Lovefool 08.15.11 | Cooking Up a Conversation

The secret ingredient is yaoi in Lovefool’s latest treat, a look at Antique Bakery author Fumi Yoshinaga as part of this month’s Manga Moveable Feast.

 

 
I like collaboration. I really enjoy the idea of hanging out with other people and bouncing ideas off of them, of seeing what people think about things that I have thoughts on, too. Even if their thoughts are different from mine. Sometimes I like that even more, hearing a different opinion. Well, you know, as long as it’s not stupid, of course. (That was a joke. I swear. Mostly.) Enter David Welsh, author of the blog Manga Curmudgeon, who took an idea and ran with it, both hands full of organization and good ideas, and manga nerds flocked behind his banner. And so the Manga Moveable Feast was born. Hosted every month by a different site, the topics are chosen by group consensus and have covered a wide variety of books, from sweet Emma to the decidedly salty After School Nightmare. Sometimes, it’s an author and not a book, as was the case the month Rumiko Takahashi was covered.
 
PLAYBACK:stl has gotten in on the act before, having a rousing discussion about Paradise Kiss, Sarah Boslaugh’s look at The Color Trilogy, and Jason’s musings on To Terra… and Aria. Next month, our very own Jason Green, Fearless Editor, will be running the show for September’s Love Hina discussion, and you can be sure Lovefool will get in on that one.
 
This month is an author month, the author being Fumi Yoshinaga. Yoshinaga is a bit of a critics’ favorite, famous for books like Antique Bakery and The Sandals and The Moon. I reviewed the first volume of her lovely Ooku: The Inner Chambers some time ago and it’s been a book that’s kind of stuck with me. I compared it, at the time, to a Jane Austen novel and privately reflected that it was a little dirtier, perhaps, than that sweet lady might have written. And then I learned a great deal more about Jane Austen and discovered that maybe she was a little naughtier than I thought. And I reread Ooku and discovered that it was a little sweeter than I thought. Yoshinaga, though, has gained a reputation for her sensitive portrayals of “Boys Love” tales and her insightful stories of relationships, be they romantic or purely platonic.
 
She seems to be something of a recluse, so we have to see what we can deduce from her work. She’s a romantic. Yoshinaga seems to understand that romance can go wrong and she knows that there’s more to life than falling in love. More importantly, she knows how to take all of this and wrap it up in an aesthetically pleasing package. Much like a real relationship, most of her tales start with a good chat about a great story and keep us there with a little somethin’ somethin’ else. Does she get it all from books? Perhaps. Do her characters sometimes get it all from books? Amusingly, yes. Are her portrayals refreshingly real sometimes, compared to books where the protagonists fall in love (and bed) as easy as a plucked daisy petal falls to the ground? They are. It doesn’t matter if it’s two boys or a gender-role flipped universe struggling to find ground or a student dashing their heart upon a teacher’s established rocky boundaries, there’s something there for all of us.
 
I have to wonder, though, if sometimes she isn’t poking a little fun at herself. Her Wikipedia article says she’s known for parodying other books as well as self-publishing stories in her own universes, namely Antique Bakery. Antique Bakery isa story that centers primarily on the various relationships built in and around, yes, a bakery. It’s a fairly easy book, comparatively speaking. Another of her better-known books, Flower of Life, is about a manga club, complete with token supernerds (or otaku, for the supernerds reading this). Her books, such as the blush-inducing Gerard and Jacques, can be fairly smutty, but she wraps it up in conversation and, sometimes, period clothing so no one has to admit that they’re reading straight up smut.
 
Sometimes, again reflecting real life, the conversation is better than others and sometimes it just seems like she just wants to get on with it, a feeling I’m sure absolutely none of us can relate to since we all always take our time with these things and never rush through the chatter to get to the naked parts. But, ultimately, her work remains popular since it’s largely well-crafted and beautifully rendered. And, as we all discover eventually in our own magical ways, yaoi fits in a special niche in the manga world and it’s a pretty big one. Not everything Yoshinaga does falls into that category, but there tend to be aspects of it, even if it’s just a nod, in everything she does.
 
I’d recommend Ooku, of course, because I reviewed it positively and I’m a history nerd and I love a good tragic tale. But you can’t really go wrong with wandering into your local funnybook store and grabbing something. Antique Bakery and Flower of Life are both quite tame so, if boys love eeks you out a little, you could start there. She even has a few short story collection, Truly, Kindly and Don’t Say Anything More, Darling, though your mileage may vary there. Short stories, sadly, sometimes seem to…well, fall short. Yaoi fans, however, can pick up anything else in Yoshinaga’s catalog and find themselves pretty happy. It probably won’t kill even the most bashful ones of us out there to remember that love is, after all, a many-splendored thing. | Erin Jameson
 
Check out the rest of the Fumi Yoshinaga Manga Moveable Feast at http://comicattack.net/2011/08/mmfyoshinaganchor2011/!

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