Considering that there are ten books in the version of this series that my brain is attacking, I doubt that I will write about each and every book. Because you know, I am mostly going to be saying the same things. Which is to say, I’ll mostly be raving about the amazing artistry involved in the creation of this story. The more I read, the more obvious it becomes that Takemiya very much deserves her place in history as a manga pioneer. Kaze is so rich in detail, it almost overwhelms.
Gilbert continues his love-hate dance with Serge, at times, drawing him in close, and at other times, pushing him away ferociously. And he can be ferocious. Gilbert is almost psychopathic in his lack of empathy. He lashes out with fingernails, tabletops, whatever he can get his hands on. At one point, after what he feels is a serious betrayal by the mysterious Auguste, Gilbert smashes a glass against the table and threatens Serge with the broken edges. He fights against his own opposing desires of wanting Serge gone from his life, and wanting him to be closer, but he is unable to completely alienate the newcomer to the school, who takes it up as a mission of sorts to help Gilbert fight whatever demons are chasing him.
Serge wants everyone to get along, rather naively, a desire that seems to be born of the alienation he felt in his family as the son of a Roma prostitute and a French nobleman whose birth caused his father’s family to disown him. After the deaths of his parents, he is seemingly grudgingly taken in by that family, only to be made to perform like a trained monkey on the piano, at which he is apparently breathtakingly gifted. His sweetness is deceptive, though, since he can be just as obstinate as Gilbert when pressed. Faced with Gilbert’s violence, and then his attempts at seduction, Serge holds fast, refusing to cede even the slightest ground to his intractable roommate.
The art does not let up in the slightest. I would almost call her overly persistent in the portrayal of certain themes, if those portrayals weren’t so beautiful. Of course, there are the obvious pages, characters and panels framed in blossoming, vining flowers at moments of soft emotion, tenderness and other blossoming type feelings. But she also takes every chance to frame Gilbert and show the reader just how beautiful he really is, reminding us of why everyone in the story acts like total nutbars when it comes to this teenage boy. She actually literally frames him at one point with one of those old-style, gilt frames. And more of the jagged lines of despair popping up in more traumatic scenes. (And there are a *laht* of scenes of trauma.) Although she certainly doesn’t limit herself to these shorthands. In one particularly crushing scene, Gilbert runs through the forest heartbroken, he trips and the reader turns the page to a tiny image of him falling into the snow, surrounded by black, with white snow continuing to fall. Yeah, that’s a broken heart right there.
And thematically, Takemiya continues to examine the young heart and all the problems it faces. She boldly (for a shojo manga in 1976 and maybe even still) makes explicit the idea of hurting yourself to cope with the hurt inflicted on you, in a conversation between Rosmarine and Auguste. Through Serge and his confused wonderings, she explores the disconnect between the body and the brain, as he wonders why he feels like he and Gilbert are just friends and yet his body reacts in a way he doesn’t understand. The spread she devotes to Serge going to confession and trying to figure out what he wants, what his body wants, what is right, made such an impact on me. Images of beautiful Gilbert swirl around the edges of the pages while Serge sits in the center, thinking about the kiss, thinking about the night they slept together (and yes, for once in this series, it was just sleeping), trying to figure out what to tell the priest, trying to be honest while at the same time knowing that his honesty will only cause him trouble. It’s just so expressive and such a perfect look into the confusion that only a fourteen-year-old can really experience.
The story also pushes ever-outward, with the first glimpse at Gilbert’s back story coming near the end of the book. I look forward to some uncomfortable times in the next book as family relations become clearer and I squirm at the creepiness. Because just because I have translated a book where two brothers get it on does not mean I enjoy the incest action. (Seriously, two brothers. It was just too creepy for me.) (Although no judgement! No shame in your game and all that.) It’ll be a while before I get to squirm like that since I don’t have Book Three right now, and buying it will probably have to wait until my next trip to Japan. Because I already have a stack of books waiting to be read, and really, I can’t justify buying more books. (And yet I too often seem to justify it, hence the giant stack of unread books.) (Oh sigh.)