MANGA: Wandering Cat's Cage Chapter 02, by Akane Torikai
Deeper into the mysterious world without men...
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Akane Torikai’s Wandering Cat’s Cage. These first few chapters are a bit of a slow-burn, but there are a lot of hints of what’s to come in this week’s installment. We’re so excited to see that you’re along for the ride.
This week’s chapter is paywalled, and therefore only available to read to paid subscribers to MSX: Mangasplaining Extra. Not a paid subscriber yet? Click the button below, and get started!
If you missed it, or you’re new to MSX, you can catch up with chapter one of Wandering Cat’s Cage, and see the index for all of our manga series, (including our other current series, Search and Destroy) here. If you just want this week’s chapter of Wandering Cat’s Cage and to skip the essay below, scroll down to the title.
Christopher here, and I just wanted to share a quick story this week. Thanks for indulging me.
I actually was fortunate enough to meet Akane Torikai in person, back in 2018, though I wasn’t familiar with her body of work at the time. Torikai-sensei’s manga hadn’t yet been translated into English, although she was becoming quite the sensation in Japan for her comics and her online diary/blog (collected in the book “漫画みたいな恋ください” or “Please give me love like a manga”!).
I was introduced to her because she came to Toronto on vacation, with her then fiancé Inio Asano, who was a guest of the show. She would later come back and be a guest at TCAF, and she talks about that and her relationship with Asano in this interview Deb conducted last year ago:
At TCAF I worked closely with then Japanese guest coordinator Jocelyne Allen (Hi Jocelyne!) who handled interpreting for that meeting between myself and these two manga luminaries. I then took care of both of them for the weekend. I remember asking Jocelyne, when I found out upon meeting Torikai-sensei that she was also a manga-ka “Oh no, should we set up a signing for her too?” but it was a little late for that, lol.
Later that year while visiting Tokyo, Jocelyne and I got an email from manga translator and historian (and agent and editor and prolific Instagrammer) Ryan Holmberg. Ryan offered us an invite to dinner with Torikai-sensei. It would also be a brainstorming session about the best ways to get her work translated into and published in English, which was very kind of him to set up. I was working for VIZ Media at the time and had a little bit of insight into what it took to get stuff published (spoilers: be an AAA international multimedia property). We were happy to accept the dinner invite!
We had a great time. Pleasant and thoughtful dinner conversations and delicious beverages were had. Akane Torikai brought copies of her new books for Ryan and gave a set to Jocelyne and I. Jocelyne and Torikai-sensei became friends, and we all talked about the North American manga market and, frankly, its hostility towards women’s manga.
In 2018 it looked bleak, trying to get josei/women’s manga published in English, either from the popular or independent pubs. My pessimism was confirmed when I showed that new book around to a few publishers later and was met with a chorus of “It’s not the kind of thing that’s selling right now.” That book, by the way, was Wandering Cat’s Cage.
An aside: FWIW I think things are getting better. Ryan has helped bring the work of Kuniko Tsurita to print with The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud from Drawn & Quarterly, and Kodansha has been moving into that space more aggressively lately, especially with their digital offerings and even publishing Torikai’s Sensei’s Pious Lie omnibuses in print. I hope this is just the start, too.
So from that meeting until today, I kept Wandering Cat’s Cage with me, metaphorically and physically. When SubStack invited us to work with them in their comics creator program, I wondered, worried really, if Wandering Cat’s Cage had finally found a home.
I asked Deb and explained this project and its merits, and she was just as entranced and excited about it as I was. We reached out to Jocelyne to see if she wanted to help shepherd this book into print in both translation and working with Torikai-sensei (she did!), Ryan to get his blessing to move forward directly with the author (he was cool!) and then to Eric Reynolds to see if Fantagraphics wanted to be a print partner for this title (they did!).
But most importantly, Akane Torikai had our backs, totally understanding what we were trying to do with this serialization on MSX, with our proposal to turn this two-volume, literary women’s manga into a Graphic Novel for the North American market, and for putting in a very good word for us with publisher Kadokawa (from whom we licensed this title).
Every part of bringing this title to English has been pretty weird. It’s not what manga licensing really is in 2023. Normally you send an email to a rights agent who contacts the company. Then maybe 3-6 months later, you’ll find out whether or not you got the license.
For this story, we wanted to change the format, we wanted to serialize online it first — all very unusual approaches to publishing manga for starters. Then we worked with friends, and friends of friends, and we worked with the author herself… We went in through the side-door, let’s say. And it worked. At various moments, more than once, we thought that maybe it wouldn’t. We’re so lucky, and so happy, and now we’re all getting to read Wandering Cat’s Cage.
Another aside: The actual nuts-and-bolts contract stuff took a lot of work from Jocelyne, Eric, our man in Japan Aki Yanagi, our buddy Erik Ko, and yeah, me as well… it wasn’t just a smile and a handshake like it was with Higa-san and it took a while to sort out. We learned a lot along the way.
So now every other week we get a new chapter from Torikai-sensei, from Jocelyne, and letterer Sara Linsley and with Deb’s editor’s eyes on it. I hope it’s as much of a treat for you as it is for me. When this collected edition comes out next year, it’s going to be a hell of a beautiful hardcover from Fantagraphics, and that’s neat too. So our thanks to everyone along the way who helped make this a reality, and to everyone who is reading it now and supporting us in this endeavour on SubStack. We couldn’t do it without you.
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Wandering Cat’s Cage - Chapter 02
By Akane Torikai
Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Lettered by Sara Linsley. Edited by Deb Aoki.
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