In 1962, A boy clalssmate with beautiful skin let me read his “Shonen Magazine” and “Shonen Sunday.” He sat close to the blackboard with his friend, and I sat at the back of the room. Since then, the Manga culture grew and blossomed out of those weekly magazines. I stopped reading Manga after junior high. But Manga-manic classmates continued to read the magazines into their adulthood.
I've been curious about what I missed during my 35 years in the U.S. And last week, I learned from a philosophy professor that Manga became an academic study in some universities. Interesting. It reminded me of my discovery in 1972 that Modern Dance was a disciplined art form and had a doctorate program in the U.S.
I don't know if the Manga study has a doctorate study, but I turned to a new friend of mine here in Japan who loves Shakespeare and Manga. I asked her if she could recommend a good one. Her eyes turned very serious. She promoted Manga and invited me to see her collection. I was impressed with her book cases of Manga books. They were double layered, movable bookcases.
The attached photo is a page from ‘The Dearest Bluff’ by Tomiko Sone. The Manga is based on a true story about four sisters sold by their parents. Before prostitution was banned in 1958, which wasn’t long ago, many poor North-East families sold their daughters to prostitute quarters. This Manga book has many graphic sexual and torturing scenes. I couldn’t bear reading through it. The oldest girl of the four sisters was only sixteen. She hanged herself right after she was forced to take her first customer. It was horrible, horrible, lower than the low human stories. Because of these unreal real stories, I feel really sick to my stomach with all the geisha-fantasy stories. A black friend of mine once told me that he hated the Western movies. I understood him. My feeling about geisha stories is similar, and Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Ukiyoe of oiran (prostitues) are included.
Overall about “The Dearest Bluff,” I was impressed with the language and design of pictures. This Manga makes readers think.
Getting back to the boy from whom I used to borrow his Shonen Magazine, I happened to meet him one day. We were already nineteen. I had gone to a travel agency to pick up my one-way airplane ticket to the U.S., and I was walking home. A rider on a bike came down from the other side of the neighborhood bridge. He stopped and said hello.
The rider was that boy. He was a bit taller than I, and he still had no zits on his fair, baby- skinned face. We chatted a while under a street light.
I told him I appreciated that he let me borrow his Manga when we were in junior high. We talked about Osomatsu-Kun and Iyami Sensei characters and laughed together. Then he said,
“I thank you for helping me and my friend then.”
“Why?” I said.
“The tall bullies used to push me and my friend around.”
“Really? I didn’t know.”
“You went up to them and told them off, Stop bothering short boys.”
“Wow, I’m sorry.”
“I always wanted to say thank you.”
I blushed. I really didn’t remember. I didn’t think I was a tomboy. I played with dolls and girls when I was small. I couldn’t climb up our persimmon trees like the neighborhood boys. But what he told me I did was easy for me to do because the tall boys were friends of mine. We sat next to each other at the back of the classroom and talked Beatles and foreign movies. In addition, I didn’t know I was the only girl who borrowed the boy’s Manga. I used to read it with my female friends during breaks.
The boy and I finished talking about the Manga and said goodbye. I went home with a grin on my face. I didn’t tell my mother about it. I knew what she would say: “You’re a girl, not a boy! Boys protect girls, not the other way around. From now on, behave yourself.” Something like that.
That’s my Manga story.