Pharaoh no Haka: Takemiya Keiko

I actually started reading this series years ago. I got through book one and realized that for some reason, I did not have book three even though books two and four were sitting on my shelf. I knew when I started this saga, Takemiya’s first real long-form work, that it was complete in four volumes and so I intended to purchase all four volumes and read the whole thing at once. And yet? Volume three was not there. Did I lose it? Did I somehow overlook that three comes between two and four? Who can say! All I know is that upon discovering the lack of a volume three, I decided to shelve the series until I could read it in its entirety. 

But oddly, volume three turned out to be impossible to obtain. No bookstore I frequented had it on its shelf; my favourite online retailer continually listed it as unavailable. I feared that I would never find out what happened to prince-turned-slave Sariokis (I don’t know how to spell any of these ridiculous katakana names). And then a couple months ago, volume three was suddenly available once more. So I clicked on that order button and had it sent to my home away from Tokyo. Now, the tale can be told. 

Continue reading “Pharaoh no Haka: Takemiya Keiko”

Shojo Manga no Uchu: Tosho no Ie (ed.)

If you’re a fan of classic shojo artists like Hagio Moto or Takemiya Keiko, you have noticed the science fiction works that dot their oeuvre, books like 11 Nin Iru! or Terra e. If you have dived a little deeper into the Year 24 Group to read artists like Yamagishi Ryoko and Oshima Yumiko (sadly unpublished in English), you’ve come across a lot more speculative manga and maybe wondered to yourself just what was in the water back in the seventies that got all these ladies drawing space ships and spirits. Because I would like to add it back to the water now and get some hot new science fiction from someone like Anno Moyoco. (Can you even imagine what that would look like??)

This is not to say that no manga artist is doing SFF these days. But the particular combination of shojo artist and speculative fiction seems to have fallen out of favour, to the detriment of both genres. The grand ideas and fantastic vistas of SFF seem tailor made for the drama, romance, and introspection that mark shojo manga. And indeed, we saw this perfect marriage in the explosion of popularity of SFF shojo in those long-ago decades. Takemiya’s Bright no Yuutsu, for instance, is a glorious mashup of everything great about these two genres. And I want more, dammit. (If you know of any shojo SFF that I should be reading, you should get down to the comments right now and tell me.)

So I am clearly the target audience for a book about science fiction in shojo manga in the seventies and eighties. And let me take this moment to appreciate the glory of the Japanese publishing industry, producing such a niche book not as an absurdly expensive text from an academic press, but as something that can sit on the shojo shelves at your local bookstore. Less than two thousand yen for an extremely in-depth history!

Continue reading “Shojo Manga no Uchu: Tosho no Ie (ed.)”

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!

Continue reading “Bright no Yuuutsu: Takemiya Keiko”

Random Anniversary 4: My Brain


Almost two years to the day since my brain last celebrated the end of a journal, a sign that me and my brain need to work on spending more time with our journal and less time on Twitter. But the gratification from Twitter is instant, while the journal is more of a slow burn, and present me always needs cookies right now, all too often to the detriment of future me.

What happened in these two years documented in a little purple notebook that I got in Singapore? Who knows?? The notebook in question is tucked away in my Toronto apartment, while my brain and I are here in Tokyo. Recent happenings that are most certainly included in the journal include interpreting at TIFF in September and for author Hideo Furukawa last month (reasons why posting here has been especially light), but further back than that, and my poor memory grows hazy. I was in Japan a lot last year? Maybe? I lectured a bunch of hapless university students in America about gender in translation? I had some birthdays and my body continued its relentless march towards our inevitable decline? Continue reading “Random Anniversary 4: My Brain”

Shonen no Na wa Gilbert: Keiko Takemiya

GilbertI freely confess I had no idea what this book was until I peeled the plastic off and started reading. I simply saw Gilbert coolly gazing at me from the cover, the title, and the author’s name, and I could not pick it up off the shelf at the bookstore fast enough. I slapped some money down on the counter and raced out of the shop with my precious treasure, wondering if it was perhaps a new comic by Takemiya, a spin-off of the beloved Kaze to Ki no Uta. Whatever it was, I was going to read it. And I was pretty sure I was going to love it, because of all the Forty-Niners, Keiko Takemiya is the star in my sky.

And I did read it. And love it. So no surprises here. But rather than a spin-off or some other manga tangentially related to the beautiful and troubled Gilbert, Takemiya surprised me with a biography of Kaze. I’ve never read the biography of a work of art before. I’ve actually never heard of a biography of a work of art before. But this is a thing that should be done more often because it was absolutely fascinating. Takemiya guides us from her arrival in Tokyo at the age of twenty in 1970 through to the start of the serialization of Kaze in 1976, offering many a glimpse into not just herself and her own life and upbringing, but also into the manga industry at the time and the state of Japanese society in the 1970s.

I knew bits and pieces of this story: how Takemiya tried for years to get it published, how it was rejected over and over (as the cover notes in large font), how it was too racy for its time, how editors believed girls did not want to read about boys in love. But this is honestly not even half of the story. Takemiya’s journey to finally serializing what she calls her lifework is more than just a battle against the legions of male shojo manga editors who could never understand what girls actually wanted to read, it’s a battle against herself, her own insecurities and shortcomings as an artist. It’s a young woman finding herself and her voice that should really be read by all aspiring artists if only to reassure themselves that even the greats are plagued with the inner voice of “no”. It’s also a beautiful tale of friendship and women coming together against a male-dominated industry to assert their voices and lift each other up. So yes, Shonen basically has it all. Continue reading “Shonen no Na wa Gilbert: Keiko Takemiya”

Terra e (Books 1/2): Keiko Takemiya


Terra e

Now that I am finally free of the most pressing of my terrible deadlines, I have been doing so much more of what my brain loves the most: reading! Japanese, English, French, I even ventured over to the German and Swedish books on my shelves just to taste the joy of so many words (although my German and Swedish have rotted to seriously embarrassing levels. Especially embarrassing considering the fact that I am German…). I’ve been digging deep into the shelf of unread books, finding things I don’t even remember buying. Like this Japanese bunko book Eien no Tochu, which the bad cover tells me is a “realistic depiction of the uncertain heart of a woman”. Why is this on my shelf?

I also found things I do remember buying, thankfully. Like the first two books of Terra e. And I didn’t find other things I’m certain I bought. Like the third book of Terra e. Where did it go? Did it get lost in my recent move? Do I just think I bought it when I bought the first two, but I actually didn’t? Why is this happening? Whatever the reason, it is happening: I do not have the last book of Keiko Takemiya’s bizarre venture into scifi. So I don’t know how the story ends. I will buy the last book when I am again in Japan, but until then, the story will exist inside me, unfinished but also not really needing to be finished. It is that kind of story. 

And so my brain tackles books one and two for your reading pleasure! It’s no secret that my brain and I loooooooved Kaze to Ki no Uta, Takemiya’s epic tale of young lovers destroyed by the world around them, so I was eager to dig into another of her classic works (and this one’s been translated into English by those troopers over at Vertical!). But Terra is a whole different beast from Kaze, if only because they were drawn for two completely different audiences. Kaze was straight up shojo, with all the hearts and flowers that entails, while Terra was published in a shonen magazine and so attempts to hide its author’s shojo roots with varying degrees of success.  Continue reading “Terra e (Books 1/2): Keiko Takemiya”

Kaze to Ki no Uta (Books Nine and Ten): Keiko Takemiya

Kaze to Ki no Uta 9

The end! A journey beginning nearly two years ago brings us here. Oh those sweet innocent days when we did not know the depths to which Keiko Takemiya was capable of bringing a character! Remember when we had no idea how very in lust creepy nineteenth century Frenchmen were with tiny blond French boys? Yes, it was a gentler time. Now we have seen things, we know how cruel this world can be. Or at least the world of Takemiya’s juggernaut of tragedy, Kaze to Ki no Uta.

Having read the entire series now, I have to say again how incredible it is that this even got published at all. It took years for Takemiya to convince anyone to publish it uncensored, and you can see why. There is a *laht* of stuff that might offend basically anyone, especially in 1976 Japan. Incest? Check!  Rape? Check! Monstrous parental figures doing incredibly sick things? Check! But some smart editor saw the real value of this story and took a chance on it. And we have been crying over Gilbert ever since. Major spoilers coming your way now! The end is discussed! You have been warned! Continue reading “Kaze to Ki no Uta (Books Nine and Ten): Keiko Takemiya”

Kaze to Ki no Uta (Book 8): Keiko Takemiya

Kaze to Ki Vol. 8By now, it should be well established that I am in love with the incredible amount of over-the-top drama Keiko Takemiya has managed to cram into her classic series Kaze to Ki no Uta. I love every angsty minute of every angsty page as Serge and Gilbert struggle with their unbelievably traumatic pasts, the homophobic and racist society around them, and their own self-hatred. Basically, I love that this is pretty much what being a teenager is like. Everything! Is! Life! Or! Death! (Or was that just me?)

So in the spirit of a new look at my love for this series, I decided to live blog my reading of Book Eight. Come, see these classic pages in a new way: through my eyes! And in the spirit of classic TV sitcoms, this live blog was prerecorded in front of a live audience (mostly my sister) because I don’t actually have several hours in the middle of a work day to sit and read manga and hang out online to ramble about it. But in the spirit of actually live live blogs, I’ll be posting bits and pieces every few minutes and hanging out on Twitter, so really, it’ll be just like a non-prerecorded live blog.

And warning: As with my other posts on this series, there are spoilers in these bits and pieces. Click through if you dare!  Continue reading “Kaze to Ki no Uta (Book 8): Keiko Takemiya”

Kaze to Ki no Uta (Books Six and Seven): Keiko Takemiya

I can see how people might race through this series, and I have been tempted to, but I feel like I start to grow numb to the relentless drama of the whole thing after a couple volumes, so I am taking my time, letting every incredible detail sink in. I don’t want to miss a thing art- or story-wise. And if you’ve read the series yourself or even my spoilerrific posts on the first five books, you know that Takemiya is no slouch as an artist or a writer and there is a lot to take in. As always, if you don’t want to know anything that happens (I try not to give anything too crucial away) or vague discussion of assaults of the sexual kind don’t sit well with you, jump ship now. Go look at this adorable picture of Shigeru Mizuki with his Eisner Award. (Seriously! How cute is he?!)

Naturally, there’s no way Takemiya is going to let up with the over-the-topness at this late stage. She has staked out her ground and she is going all the way with it. High fives to her! After many, many pages of harrowing back story, Book Six brings us back to the boarding school in the countryside where Gilbert and Serge are still rooming together, and Gilbert is still playing the baddest boy the school has ever seen. And people still are acting shocked whenever Gilbert does something bad, like they still haven’t learned to expect it. Personally, if I didn’t see Gilbert sexing up Breau and drinking hard liquor in the middle of the day, I’d think something was up. Continue reading “Kaze to Ki no Uta (Books Six and Seven): Keiko Takemiya”

Kaze to Ki no Uta (Books Four and Five): Keiko Takemiya

The rollercoaster ride never stops! And I never want it to! I keep expecting Takemiya to relax a bit, give her readers some breathing space, but she just brings one shocking revelation after the other. And if you are wondering just how many shocking revelations the life of two teenage boys could possibly contain, don’t worry! Takemiya digs deep and offers up shocking revelations from the past for our reading pleasure. And what pleasure it is. As always when discussing Kaze, spoiler landmines lurk ahead along with some discussion of assault, although nothing detailed. If either of these facts are not one hundred percent with you, you should probably avoid anything after the jump.

I simply can’t get over how unrelenting this series is. This could be terrible in the wrong hands, but with Takemiya at the helm, it is an incredibly powerful way to reach the hearts of her target audience: pre-teen and teenage girls. Because this is really what it feels like to be that age, on the threshold of puberty, opening the door to adulthood and everything! is! so! dramatic! Everything is a crisis of epic proportions. You saw your friend talking to the guy you like? She’s in love with him too! How could you not have seen it??? Your parents think an unchaperoned party is not the best idea for thirteen-year-old you? Your life is ruined! Forever! You will die ugly and alone! And don’t even make me remember what it was like when a boyfriend got all tangled up in these hormones.  Continue reading “Kaze to Ki no Uta (Books Four and Five): Keiko Takemiya”