|> Articles||Forbidden feelings...|
Important notice. Due to the large size of the article, nobody wanted to translate it for me. Fortunately, my friend Isabelle accepted to do this for me, but she hadn't much free time to spare on it. So she didn't translate the end of the article, and she didn't check the spelling at all. I must admit that I hadn't much time, too, to proof-read the article by myself. So thank you for not complaining too much about the (poor, I'm afraid) translation. It will be improved later, in some years. Thanks.
Shoujo manga are, as you all know, centered on eternal love stories. That's quite normal, they're aimed at the girls, who are are often more romantic and sensitive than boys (well, than most of boys... ^_^;). Mangaka have also shown love in all its facets.
Of course, there are "ordinary" situations in shoujo, as well as in shounen manga. Like the shy young couple afraid to confess each other their shared love and let the story go on for a long, long time; like the love triangle (from which one of the members must finally get excluded or go by him/herself); or the man and the woman who live together and love each other, but don't want to say it because he has a dangerous job and she is her more-than-devoted assistant. No, no, I didn't especially think of Maison Ikkoku, Orange Road or City Hunter... err, maybe yes, after all...
All this is quite nice, but people ask for originality and diversity. As shoujo manga is a broad-minded art, new kinds of love stories were expected to appear one day. As perfect symbiosis between reality and fantasy one can always find in manga. Stop ! Access is now restricted to girls only ! Sex ambiguity enters the manga world to overturn our hearts.
Have you ever seen, in your Japanese comics, a man who uses lipstick, has a little bosom and a passion for roses, or a woman with brutal gestures and words, tall, flat-chested and sportive ?
Both have always been present in Japanese animation, as Japanese like to play with our feelings. In Saint Seiya, it's probably to make the story not too machist that Masumi Kurumada introduced someone like Shun as one of the five heroes. He has, like Shin from the Samurai Troopers or Reiga from Shurato, more female hormones than average: the young boy, thirteen, has got an extraordinary sensibility, his voice has nearly not broken (especially in the Japanese version), he never stops whimpering and cannot help asking for the assistance of his big brother, the personnificated male... But he can be very strong too, when he manages to control himself. He also becomes one of the most powerful Bronze Saints. Ikki has understood this fact and tries to change him: in the last movie, Saishuuseisen no senshitachi (Lucifer or the warriors of the last crusade), he interfers to help Shun and kills his opponent, but that time he does not help him to get up, and just says, without turning over: "If you really want to save Athena, you have to use your own strength. You think the battle is over because your enemy is defeated ? No, the fight against Lucifer is just begining !"... and he starts running, letting his distraught brother behind him. Shun has managed, alone, to defeat Aphrodite and Syd... he just has to be self-confident. As he his the half-feminine element of the group, the lesson is available for both girls and boys. Girls have understood it, that's probably why Shun is the ladies' favorite Saint (note from the translator: am that unfeminine to prefer Ikki ? (note from René-Gilles: is this because it's the nickname I used for six years ? ^_^ But don't worry, imho Shun is lame and his brother's a great dude))...
There are many effeminated men in boys' stories. There are some other ones in Saint Seiya (Misty and Aphrodite of course), but also in High School ! Kimengumi, Dragon Ball (yes ! remember Zarbon, Freezer's partner, who is originally dubbed by Sho Hayami, alias Koji Nanjo from Zetsuai), Fûma no Kojiro, Hokuto no Ken (whereas it's easy to differentiate men of women : there's no ambiguity on the chest and muscle size), ans tens or even thousands others. But the androgyne is even more present among women. Sometimes, his/her sexual ambiguity is even one on the major interests of the story.
Moto Hagio, famous for shoujo manga often centered on homosexuality, has written the story of a beautiful sci-fi cartoon, Juu-ichi nin iru (They were eleven, 1986, 90 minutes), which deals with the androgynes problem. The story takes place in the future. Ten young people from different origins and spheres aim to pass an exam to be admitted at the Space Academy. After a rude selection they are proposed a last test : to survive 53 days in an abandonned spaceship. Of course this mission is not that easy, the team is confronted to a mysterious virus they try to stop, and to an eleventh passenger who spreads panic, since all have real motivations. The tensions between the different characters is easily imaginable.
But the ship is the theater of the birth of Love between the hero, Tada, and an androgyne, Froll, whose past is very interesting : on his/her planet, beings don't have sexual attributes the day of their birth. When they come of age they are injected male or female hormones, which induct physical changes and determine their sex. But there women are regarded has less-than-nothing and are condemned to be the Nth wife of a (happy) man. To enjoy the privilege of being a man (that's not me who said that uhuh !), one must either be the eldest of a family or prove one's big capacities. That's why Froll wants to enter the Space Academy, that would be a sufficient proof to obtain what he/she dreams of.
Tada, being in love with her (I say "her" in order not to schock, OK), is torn between his desire to make her happiness (which implies succeeding the test) and his envy to marry her. The idea is really extraordinary. Don't worry, the movie ends well (and even a little too well, in my humble opinion). Theres's another androgyne in the crew, Knume, but it is more legitimate to say that the inhabitants of his planet are men who can reproduce without the help of women... To get back to the movie, it is drawn by... Akio Sugino, character designer of the famous series Oniisama e (I will talk about it later) and Cobra. There is an excellent French version, but it sleeps in AB Productions' cartoons, who think it has no commercial potential. At last, the manga it is based on, one volume long, has been published in the USA in small parts. But I mainly recommend the movie.
Another celebrity of shoujo manga who used the same principal to the utmost is Riyoko Ikeda, creator of Versailles no bara (1972)... I do not need to precise that Oscar is both man and woman ! This fabulous character is largely inspired from another woman disguised for the Crown's sake : Saphir, from Osamu Tezuka's Ribon no kishi (1953), which was (as by accident) yhe first shoujo in history. So the presence of androgynes in shoujo manga could be traced back to their origin !
Still from Riyoko Ikeda, there is another simple example. Oniisama e ("to my dear brother") , manga published in 1974 and adapted as a TV series in 1991, takes place in a quite strict girls high school, where reigns an unofficial authority, the Sorority Club, leaded by Fukiko Ichinomiya, alias Miss Miya. This pestigious pupils' circle only accepts members with a perfect morality and excellent school results, you see the plot. It implies jalousy between the pupils and this kind of things, and of course the heroin, Nanako, has the impression of being back to the Middle Ages by entering the school... She even first loses her best friend Tomoko (and even more in the manga, where this frienship never recovers its first strength !), which is the proof that she has totally changed of life.
In order not to get submerged by this new environment she clings to outside elements, like her friend and former teacher Takehiko Henmi (she calls him "much dear brother" without knowing he is really her half-brother), or Saint Just (alias Rei) and Kaoru, two elder pupils who have rebelled against the order established by the Sorority Club, and who will finally manage to make it dissolve. These two young women have the particuliarity (and that is our subject) to be androgynous and strangely attract every girl in the school, especially Saint-Just who is charming them with her guitar (or her piano in the TV series). The end of the story returns the characters to extrenal world. Kaoru, the sportive girl who recalls a little André Grandier (Lady Oscar's childhood friend), marries Takehiko and goes to Germany; In the manga she dies from illness (I love the way it is related), but in the anime she recovers and gives birth to a nice baby (she's a woman after all)... Yes, the TV series betrays the manga, but what a joy to finally see Kaoru happy... And this episode is so well-done !
To get back to the main theme of Oniisama e, it is easy to understand that sex segregation (and/or the androgynous side of some characters) often leads to homosexuality, to the attirance of a person for one of the same sex. This feeling is underlying in Oniisama e, but it is "officialy" accepted in another major work of the seventies, Keiko Takemiya's Kaze to ki no uta (1976). This author has been interested in all genres: science-fiction (the escellent Terra e, 1977, do not miss the english-subtitled movie version), heterosexual love stories, crossed or not (Natsu e no tobira), humour (fly me to the moon !) and quite a lot of manga mixing several genres together (Izaron densetsu...); so it is not surprising that she has been one of the first ones (the first one ?) to introduce homosexuality in her works and to present it as a banal matter of fact, almost current.
So here we are in 1880, in a boys boarding school near Arles, in southern France, country that fascinates Japanese (and not only them) because of the difference with their own. The story is centered on Serge Bailleul, a newcomer who shares his room with the star of the school, the young, beautiful, attractive and above all androgynous Gilbert Cocteau. The other pupils regard Gilbert as a woman and all dream of sharing a night with him. An invigilator rapes him, which causes Serge's anger and compassion for Girlbert. Their relationship is of course going to transform to a real love story. And end with a tragedy, Gilbert's death...
In 1987, Shogakukan, Herald (the company that produced Akira Kurosawa's Ran) and Konami (!) adapt the first volumes of the manga in a one hour OVA. The staff is not bad, just make your own opinion : the storyboard is from Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (Gundam, Venus Wars, Arion, Crusher Joe), the character design from Yoshikazu Kamimura (City Hunter, Arslan Legend, and once more Venus Wars and Arion), and the drawings are particularly signed by Ken-ichi Onuki (Earthian, Yotoden), Tsukasa Dokite (Dirty Pair, Captain Tylor, Patlabor 2), Hideyuki Motohashi (eminent member of Araki Productions, which most of the time adapts Go Nagai and Mitsuteru Yokoyama's works), Toshihiro Kawamoto (character designer on Gundam 0083 and Orguss 02), Koichi Chigira (director on the Tokyo Babylon OVA and of one of the Bronze videos, director assistant on Venus Wars) and even Keiko Takemiya herself, who has made some paintings at the end of the video. The dubbing choice is fabulous too : one can especially hear Kaneto Shiozawa (Muu in Saint Seiya, Larva in Miyu, Narcasse in Arslan), Hiroshi Takemura (Toma in Samurai Troopers, Joe in Crusher Joe) as Pascal Biquet, Serge and Gilbert's friend, Yoshiko Sakakibara (Kushana in Nausicaa and many other roles), Jurota Kosugi (Rajura in Samurai Troopers) and even Sho Hayami (Koji in Zetsuai) in the role of the too zealous invigilator (one must watch it to understand)... Le result is wonderful, the voices beautiful, colors really nice, and give a particular atmosphere to the anime, the scenery (drawn in the style of european "panoramic" paintings) renforcing it. Yes, the esthetic is worth crying, but the story is a little too centered on sex... well, not more than the manga, but it is not for its honor.
With time, homosexuality becomes more discret in shoujo manga : present in more works but less remarkable in them... The nineties have seen the establishment of two feminine authors : Yun Koga and the group Clamp. The first one is mostly known for two works (but which are not her only ones) published by Shinshokan (publisher of South and Wings), Genji and Earthian. Genji (what a wonderful manga !) takes place in Japan in two parallel dimensions : our present world and a fanciful one, where two Middle Ages enemy clans, the Taira and te Minamoto, fight wearing armours... but with tanks and flamethrowers. The hero is an 18-year-old boy, Katsumi (I know, it is usually a girl name !), who pursues the shadow of his girlfriend Sakura and goes searching for her as far as this strange dimension, he has a special relationship to Yoshitsune Minamoto, Genji's young brother (Genji is Katsumi's alter ego in that world), and to Kiyomori, a Taira who literally adores him. There are too many things to say about this series, I am not going to make a (risky) summary. Notice that the hero, because of his youth, is intrigued of these people who such care of him, and let them do out of... curiosity.
There is an OVA (2 episodes, 45 minutes each), drawn by Michitaka Kikuchi (Silent Möbius) and resume the first 5 volumes of the manga. A significant moment of the first episode is when Yoshitsune steals a kiss to Katsumi, as if he at last had the possibility to prove to this "reincarnation" of his brother how much affection he could have given to him. Katsumi accepts this kiss, but with some reticence; it shows him "better than any declaration", as he says to what extend Yoshitsune loved Genji. But he remains heterosexual, as he still looks for his eternal Love. I find Yun Koga has found a very nice way to use this "fashion effect" of shojo manga... Notice that in the anime Katsumi is dubbed by Nozomu Sasaki, who is a specialist of effeminated men. He for example gave their voice to Shin from YST and Chihaya from Earthian, who is not especially a machist hero. As for Clamp, their Rg Veda introduces the typical androgyne, Ashura, who is really neither a man nor a woman and is also classified as a feminine character by Animage and as a masculine one by Anime V !!!
The same thing can be said about Nataku (from X, Clamp again), an artificial being without sexual identity, with a masculine body but with the soul of a young woman...
These are just two example to show that homosexuality is now at the second ground (maybe it is better like this), but sometimes it happens that it is still a main element of the story. For example, once again one of Clamp's works, which I begin to know by heart : Tokyo Babylon. The story takes place in modern Tokyo, the city is presented as monstruous, suffocated by its habitants mass and its cosmopolite aspect. It is centered on three main characters : two twins (the boy, Subaru, and the girl, Hokuto), androgynes (or maybe it is Subaru who is too effeminate, because Hokuto is a woman and it is visible) descendants of the Sumeragi family, reputed for the paranormal powers of its member, and Seishiro Sukarazuka, a (at first sight) friendly veterinary surgeon who proposed to his friends to live with him.Apparently like anyone, he next reveals to be the only still alive member of the Sakurazuka-mori, a darkness clan which in the past brought many assasins together. His look, hidden behind glasses, can kill, and Seishiro does not hesitate to use it against people who would like to stop him. He is a sadist who has pleasure by seeing Subaru (very close to Shun for his sensiblity) suffer each day by seeing the horrors of the town.
What is the connection with homosexuality, would you ask ? Well, it seems the only reason why Seishiro has wished to implicate in Subaru's life is that he is living on people's sadness, and above all on their affection for him... He loves to see Subaru getting progressively attached to him like to a father. One could think he acts like this because he is homosexual, but it is not love, it is hatred... A game of love and hatred between a sensible exorcist and a pityless veterinary surgeon ! In fact at the beginning the manga first deals with everyday-life in Tohyo, by studying a negative aspect of the town (in a parallel with Babylon) in each chapter, but then centres only on Subaru's feelings towards Seishiro. In part 6, Subaru notices he effectively loves his elder, and does not know what to think of it... It seems he is unable to love one particular woman, he has compassion for each man or woman who suffers, but he really loves this living mistery... And becaus of his innocence he is afraid of it. Maybe he is afraid that if he loves one particular person, it is in contempt of other people. He is not ready for any relationship, but he cannot stop fate, and this will end in a tragical way...
It sometimes still happens that relationships between men are the principal subject of a manga. To end this review I would quote the Zetsuai series, created by Minami Ozaki. It also deals with torture of unshared feelings - or shared but repressed because of the fear of a different relationship.
Zetsuai -1989- is a manga created in 1989 (yes !) by a cartoonist discovered in the world of doshinji (amateur manga). Minami Ozaki's graphic style is very special, her faces and bodies are very elongated, it is sometimes difficult to bear, but her color illustrations are generally wiser in proportions. There are many onomatopeia (you know these katakana passing through the page), not often well-drawn and which spoil the final result, and the faces are not always finished. This vision can sometimes be nice (like in Yun Koga works), but rarely here. But one should not fall into extremes : some pages are superb. By the way I recommend the artbooks, they're seperatly beautifulÊ!
The manga is 5 volumes, more than one thousand pages long. It relates the beginning of a friendship between two men everything seperates except their difference : Koji Nanjo, a sixteen-years-old rock star with a great look, and Takuto Izumi, an amateur soccer player with a promising future, who only plays to show his value to other people. In fact he is the victim of a prejudice since the age of five, when his mother assassinated his father and tried to kill him with a knife, leeting him for life a big scar on his hip. She has been interned in a psychiatric hospital, and her three children are now under guardianship, Takuto the eldest, Serika his little sister and Yugo, his small brother who was still was a baby when it happened. THe two last ones were to young to remember anything, and as they were not present when their mother had her fit of madness they were not really traumatized and are now well-integrated to society. But Takuto has never had a friend...
When one day he meets Koji, by finding him collapsed on a rubbish pile in the street, under the rain. It is easy to imagine that when the singer wakes up, their first confrontationis not really a reunion uround a tea cup ! They are both very agressive. But Takuto, who does not know his guest's identity, gets closer interested in him, and reciprocally... In fact, it is Koji who does the first step to become his friend. He is fascinated by this young man who plays soccer with his whole guts... He remembers him his only love, a vision he had so long ago, a girl who also juggled with a round ball with the rage of a lion. It does not take him a long time to understand that Takuto was that girl... Everyone has got the right to have long hair, have not ? But what a discovery for Koji... who is first distraught but finally accepts the fact. He is probably happier to have meet the one he loves again than schocked to have found out she/he was a man !
One must understand the situation : Koji Nanjo is perfectly heterosexual (he even has a very active sexual life, as a successful singer), but he has never felt love for his one-night conquests. Sex and love don't get well together. His meeting with Takuto throws him into confusion, and inspires him a new passion where phantasms are very different... Koji's manager, the young and friendly Katsumi Shibuya, sees the danger of such a relationship (mainly for the medias which do not ask for more to amplify their audience or circulation), and tries to convince his trainee before he goes on, but Koji already does not listen to him anymore and will go even further. Until the day when the news come : Takuto has been noticed and he is asked to go to Italia to train seriously for three years.
Koji is panick-striken at the idea of being seperated from the one he loves, decides to say everything to him and takes avantage of the situation tu try to rape him, which surprised me because it is opposed to his ideals. This rape tentative ends when he discovers the scar. It suddenly comes to him that Takuto must have a big heart-wound; he starts to cry and kisses the torn skin of his friend, as if he wanted to show him that he accepts him like he his, with his traumatism. Of course, after this, Takuto voluntarly goes away from him, but Koji will be here again when another tragedy occurs : Takuto's mother, who had just come out of the hospital, commits suicide. To bear this new ordeal, Takuto needs a friend's presence... He will finally accept Koji and their relationship... and will a little let himself go with him...
Zetsuai -1989- ends here. During the publishing of the manga, an Image Album (CD to be listened to while reading the manga) sung by Shin-ichi Ishibara (Koji's first dubber) was realised. I advise you to buy it if you if find it, my (unpartial) appreciation is that it's the most beautiful songs CD ever published... For merchandising it goes on with all possible and imaginable goodies, but above all an OVA that condenses the manga in 45 minutes. Many scenes have been supressed, only the most important are conserved, the rape scene has been epured from any unuseful artifice (I admit I didi not like the idea of Koji attaching Takuto's hands to the bed !).
Finally I find the OVA scenario more "mature" than in the manga. The realisation, made by Mad House - a very serious - and famed - studio on the OAV market, is perfect. The graphism is very close to the manga, but more regular, much nicer. The music was written by Kenji Kawai, and it is a masterpiece of this talentuous author. It can be found in its entirity on the Original Soundtrack, which also includes Koji's songs, sung by Shô Hayami. I am not going to analyse the OVA, I have already done this in Namida 3 (soon on this web) and I do not really like to repeat myself...
But Zetsuai has not ended yet ! In fact Minami Ozaki has begun a continuation , Bronze, which is not published regularly - she has laboriously released seven parts, the story is becoming surrealistic, Koji goes as far as cutting his own arm to prove his love to Takuto !!! Koji's family is more present here. The aim of the manga seems to be to gather the heroes together, as Takuto is mor and more friendly to Koji, and even does the first step. It is friendship that only death could stop...
Cyber Namida was created and designed by René-Gilles Deberdt. All rights reserved.