This month I was lucky enough to have the time and money to re-visit one of my favourite places in Asia, Taiwan. (The fact that the manga there is plentiful and cheap is purely coincidental, you understand). In between eating myself towards walrus-like routundness and brushing up on my Mandarin, I also haunted my usual BL stores in order to update my guide to local shops that stock yaoi. And, to the surprise of no one, pick up some new volumes along the way.
I started my hunt for manga by returning to two excellent BL sources located conveniently close together. The first, Taiwan’s original Animate branch, had the usual selection of new releases and older, popular volumes, as well as anime merchandise on the basement floor.
When I went down there the only BL stuff I found was a poster with the volume 5 cover of Viewfinder on it. Actually, this is the only store I’ve found VF merchandise in at all besides that one place in Kyoto, which was selling Asami Ryuuichi scented draw sachets. I mean, what the f*ck. In the end the only manga I picked up this time was the Chinese edition of Shisei Gokumon (死生獄門) by Kuku Hayate (review forthcoming).
I then made my way to Kannmiya, my favourite hole-in-the-wall BL store in Taiwan. Or at least, that was the plan, until I came across closed doors and a dreaded ‘for rent’ sign where the shop used to be.
After an upsurge of grief at the demise of Yet Another Independent Business forced to close up shop in the wake of corporate competition and high rent, I wandered around the second floor until I caught sight of this sign.
Turns out Kannmiya had just moved…around the corner. In the same building and on the same floor. Um.
Three metres and one turn later, Kannmiya’s ever-present shopkeeper and I locked eyes, and lo, she was in an unusually good mood, so we had a nice chat while I picked up some new and secondhand yaoi from her (five volumes for only NTD$380 — my wallet was grateful).
I’d discovered Taipei’s other Animate, whose entrance is in the shape of a soda can — leading me to mentally designate it as the ‘canned Animate’, I’m afraid — shortly after it opened a couple years back.
The staff here are hyper-vigilant; pretty much as soon as you walk in, they keep an eye on every twitch you make lest you whip out a camera and start — gasp — taking photos of their merchandise. They’d changed the store layout a bit since I’d last been there, and were even setting up a small exhibit of a suit of shiny anime armour (?) at the back where they used to keep the BL manga. Thankfully they’d just shifted their yaoi range rather than eradicating it altogether, and I happily picked up a new (to me) volume by Yamamoto Kotetsuko, Konya mo Nemurenai (今夜も眠れない) (review also forthcoming).
When I walked towards the register to pay for it, though, I noticed two of the female staff all but smirking at me. I suppose wai guo ren (gaijin) otaku are a pretty hilarious breed in general? Hm. Anyway, Animate in Taiwan requires proof of age whenever you buy restricted manga, so I wound up using my Japanese residence card to prove my date of birth. After all, I’m certain that helping me buy erotic manga in translation is why the Japanese immigration department issued it to me in the first place.
I took the train to Hualien (花蓮), a city on Taiwan’s east coast famed for its picturesque natural landscapes (a beauty that was sadly not reflected in its urban centre). If there was any manga to be found here, I didn’t see it, but the strangely adorable condom provided daily by my hotel made up for it? Maybe?
After Hualien, I trained down to the southern end of the island to visit Taiwan’s second largest city — and the subject of a poorly executed piece of university Japanese assessment — Kaohsiung (高雄). The weather was humid and muggy, leaving me reflexively tensed for Japan’s coming summer even more than I was before. Though I guess I’ve got the rainy season to look forward to somewhere in there too. Yay.
Anyway, the Kinokuniya bookstore near Hanshin Arena (漢神巨蛋) was much the same as I’d last seen it, with one bookcase of BL manga and yaoi novels.
They didn’t seem to have as many new releases as the other places I’d visited, though I finally came across the Chinese edition of the recent Fei Long novelisation by Satoko Ai, Finder no Rakuin (ファインダーの烙印).
The last stop on my manga tour of Taiwan was Eslite in Kaohsiung. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure which branch of this bookstore chain I should go to during my last day; an acquaintance had told me one of the locations was the largest bookshop in the city, but couldn’t remember which one. In the end I went to the Eslite branch that was listed first on its website.
Bad move. As soon as I arrived it was pretty obvious this wasn’t the place I was looking for, even though it covered half the floor of a department store. Just before catching the metro to the high speed rail station that would take me back to Taipei, though, I followed a hunch and snuck a visit to the branch closest to my hotel, and yep, it was a tad bigger.
That is to say, as big as a vault-celeinged public library. During the five minutes I gave myself there, though, it became obvious that this branch of Eslite had the company’s usual selection of manga for sale — which is to say, barely any. Still, I’d managed to pick up a manga called “吸血鬼情人” (“Vampire Lover”) at the smaller Eslite, so let’s count this whole enterprise a success, shall we?
(And yes, next month the Tokyo BL Diary will actually be written from Tokyo).
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