escape this... sweet aftertaste that japanese consumers seem to want in everything, from snacks to desserts. There are of course exceptions, especially if you live far from big city centers or in rural areas, but I have to say that tasting 'real' Japanese food has been, at least for me, more of a letdown than a discovery.
One item that I simply cannot fathom is fish sausages. Hyper-processed second-choice fish meat, turned into toothpaste-like matter and then wrapped in plastic. I don't mean naruto, that's still decent. I mean bona fide fish sausages like this:
Other people, however, seem to be of a different opinion - specifically, the two dōjin creators and organizers hiding behind the circle name 版元ひとり. On their online profiles they gleefully boast that they can and will write about anything they like, which seems to include fish sausages, as the here dōjinshi この魚肉ソーセージがすごい!? (Is this fish sausage delicious?) testifies. 64 pages of gloriously gloss, full color A4, this dōjinshi 'guide' purports to be the end-all, be-all encyclopedia of fish sausages, and it pulls no punches in doing so, gathering under banner of food reviewing not only the two authors behind the 版元ひとり name, but also over twelve illustrators and three real life models.
After a brief intro, describing in general the world and relevance of fish sausages to japanese cuisine, we are treated to a lenghty section in which more than 11 different brands of sausages are extensively reviewed, going into details such as size, calories count, texture, cooking uses and personal commentary, all of which is supported by girl-and-fish sausages illustrations (no, I'm not kidding...) by a number of Pixiv illustrators, as well as glamorous pin up shots where models pose in costumes, school attires and such along with fish sausages. If this sounds wtf and insane, I can guarantee you it is. Pictures really don't do it justice. The book is rounded up by a few recipes, and a behind the scenes making-of. It's somewhat bewildering to think of the effort put in this sausage-reviewing dōjinshi: production values are super high, and it must have cost a fair penny to stage this ode to processed fish.
The circle has an official store, where you can buy この魚肉ソーセージがすごい!?, along with other masterpieces such as この納豆がすごい！(Is this natto fantastic? spoiler: it's really not), croquette and tofu encyclopedias and so on. If you are, like me, a lover of this kind of, umm, super-otaku randomness, you will definitely find something interesting in this circle's output.
Monday, February 8, 2021
As the few followers of my blog might know, I'm very much a fan of 'wtf' moments. Still, there are times when the bar of weirdness gets raised a bit too high even for me...
ふゆまん 3 (yes, once again third in a series, sue me) is a short illustration collection by Akiman, whom you might be familiar with under their actual name: Akira Yasuda, the character designer who worked on a bunch of Capcom video games (Street Fighter, Final Fight), anime (Gundam, Code Geass) and a bunch of novel and magazine covers. Quite the pedigree, which once again goes to show how permeabile the dōjin - commercial separation can sometimes be.
Dating back to 2008, ふゆまん 3 is a 44 pages mostly b&w collection, with a few color pages throw in at the beginning. It consists mostly of original material, specifically a number of sci-fi meets ecchi pinups drawn in the artist's signature style: thin linework, fairly soft colors by animanga standards, and an emphasis on impossibly slender battle ladies, whose armors look to be as heavy as them if not more. A 10 page full color section stands out, in which Akiman takes us step by step through the creation of a full color illustration... which, surprisingly, does not appear as a full-page illustration like the others do, only as thumbnails. Kind of a bizarre choice, but it's still nice to see an artist that actually lays his creative process bare: I feel it usually adds depth to 'simple' illustration collections, and it's certainly the case here.
Now, you might be wondering what the opening spiel about 'wft moments' had to do with this dōjinshi. Well, as I turned to the final pages of ふゆまん 3, I was greeted by... this.
Yup, they sure look like advertisements for fishmongers. Now, I think it's kinda cool that a self publication fosters local Hokkaido businesses... or is it the other way around? Still, fairly wft and random but something that I could see happen more in the future. After all, why self finance, when you can get sponsors? One can only wonder if they got a chance to preview Akiman's saucy pinups before signing the line...
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
I've had since forever this bizarre habit of starting series from n°2 or later. I can't even count the novel series of which I'm missing the first volume... same goes with dōjinshi, it seems...
HoboNikkanAmanoShinbun Vol.02 is a collection of illustrations by Amano Yoki - a name you might not be familiar with, just as I wasn't when I picked up this dōjinshi based on cover alone (I'm a sucker for photography + illustration, don't ask me why). Turns out they mostly work in the ecchi / hentai genre: no serialization I could find, but a lot of one-shots in magazines and collections... stuff like コミック魔翔, which I admit I'm not overly familiar with. A4, full b&w, clocking in at a meaty 82 pages.
Turns out, this is not 'just' a collection of illustrations, but an actual project by Amano. They set out to produce roughly one sketch a day for a full year, collecting the best inside this publication. As you might therefore expect, you won't find anything overly polished in here: Amano's daily illustrations are mostly sketches, done in a thick black line and in a rather 90s /realy 200 style, although the dōjinshi dates 2010. Mostly pinups, with a few ecchi outliers but nothing too extreme.
There are also a few better fleshed-out illustrations in Amano's mainstream style... which I actually found slightly inferior to their sketches. The latter, for some reason, seem a lot less stiff, more lively. A brief afterword capstones the dōjinshi, but no work-in-progress or how-to section.
All in all, while the idea in itself of a 'one sketch a day' project has its merits, HoboNikkanAmanoShinbun Vol.02 still feels a bit insubstantial. There is however not only a vol.1, but even a 3 and a 4, so clearly there was some interest in the project... I might try and get my hand on one or more of them at a later date.
Saturday, January 16, 2021
N.B: repertoire images, because my copy is in good condition but super fragile.
It's a fairly well known fact that, while the dōjinshi world is a fairly amateurish affair (can't imagine anyone making a steady living out of them, at least as a maker), a lot of professional manga artists either started their career, of integrated it, by dabbling in the dōjin world. Kazuhiko Katō did, Kazushi Hagiwara did, Kiyohiko Azuma did, and other big shots like Clamp and Kaoru Mori (I'm still on the lookout for something of hers that won't set me back a whole shipment). Their dōjin stuff is not always top notch, especially when it belongs to the onset of their careers (Azuma's stuff is pretty atrocious, unlike his commercial work), but I guess it's always interesting to see where a mangaka started from.
骨董庭園 is a b&w dōjinshi by Yuki Kaori, best known as the author of Angel Sanctuary (nothing astounding, but still one of those 'big old' titles from the first wave of English official localizations) and the far superior Godchild, pretty much a must if you are into the Gothic thing. She doesn't have a whole lot of dōjin work to her name, but this 骨董庭園 (Antique Garden) stood out to me as it featured both original material, and a couple of Final Fantasy fan stories. Dating from 1995 it was also pretty much a relic in the low-circulation world of dōjinshi, so I just had to get my hands on it!
The dōjinshi is not excessively long, clocking in at 68 pages, and features two originals ('A doll's endless rest' and 'Empty airspace'), and a series of short Final Fantasy fan fictions. The remaining pages consist of commentary and illustrations.The originals are... what you'd expect from Yuki if you're familiar with her work at all: drama-filled black fables with a dark twist-ending. Nothing stellar, but entertaining enough. The Final Fantasy tidbits, as someone who has little to no interest in the franchise, kind of fell flat on me, though they seemed very dark, which I don't think Final Fantasy itself was supposed to be. Not sure, to be honest.
Graphically, well, it's Yuki Kaori. She has this very dated, mid to late 90s style that I instinctively associate with Viz localizations, the earliest days of AMV, and so on. Everyone is donning eyeliner, their wardrobes look like they come out of a Visual-kei music video, etc etc. It's a mostalgic visual style you kinda have to into in order to appreciate, and if you don't... you're not a thrity year old boomer, I guess.
All in all, a little relic worthy of attention, as a curio if nothing else. I would suggest however to give Godchild a read, it's a rather decent and entertaining work.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
It kinda feels like cheating, whenever I feature dōjin work from etablished artists, who probably don't need whatever tiny publicity this blog allows (blog that, by the way, is doing quite well visits-wise... thanks for stopping by! And feel free to take a look at my own stuff if you feel like it). Still, this time around it's about an illustrator I actually kind of idolized a lot of years ago, the quality of the product is fairly high... and I already bought it, so might as well get a post out of it.
People who follow anime, and especially 2010's anime probably happened to come across a guy by the name of Range Murata. He's best known as a character designer, having contributed to a number of anime series and videogames (Last Exile, Blue Submarine n.6, Shangri-La, Animatrix, Robot etc), as well as dabbling in cover art, fgurines design, and apparel. Not sure what he's up to now, as I don't really keep up with anime that much, but I don't see his name thrown around as it used to, so there's that. Probably had his heyday.
What we're dealing with today is a dōjinshi of his, the 2010 illustration collection titled グラスタイル - which also wins the prize as history's most deceiving cover art as, if you're not familiar with Murata's work, you'd probably expect an alt-photography collection. Instead, you get a 26 pages, full color collection of pin-ups, mostly unrelated to his mainstream work: young girls, sometimes accompanied by dashing and burly male counterparts, dressed up in Murata's signature brand of retro-futuristic, dieselpunk apparel.
So, content wise, we're in standard anime-esque dōjinshi territory. Now, it's undeniable that Murata knows his stuff, and visually the illustrations are stunning. Aside from a weird, uncanny valley-ish tendency to pair wide eyed anime girls with hyper-realistic drawn males, which I find a bit disjointed and off putting, he clearly has a mastery of color, shape, composition and style. Still, as a whole, the dōjinshi feels a bit... inconsequential. I have a feeling that his stuff probably works better as part of a larger project, as his draftsmanship feels a bit wasted on 'just' pin up illustrations. Also, the book almost entirely lacks commentary, work-in-progress and such, which often make the difference for me in illustration collections.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
I can only imagine the blog visits I'll get from people looking for ancient Greek / Roman poetry, or trying to buy a Gothic Lolita dress... so, mild nudity ahead. Be warned. Also, the author seems big on intellectual property, so I'll put only the cover up, and let you explore through the review's many links if you want more.
The few and proud who follow this review blog, should know by now that I get a kcik when I happen to find something really quirky while shopping for dōjinshi, especially when it deviates from typical dōjin fare. I'm talking about self-published travelogues, reviews of Tokyo restaurants where you can stuff your face all you want - and, of course, weirdo art projects. Today's dōjinshi,12Keys' Metamorphose, squarely falls within this category.
A bit of background, so you don't get the wrong idea and assume I started reviewing softcore photography. 12Keys (十二の鍵)'s typical output is illustration, in an ornate, vaguely 'kawaii meets Art Deco' style that I actually find quite enticing. The other two dōjinshi to their name are, in fact, illustration books (and I do plan to get my hands on the awesomely titled Book of Books of Booby). However, they do dabble in other kinds of art, from felt sculpting to performance art, as their excellent web site shows.
So, what's with the painted lady on the cover of this book? Well, according to the brief foreword attached, it's an attempt to create beauty, in order to lead us to the creation of a better world... cheeky statements aside, what we have here is a collection of pics from a photoset where model Tereza Nakajima poses on a rooftop, with three different, colorful body paints made by 12Keys themselves. The setting is mundane, and props are minimal: aside for an umbrella and a pair of sunglasses, only featured in a few pics, the rest is the model's body cast against the concrete of the building that acts as a setting. Some of the bodypaints are abstrat in nature, while others feature the stylized chibi forms typical of 12Keys' illustrations. The booklet is about 24 pages, full color, and ends with an interview with the model, and a few lines of afterword.
While these contents might not seem much to build upon, I have to say that the project does have some artistic and thematic merits, more than the format belies at least. Discourses about body representation and femininity are probably reaching (and part of an academic past I'll gladly spare you), but there is a lot to say about 12Keys work even just on a surface, aesthetic level: the contrast that the drab concrete, the model's pale complexion, and the colorful body paint is actually emphasized by the subdued, at times grainy and under / overexposed style of the photographs. 12Keys' body paint, and Nakajima's whimsical and quirky demeanor, reinvigorate a dreary, Lain-like cityscape. Also, while the subject of Metamorphose might seem offbeat, there is actually a long tradition of body paint (and performance art in general) in Japan.
All in all, an outlier that definitely deserves a second glance. It's a fairly old thing, published in 2013, so it might be difficult to get your hands on a physical copy. On the other hand, they have a very interesting Twitter account, where you can find more recent body paint works.
Sunday, November 1, 2020
So, for a change, I'm goign to review an item that is not a dōjinshi, as it was published by a proper publishing house (Kadokawa), and is available on Amazon, both in hard copy and Kindle... but! I enjoyed it, so you get a review anyway. Too bad for you.
シャッツキステ (German for 'Treasure Chest') is not an author nor a series, but a café in Akihabara, Tokyo. What makes it somewhat notable is its theme, which eschewes (for the most part) the atrocious tropes of 'manga cafes' (flyers for such places being forced in my hands every few steps is one of the worst memories I have of Akihabara), opting instead for an Old World, pesudo-Victorian aesthetics, including maids that actually dress as maids are supposed to, and - from what I've heard - actually decent country-style food, as well as a setting that reminds one more of an English tea house than a manga cafe. It was on my to-do list when I was over in Japan but, unfortunately, I eventually wasn't able to make it there.
Another notable point is that the café occasionally puts out books and comics as promotional materials, in the form of manga, short stories, and even music, usually attributed - fictitiously, I assume - to one of the actual people staffing the cafe. 私設図書館シャッツキステへようこそ (Welcome to Schatzkiste Private Library) , for example, lists 有井エリス (the real-world coordinator of the cafe's maids) as its author. A nice little conceit, to make this blatant promotional material some sort of in-world item, which I appreciate even more when, as in this case, the material happens to be decent.
The book, a meaty and mostly-color 223 pages, consists for the most part of 4-koma, short gag stories consisting of only four panels cum punchline. The many (real world) maids of Schatzkiste are the protagonists of these (fictitious) adventures, in which jokes largely center on every character's one-dimensional idiosincrasies and retorts in a boke-tsukkomi (straight man and fool?) style. So yeah, no sweeping storylines, but cute little jokes garnished with chibi maids and a fluffy JRPG, Animal Crossing style aesthetic. Pretty neat stuff, and the Japanese is basic too - good if you want some intermediate practice.
You can get a copy here.
Unfortunately, for some mysterious reason my main source of dōjinshi does not accept payments from Italy at the moment, so the blog is goin...