Bright no Yuuutsu: Takemiya Keiko

Given the title and the cover, I thought Bright no Yuuutsu would be pretty standard shojo style, just with a boy in the lead role. Friends, it is not. It is so much more than that, so much more baffling than I could even imagine when I turned the first page and began to read. It’s one of those books that seems to have been going in an entirely different direction before some editorial or reader feedback came in to set this ship on a brand-new course, much like Takemiya’s Terra e. With every page came new surprises! And given the grinding rut of life in a worsening pandemic and the descent of winter taking away the opportunity for the most meagre of social activities like beers in the park, this nearly 400-page rollercoaster ride was absolutely the thing I needed to be reading right now. 

It is no secret that I am a fan of Keiko Takemiya. I waxed long if not poetically about her masterpiece Kaze to Ki no Uta. And while none of her other work I’ve read has ever managed to top that daring early shonen-ai series, she consistently offers readers imaginative and entertaining experiences with expert pacing and panelling and just the loveliest art to grace the pages of comics. And Bright is no exception in that sense. It’s gorgeous and adventurous and thoughtful in its own weird way. But wow! That way sure is weird!

A note on one of the first pages tells us that the story is set a hundred years into the future. So you might expect some of the trappings of Terra e, and yes, there are spaceships and a bunch of fun futuristic doodads, plus cities on the moon and Mars and bases out at Jupiter and other places. Humankind has at last colonized the stars! That’s not the focus of the book, though. Bright is all about the journey of the titular Bright Sheraton from birth until young adulthood, and Bright kind of sucks. He thinks he’s all that and then some, he’s disdainful of pretty much everyone else in the world, and he’s on a singular mission to protect his younger twin sister, Nanae, from anyone who would harm her. He receives this mission on the day of their birth because oh yeah, he has telepathic abilities. Sure, why not? So his first memory is of being born and hearing a voice tell him to protect Nanae, who looks like a turnip. Yes, Bright got all the good looks and brains and everything, and Nanae is an ugly lump of a girl.  

Then we jump ahead a few years to when he’s somehow making his riding instructor’s heart pound like the most handsome man on earth is flirting with her, which is creepy to say the least. But this uncomfortable scene is interrupted by Papa Sheraton’s helicopter coming down to land at the massive Sheraton estate. Turns out the Sheratons are maybe the richest people in the world? They own a whole bunch of stuff, anyway. Papa is super indulgent of his little princess, and 5-year-old Nanae looks like a normal girl and not a human turnip. But given her lack of big shojo eyes and the usual girly flourishes, we can safely assume that she is still no beauty. Bright knows this and he knows that people with be after her for her status and money, and so he must protect her.

All well and good until suddenly the astronaut Dan Mild shows up with his psychic wife who somehow becomes Bright’s tutor for no reason. She uses her psychic powers to appear before Bright as a girl the same age as he is for the flimsiest of reasons. And Mama Sheraton worked as Dan’s housekeeper until she finally agreed to marry Papa, but she longs to return to the position? Cleaning up after him is her passion? For some reason? Things are off to an unclear start!

Eventually, “protect Nanae” becomes “Nanae shall have no one other than me” when a potential suitor comes onto the scene, and Bright sends himself away to a training high school on Mars so he can become an astronaut. Except he can’t because he has to take over his dad’s company. There he uses his psychic powers to almost kill a classmate to teach him a lesson about…overcoming his past troubles? He does some networking, too, getting a terraforming project set up on Mars so that people can live without fear of shelters getting hit by asteroids. He’s a busy 16-year-old. 

But all that astronaut stuff falls by the wayside when he meets the psychic projection of an unborn baby, with whom he promptly falls in love. Yes, this happens. His family and would-be friends try to save him from himself, while he is busy committing to a baby and their future together when she is all grown up. 

I don’t usually dip so deep into the plot here, but I haven’t told you every wild detail. There’s plenty of weirdness left for you to discover! And me telling you all this will not detract in the least from the pleasure of reading the book. I guess this is a follow-up to Watashi o Tsuki Made Tsuretette!, which I haven’t read and maybe this book would make a lot more sense if I had. (I thought Bright was an entirely standalone work when I ordered it.) I feel like it actually wouldn’t, though. This series began in 2000 and ended in 2004, almost twenty years after Tsuki Made ended. Takemiya’s style and thinking no doubt changed quite a bit during those intervening years, not to mention that by 2000, her place as a master in the history of manga was firmly cemented. If you have a career as long and as storied as hers, I feel like you get to do a totally and unapologetically bonkers story at least once. And this is that story.  

3 thoughts on “Bright no Yuuutsu: Takemiya Keiko

  1. Oh wow–thanks for bringing this to my attention. I thought, despite my far from even very good Japanese, that I was pretty aware of all of Takemiya’s major works and even lesser known ones (ever read her late 80s British pansexual soap set in London, Spanish Harem? Check it out). I have seen the cover of the tankoubon for this (and thought–magician manga?) But as soon as you mentioned an astronaut called Dan–not to mention all the cross-generational stuff here, my immediate thought was… Fly Me to the Moon? I’ve only read the first two volumes which are very cute (in a very weird maybe slightly creepy way) and definitely the lightest major Takamiya I’ve read. I gather from a friend in Japan who I trust on these things that it was *extremely* popular when it came out–Takemiya was almost as well known for it as Terra and Kaze (or so she says–but she was there at the time, I wasn’t even born yet, let alone in Japan…) This sounds like one of those loose sequels a lot of older manga titles seem to have–sorta a half “set in the same universe” story (maybe it *was* only mid way through that she decided to introduce Dan and connect them directly?) Anyway–something else to add to the list!

    Eric

    1. Oh–and I forgot to add interesting looking at the samples here next to art from Fly Me to the Moon! I’m always fascinated at how (and when) these classic shoujo manga-ka’s styles seemed to change the most. I only recently came across an interview with Moto Hagio where she mentioned that when she started Mesh in 1980 (my choice for her most underrated work–at least among any Western Hagio fans I meet who have never heard of it…) she consciously wanted her style to “grow up” which involved making the panel transitions more “concrete” and less fluid but also specifically making the heads of the characters less large, proportionally to their bodies which she said was originally (the larger heads) meant to appeal to younger readers and she was moving on to Petit Flower, etc, and growing up herself. While I know Hagio and Takemiya haven’t really even spoken to each other since *whatever* happened in the mid 70s, I see something similar in how Takemiya’s style changed (granted some of this might just be manga style changes in general). Anyway… I’m rambling. Thanks for the great reading (and the shock of finding out there’s a Fly Me to the Moon sequel! bTW apparently Fly Me to the Moon came *very very* close to being a TV anime until the people in charge at the studio were replaced–which makes sense to me as it kinda fits in with some of the weird early 80s shoujo tv animes that did get made).

    2. I have not read this pansexual soap opera by Takemiya, but I will be rectifying that immediately! Thanks for the heads-up. I hope you enjoy this book, too. You’ll probably get more from it than I did, given you’ve actually read what it is meant to be a sequel to.

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