Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Friday, January 28, 2011

DVD Review: Eyes Wide Open

When a proper married man, much respected by his family and conservative community, cannot resist temptation entering his life in the form of a certain young woman, we know that story. What happens when temptation takes the form of a certain young man and the community is Orthodox Jewish, in contemporary Israel yet?

That Eyes Wide Open is disappointingly absent from the Oscar nominees in the Best Foreign Film category may say more about certain lingering attitudes in the international film industry than about director Haim Tabakman’s accomplishment. More than simply a gay-themed film, Eyes is an outstanding example of contemporary Israeli (and Jewish) filmmaking.

Whether in theaters or on DVD, Eyes Wide Open is a must-see film, not only because it shows us the impact on a traditional Orthodox Jewish community when two men enter into a forbidden homosexual relationship. It’s because it shows us an Israel the news doesn’t. This isn’t the Israel of war and terrorism, nor the Israel of Biblical epics. It’s an Israel where contemporary everyday family life is bound by centuries of unshakable, unbreakable tradition. Along dusty stone streets families eat dinner, men go to Bible study with the rabbi, and those who feel a need for purification go to the healing waters in the desert.

It’s a worthy culture that’s endured for thousands of years but plainly has no place for homosexuality, especially not for a married man whom the local rabbi expects to allot justice to a sinner. While never disrespecting such a culture (or religion), or the gay community, this film demonstrates why a man cannot live as both an Orthodox Jew and a homosexual. The two worlds can simply, tragically never be made to co-exist.

If the film falls short, it’s that the ending feels forced, unsatisfactory, and leaves too many questions unanswered. Without giving too much away, however, such a conclusion does reflect what happens in real life when a similar situation allows no satisfactory resolution.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Women's Shelter of Long Beach (Article Link)

Link to my and Terelle Jerricks' article about the Women's Shelter of Long Beach:

I did the original research and about half the writing, he expanded on it. If the above link doesn't work, try to copy and paste it to your browser.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

REVIEW: DMP/June/801 Manga

You've heard of a director's cut of a film, right? Here's a "writer's cut" of my manga review, "Yaoi For Christmas" featured in the Dec. 2010 issue of Blade. (I also have an article in the Jan. 2011 Blade about the Shoreline Squares, a GLBT square dance group in Long Beach.)

Yaoi: Kizuna and More from DMP/June/801
by Lyn Jensen

Enjoy the holidays (or start out the new year) with the latest yaoi manga (gay-themed Japanese graphic novels) from Digital Manga Publishing (DMP). Also known as Digital Manga, Inc. (DMI), the Gardena-based publisher rivals TokyoPop and VIZ as a publisher of Japanese comics in the USA. They’re an industry leader in yaoi, publishing about forty such graphic novels on the June (pronounced “Genet” like the writer) imprint every year, and about six more on the niche 801 imprint.

June brings back to the American market two of the most popular and controversial yaoi manga series ever, Kizuna by Kodaka Kazuma and the Finder series by Ayano Yamane. Together they provide American audiences a look at the work of two of Japan’s greatest female manga artists. Both titles were picked up from Be Beautiful, a defunct American publisher.

Both series are rated for adults, 18-up, as both are grisly far-fetched dramas involving gangsters and rape, with eye-popping explicit homosexual content. However, DMP persuaded Borders (but not Barnes & Noble) to carry both series.

“Yamane wanted people to be able to find the book,” said a DMP spokesperson. The artist also insisted on a different translation from the Be Beautiful editions. Those were released as Target in the Finder, Cage in the Finder, and One Wing in the Finder. The DMP titles substitute Viewfinder for Finder.

Kizuna is being packaged differently from the Be Beautiful edition. The series currently runs eleven volumes in Japan but DMP is marketing a “deluxe edition” of six books, with the first ten volumes doubled up, and the final volume (vol. 11 in the original Japanese edition) becoming vol. 6. June has also licensed a couple more BL/yaoi titles by Ms. Kazuma, Border and Kusatta Kyo Shino Houteishiki.

Good news for fans of softer yaoi such as Little Butterfly is that June has available a similar manga by Hinako Takanaga, The Tyrant Falls in Love. In this three-volume manga, the seme’s a homophobe and the uke’s the gay guy who really, really loves him. It was picked up from the long-languishing Drama Queen.

DMP’s 801 imprint is “fan-based, not mainstream-based,” according to a company spokesperson. It’s only marketed online and in independent bookstores. It publishes such titles as A Foreign Love Affair (another Ayano Yamane manga) and the upcoming Under Grand Hotel, which some fans have branded too controversial for the American market. It’s an explict gay romance set in a prison, need we say more?

As for what’s happening in the new year, DMP is also getting into the yuri market (female-female romance) with the upcoming Hanou Gakuen Misoragumi, a manga about a girl who has feelings for other girls so, to keep her away from girls, her family sends her to a boys’ school.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When Yellow Means Risky Business

From "Manga" by Lyn Jensen--this review originally ran in LA Alternative in 2006.

At a recent interview in DMP’s Gardena office, Makoto Tateno explained her inspiration for Yellow. She read a lot of different manga but she’d never really come across a story about a gay guy and a straight guy as a pairing before, and she really loved action stories so she wanted to put them together.

“Goh and Taki are strong characters,” she explained through an interpreter, “They pulled the story along the way, there’s no real-life models or anyone that they’re based on.” She’d drawn several one-shot gay-themed stories before, but Yellow was her first multi-volume yaoi manga.

Her polar-opposite protagonists, Goh and Taki, prowl the seamy side of Tokyo, their wit and charm in stark contrast to Yellow’s plotlines that meander through murder, revenge, drugs, rape, theft, incest, hired assassins, and corrupt cops. The guys are double agents, professional thieves who work for the police. No real-life outlaws ever looked this cool, of course, but fans aren’t complaining.

Yellow is the color of risk, caution, between green and red, and in this manga it signifies the risky area between gay and straight. Gay and dark Goh, who normally goes for effeminate teenage boys, is finding himself attracted to a comparatively manly man in his straight(er) blond partner. Both are sexy and 22, one bragging about his men and the other his women, like a same-sex Will and Grace, which is unusual in yaoi where characters tend to obsess on a single object of desire.

Goh’s patience with Taki is eventually rewarded, but murky plot details threaten the lovers’ newfound passion. Vol. 4 concludes unsatisfactorily, with some irrevocable actions that turn out to not be so irrevocable, but getting there remains a thrill.

Tateno said she decided on the basic outline of Yellow before she started drawing it, and admitted she had trouble with the foreshadowing of the big climax.

She’s a self-taught artist who’s drawn “twelve or thirteen” manga series, mostly shojo comics, over about twenty years. Her art, similar to Kodaka Kazuma and Sanami Matoh, combines the shojo and shonen styles.

With Yellow concluded, DMP’s yaoi imprint, June, published Tateno’s second yaoi series, Hero Heel, in November [2006]. It’s about actors in a show that looks a lot like the Power Rangers series. [Since 2006 DMP/June has published Steal Moon and and follow-up's to Yellow.]