Guest MMF: Thoughts on Fumi Yoshinaga’s appeal for a fan.
A couple of months ago when I learned about this MMF, I immediately told a friend who is a fan of Yoshinaga’s works and wanted to see if she would want to participate. Now, I am glad to be hosting her words on scribblings for participation in this MMF. I present to the world (internet), words from my friend Rai.
Moon and Sandals has a simple enough BL plot which starts with a student who confesses his feelings for his male teacher. The teacher is swept along at the student’s pace and a relationship unfolds that is both sweet and silly at times, mixed with the underlying risk and danger of such a taboo relationship. This is not an uncommon plotline, but Yoshinaga Fumi-sensei’s characters and story lines reveals something deeper than the usual. A hint of reality of the stigma of homosexuality, the interactions amongst gays in Japan is illustrated in the story as well. Besides addressing the ‘falling in love’ aspect of the relationship, the short series went on to tell ‘what happens next’ when two men want to live their life together. The issues that they face at their jobs, their home and the intimacy of their relationship. There is drama in the story, but the angst doesn’t overwhelm the story as the events unfold. And all this in her debut manga!
The elements of situations in real life with the stereotypical tropes of boy love stories is something that is common in Yoshinaga-sensei’s manga. And she does it so well regardless of the genre that she writes in. Yoshinaga-sensei is one of the few mangaka that writes prolifically in other genres besides BL. The historical pieces of Japan in Ooku, the humor and slice of life of Flower of Life, the drama in Garden Dreams. Each piece speaks from a different time, setting, sets of personalities and of course society. The world she paints is real through the social situations that her characters find themselves in. Things are not just happening to the character via their choices. Limits are set because things happen around them. I find myself absorbed in the story, drawn to the events that occur. Also, looking for the BL fanservice that finds their way into the background. As many can attest, even if the genre is not BL, homosexual love is not wholly absent from the stories even then. Yoshinga-sensei is a BL mangaka afterall. Mostly anyway.
Yoshinaga-sensei draws for herself and for her fans. She began as a doujinka with various doujins from other series like Slam Dunk and her own original creations. Currently, her Antique Bakery doujins range from an average of 1000-3000 yen each while her Slam Dunk goes from 5000 yen and above due to their rarity. Of course, since the focus is on the BL relationship aspect in the doujins, the plotline becomes more fanciful than realistic. However, she enjoys using the plot device of ‘characters imagining these things’ as an excuse for the graphic scenes that follow.
The men in her story are handsome and cute, lanky with long fingers and at times, long arms and legs. Her character designs are distinctive and simple with clean lines and subtle screentones. Nothing is excessive and they’re still very much attractive. The backgrounds of her manga are simple as well. Most panels are just white with the character in the foreground. The focus is drawn to the characters’ expressions and of course, their words. The art which I refer to as ‘simple’ is not bad in any way. Even with a few strokes, the emotions are shown with the eyes. (Or in Chikage’s case in Antique Bakery, his demeanor since he wears sunglasses most of the time. But when he takes them off…. *swoons*) Of course, for BL manga, the question becomes the amount of detail and how graphic the love scenes become. Yoshinaga-sensei doesn’t reveal too much with the focus still on the character’s face and the motions. The panels builds on the passhion and on the rare occasion when she shows more…it’s intense.
I echo other fans’ reasons for the popularity of Yoshinaga-sensei’s manga. She draws about characters dealing with real life issues, but doesn’t over dramatizes them. The mixture of humor in a semi-reality isn’t her only tool. The inner dialogue of her characters and the way they look at themselves and themselves with others fascinates me and pulls me in. I long for more of her manga and look forward to seeing what other personalities she will create.