F*ck It, You’re All Getting Socks

While saying so is probably tantamount to confessing that I’m a hopelessly materialistic person, I love giving and receiving presents. Birthdays, graduations, housewarmings, congratulations-on-finally-dumping-that-slimy-douchebag celebrations — it’s all fair game for my impulse to foist things on people.

The one kind of gift I’m definitely less fond of: souvenirs. They’re pretty much obligatory when you or someone else has gone overseas, and that “checking off a list” quality usually results in a tacky bauble picked up last thing at the airport. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve given my fair share of Mt Fuji fridge magnets and Space Needle pens too, but when I have the time and money I like to splash out and get something both practical and unique to the country I’m visiting that my loved ones will treasure forever — or at least until their dog eats it.

Luckily for me, this time the universe (and/or the local textile industry) provided. I’ve been to Taiwan enough times now that I was starting to run out of souvenir ideas, short of terrorising people with another attempt at making felt finger puppets of their favourite TV characters (last time, so very tragically, all of Stiles’ freckles fell off).

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But then I started to notice a strange phenomenon: loads of stores I passed in Taipei had started selling superhero socks! Yes, even though every day was providing new ways for me to complain about the 90% humidity. Many of the major DC and Marvel characters were accounted for in diminutive knitted form too, from The Hulk to Catwoman to Wolverine. Unlicensed merchandise or no, I had stumbled across the perfect combination of cute, practical and highly portable souvenirs for all my fannish friends. My one quibble? When’s the last time you saw Batman look that contented about anything?

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From Osaka with Love (and Manga): Part 1

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As someone who’s used to living on a giant rock in the middle of nowhere, it usually takes about ten trillion hours for me to fly anywhere other than New Zealand or Antarctica. So when visa extension issues in Taiwan required me to leave the country temporarily this past weekend…well, how could I resist a brief jaunt in Osaka when it’s only two-and-a-bit hours away? Continue reading

Tokyo BL Diary: Month 7

(Before we begin, I want to apologise to my followers who received a notification about this post yesterday before it was actually ready to be posted >< My bad, and thanks for your patience! -Ramona)

Somehow it’s already the end of April, and it feels like all I’ve done this month is get back into the swing of things in Tokyo while simultaneously trying to stopper my ears so my exhausted, semi-melted brain doesn’t leak out. Oh, and a couple other things:

1) Right up until last night, online rumours and the lack of Yamane Ayano’s mention on Libre’s website in the blurb for this month’s edition of Be Boy Gold magazine (below) had me convinced that we weren’t getting Chapter 9 of the Finder series’ latest arc, Pray in the Abyss, this month after all.

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“Nooooooooo” – collective fannish moan

Continue reading

Tokyo BL Diary: Month 6 (Taiwan Edition)

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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.  Continue reading

Tokyo BL Diary: Month 2.2

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November 17

So less than a month since I last visited the flagship Animate store in Ikebukuro — and now it’s gone. Kinda.

To coincide with the weekend-long Animate Girls Festival (AGF) held nearby, the company have just opened their new flagship store in the same area. Though to be fair, it’s about three minutes closer to the train station now. Continue reading

Tokyo BL Diary: Month 2.1

November 10th

Like a splotch on my otaku credentials, I’d never once visited the flagship branch of Mandarake (まんだらけ) in the Tokyo ward of Nakano before. So after a work week that left me feeling like a zombie, and Saturday morning grocery shopping that left me feeling like a zombie weighed down by pineapples, I took a rapid express to Nakano. Continue reading

Ikoku Irokoi Romantan Special Book by Yamane Ayano

By a stroke of fate, today is both International Read Comics in Public Day and the release date of a bunch of new Yamane Ayano works, including the novel Finder no Rakuin. So in honour of Yamane-sensei and graphic novels in general, I’ve decided to do a recap of the special book released in 2007 for her lesser-known manga, Ikoku Irokoi Romantan (published in English as ‘A Foreign Love Affair’). My copy of the book is a Chinese translation I bought in a Taipei manga store specialising in BL. The book contains one page of character profiles, a recap of the tankoubon’s story, a 24-page comic and an atogaki.

 Plot Summary

Starting immediately where the manga left off, Ranmaru wakes up in Val’s Italian mansion to find a strange man leaning over him, apparently infatuated by his appearance. The besotted stranger turns out to be Val’s father, Carlo — who is even more of a Japanophile than Val! Carlo has also brought Kaoru, Ranmaru’s wife, along with him. (I love Kaoru, and I really wish Yamane Ayano would write more kick-ass female characters like her in this male-dominated genre).

It seems Ranmaru has once again deserted his entourage in order to be with Val. Now that he’s been tracked down, his crying underlings demand to know if the rumours are true — that Ranmaru plans to desert his position as the heir to the Ohmi yakuza clan in order to be with a man! Continue reading

Viewfinder Merchandise + How to Fool People on Public Transport, Maybe

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To commemorate the release of the truly terrifying Asami doll by Libre (seriously, it looks like Asami’s vampire cousin) — yours in extreme pallor for only ¥99,750 or AUD$1,200 — I’ve decided to do a shamelessly indulgent post about my own foray into buying VF merchandise. I bought it all in one hit at Taiwan’s first Animate store near Xi Men Ding last year and, for the most part, it’s proved surprisingly practical. Continue reading

Autograph Panels Outside Animate Ikebukuro

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Last November when I visited Tokyo I made a special trip to Ikebukuro to check out the flagship Animate store there (アニメイト池袋本店). It was a freezing and rainy day, and I got thoroughly lost in the train station before I eventually found the right exit and the store itself. I was actually looking for BL merchandise (particularly Yamane Ayano stuff), and was really surprised and disappointed when I couldn’t find much of anything on any of the floors. Luckily, just as I was leaving via an adjacent laneway, I noticed a collection of autograph panels (サイン色紙) hanging on the wall, featuring many prominent manga-ka!

Sebastian from Yana Toboso’s Kuroshitsuji

Yukimura from Sakuraga Mei’s Waru series

They were all drawn in celebration of the store’s 10th anniversary. It wasn’t until I’d snapped several photos that I realised there were also signs prohibiting photography, but it was already too late. Besides, if I was cold and drenched with nothing to show for my troubles, I thought a few droplet-spattered photos was fair compensation. *shakes fist*

(Later, in Kyoto, I found an Animate with Finder (ファインダーシリーズ) merchandise. But as these were mostly air fresheners for use in underwear drawers featuring pictures of Asami, I left it at that).