I 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
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
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
By 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
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
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
How much more can I say about this series without covering the same ground as I did before? I guess the key point for Book Three is that wow, the story just does not stop. Takemiya is not kidding around here. More often than I’d like, a manga series will settle in the middle, almost like taking a little break before getting back into the action that will finish the whole thing off. And to be honest, I was expecting that from Kaze since you know, Books One and Two were already pretty intense, and covered a lot of ground, so it seemed natural that Book Three would have a bit more of the ho-hum daily grind to it. But no!
This one is Gilbert from start to finish, mostly from the perspective of his uncle (and other things to be touched on later in the spoiler section; I’ll warn you) Auguste Beau. This is where we learn all about Gilbert’s tragic past, the things that presumably made him into the beautiful tempter of all young men that we met in the first book. Here is a fun fact that is likely not surprising at this point: His past is tragic! And full of a *lot* of very messed up people. Including, but not limited to, his own parents. Continue reading