Tsue to Tsubasa
KIHARA Toshie (木原敏江)
Complete: 6 volumes
The story began at the eve of the French Revolution, when Léon, the “wild and transgressive” young man moved to the countryside to stay with a family friend with his mother. There he met the little energetic Adele and her mother, a very charming lady and both of whom became Léon’s inspiration for his future role in the forthcoming revolution. The beautiful Adele grew up believing that she would end up marrying Léon, not knowing that her “childhood first love” had already turned to become the cruel and ice-hearted Saint-Just, famously nick-named as the “Archangel of the Terror”, whom played a significant role in delivering the condemnation and execution of King Louis XVI of France.….
My say: As the recent political crisis and unrest continued around the globe, I started reflecting on those times when I read Versailles no Bara, Eikou no Napoleon, and a couple other shoujo manga alike, all in which the setting of national revolution was somehow glorified or romanticised.
I suppose it would have been. After-all, romanticism (or the assertions of romantic nationalism) was the key theme in the Enlightenment which, in history, has been famously related to the French Revolution in 1789, with its influence of romanticism in political philosophy.
In no doubt, the French Revolution remains in history as an ultimate success in overturning the unfair class system, that was ruled by the distant monarchy, the “unreachable” nobility and the clergy. But as the last monarchy, Marie Antoinette, was executed and the Revolutionary Government established, and dominated by Robespierre whom created the Committee of Public Safety, France soon entered into a turmoil, plagued by corruption, social-unrest, war and bankruptcy, under the Reign of Terror, i.e. a dark period that would defy the idealistic philosophy of romanticism, hence not a theme that would commonly be applied in a romantic shoujo manga I suppose?
In comparison, Versailles no Bara centered on the romance between Oscar and Andre based on the French Revolution as it was about to be romanticised to the max with Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité. Eikou no Napoleon looked at the uprising empire of the “heroic” Napoleon and his famous romance with Joséphine. Tsue to Tsubasa, on the other hand, was set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution.
In a way, I found the two main characters of Tsue to Tsubasa, Saint Just (or “Louis Antoine Leon de Saint Just”) and Adele, were somehow designed to highlight a stark contrast between the ideal of political romanticism of Enlightenment and the reality of social unease under the Reign of Terror.
The title, Tsue to Tsubasa, can be directly translated as “a staff and wings”, which implies “leading to freedom with guidance”. Luke (Adele’s fiance) confronted Saint Just in being over aggressive on his policies as people needed time and stability, not living in any further fear, under the new Revolutionary Government. Saint Just coolly replied, “(Do you mean) staff and freedom?”
Saint Just shared a strong belief of Enlightenment with Robespierre, to the extent that he had sacrificed everything, including Adele’s love to him, to pursuit his belief. Nonetheless, it was until Adele being on the verge of dying then he realised her importance to him.
According to history, Saint Just was loudly interrupted by Tallien in reading a crucial report to the Committee of Public Safety (Thermidorian Reaction). Since then, Saint Just leaped into silence instead, and on the following day, he was guillotined alongside other Robespierre’s main supporters on the same day. In Tsue to Tsubasa, Saint Just kept his coolness and silence until the very last moment, of the reason being unknown to anyone. Facing death, Saint Just merely smiled, at the thought of his beautiful Adele…..
As per usual, KIHARA Toshie offered a degree of wit and humor in between the lines, which did help to lighten up the seriousness and darkness of the story. In particular, I giggled reading the lines between Luke and Adele as they despised each other, and then eventually became a couple. Even Danton was portraited with an amusing character that was hard to dislike!
I found myself in love with this series.
But I also found it hard to concentrate on the the story or try to read the series in one go. So in short, I would conclude that this series is definitely not suited for those looking for fast-paced (or “fast-food” shoujo so to speak).