If there’s one thing that manga does best, it’s elegance. Whether it’s a high school romance or a rugged ninja fight, there is a certain grace to the style that gives even the grittiest stories a certain beauty. Fine examples of such can be found amongst this week’s selection of manga, most of which seem to be of the yakuza nature. Maybe it’s because the yakuza is still associated with a lot of the old ideals of Japan, left over from the Edo Period and the age of samurai, but there is always a certain mystique about the super-secretive underbelly of Japanese society.
That’s not to mean that everything about the yakuza is all bushido and rainbows, though. Just pick up Yakuza Moon: True Story of a Gangster’s Daughter to see what I mean. This is the manga adaption of the wildly shocking memoir of Shoko Tendo, the real-life daughter of a yakuza boss, and the effect her father’s lifestyle had on her own. Beautifully illustrated with the flair of up and coming manga-ka Michiru Morikawa, this is the autobiographical rendition of Tendo’s life from the luxury of her early years to the horrific downward spiral she took after her abusive yakuza father lost his foothold in Japan’s criminal society. Unlike many of the other media to come out with the yakuza as its central theme, this book doesn’t pull its punches about the more unsavory parts of such a lifestyle: Tendo describes in unabashed detail her trials with falling into delinquency and dropping out of school at an early age, her abusive love affairs with both hardcore drugs and violent men, and finally her eventual decision to reclaim control of her derailed life. At times the story is almost frustrating to read because of how far she has fallen and how incapable she seems to be of finding a center for herself, but this makes her journey that much more satisfying when she comes full circle. Besides, there has been very little in the way of media that so bluntly demonstrates how unglamorous the world of the yakuza can so often be. For those of you who are interested in learning more about Japan than what is presented to you in most anime and manga, this is surely your ticket.
Speaking of the yakuza, it stands to mention that there are a couple of lovely yaoi books coming out this week, most of which seem to be of the yakuza ilk. Like most yaoi books, the presentation will be much more idyllic and flowery than the title described above, but that doesn’t take away from an entertaining story or good art at all. Suffice to say, there is a new omnibus of the defining yaoi yakuza series, Kizuna, which I have described in this column at length before. Also to be found on our BL shelf is Men of Tattoos, the tale of two yakuza brothers who both share a connection with a mysterious individual called Kuboto, and Rabbit Man, Tiger Man, which tells the story of a doctor called Uzuki, who provides care for a yakuza called Nonami, who he comes across one night after work. Nonami then shows up at the hospital where Uzuki works in hopes of finding the one who saved him, though he is under the impression that he is searching for a woman named Suzuki, not a man called Uzuki! But what will happen if Nonami finds out the truth?
And while we’re mentioning the beauty of manga, you might be interested in checking out Opera Manga, an incredibly visual journey through some of the most famous operas to grace the world’s stages. Perfect for opera fans both new and old, this manga is sure to dazzle your senses as you experience the greatest stories ever told in a whole new way. And truly, isn’t that what comics are all about?