I don’t usually come back to a series to write about the end of it when I’ve written about the beginning of it. There are so many other books to talk about, books that haven’t had any words written about them in English, and I’d generally rather give all those other fine warriors a chance at battle with my brain. But some artists and some series head off into truly unexpected and uncharted places, and I feel compelled to come back and smash my head against the keyboard to figure out just where they took me and what it all means.
Shirai Yumiko’s Wombs is one such series, the story of human colonizers at war with a second wave of human colonizers on a planet with a unique alien species that allows pregnant creatures to slip through a separate dimension to warp through our spacetime. Just that sentence right there is a whole lot, right? It’s going to take more than one 1000-word essay to unpack five fat books of that. Takemiya Keiko’s Kaze to Ki no Uta is another series that pulled my brain out of my head and put it back in upside down. Ten books of drama that never stopped upping the stakes and taking me on the wildest shojo rollercoaster I’ve ever ridden.
Reading volume one of Amazoness Kiss back when it came out in those glorious Before Times when I could still go to Japan and fondle books (not in a creepy way) (well, maybe it was a little bit creepy) in the bookstores, I wasn’t expecting to need to revisit the later volumes here. It seemed like it was on track to continue as an extension of ideas that Ishitsuyo had been working through in Magician A (get your copy today!), pushing further into the concept of business as occult and the working of the modern world into a kind of mythology. But then she trots out a mini golf putt-off between occult sex club and an astral projection cult, and well, here we are, discussing the ending of Amazoness Kiss.
It should go without saying that there will be spoilers, although I will try to keep them to a minimum. But they are really weird spoilers that you will never see coming. And honestly won’t detract in the slightest from your enjoyment of the story and the way all these things play out because it is all more off the wall than I could ever portray in words here, and Ishitsuyo’s drawing and panelling only gets better and more capable at portraying this spiritual turf war the longer it goes on. Plus, the books are treasures in and of themselves. Three volumes printed on heavy white stock so that the blacks really pop, and each volume is fatter and more satisfying than the last for a total of nearly eight hundred pages of psychic powers through sexual contact.
At the end of volume one, Hazuki has found her place at her idol Junko’s new business Amazoness Kiss, a place to train your perceptions to go to the next dimension with psychic power. The training varies from trainer to trainer, but pretty much always involves orgasming and absolutely no kissing. Hazuki finds her powers as a fortune teller grow the more she trains with Junko, and she sees one fortune after another come to pass, not all of them good. Junko is pleased that her business is thriving and brings on more trainers, while friend Elza warns her that this is the way that cancer sneaks in and poisons everything. And indeed the truly loathsome Taiki blackmails and wrangles his way into the club and begins to split it apart from the inside. But Junko gives herself over to fate and allows the path she is on to take her where it will. She has faith.
Two competitors for the title of Amazoness appear and Ishitsuyo takes us back into the past when Junko and Elza were school girls dabbling in the occult with a man named Hercules who ran the original Amazoness training school. Like a lot of characters in this series, Hercules has no eyes or face to speak of—he is only eyebrows and beard and jawline. But he initiates Junko and Elsa into his school of reaching a higher dimension through sexual pleasure after encountering Junko while they are both astral projecting. This is where the original cancer enters the mix, another school girl named Mongyu. After the fall of Hercules (for sexy times with underage girls, obviously), these three girls each insist that they are the rightful heir to his school, the one and only true Amazoness. This is where the putt-off comes in when they are all grown-ups vying for supremacy.
Except it’s not about supremacy at all. It’s about myth-making and faith, and how a true and sincere belief can change the world, although not necessarily in the way you would want. The characters don’t win by fighting; they win by being devoted, by staying true. Not mindlessly, but in a flexible way that allows them to look at the world and say, “yes, this is happening, but this is how I feel about it, this is who I am, and this is what I believe,” and then stay the course.
There’s a strange rhythm to the story, with teachers rising and falling, students ascending to take their places, just as myth is so often circular, taking us back to where we began, in a slightly different form. There’s also an interesting parallel with traditional art and religious schools in Japan that we don’t really see in most Western countries. With things like ikebana or Buddhist sects, there is a leader of the school and the students study with them and inherit their name, but some students will break away to create their own schools to address different aspects of their art and spirituality. And even when a true successor to a school comes along, she often must change the nature of the school in order to continue in a changing world, something we see in Amazoness Kiss as all three branches of Hercules’ teachings find their new successors.
In the end, Junko’s path of sexuality is only one of the roads to a higher dimension, a deeper understanding of life, and psychic powers. But the devotees of all the schools manage to find their fortune and way forward. It’s a matter of faith and the certainty of their own places in the story. And mini golf. And sexy sexy times. Never kissing, though.