I have to say that I am mostly done with people reimagining other creative works. Like if I see another Disney princesses in some unexpected situation/getups or Alice in some other land than Wonder, I may very well pluck out at least one of my eyes to fling at the screen. I get why these sorts of reinterpretations exist, though. It’s an homage of sorts, like a fanzine or a parody doujinshi, a way of showing your love of the thing, a way of proving that you are a real fan. Or more cynically, maybe it’s just the artist taking advantage of a surefire way to draw some eyes to their work. And I’m not entirely unsympathetic to any or all of these goals. But I am tired of seeing the same work rehashed in the same old ways. After a while, it stops bringing anything new to the table. Although maybe I’m just getting old and I will soon start shaking my fist at the kids on my lawn.
But maybe it’s just I’m tired of the things that get remixed, because when est em tweeted that she had a new book of BL-ified fairy tales out, I was halfway to the bookstore before I had even finished reading the tweet. After all, this was no mere genderflipping of Ghibli characters by an artist I’d never heard of, this was one of my favourite manga artists turning those old classics into boy on boy action. And what action! (Sorry, I just had to write that. Apologies for ridiculousness.) The tagline on the back cover of the book says it better than I ever could: “All fairytales are made from one percent fact and ninety-nine percent boys’ love.”
It’s a pretty slim book with just six stories, one of which isn’t really a fairytale at all, but her adaptation of the story of Carmen, the opera and novel. Which you may recall I translated for TCAF last year. So at least one of these stories is available to you in English. You’ll probably have to wait for the others, though, until some enterprising publisher decides that the English-speaking world also deserves to see Red Riding Hood be seduced by the big bad wolf.
Leaving the anomalous “Carmen” aside, the other stories are all indeed BL-ified fairy tales as promised. Four were originally published back in 2009, while one—“Beauty and the Beast”—was drawn for this particular volume. But all the stories have not only been turned into boy-boy fun, but updated so that they are all set in the here and now. Rather than simply switch out any girl characters for boys, em completely reimagines the plots, taking only the basic story beats to connect to the fairytales she is borrowing from.
So Cinderella (aka Elard) becomes a young salaryman working at his father’s company. But due to a corporate takeover, he is pushed to the bottom of the ladder and made to work under horrible conditions: extreme overtime, fetching coffee, making all the copies. In contrast, the prince lives a life of luxury, but feels boxed in. Because, of course, he’s gay, but has to be in the closet for the sake of his prince-liness. And his king dad is trying to make him find a bride and have some babies already for the family. This does not sit so well with Prince and he continually pushes aside any and all eligible ladies. Because, you know, gay. But one night, he goes to a costumed fetish party at a gay club (as I’m now assuming all royalty does) and meets our poor, put-upon Cinderella in lingerie, a feather boa, and man-sized pumps. They have some anonymous hook-up action in the loo, but then Cinderella has to get back to work because of the evil boss and Prince is left holding a single pump. You know how the rest of the story plays out–the hunt across the land to find the owner of the shoe–and I won’t spoil the rest of the twists em brings to the page here. But I will say that the way she reinterprets the whole story is very satisfying and much more interesting than simply making Cinderella a guy.
And I could say the same about the rest of the stories in this book. Red Riding Hood’s grandmother is super rich and decides to disinherit her entire no-good family, except Red Riding Hood who’s the only one who ever came to visit her while she was sick, in favour of a young hottie she’s head over heels for. The little mermaid is intent of preventing a wealthy man from building a resort on the breeding grounds of the merpeople. Princess Kaguya from the only Japanese story in this collection is now an ultra-gorgeous model who longs for the moon while every fashion designer in the business wants him to walk their runway.
And Beauty is a young editor charged with taming the Beast of a best-selling novelist. This is the story that completely won my heart, mostly because of the delightful contrast between Beast and Beauty. The editor is small, besuited, and eager to do anything to work with this author who actually inspired him to become an editor in the first place. And the writer is bearded, terse, and huge, looming over the editor and not particularly interested in cooperating in the completion of his manuscript. But young editor is not dissuaded! He cooks delicious meals and generally tries to take care of the writer so that Beast has the mental leeway to work on writing. But just when things seem to be working out, dum dum dummmmm! The villain appears! Will Beast finish his manuscript?! Will the editor appease his savage heart?! Yeah, it’s great.
“Beauty and the Beast” is also the only story that looks distinctly different, most likely because all the other stories were done several years ago, while this one was done for the publication of this tankobon. But that visual difference really works for the content of the story as well. The other stories feel more serious, more earnest in their intent, and the linework is similarly earnest and serious. Think Tableau No. 20. But the lines in “Beauty” are thicker, blacker, surer, and the pages basically lack any shading or background at all, giving a bit of a comics page feel to the whole thing that very much works with the comedic nature of the interpretation.
I feel like this is a book that could win est em new fans in both Japanese and English (were it to ever be published on this side of the ocean). The stories are so accessible in that we basically already know them, but so uniquely hers. And any fujoshi worth her salt is going to want a book full of BL-ified fairy tales. I think I tweeted this when I first picked the book up, but really, it’s so obviously ripe for the picking, why did no one come out with BL fairy tales before this? Or do I just not know about the people who did? Feel free to school me. Because after reading this collection, I am definitely ready to see more BL interpretations of fairy tales. And other unexpected mashups. Just don’t tweet me any Disney prince BL, okay?