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This blog is a storage space for various thoughts, observations and musings centering on shōjo manga (少女漫画, Japanese comics for girls), josei-oriented manga (Japanese comics for women) and manga created by women (in the widest sense). Topics from other fields of relevance, such as music, art, literature and film may be discussed here as well.

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Viewing all posts with tag: keyword: magical realism



[Artist Profile/Manga Review] Remembering Yoshino Sakumi

Itsuka midori no hanataba by Yoshino Sakumi (Shogakukan)Today marks the first anniversary of mangaka Yoshino Sakumi’s death on April 20, 2016. The sad news came as a tremendous shock to many of us as it was so sudden and unexpected. Yoshino Sakumi, born in 1959, debuted in 1980 in Shueisha’s now folded Bouquet magazine and made a name for herself with works featuring memorably quirky characters, often twins, just as often going through a serious identity crisis, and exploring the depths of the human mind and soul. Shōnen wa kōya wo mezasu (1985-1987), Juliette no tamago (1988-1989) or the long-running period, published in Shogakukan’s defunct seinen magazine IKKI from 2004 to 2014, are among her most beloved and well-known works. Yoshino was also a respected film and literary critic and essayist.

Kioku no gihou by Yoshino Sakumi (Shogakukan)The works of her late period are closely linked with Shogakukan’s Gekkan flowers magazine. One of her strongest manga, the psychological thriller and human drama Kioku no gihō (highly recommended if you want to buy one single bunko volume to sample the authors work, be prepared for some emotional shocks though!), was published in the very first issue of the magazine in 2002 and a colour illustration for it was used on the cover. Through the first and second decade of the new millenium, she kept coming back to the magazine for more one-shots and visually intriguing two-tone comics.

These last works, previously unpublished in comic book form, were lovingly compiled by the editors at flowers and turned into a beautifully designed single volume called Itsuka midori no hanataba (A Green Bouquet For You). The large A5 format book comes with a transparent dust jacket printed with flowers and contains several short and super short stories showcasing the range of this extremely talented author who had to leave this earth much too soon.

Cover design of Yoshino Sakumi's Itsuka midori no hanataba (Shogakukan)

The title story is a romantic and touching ghost story while in the others included, readers will chance upon a dream dragon, a watermelon bringing possible death by doppelgänger, a princess with a bat as her earring, a green cat reminding a young woman of her guilty conscience, a woman obsessed with her fortune teller and an undertaker being the only one left after the powerhungry kings of the world have killed each other. Like many of Yoshino’s works, these stories depict the nature of us humans with a sharp sense for our dark side, but also with gentleness, poignancy and tongue-in-cheek humour.

Yoshino Sakumi's Itsuka midori no hanataba (Shogakukan)

Yoshino Sakumi's Itsuka midori no hanataba (Shogakukan)

Yoshino Sakumi's Itsuka midori no hanataba (Shogakukan)

The largest part of the book is reserved for her second-to-last published short story, MOTHER, which was supposed to be continued soon in flowers until death ended this fantastic artist’s career. The unfinished 100-page rough script (called nēmu/name in Japanese) composed of dialogues and pencil-drawn sketches for the manga layout is also included in the book. It’s surprisingly readable and, as a look behind the scenes, interesting from a manga fan’s point of view, the story itself being a post-apocalyptic sci-fi vision of the future, in tone and subject very similar to some of Hagio Moto‘s works.

Yoshino Sakumi's Itsuka midori no hanataba (Shogakukan)

Yoshino Sakumi's Itsuka midori no hanataba (Shogakukan)

As much as I miss Yoshino-sensei and would have loved to see her work on something longer again after finishing period, this wonderful book provides something like closure, as chlichéd as it might sound. She’ll always be in the top ten of my favourite mangaka and I hope her unique, sometimes shocking, always moving works will continue to fascinate readers for many years to come!

Title: Yoshino Sakumi Sakuhinshū – Itsuka midori no hanataba (吉野朔実作品集 いつか緑の花束に)
Author: Yoshino Sakumi (吉野朔実)
ISBN: 9784091670748
Publisher: Shogakukan
Format: A5, 248 pages
Year: 2016
Additional information: Last collection of short stories, published in December 2016 after the artist’s death on April 20, 2016. Contains works previously published in Gekkan flowers from 2004 to 2016: MOTHER and the unpublished follow-up in raw script form (name), the title story plus 3 other very short one-shots and 4 two-tone one-shots (black & red, black & green), plus a gallery of colour artworks, author comments and an interview recorded shortly before her death. More info at Shogakukan Comic.

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Categories: Manga Review, Mangaka Profile.
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Posted on Apr 20, 2017 (Thu, 11:57 pm). .

[Review] Mutsu A-ko: Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya

The cover of the bunko version of Mutsu A-ko's Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya published by Shueisha Every year, I’m getting a little giddy with anticipation as February 14th is drawing nearer. And not for the obvious reasons of impending showers of chocolate, flowers, jewellery and all that stuff Valentine’s Day is supposedly made of if a whole industry dedicated to it were to be believed. No, it’s close but it’s not quite the reason. That feeling usually gets really strong in January, with the warm lights of Christmas long gone and the cold cruel wind blowing, as I’m making my way through snow (or even just rain). But I put that feeling of longing and excitement off, until on Valentine’s Day or one day later, on February 15th, I grab a certain volume of short stories from the shelf and – indulge in warm, fuzzy shōjo manga nostalgia!

The book that I blew imaginary dust off yesterday for its big moment is called Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya by Mutsu A-ko, a small bunkobon released in 2005 by Shueisha as one of three volumes in the Ribon Otometic Memorial Selection (the other two being short story collections by Tabuchi Yumiko and Tachikake Hideko, respectively). And it’s the very same title story from it, which roughly translates to “The Candlelit Night When Even The Angels Dream”, that is such fantastic material for annual re-readings in synchronicity with the outside world.

It’s Monday, February 15th, in the quiet neighbourhood of Asahigaoka, the day after Valentine’s Day. The two angels Spinet and Vivace are a little exhausted from their work the previous day but still they manage to watch over the love lives of a handful of girls and young women who are all connected to some degree on that fateful snowy night of candles lit and stories told during an electricity blackout in the small residential area.

For example, there’s Sasae celebrating her 17th birthday with three of her friends on that Monday evening. She is in love with her childhood friend Shikawa-kun who told her recently he needed some time to see her as anything more than just a friend. The girls dream about their future lives, their ideal partners and marriages, when in the present, love is something bittersweet and hard to reach for most of them, even for Olive who has a boyfriend but has to keep a long-distance relationship with him because he goes to university in far away Tokyo. But there is quite a bit of hope for Sasae herself who happens to meet Shikawa-kun when the girls go out into the dark of the blackout, the hope that his feelings for her finally might have changed when he greets her with a present.

Kari, a young woman with an inferiority complex caused by her boyfriend’s all too perfect ex-girlfriend, meets an alien girl named Piin while she’s sitting on a park bench in the snow during the blackout. The alien seems to know Kari from the inside out and takes her on a ride in her spaceship. From this higher viewpoint, Kari sees her world in a completely new light and realizes there is no reason to worry so much about her boyfriend and his dedication and earnestness towards her.

The school girl Kimako has been secretly watching her mysterious new neighbour, a boy called Haneo who has the whole school buzzing with gossip because of his excentricities, through her window. She learns he’s obsessed with extraterrestrial lifeforms and finally gets to meet Haneo in person in the snow during the blackout when he’s following a spaceship with an alien and a human girl on board through the neighbourhood.

And Banana, who has taken some time off after her graduation from university because she doesn’t know what to do for a living, daydreams about becoming an essayist when she suddenly gets the chance to win a trip to Paris and work as a professional travel writer through a competition in a womens’ magazine. But as the deadline is drawing nearer and nearer, she’s facing a massive episode of writer’s block, which she’ll finally (and successfully!) be able to overcome on the night of the blackout, remembering a trip to a lovely antique toy store in the north-east of Japan which brought back so many memories from her childhood.

This short voyage into Mutsu A-ko’s world provides an excellent introduction to the author’s early works: These bittersweet romantic comedies are decorated with cute details and settings (kawayui being the keyword here, yes, even cuter than kawaii) and follow girls in preppy clothes – most of them shy, some of them quite free-spirited – who are mainly focused on getting their crush to notice them, while the male characters range from the level-headed to the geeky.

The original tankōbon of the title story was published in 1982, the other 4 short stories also included in the bunko version date back to even earlier, so you’ll get a good impression of the sense of carefreeness both of youth and adolescence portrayed in shōjo manga in general but even more specifically during the prosperous times of Japan’s high-speed economic growth. The ideas some of the characters have about gender roles or romantic love might be a little dated. But in the end, what wins the reader over even today is Mutsu A-ko’s idiosyncratic mixture of slightly over-the-top comedic elements and beautifully nostalgic or melancholy romantic scenes with pretty artwork that has become the very definition of what clever editors of Ribon magazine once coined otometic. No matter how old you are, if you’re reading this for the first time or out of nostalgia, Mutsu A-ko manages to draw you into her very unique, charming, magical world, a universe you’ll want to revisit again and again, and not just once a year ;)

More about the author, whose birthday it happens to be today (February 15th), about a recent new edition (Best Selection) of her early works published by Kawade and about the otometic ‘way of life’ is soon to come! But for now, if you’re proficient enough in the Japanese language, buy your copy of this lovely little book!

Title: Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya (天使も夢みるローソク夜)
Author: Mutsu A-ko (also: Mutsu Eiko, 陸奥A子)
ISBN: 4-08-618395-1
Publisher: Shueisha
Format: Bunko, 320 pages
Year: 2005
Additional information: Contains the 4-chapter (‘omnibus’) title story and four other short stories (“Kintarou-kun”, “Oshaberi na hitomi”, “Milky Sepia Monogatari”, “Magical Mystery Instant Coffee”). Published as part of the 3-volume Ribon Otometic Memorial Selection (りぼん おとめチックメモリアル選) celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ribon. More info @ Shueisha Manga Net.

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Categories: Manga Review.
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Posted on Feb 15, 2017 (Wed, 6:54 pm). .




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