I’ve ordered a new book – Kyosai Kawanabe’s prints. They’re gorgeous, gory, and utterly fascinating. I showed my partner and within the third page or so there’s a graphic of a guy having full on anal intercourse with another guy, then a beheading, then a giant cat with two tails. It’s a fun and terrifying visual journey and good inspiration for my story.
Of my two female rats (sisters), Lucy is the perennially shy one that still acts like it’s an alien abduction when I try to pick her up. She treats me — her Rat Mom — mostly like a creepy older male co-worker and runs away when I try to pet her, but lately I’ve found something that helps her enjoy my company a bit more.
She really, really enjoys being talked to. I noticed that when I sit about a foot away on the floor, at eye level or lower, and just whisper sweet nothings to her, her whole body relaxes and she starts bruxing and boggling in happiness.
So lately, I’ve been reading stories to her, chatting about daily goings-on, and paying her compliments like “You’re so pretty” and “Such a good cute rat!”
But those topics got old, fast, so I update her a lot about political news.
Needless to say, it looks very weird to outsiders.
Jigoku Tayuu （地獄太夫）, the “Hell Courtesan,” is a character who has been fascinating for me since I first read about her in high school or university.
Known as the daughter of a Samurai (therefore of noble blood) of the Muromachi Period in Japan (1336 to 1573) Jigoku Dayuu was apparently abducted while young and forced to work as a high-class tayuu (太夫), or high-class courtesans.
She lamented her fate, and didn’t dress in the gorgeous kimonos that were the standard of courtesans — she wore a kimono depicting hellish images, fire, skeletons, blood. It was dark imagery, but she was legendary for her beauty regardless, and was once visited by the famous Buddhist Monk Ikkyu, who was impressed by her wisdom and strong character.
It was said that they exchanged some witty one-liner observations about their respective social positions, and became friends afterward.
Jigoku Tayuu died young (of course!) and famously left behind instructions not to cremate her or bury her, but to “simply leave her body in the fields to feed the bellies of starving dogs.” A compassionate, wonderful thought. But, it’s said that she was buried anyway with respect and not left for the dogs to eat, which she actually would not have considered an insult.
She might be too dark for a YA book. But I’m strongly considering her as a key character in my yokai fantasy.
This isn’t related to my yokai comic, Rika and the Hundred Demon March (first few pages of that coming soon) but my mini-comic on recent adventures in rat ownership and vet care.
I’ve been sleep-deprived for about 2 weeks, fearful and paranoid and unsure how to go forward. So much has been out of my control. But with time being so precious for rats, the only thing to do is to move forward.
I’ve got in the works a comic about a young woman about self-discovery.
Rika Kasugai is lost in life, caught in between her Asian and Western identity and fitting in nowhere. She’s got a Japanese name that doesn’t match her looks — she’s tall (175cm), big-boned, pale-skinned, freckled, red-haired, and nobody really believes she’s born and raised in Japan.
Now living in Canada, she’s socially anxious and has no friends, but needs money to get to college so has taken on a summer job guiding Japanese tourists around Vancouver.
Her life is irrevocably changed when one day, she gets a tour bus for 100 VIPs from across Japan who are actually ghosts, sprites and demons — 妖怪，or Yokai — in disguise. Once a year in midsummer, they go on a demonic tour at night, and this time, they’ve chosen to take their visit overseas to Canada.
In dealing with her terrifying and mysterious clients, Rika ends up learning a lot about them, and about her own personality and past.
I’m making a new comic and I hope it’s going to be a good one. Rika is shown here meeting Kurako, the fox demon, in her demon fox form. Kurako is a bake-kitsune (化け狐） or a type of supernatural demon-spirit that has magical powers including transforming into people and deceiving people for decades. While the vast majority of demon foxes are evil/semi-evil manipulators, Kurako’s intentions are a bit more unclear, as she takes on a kind of mentor role to Rika — an awkward, clumsy, low-self-esteem young woman with a strong sense of cultural displacement (she grew up during her formative years in Japan, and despite never really fitting in or being accepted, she still identifies strongly with Japanese culture and struggles when she comes back ‘home’ to Canada).
I’m working on a new and improved comic for this year’s VanCAF, but here’s a sample of the Rat Chronicles (Vol. 1) about a ratty girl and a patient boyfriend who tries to domesticate her.
When I was a kid, I grew up with legends and stories from Japanese folklore. My childhood was imbued with it: my mother told me about how people’s souls turned into beautiful blue-green flame when they died, and that she saw these herself when she was a child on her way to the outdoors toilet (homes in Okinawa didn’t have toilets back then if you weren’t wealthy).
“Everyone around me said the hino tama (flame of people’s souls) was scary, that it was frightening to come across, but when I saw them I wasn’t freaked out at all. I thought they were so pretty,” my mom told me.
This is a work in progress of some of the demons who enter my story, Rika and the Hundred Demon Tour (still debating if it should be “March” instead, as per 百鬼夜行。The Japanese version of my text would be 百鬼旅行、or Hundred Demon Tour)..
Monkey lately keeps calling me “Nezumi (Rat) Bancho (thuggish boss of ruffians)” because of my way of talking in Japanese, which is pretty boorish and full of swear words used by ordinary street thugs.
Apparently, when people imagine him having a Japanese wife, they picture someone who fits one of these 4 stereotypes (from left to right, the Virgin-Maid Cafe type, the Sadist cool queen type, the healing calm maiden type, and the active, sporty “gal” type)…
And they’re kind of…surprised? dismayed? when they learn my general way of speaking in Japanese is more like this
Kuze Daisaku, the manly-man from Yakuza 0, one of my favourite video games.
In light of that moniker, I decided to draw that “Nezumi Bancho” on my tablet….
And wear it as a T-shirt. So there’s no confusion about what to expect.