Viola! First [Manga Talk] in 2014, the year of horse！ Lately a manga blogger friend asked me briefly about Yume no Ishibumi (夢の碑) by KIHARA Toshie here …..which happens to be one of my FAVOURITE must-read manga series!
Whilst I have previously touched base on KIHARA’s Hana no Na no Himegimi (花の名の姫君), a manga adaptation based on the famous kabuki plays in Japan, anyone who is familiar with Takarazuka Revue may also recognise KIHARA as the original author whose manga was adapted into musical pieces, namely Angelique (アンジェリク), Torikaebaya Ibun (とりかえばや異聞) and Oeyama Kaden (大江山花伝).
Perhaps more notably, KIHARA is well-known for being a member of the Year 24 Group whose works on shounen-ai themes made the breakthroughs in shoujo manga history in the 70’s. KIHARA’s success was marked by her Mari to Shingo (摩利と新吾) (1979–1984), about the friendship and attachment (or what some would call “bromance”) between two young men, growing up with their friends in the early Showa era – the story was happy, humourous and gay in a typical KIHARA style whilst at the sametime, the story has an ambivalence tone with a delicate sense of sadness through the depictions of an unreciprocal love.
KIHARA continued her success in Yume no Ishibumi for which she won the 1984 Shogakukan Manga Award in shoujo category. Originally published in 20 volumes, in addition to two other related tankoubons: Oeyama Kaden (大江山花伝) and Mugen Kaden (夢幻花伝), the Yume series was later republished in bunkoban editions (1998) under the same titles of the masterpieces.
Majority of the stories feature in the Yume series were set either in the historial feudal state or Edo period, and based on a mix of Japanese folklores, classic literatures, kabuki plays as well as Noh performances which are traditionally known for representing the ideals of shinio-buddisms. Perhaps that also explains the aesthetic appeal in Yume no Ishibumi, besides using cherry blossom to represent the ideals of wabi-sabi, or the notion of Mono no aware through the ambiguious storylines which evoke emotions and bittersweet awareness, let alone the intoductions of bishonen characters which also reflect homo-sexuality/erotisim and adolescentophilia activities which were perceived as “aesthestic” by the ancient societies.
Though not the first, nor the best of its genre, some of the “shounen-ai” stories in “Yume” were certainly remarkable and have been noted as “great classic” by many readers! In comparision, the non “shounen-ai” (aka shoujo) stories might appear to be quite plain to some people (NB. by saying that, i don’t mean they are not good, but perhaps not as outstanding as the others in the series which were just too good!). Titles of (the longer and more popular) shounen-ai stories include: Aozukin (青頭巾), Furenki (風恋記), Nue (鵺), and Fuchi to Narinu (渕となりぬ).
Torikaebaya Ibun (とりかえばや異聞)
Based on the famous Japanese Heinan era literature, Torikaebaya Monatogori, the cross-gender story was rewritten by KIHARA with a romantic and comedial touch set in the historical feudal state of Japan: The heroine, Yukariko was given away to her adoption family soon after she was born as the twin daughter of the daimyo of Aki.
Years later, her twin brother Midorio, who became the latest daimyo, required her assistance as his health was rapidly detiorating. With the help of Fubuki, an oni ninja and her closest alliance/ lover, Yukariko continued to live in a disguised life of Midorio after his death. Determined to sacrifice her feminity and the love in her heart, Yukariko (now Midorio in disguise) married Princess Maizuru to protect her family’s feudal domin.
Torikaebaya Ibun was also adapted into a Takarazuka Revue the play.
Originally, Aozukin (A Blue Hood) is one of the supernatural tales from Ugetsu Monogatari, that tells a story of a senior Buddhist priest who found deep affections on a beautiful young boy in the midst of his pilgrimage.
Not long after the both fell in love, the young boy was struck by illness and passed away the following summer. The priest was in an abyss of despair which drove him to his madness – he ate the rotten flesh of his young lover and eventually became a demon himself…. until the day when he was finally at peace as he found his enlightenment in buddism.
Although KIHARA’s Aozukin has a complete different storyline from above, the two versions might have shared a similarity in the underlying concepts of pocession, madness and enlightenment.
Akishino, an egoistic young aristocrat in Heian palace, was well known for his beauty that every men and women lust after. After the fall of his family, caused by his father’s political opponence to the dominant Heike (The Taira clan), Akishino was determined to use his beauty and seduction to regain his family’s political power. But as his lovers became increasingly pocessive, Akishino was imprisoned and later killed by his young fiancee and a married lover; the two women were driven into madness caused by their jealousy and Akishino’s egoistic rejection. His dead body was slowly “eaten” and absorbed by the ancient cherry tree spirit….
Nue is the legendary creature of Japanese folklore, with a head of a monkey, the body of a tanuki, the legs of a tiger, and a snake as a tail. Because of its appearance, the creature is also known for bringing misfortune and illness.
KIHARA used the word, “鵺” (nue) to introduce one of her main characters, Shinosoto*, an Edo bishonen who was on the run with his maid for his manslaughter crime, and who later became a prostitute to make a living. After he met Shigeta and Minamoto, the group of three form a pickpocket gang.
In the course of events, a number of deaths were involved, especially of those who were related or intimately closed to Shinosoto. Meanwhile, Shigeta also found himself fallen in love with the bishonen who (in Minamoto’s words) “is a being of contradictions – pure at heart with innocence in his eyes but at the same time, cruel and slutty by actions.”
Towards the end of the story, Shinosoto said he dreamt that he was Akishino (see summary on Aozukin above) who was punished by god for his egoism. Like the monstrous looking nue, Akishino was casted to the river of the underworld. Drifting down the river alone in the dark, the lonely soul continued to seek ways to atone his sins, whilst being tortured by the loneliness eternally.
Interestingly, I thought Nue reminded me of the kabuki play, Sannin Kichisa (三人吉三). In fact, I would not be surprised if it inspired KIHARA to create the story, given that Nue was structured in a way fairly similar to a kabuki play – set in the period of Edo with geishas (and bishonens!), elegant costumes and make-up, poetic lyrics and shamisen, etc. It even shared some similarities in the plots such as, a cross-dressing character, intertwined faith between the three heros and a final fighting scene by the gates under show! …. I wholeheartedly enjoy reading Nue, both because of its emotional storyline, as well as its resemblance to a kabuki play! : )
*NB. The kanji characters of the three heros in KIHARA’s Nue were: 篠夫 (Shinosoto?), 主理之介 (Shigeta?) and 源也 (Minamoto?). I am pretty sure the above english names were incorrectly translated, given that I gave up researching for their correct translations! Do feel free to correct here. ^^:
I must say, the storyline of Furenki is rather complicating! More details can be found here. In short, the story was set at the Kamakura era, when a political battle heated up between aristocrats and the rising power of samurai warriors.
Here comes our two heros of the story: Toruaki and his childhood friend Tsuyuchika, each of them hold the power which were connected to strong forces of Ying and Yang when combined together. But faith strucked as Tsuyuchika discovered his half-oni identity that led to the separation of the two young friend later.
As time passed, the new emperor was determined to get rid of the samurai forces by using the power of Ying and Yang forces; by chance, the emperor captured Tsuyuchika. whilst lusted over Tsuyuchika’s beauty, the emperor also discovered his oni power. Controlling Tsuyuchika with seductions, the emperor ordered Tsuyuchika to seize Toruaki to join forces with him…..
Without giving too much spoilers here, let me just say: Furenki has a very unexpected end; It is not hard to trace the similarity between Mari to Shingo and Furenki in terms of an ambiguity ending* and the ambivalence feelings it brings. (*NB. An ambiguity ending – as in there is no clear cut, say between a sad and happy ending, but the ending provokes deeper thinking in a broader picture.)
Fuchi to Narinu (渕となりぬ)
“It becomes an abyss“, as the above title is translated. But more appropriately perhaps, the title could be interpreted as a metaphor to describe Hasumi’s (羽角) emotions as he fell deeply in love with his step-brother, Otowa (乙輪).
Set in The Muromachi period when noh plays were seen as mass entertainments rather than art performances as they are today. It was also the era when it was common for young and beautiful noh actors to work as male prostitutes off stage – as a way of earning support from wealthy patrons.
Despite of his beauty and talents of performing on stage, Hasumi dedicated his passions to creating (scripts of) noh plays. Together with Otowa, the two young men growing up to become leading actors (and creator) of the troupe that was gaining popularity as time passed. Otowa developed great affections for his step-brother albeit his love for Hasumi was hardly reciprocated.
But as Otowa’s potentials were spotted by Hakuyo (白楊座) who was the proprietor, performer and creator of the leading dominant noh troupe which was highly regarded for its artistic performances, Hasumi finally realised his affections for Otowa. Being someone who has fallen deeply in love, Hasumi was able to connect his mixed emotions with the famous noh performance, Domyoji (道成寺).
Albeit Hasumi’s performance became an enormous success, Otowa refused to leave Hakuyo’s troupe to return Hasumi’s side…. Towards the end of the story, Hasumi was told that Otowa would stay by Hakuyo and inherit the noh troupe in short future. Thinking that Otowa would never return by his side and the thought of Otowa’s betrayal, Hasumi muttered with despair mounting in his voice: “When the love is deep, an abyss it becomes… just like the Domyoji.”
…… It is not The End. : )
PS. For those of you who has a specific taste for elements of shounen-ai/ BL/June/ VERY mild yaoi, Fuchi could be served as a “vintage delight” ^^:
Mugen Kaden (夢幻花伝) and Oeyama Kaden (大江山花伝) (as seen on the left) are the two short stories which I would love to cover in here too – they are the true classic shoujo in my eyes!
BUT my shoulder hurts and I can’t really get myself to sit in front of the computer any longer!
… will leave it another time then. : )
For those who are interested, here are the titles of stories collected in the “Yume” series. Thank you very much to mattari for putting it together! 🙂
Alternatively, titles in Japanese below (the numbers represent the volume(s) the title was issued):
Tankobon editions: 桜の森の桜の闇 １ とりかへばや異聞 １～２ 青頭巾 ２ 封印雅歌 ２ ベルンシュタイン ３ 煌（きら）のロンド ３ 水面の月の皇子 ４ 読み人知らず ４ 風恋記 ４～８ 鵺（ぬえ） ９～１２ 夢占舟（ゆめうらぶね） ９ 影に愛された男 １３ 昼の月 夜の谺（こだま） １３ 雪紅皇子（ゆきくれないのみこ） １４ 水琴窟（すいきんくつ） １５ 上ゲ哥（あげうた） １５ 君を待つ九十九夜 １５ 淵となりぬ １６～２０ 月光城 ２０ 幻想遊戯 ２０ 夢幻花伝 番外編・夢幻花伝 ぎやまんハート・ブレイク 番外編・夢幻花伝 大江山花伝 番外編・大江山花伝 鬼の泉 番外編・大江山花伝 花伝ツァ 番外編・大江山花伝
Bunkoban editions 夢の碑シリーズ 大江山花伝 小学館文庫 １ とりかえばや異聞 小学館文庫 ２ 青頭巾 小学館文庫 ３ 鵺 前編 小学館文庫 ４ 鵺 中編 小学館文庫 ５ 鵺 後編 小学館文庫 ６ 雪紅皇子 小学館文庫 ７ ベルンシュタイン 小学館文庫 ８ 渕となりぬ 前編 小学館文庫 ９ 渕となりぬ 中編 小学館文庫 10 渕となりぬ 後編 小学館文庫 11 風恋記 前編 小学館文庫 12 風恋記 中編 小学館文庫 13 風恋記 後編