Manga (Japanese Comics),

Shoujo Manga (Girl's Comics)

and Boys' Love

by
Rukmini Singh

 

General Information

Application

Previous Prize Recipients

Comics didn't interest me much until a few years ago: long Indian summers spent reading Archie digests out of utter boredom had convinced me that there wasn't much to the form. It was only when a friend introduced me to Japanese comics (or manga) three years ago that I began to realize that the synthesis of image and text could produce complex layers of meaning, which shifted from reading to reading. In Japan, manga has "spread and diversified as a dominant (almost the dominant) medium in mass culture" The huge audience for manga in Japan has allowed artists to diversify into many different types, the two primary classifications being shonen - boys' manga - and shoujo - girls' manga. Shonen manga are usually heavy on action and light on character development and romance. Shoujo manga tend to focus on relationships and characters. They are also visually different: shonen manga is generally laid out clearly in rectangular panels, whereas shoujo artists take pains to present the story in creative ways, for example, by using unusual panel shapes or configurations, or by using symbolic images to represent emotions or events.


Frequently, the most interesting works are those that appropriate techniques from both types of manga to tell stories in novel ways. One example is Ranma ½, the first manga I ever read, in which the male protagonist turns into a girl whenever splashed with cold water. This premise is stretched to its limit in twenty-plus volumes of riotous fighting and skullduggery, with the fights interspersed with scenes developing the relationships between Ranma and his friends. I had never read anything like it before and was soon addicted. Once I had begun with Ranma ½, I continued to collect both shoujo and shonen manga, as well as multigenre titles like Wild Adapter.


Although I don't read Japanese, the vast number of translations, reviews and synopses online, not to mention the large number of titles published in French and English editions have allowed me to read a fairly wide selection of manga. I generally research a title on the Internet extensively before I buy it, so that I can check whether there is a translated edition in a language I know, or the availability of an online translation. The huge demand for manga in France has made me particularly happy: I have been able to read several titles, such as New York, New York and Fruits Basket, without having to resort to the tedious option of matching speech bubbles to script translations. Additionally, in the last two years, the American market for translated manga has grown significantly, prompting several publishing houses to launch new titles, and severely depleting my bank account.

The last two years have also seen me gravitate more toward shoujo manga. Shoujo manga range from incredibly cute and fluffy stories to tragic romantic melodramas to sensitive explorations of female identity. Frequently, a series can be several things at once! I found myself drawn to shoujo because of the complexity of the storylines, the intense emotions depicted and the bizarre and beautiful aesthetic that characterizes shoujo manga at its best. You can go back to a volume you've read countless times and consider how the arch of a character's eyebrow on page ninety-two changes the meaning of what they are about to say - it is the perfect marriage of words and pictures.
One particularly interesting subgenre of shoujo manga is the boys' love genre. This covers a whole range of stories that involve gay romance in some form and are targeted at a female audience. These titles often provide an interesting glimpse of gender relations in Japan. Some are sweetly romantic analogs to standard shoujo romances, only with two boys holding hands in place of a girl and a boy. Others are explicit enough to qualify as pornography. Still others, like Banana Fish, transcend the peculiar conventions of the boys' love genre - the bizarrely refined depictions of men and the stereotypical characterizations - to become works that have universal appeal.


So, given the vast range of titles available, how do I decide which to add to my collection? Initially, I concentrated on buying a wide range of manga to "sample" rather than focusing on specific series. In this way, I acquired random volumes of series such as Gensomaden Saiyuki, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Once I got an idea of which types of manga I found most appealing, I began to focus on acquiring several volumes of a particular series. For example, I now own all of the Banana Fish volumes that have so far been translated into English.
Currently, I am eager to acquire volumes of series such as Banana Fish, Paradise Kiss and Mars, which are all similar to apprentice novels or novels of awakening, in which the characters find their place in society through various experiences. I am also researching other boys' love artists, such as Motoni Modoru. She borrows from several genres, including horror and Taisho-period historical novels, to produce atmospheric thrillers. More generally, I would like to focus on titles that are more creative and unusual than the run-of-the-mill boys' love story. One example is the mafia-thriller cum horror-story Face, which I acquired last October.


Lastly, the popularity of manga and Japanese animation (or anime) in America has inspired a large number of aspiring American artists to produce work that is written in English, but incorporates shoujo manga techniques of drawing and story-telling. This movement has resulted in several interesting collaborations and anthologies, which are distributed through fans at anime conventions and online. I am keen to acquire more examples of work from several of these artists, particularly Umbrella Studios and GCOLA.


Ms. Singh won the 4th-year prize in 2003
for the collection described in the preceding essay.

A sample of her bibliography follows.


Bibliography

Note: The categorization of these manga is somewhat arbitrary for some of these titles, I realize, but I felt it would be better to divide my collection into different categories for the sake of clarity.

Multigenre Titles

Minekura, Kazuya. Wild Adapter (Volume One). Chara Comics: Japan, 2001
· Paperback, good condition (inside cover torn out)
· Interesting blend of shoujo and shonen concepts. The plot concerns a young gangster's attempts to find out about a destructive and addictive drug spreading through the city. The plot is entirely shonen, but the treatment of the characters and the stylistic conventions are more shoujo.

Otomo, Katsuhiro. Domu (A Child's Dream) (Volumes One through Three). English Trans: Dana Lewis and Toren Smith. Dark Horse Comics, Inc.: USA, August 2001.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· One of the first manga I acquired - it was a gift from a friend. A science-fiction/horror story by the author of the classic manga Akira, this title is shonen manga at its best: gripping, spare and starkly beautiful.

Sadamoto, Yoshiyuki. Neon Genesis Evangelion (Volume Six). French Trans: Ebichu. Editions Glenat: Grenoble, France, November 2001.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Takahashi, Rumiko. Ranma ½ (Volume One). English Trans: Gerard Jones and Matt Thorn. Viz Communications: San Francisco, USA, May 1993.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yoshida, Akimi. Banana Fish (Volume One). English Trans: Matt Thorn. Viz Communications: San Francisco, USA, September 1998.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· This is a revolutionary series that was tremendously popular with both men and women in Japan when it ran from 1985 to 1994. It has flashy non-stop action and mafia conspiracies, but the relationship between American delinquent Ash and his Japanese friend Eiji is the backbone of this story. The drawing style is very shonen indeed - not overly pretty, and with little variation in the panel arrangements. One of my favorite series! The title is a reference to a J.D. Salinger story called "A Perfect Day for Bananafish, in which the 'banana fish' is the 'fish of death.'

Yoshida, Akimi. Banana Fish (Volume Two). English Trans: Matt Thorn. Viz Communications: San Francisco, USA, May 1999.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yoshida, Akimi. Banana Fish (Volume Three). English Trans: Matt Thorn. Viz Communications: San Francisco, USA, December 1999.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yoshida, Akimi. Banana Fish (Volume Four). English Trans: Matt Thorn and Zachary Braverman. Viz Communications: San Francisco, USA, October 2000.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yoshida, Akimi. Banana Fish (Volume Five). English Trans: Yuji Oniki, Zachary Braverman and Akemi Wegmuller. Viz Communications: San Francisco, USA, June 2001.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yoshida, Akimi. Banana Fish (Volume Six). English Trans: Akemi Wegmuller. Viz Communications: San Francisco, USA, March 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yoshida, Akimi. Banana Fish (Volume Seven). English Trans: Yuji Oniki. Viz Communications: San Francisco, USA, November 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition


Shonen Titles (Boys' Manga)

Ando, Yuma and Asaki, Masashi. Psychometrer Eiji (Volume One). French Trans: Thibaud Desbief. Dargaud Benelux: Brussels, Belgium, 2001.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Ikegami, Ryoichi and Koike, Kazuo, Crying Freeman (Volume One). French Trans: Akihiro. Editions Glenat: Grenoble, France, January 1995
· Paperback, excellent condition
· This is about as shonen as you can get: nonstop sex and violence. A woman sees an assassin commit a crime. He comes after her to silence her and she politely agrees to die - as long as she doesn't have to die a virgin. No problem, says the man, we'll have sex and then I'll kill you. Only in manga-world…

Ikegami, Ryoichi and Koike, Kazuo, Crying Freeman (Volume Two). French Trans: Marc Godin. Editions Glenat: Grenoble, France, September 1995
· Paperback, excellent condition

Minekura, Kazuya. Gensomaden Saiyuki (Volume One). Enix: Japan, 1997
· Paperback, excellent condition

Miura, Kentaro. Berserk (Volume Six). Jets Comics: Japan, 1993.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· A series about a man with a big sword who kills a lot of people. You could make a good case for this series not being shonen in spite of the huge helpings of violence and action: the interaction between the swordsman and his fellow mercenaries, terse as it is, is surprisingly effective in making us care about these characters.

Miura, Kentaro. Berserk (Volume Seven). Jets Comics: Japan, 1994.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Miura, Kentaro. Berserk (Volume Nine). Jets Comics: Japan, 1995.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Miura, Kentaro. Berserk (Volume Twenty-Two). Jets Comics: Japan, 2001.
· Paperback, good condition (inside cover torn out)


Shoujo Titles (Girls' Manga)

Saito, Chiho. Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena) (Volume One). Flower Comics: Japan, 1996.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Soryo, Fuyumi. Mars (Volume One). English Trans: Shirley Kubo. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, March 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Classic romantic shoujo. The story of a severely disturbed girl and her severely disturbed boyfriend. Flower imagery, teary declarations of love and startling revelations occur every twenty pages. Great fun! More seriously, the art style and composition of the pages is very typical of shoujo manga.

Soryo, Fuyumi. Mars (Volume Two). English Trans: Shirley Kubo. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, June 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Soryo, Fuyumi. Mars (Volume Three). English Trans: Shirley Kubo. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, August 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Soryo, Fuyumi. Mars (Volume Five). English Trans: Shirley Kubo. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, October 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Soryo, Fuyumi. Mars (Volume Seven). English Trans: Shirley Kubo. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, December 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Soryo, Fuyumi. Mars (Volume Eight). English Trans: Shirley Kubo. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, December 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Soryo, Fuyumi. Mars (Volume Nine). English Trans: Shirley Kubo. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, March 2003.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Takaya, Natsuki. Fruits Basket (Volume One). French Trans: Victoria-Tom. Guy Delcourt Productions: France, August 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Takaya, Natsuki. Fruits Basket (Volume Two). French Trans: Victoria-Tom. Guy Delcourt Productions: France, September 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yazawa, Ai. Paradise Kiss (Volume One). English Trans: Anita Sengupta. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, May 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· A wry, tongue-in-cheek look at an adolescent's struggle to find her identity. This could be so terribly clichéd, but Yazawa avoids that pitfall with her bizarre sense of humor. It is interesting to compare the gothic, edgy look of this series (which came out fairly recently and is still running) to the softer look of more traditional shoujo series like Fruits Basket.

Yazawa, Ai. Paradise Kiss (Volume Two). English Trans: Anita Sengupta. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, August 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yazawa, Ai. Paradise Kiss (Volume Three). English Trans: Anita Sengupta. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, September 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yazawa, Ai. Paradise Kiss (Volume Four). English Trans: Shirley Kubo. Tokyopop: Los Angeles, USA, January 2003.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yuki, Kaori. Angel Sanctuary (Volume One). French Trans: Nathalie Terisse. Tonkam: Paris, France, June 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition


Boys' Love (BL) Commercial Titles

Dan, Karan. Hard Line (Volume Six). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1999.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Higashizato, Kiriko and Sadahiro, Mika. Tenshi no Hohoemi (Angel's Smile). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1996.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Kodaka, Kazuma. Kizuna (Volume One). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1992.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· A classic of the boys' love genre. It subversively uses the yakuza (Japanese mafia), that bastion of masculinity, as a backdrop to the love story between the illegitimate son of a yakuza boss and his kendo-champion boyfriend. Later volumes are almost equally divided between action and romance: this series straddles several genres.

Kodaka, Kazuma. Kizuna (Volume Two). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1994.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Kodaka, Kazuma. Kizuna (Volume Three). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1996.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Motoni, Modoru. Koi ga Bokura wo Yurusu Hani (Volume One). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1996.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Motoni, Modoru. Koi ga Bokura wo Yurusu Hani (Volume Two). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1997.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Motoni, Modoru. Koi ga Bokura wo Yurusu Hani (Volume Three). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1998.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Motoni, Modoru. Shiikugakari Rika (Rika the Breeder) (Volume One). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1999.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Someone online once described Motoni's style as "cold - the epitome of aesthetic cruelty", which perfectly suits the story she's telling here. Hiro is trying to find his older brother's killer in a school that is a cross between Lord of the Flies and a Roman orgy. Most boys' love titles are meant to be aesthetically pleasing to look at - smooth bodies, graceful poses, and beautiful faces. Here, the bodies and faces are lovely, but what they're doing to each other is meant to be painful to look at, and drawn in an almost clinical way. Very disturbing.

Motoni, Modoru. Shiikugakari Rika (Rika the Breeder) (Volume Two). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 2001.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Nitta, Youka. Haru wo Dateita (Volume One). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1999.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Ohkami, Mineko. Lumen Lunae (Volume Two). Wings Comics: Japan, 1998.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Ousaka, Miya. Face (Volume One). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1998.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Another boys' love title that subverts the tradition of loyalty and devotion between Japanese gangsters into a story of male-male love. As Jeanne Johnson puts it: "To turn those conservative and dedicated heterosexuals into passionate bum-fuckers looks to me like the female imagination launching a radical attack on a basic male myth."

Ragawa, Marimo. New York New York (Volume One). French Trans: unknown. Generation Comics: France, April 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Notable among boys' love titles for its realistic treatment of issues such as AIDS, homophobia and gay bashing, which are blithely ignored by many other boys' love works.

Ragawa, Marimo. New York New York (Volume Two). French Trans: unknown. Generation Comics: France, July 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Shimizu, Yuki. Love Mode (Volume Two). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1997.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Shimizu, Yuki. Love Mode (Volume Six). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1999.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yoshinaga, Fumi. Ai to wa Yoru ni Kizuku Mono (I'm Aware of Love at Night). Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1999.
· Paperback, excellent condition

Yumedono, Risa. Gold. Super Be-Boy Comics, Biblos: Japan, 1995.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Classic boys' love. All the stereotypes of the genre are in evidence: the top is taller, stronger and less emotional; the bottom cries at the drop of a hat; and everyone is shown wreathed in flowers at critical points.

Boys' Love (BL) Doujinshi (Amateur Titles)

Asagi, Rune. Hikaru no Go: To the Bedroom. Passionate Kiss and Boys Shopping: USA, 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· An interesting amateur fan work based on the popular shonen series Hikaru no Go: drawn by a Japanese artist, translated into English and shipped all the way to a convention in San Francisco to be sold. Several professional artists in Japan have begun their careers by producing amateur fan works based on other manga, anime or video games before they became popular enough to produce original works profitably.

GCOLA. Shonen Hump: Yaoicon 2002 Official Doujinshi (Volume Two). GCOLA: USA, October 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Fan works by a number of American artists based on several anime and manga series.

Team Mink. Minkland Basement Project. Team Mink: USA, 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Collection of fan works based on Yoroiden Samurai Troopers by artists from several countries.

Umbrella Studios. Anthology 06. Umbrella Studios: USA, 2001.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Collection of original works by several artists.

Umbrella Studios. Anthology 09. Umbrella Studios: USA, 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Collection of original works by several artists.

Yokocho (Helm and Kirsten). Aoshi. Yokocho: USA, October 2002.
· Paperback, excellent condition
· Fan work based on the manga and anime series Rurouni Kenshin.