Today, we come not to praise a magazine, but to eulogize it.
Western manga fans know the feeling of frustration when a publisher ceases to carry a title they like. Japanese manga fans know this feeling as well. Here we are, reading a delightful series, when suddenly on the last page of the magazine there’s a notice that “This is the final issue, thanks for reading!” And…that’s it. The series has ended, the manga magazine has shuttered its doors and the artists scramble to find other methods of distribution. (Yay for the Internet, which not only makes it possible for the artist to continue the series, bur also to collect it up in digital doujinshi, so those of us who can’t get to Comiket won’t have to miss out. Phew!)
Like western fandom, Japanese fandom is trendy. A manga or anime series, a creator, even a whole genre, will go in and out of fashion. When a fandom trend becomes very popular, a publisher may create a magazine to highlight the trend. As the trend fades, so do sales, and the magazine closes. This is perfectly typical in comic and manga publishing where teens stubbornly refuse to remain young, and wander away from the comic series they loved as kids, requiring publishers to develop a whole new market every couple of years or so.
Today we’re looking at one such recently deceased title, Waai! (わぁい！) .
Waai!, which was published by Ichijinsha, was dedicated to fans of “Otoko no ko”, which is to say, boys dressing (and sometimes passing,) as girls. I myself never managed to pick up a copy of Wai!. In October 2013 a friend reminded me I planed on reviewing it for this column, and I completely blanked on him, as we stood in front of the Waai! display in Animate in Tokyo. 6 months later it became moot, when Ichijinsha announced that Waai! was ceasing publication.
While it was running, Waai! included manga and prose fiction. The website was more informational, but did, on occasion, have sample chapters to read.
The Otoko no ko character may not necessarily be understood to be a transgender character – some are, some are not, it really depends on the series. and even in some where we, the readers, might recognize the character as being trans, such as Saito Chiho’s ongoing adaptation of the Heian classic Torikaebaya Monogatari, the character themselves may not identify as trans. Despite Waai!‘s suspension, the “Otoko no ko” is still an enduring manga stereotype and is carrying ongoing series like Minazuki Shinobu’s Himegoto (for which an anime is being announced on the above cover) or the popular Usotski Lily by Komura Ayumi, but after a few years of existence, Wai! itself has passed into the forest of magazines that bear no new leaves.
Waai! Magazine, from Ichijinsha, we hardly knew ye: http://www2.ichijinsha.co.jp/waai/