When I first heard about Enma the Immortal, I am ashamed to admit I was immediately reminded of another Japanese pop-culture phenomenon, one which has lionized the attention of comic lovers: Blade of the Immortal. Aside from the similarity in titles, there are other connections: both start in the late feudal era, and both involve an antihero who’s been given the curse (not the gift) of immortality. But Enma is no BotI clone, and in fact once you start reading Enma it quickly diverges from anything BotI-ish and takes on its own flavor.Read more
High schooler Takao Kasuga has two ways of coping with life in the backwater known as Hikari City. Both should be innocent, but they turn out to be anything but. The first is books — the more esoteric and offbeat, the better, and that includes Charles Baudelaire’s poetry (which the title of this series references unambiguously). The second is his classmate Nanako Saeki — “my muse, my femme fatale,” as he rhapsodizes over her. So smitten is he for her, and so intoxicated has he become with Baudelaire’s hymns to lordly indecency, that when Nanako forgets her gym clothes at school one day he hastily swipes them and takes them home with him.
No, even he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s a lethal admixture of two normally incompatible impulses: a guilty conscience and an impulsive heart. Stealing Nanako’s shorts and tank top will take him the rest of his life to pay back; this he is positive of. And yet he went and did it all the same … and, worse, he finds out has a witness to his crime: Nakamura. This is not one of the other boys in his class, who rib him about his love of weird books and his moon-eyed feelings for Nanako. Nakamura is another girl, and if the text for Takao’s spirit is a hesitantly-read Baudelaire, hers is an enthusiastically-devoured Marquis de Sade. Read more
We are, I think, finally beginning to see the full flowering of a literature of true native Western Buddhism. By this I mean works written by Buddhists who are Westerners first and foremost, and whose understanding of both Western life and Buddhism complement each other. Brad Warner was one such writer: it was hard for an Akron, Ohio-born punk rocker turned ordained Soto Zen Buddhist not to have both his Buddhism and his Western-ism speak to each other. His books document all of that in a fun, accessible way for beginners, and perhaps also for experts who have gotten lost along the way.
Rebel Buddha is another well-written general introduction to Buddhism, by way of Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, and for that reason alone is worth checking out for beginners. What makes it doubly interesting is how it attempts to approach Buddhism as something that is inherently transplanted from one culture to another. Buddhism has migrated from India to China, Korea, Japan, the rest of Asia, and into Europe and the United States, and along each step of the way has found ways to become a living part of the culture that accepted it. Read more