Salamander by Tsuge Yoshiharu (山椒魚/つげ義春)

Tsuge Yoshiharu was an artist whose work needs more exposure here in America. We’re just now starting to get every last thing Tezuka ever did, but there have only been a handful of Tsuge stories officially released in different magazines — The Comics Journal translated his seminal work “Screw-Style” (ねじ式), and RAW released both “Red Flowers” and “Oba’s Electroplate Factory” — but other than that and a few stories scanlated online, his work remains mostly elusive in English.

While in Japan, I picked up a collection of his stories simply entitled ねじ式. It contains many of the stories that are available online — “Swamp,” “Mushroom Hunting,” “Chico,” “Gensenkan” — and ten others, including the title story and “Oba’s Electroplate Factory.” Of the remaining stories, I’ve decided to contribute a translation of “Salamander,” the shortest work in the collection.






My Favorite Japanese Books: A List (or So)

By request:

Top Fifteen Japanese Novels

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami Haruki (ねじまき鳥クロニクル/村上春樹)
2. The Makioka Sisters by Tanizaki Jun’ichiro (細雪/谷崎潤一郎)
3. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Murakami Haruki (世界の終わりとハードボイルド ワンダーランド/村上春樹)
4. A Personal Matter by Oe Kenzaburo (個人的な体験/大江健三郎)
5. A Portrait of Shunkin by Tanizaki Jun’ichiro (春琴抄/谷崎潤一郎)
6. The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Mishima Yukio (午後の曳航/三島由紀夫)
7. Woman in the Dunes by Abe Kobo (砂の女/安部公房)
8. No Longer Human by Dazai Osamu (人間失格/太宰治)
9. Coin Locker Babies by Murakami Ryu (コインロッカー ベイビーズ/村上龍)
10. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness by Oe Kenzaburo (われらの狂気を生き延びる道を教えよ/大江健三郎)
11. Norwegian Wood by Murakami Haruki (ノルウェイの森/村上春樹)
12. Naomi by Tanizaki Jun’ichiro (知人の愛/谷崎潤一郎)
13. Vibrator by Akasaka Mari (ヴァイブレータ/赤坂真理)
14. In the Miso Soup by Murakami Ryu (イン ザ ミソスープ/村上龍)
15. The Kangaroo Notebook by Abe Kobo (カンガルー ノート/安部公房)

Top Ten Japanese Story Collections

1. Seven Japanese Tales by Tanizaki Jun’ichiro
2. After the Quake by Murakami Haruki
3. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness by Oe Kenzaburo
4. The Paper Door by Naoya Shiga
5. Blind Woman, Sleeping Willow by Murakami Haruki
6. Beyond the Curve by Abe Kobo
7. The Elephant Vanishes by Murakami Haruki
8. Tales of Moonlight and Rain by Akinari Ueda
9. Salmonella Men on the Planet Porno by Tsutsui Yasutaka
10. The Diving Pool by Ogawa Yoko

Top Twenty Manga

1. GoGo Monster by Matsumoto Taiyo
2. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Miyazaki Hayao
3. Phoenix: Karma by Tezuka Osamu
4. Tekkonkinkreet by Matsumoto Taiyo
5. Phoenix: A Tale of the Future by Tezuka Osamu
6. Message to Adolf by Tezuka Osamu
7. Akira by Otomo Katsuhiro
8. A Drifting Life by Tatsumi Yoshihiro
9. Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show by Maruo Suehiro
10. Ode to Kirihito by Tezuka Osamu
11. Orochi: A Tale of Blood by Umezu Kazuo
12. Bakune Young by Matsunaga Toyokazu
13. Uzumaki by Ito Junji
14. Music of Marie by Furuya Usamaru
15. The Laughing Vampire by Maruo Suehiro
16. Neji-shiki by Tsuge Yoshiharu
17. Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Tatsumi Yoshihiro
18. Blame! by Nihei Tsutomu
19. Eden: It’s an Endless World! by Endo Hiroki
20. Sexy Voice and Robo by Kuroda Iou

…or something like that.

My Favorite Japanese Films: A List

A friend asked if I had posted my favorite Japanese films on my blog, so I decided to go ahead and try to come up with some kind of a top ten list out of the hundreds of movies I’ve seen since I became obsessed in the early 2000s. But instead of one top ten list, I’ll do several in various categories.

Top Ten Classic Japanese Films (pre-1980s)

1. Woman in the Dunes (砂の女, dir. Teshigahara Hiroshi, 1964)
2. Yojimbo (用心棒, dir. Kurosawa Akira, 1961)
3. The Man Who Stole the Sun (太陽を盗んだ男, dir. Hasegawa Kazuhiko, 1979)
4. Rashomon (羅生門, dir. Kurosawa Akira, 1950)
5. The Pornographers (エロ事師たちより人類学入門, dir. Imamura Shohei 1966)
6. Onibaba (鬼婆, dir. Shindo Kaneto, 1964)
7. Seven Samurai (七人の侍, dir. Kurosawa Akira, 1954)
8. Sansho the Bailiff (山椒大夫, dir. Mizoguchi Kenji, 1954)
9. Pastoral — To Die in the Country (田園に死す, dir. Terayama Shuji, 1974)
10. Harakiri (切腹, dir. Kobayashi Masaki, 1962)

Top Ten Modern Japanese Films

1. Eureka (dir. Aoyama Shinji, 2000)
2. The Ballad of Narayama (楢山節考, dir. Imamura Shohei, 1983)
3. The Taste of Tea (茶の味, dir. Ishii Katsuhito, 2004)
4. Nobody Knows (誰も知らない, dir. Koreeda Hirokazu, 2004)
5. All About Lily Chou-Chou (リリシュシュのすべて, dir. Iwai Shunji, 2001)
6. Noriko’s Dinner Table (紀子の食卓, dir. Sono Sion, 2005)
7. Confessions (告白, dir. Nakashima Tetsuya, 2010)
8. Sonatine (dir. Kitano Takeshi, 1993)
9. Memories of Matsuko (嫌われ松子の一生, dir. Nakashima Tetsuya, 2006)
10. A Snake of June (六月の蛇, Tsukamoto Shinya, 2002)

Top Ten Anime Films

1. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (王立宇宙軍 オネアミスの翼, dir. Yamaga Hiroyuki, 1987)
2. Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊, dir. Oshii Mamoru, 1995)
3. Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫, dir. Miyazaki Hayao, 1997)
4. Paprika (dir. Kon Satoshi, 2006)
5. Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し, dir. Miyazaki Hayao, 2001)
6. Akira (dir. Otomo Katsuhiro, 1988)
7. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (人狼, dir. Okiura Hiroyuki, 1999)
8. Angel’s Egg (天使の卵, dir. Oshii Mamoru, 1985)
9. Tekkonkinkreet (鉄っこん筋クリート, dir. Michael Arias, 2006)
10. Cat Soup (ねこぢる草, dir. Sato Tatsuo, 2001)

Top Ten Japanese Feel-Good Movies

1. Ping Pong (dir. Sori Fumihiko, 2002)
2. Linda Linda Linda (dir. Yamashita Nobuhiro, 2005)
3. Hana and Alice (dir. Iwai Shunji, 2004)
4. Swing Girls (dir. Yaguchi Shinobu, 2004)
5. Solanin (dir. Miki Takahiro, 2010)
6. Sawako Decides (川の底からこんにちは, dir. Ishii Yuya, 2010)
7. Kikujiro (菊次郎の夏, dir. Kitano Takeshi, 1999)
8. Kamikaze Girls (下妻物語, dir. Nakashima Tetsuya, 2004)
9. The Great Yokai War (妖怪大戦争, dir. Miike Takashi, 2005)
10. Hula Girls (dir. Lee Sang-il, 2006)

Top Ten Weird Japanese Films

1. The Taste of Tea (茶の味, dir. Ishii Katsuhito, 2004)
2. Noriko’s Dinner Table (紀子の食卓, dir. Sono Sion, 2005)
3. Pastoral — To Die in the Country (田園に死す, dir. Terayama Shuji, 1974)
4. Funky Forest: The First Contact (ナイスの森 〜The First Contact〜, dir. Ishii Katsuhito, Ishimine Hajime, and Miki Shunichiro, 2005)
5. Visitor Q (dir. Miike Takashi, 2001)
6. Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani (dir. Aoyama Shinji, 2005)
7. House (dir. Obayashi Nobuhiko, 1977)
8. Rampo Noir (乱歩地獄, dir. Jissoki Akio, Kaneko Atsushi, Sato Hisayasu, and Takeuchi Suguru, 2005)
9. Pitfall (落とし穴, dir. Teshigahara Hiroshi, 1962)
10. Karaoke Terror (昭和歌謡大全集, dir. Shinohara Tetsuo, 2003)

And finally, although they’re not films,

Top Ten Anime Series

1. Cowboy Bebop
2. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
3. Paranoia Agent
4. Kemonozume
5. Mushi-shi
6. Texhnolyze
7. Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
8. Mononoke
9. The Tatami Galaxy
10. Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team

Disclaimer: These lists will fluctuate. Ask me again tomorrow and they might be surprisingly different.

Utsurun Desu. by Yoshida Sensha (伝染るんです。/吉田戦車)

Utsurun Desu. (which can roughly be translated as It’s Infectious.) was a four-panel gag strip (4コマ漫画) by Yoshida Sensha that featured a bizarre cast of recurring characters. The humor is strange and often awkward and outrageously funny. Here are a few of the strips:




NOTES: Also, after looking around, it turns out that the blog SAME HAT! has translated several Uturun Desu. strips, as well. Please check them out.

A Place That is Not There by nishioka bro. & sis. (そうではないところへ/西岡兄妹)

The following short opens the collection 地獄 (hell) by nishioka bro. & sis. (which is how their name is translated on the cover from 西岡兄妹). Like most of my Japanese-language books, I found 地獄 at a bookstore while studying abroad in Japan (when I came back home after three months, my suitcase was ridiculously heavy). I was drawn to their surreal artwork and bizarre stories that, in some cases, such as the example that follows, are more like poems.

Click on the images to enlarge, and read from right to left:







A daruma, or Dharma, is a Japanese doll that is associated with Buddhism, good luck, and wish fulfillment.

Arhat is a Buddhist term referring to someone who has reached enlightenment.

Spring Dream by Sai Yoshiko (春の夢/佐井好子)

Late this spring night, a red flower
Drops one petal on my breast, two on my hat.
I’m feeling pretty and whistling
All the way to the city where you live.

In the brief hours of the secret night,
Drunk on sweet sake,
Listening to fairy tales, we close our eyes
Like the kitten on the stove.

Farewell at three in the morning,
The gift that I hand to you.
Our parting words are endless,
A clock with a broken pendulum.

* * *

NOTES: Original lyrics on uta-net.