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Animerica Extra february 2003 – Akimi Yoshida by Patricia Duffield (english)

le 20/12/2012

Voici un article copié à partir d’un scan du numéro de février 2003 de la revue américaine Animerica Extra, spécialisée manga de Viz. Celui-ci concerne donc Akimi Yoshida, et est restitué en texte ici en anglais. Les pages scannées proviennent du site américain Boyfruit consacré à Banana Fish. L’article est écrit par Patricia Duffield.

You can find below an article about Akimi Yoshida written by Patricia Duffield in Animerica Extra #6 from February 2003. This article is a copy from the scanned pages of the magazine found on Boyfruit, an amazing website about Banana Fish. Because I got tired to read the article in JPEG format, I copied this one so I can read it again in a text format.

animericaextra6

AKIMI YOSHIDA BY PATRICIA DUFFIELD IN ANIMERICA EXTRA – February 2003

Hopefully Animerica Extra‘s readers are now familiar with Banana Fish, but there’s more to Akimi Yoshida than this one smash hit! After all, since she debuted in 1977, Yoshida has created over a dozen other titles which have garnered her numerous awards and made her one of the most successful shôjo manga artists of all time. She has achieved all this without any of the sweet charm and flowers often associated with Japanese girls’ comics. Yoshida’s work exists on the harsher side of shôjo.

MATURE THEMES

Despite the fact most of Yoshida’s manga have been published in shôjo anthologies, her stories almost invariably involve some starker elements of life. Banana Fish begins with a soldier on drugs killing his buddies in Vietnam, followed by a mystery suicide investigation, then a shooting on the streets of New York City. Yoshida also includes the complexities of police politics and the U.S. legal system as well as countless factual asides, such as cultural detail that many kidnappings in the U.S. are comitted by parents who’ve lost custody. These are just a few of the realistic elements which would never be found in lighter, more fanciful fare.

Yoshida’s oldest series, California Monogatari (« California Story »), is about the emotional journey of Heath in Soho, NYC. The story reveals many of the darker qualities of the Big Apple, including poverty, pollution, racism, and the spiritual desolation which can occur within young men like Heath.

With a title like Lovers’ Kiss, you’d expect some serious romance. All three parts of the series do revolve around romance – expressed with a kiss – but the romance is as awkward and complicated as the feelings of the characters. Each part of the story is cleverly told from a different’s character’s perspective yet intertwined with the others.

The first part of Lover’s Kiss involves Rikako. She’s infatuated with the cool and popular Tomoaki. Rumor has it he’s slept around and lives alone in a posh apartment. This doesn’t bother Rikako because a childhoud molestation by a teacher has confused her feelings, tangling sex and fear and love. The reality of Tomoaki’s world is not enviable, for his cool demeanor has more to do with the dysfunctionality of the family than with any innate savvy on his part.

The second part is about Sagisawa, a boy who’s infatuated with Tomoaki. He must deal with seeing the guy he likes involved with someone else. The third involves Eriko, Rikako’s little sister. Eriko’s infatuation is with her classmate Miki, who is in love with Rikako. This intricate web of romance is not resolved nestly for romantic convenience, because just like in the real world, the characters have their own distinct feelings and emotional baggage to complicate the situation. It is this quiet, unmelodramatic intensity which gives the story a realistic weight, making it engaging and satisfying.

PAINFUL PASTS

Often Yoshida’s flintier characters, such as Banana Fish‘s Ash or Tomoaki from Lovers’ Kiss, are the focal pionts of her plots. In order to create a believable reason for such sagacity in such young characters, each has a history of trauma. For Ash, it was prolonged sexual abuse culminating in his killing his abuser at the age of eight. For Tomoaki, it’s his continuing attempts to escape his obsessive mother who’s seeking to recoup her emotional losses with a faithless husband by clinging to her son. These and other tragic elements are not revealed right away but are shared with the audience slowly through the course of the story, intensifying the characters’ allure.

This is not the case for Sei, the lead of Yoshida’s current hit series Yasha (« Demoness »). Part of the pain which makes Sei so captivating is shown in the first chapter. He has a strange familiarity with hospitals, a slightly over-cautious single mom, and a remarkable sense of hearing. While these qualities are curious, he still seems like a regular boy. Then a cold-eyed man named Amamiya shows up to take Sei away. Sei’s mother tries to free him, but she is killed in front of his eyes. The next chapter begins six years later. Sei has become a cigarette-puffing, sexually active genius at a genetics lab. You can’t help but want to know what happened, how the strange little boy became a cool, teenaged doctor with the air of a rockstar. This is just part of what makes his character so interesting – there’s even more mystery and intrigue in the plot itself.

INSIDIOUS VILLAINS

Not all of Yoshida’s stories have villains, but those that do have truly twisted ones. Mafia don Papa Dino of Banana Fish is a hedonistic pedophile dealing in drugs, child prostitution, and political assassinations. His primary motivations are power, money,  and vengeance. He is not a two-dimensional bad guy who merely exists to cause the heroes trouble. Most of the time, the heroes are little more than a thorn in his side. He is definitely  a three-dimensional monster of a man, for no two-dimensional character could stand up in the role of villain in such an intricate story. By creating such complex villains, Yoshida not only adds more intensity to her stories but more depth to her heroes, for the villains act as both opponents and contrasts.

Although Amamiya is a major antagonist in Yasha, the primary villain is the hero’s twin. Rin is more incidious than other Yoshida villains in that he does not initially seem evil. Rin acts like a long-lost sibling happy to see his brother. Because Sei didn’t know he had a sibling, let alone a twin, Rin holds all the cards, and he plays them to his advantage, manipulating those around him like a cat toying with a mouse.

The central character of Kisshô Tennyo (« The Luck Goddess ») is a mysterious and elegantly beautiful high school student. Sayako is an extremely polite, unnaturally perceptive girl. The good girls like her, the bad girls hate her, the boys are in awe. On the surface, she appears merely self-possessed, but her kindness to her friends and intimidation of her ennemies seems closer to manipulation. The question is, what is her motivation? The answer is slowly revealed in this, the creepiest of all Yoshida’s titles.

Although none of Yoshida’s manga have been animated, one has been turned into a movie. Sakura No Sono (« The Cherry Orchard ») is a quiet romance between two students at an all-girls school. Their suppressed relationship is revealed through the school’s preparations for the performance of Anton Chekhov’s play. It’s not often you find Checkhov as an element in shôjo manga. Neither are doctors, lawyers and military vets community found in the casts of shôjo stories. But it’s only to be expected from an author who named a series after a creature in a J.D. Salinger story, an author who makes being intelligent cool. Yoshida does shôjo differently, and that’s what makes her so good.

Banana Fish fans should consider trying the manga Private Opinion. It contains one satisfying short story about Eiji and Ash’s youth without giving anything away to up-to-date U.S. readers. A Japanese rock singer named Gackt is a devoted Banana Fish fan and has written a song inspired by it.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Banana Fish (19 volumes)
  • Yasha (12 volumes)
  • California Monogatari (8 volumes)
  • Lovers’ Kiss (2 volumes)
  • Kawa yori mo Nagaku Yuruyaka ni (2 volumes)
  • Kisshô Tennyo (4 volumes)
  • Private Opinion / Banana Fish Another Story
  • Sakura No Sono
  • Yumemiru Koro o Sugitemo (Yoshida Akimi #1)
  • Yume No Sono (Yoshida Akimi #2)
  • Jûsanyasô Kidan (Yoshida Akimi #3)
  • Muteki no Licence
  • Hanako Gekki
  • Ahaha Manga?
  • All About Akimi Yoshida
  • The Making of Bobby’s Girl – character design
  • Angel Eyes – illustration book
  • Kitsune no Yomeiri (compilation)

3 responses to “Animerica Extra february 2003 – Akimi Yoshida by Patricia Duffield (english)

  1. […] du club de théâtre la pièce La Cerisaie d’Anton Chekhov. Au milieu de ces préparatifs, Akimi Yoshida s’intéresse à 4 […]

  2. […] Aussi: article sur Akimi Yoshida de Patricia Duffield, paru dans Animerica Extra #6 (février 2003) […]

  3. […] donc l’occasion pour les lecteurs de découvrir Akimi Yoshida dans un autre registre que Banana Fish, qui fut un thriller plutôt sombre. Kamakura Diary est, à […]

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