This is the first manga series I read! Inspired by an article in the New Statesman magazine, I searched out the first volume and then read through to the twelfth and last. Written and illustrated by Maki Murakami, it tells the story of Shuichi Shindo and his band as they rise to stardom. Shuichi is in love with the romance novelist Eiri Yuki. The two men form a relationship which is odd since the aloof Yuki is hard to like. Their first meeting came when Shuichi’s lyrics blew out of his hand in a park and were picked up by the writer. His response that the work was rubbish hurt the aspiring singer but the enigmatic figure intrigued him enough for him to pursue him, a decision that led to their relationship.
The story of the ups and downs of living together is told across the twelve volumes along with the complementary plot of the success of the band which Shuichi formed with his best friend Hiroshi Nakano. As with most of the manga and anime that feature late teenagers, the parental presence is reduced so that decisions about moving in with a famous romance novelist can be made without reference to parents.
The manga was a lot of fun, especially in the early episodes. Later stories stretched the patience somewhat but, having started, I was determined to finish. ‘Gravitation’ led me to explore other manga series and anime so it has a special place in my hinterland as the starting point for the further discoveries.
I was reminded of this anime feature from Japan after watching ‘Your Name’. They may not be in the same league in terms of quality but the story is an interesting one. It is told in flashback. Taku sees a woman at the train station and remembers how she came into his life. We see the story unfold starting at the point where Rikako joined his High School, transferring from Tokyo.
She is bright but arrogant and finds it hard to fit in. Taku, along with his friend Yutaka, is fascinated by her but not sure how to take her. She seems content to use her new found friends when it suits her, borrowing money when she needs it and failing to pay it back, for instance, and she thinks nothing of phoning Taku to rescue her from an old boyfriend when her date turns sour but seems not to recognise that he has feelings for her.
The film was the work of younger Studio Ghibli animators and it is best seen as a work of emerging artists. It is an interesting work, nevertheless.
This excellent 2016 anime from Japan makes you think about identity and gender. The concept of a boy and a girl changing places is one that has been explored in other films but this one has an extra dimension of time and chronology to add to the mix. The high school boy from Tokyo and the girl of the same age from rural Japan swap places unwillingly and realise that this new life is bringing around changes in their personalities as well as their fortunes.
There is a lot of fun to be had from the gender swap concept but the film is less interested in gender difference and more interested in personality. This makes it a more perceptive film. Their friends notice the differences in their manners before they do. In agreeing to communicate with each other, they set up a very modern solution to the problem: mobile phones are used to record diary entries. When back in their own bodies, they can see what ‘they’ might have done the day before. This is best shown when the boy goes on a date his other self set up for him.
Then the swapping stops! To lose the central idea of the film about two thirds through is a brave choice as the story develops into one of a young man pursuing a young woman who knows him like nobody else. This task seems impossible when his research in news media tells him it would be a waste of time.
I watched the version with sub-titles so that I could hear the Japanese language, even though I don’t understand it. I could not cope with American voices taking over, acting like a cultural gravy over the whole affair.
Mokoto Shinkai directed the film. Ryunosuke Kamiki played the young man and Mone Kamishiraishi played the young woman.
‘Your Name’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
This book by Benjamin Law takes a look at how different Asian societies treat and view gay people. As a gay man himself, he sets off to experience different societies from Bali’s tourist directed gay services to Japan’s popular culture exposure of gay people. The result is a book that is funny at times but ultimately serious in its assessment at how the gay minority presents itself in different places and how it is viewed.
The journey starts in Bali which offers services to the gay tourist, including resorts that are exclusively for gay clientele. Around these resorts young Balinese gather as sex working can be lucrative; not all of the young men are gay themselves, it is a ‘day job’… or more often a night one.
The journey moves on to take in China, Japan, Malaysia and India. It is interesting that each country has a different expression of gay culture. In China the view of the authorities is apparently neutral but most gay life is online and a lot of self censorship goes on to avoid being shut down. In Japan, gays are out in the open but it seems that the more flamboyant, the better. As Law shows, in the end it seems that the great Japanese public accepts gays as long as they are feminine and in the entertainment industry. Trying to be out in any other way is still hard.
Benjamin Law is an Australian and he travels as a gay man who has no trouble with his identity. This book is a reminder that some places have a long way to go but it also demonstrates the power of the human spirit. Even in the hardest places, he found people who were not going to hide their sexuality.
‘Gaysia’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
One of the cultural differences that interests me is the wearing of tights by boys in some countries; it would be very rare to see a boy in tights in Britain. In Japan their use as acceptable wear seems to be more frequent.
There are rules, though! Boys wanting to wear tights when playing football have to observe the rule that the tights, short exercise lycra shorts or inner wear has to be the same colour as the main uniform. In case of doubt, there are helpful illustrations, shown below.
NG here is the ‘not okay’ message. These rules apply for official matches and things are more relaxed for practice sessions.
This animated film from Japan remains a favourite of mine. It dates from 2011 but is set in 1963 as Tokyo prepares to host the Olympics. In a boarding house overlooking the harbour of Yokohama, a young girl hoists flags every day. Umi runs the household as well as attends school as a High School student. Her mother is studying abroad and her father is lost at sea. She flies the flags to offer hope to ships passing by as she once did for the return of her father.
In her school newspaper, she reads a poem about the raising of the flags. It was written by a boy called Shun, who works on the paper and leads the campaign to prevent the student’s clubhouse from demolition, a plan organised by the Chairman of the school as part of the Olympic preparations.
Umi and Shun become close but their complicated family histories seem to prevent their becoming closer. Shun is the son of a tugboat captain but he is aware that he was adopted at birth. While the story of saving the clubhouse acts as a background to the film the main narrative concerns Shun’s feelings for Umi and her confusion at his reluctance to advance their relationship.
It is a sweet film made by Studio Ghibli, famous for their animated films. It is based on a serialised story by illustrator Chizuru Takahashi and author Tetsurō Sayama. The director of the film was Goro Miyazaki.
There is a scene towards the end of the film where both Shun and Umi are summoned to a ship in the harbour where the captain wishes to see them. His link with both their fathers proves pivotal to both youngsters understanding their backgrounds.
‘From Up on Poppy Hill’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
This is the second of a pair of films in the week long romance between two High School boys. Actually it is a case of ‘is it or isn’t it?’ a romance since the central conceit is that one boy, Shino, asks out the younger but popular Seryo on a date. School legend has it that Seryo only dates girls for a week, accepting any offer on a Monday but ending the arrangement on a Sunday.
What made the film (and its companion) interesting to me is the idea that two boys could fall in love without having had any previous indication that they were gay. This, I suppose, is where the Q comes in to the acronym LGBTQ. I had never been convinced by the idea of that Q. In my experience, the sense of otherness that many gay people feel is there long before any outward expression of sexuality becomes an issue. Yet, here we have two boys who date each other, partly out of fun and partly out of a sense of adventure.
As the week progresses, their feelings for each other grow stronger so that by the time we reach Friday, the point where this film picks up the story, both boys expect the other to end things.
Love is where it falls, so I am not sceptical about the storyline. Why wouldn’t feelings grow through getting to know somebody? A limiting factor of both films, though, is the interior monologue being shared as voice overs. This probably worked better in the original manga. However, this blog is a positive place; no one wants negative things in their hinterland. The film shows two young men whose feelings grow to the point where they want to start a proper relationship. It is worth watching to see them grow closer together.
Takeshi Yokoi directed the film with Tomoki Hirose as Seryo and James Takeshi Yamada as Shino. It is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?