Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Part 6: Interlude: Riyoko Ikeda and The Rose of Versailles Franchise

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Origins of Shojo Manga
Part 3: Riyoko Ikeda (Part 1)
Part 4: Moto Hagio
Part 5: Keiko Takemiya

Before I get back to The Rose of Versailles, I want to make a quick note that the manga The Window of Orpheus (1975-1981), which also features a girl being raised as a boy for the sake of being an heir, but is very different than Oscar. Julius von Ahrensmeyer is the daughter of her father’s mistress, who later becomes his second wife. Because von Ahrensmeyer’s first wife had two daughters, when Julius was very small, her mother began dressing her in boy’s clothes and passing her off as a boy; when she married von Ahrensmeyer, Julius became his heir. Julius has to keep up the disguise as long as her father lives so she can inherit.

The Window of Orphesus 1

Unlike Oscar, who enjoys her work and her unusual life for the most part, Julius does not. She wants to wear dresses and be allowed to express her romantic interest in her crush Klaus, which she can’t do partially because of her all-boys music school’s strict “no homo” policy and social norms, as well as a desire to be true to herself. Additionally, she has to deal with the doctor who delivered her blackmailing her mother and threatening to out her. It’s a different take on the women-performing-masculinities genre in that, instead of being freeing or transgressive, Julius is unhappy in her role, a predecessor in some ways of the manga that would explore trans identities and social dysmorphia.


While many manga in our discussion had anime versions released, The Rose of Versailles stands out from the crowd with 40 years of continual media adaptations and marketing. In the years after the manga wrapped, The Rose of Versailles became a cultural force unto itself. First, let’s take a brief look at how The Rose of Versailles has become as recognizable and referenced in Japanese culture and media as Star Wars before we delve into the other media the series inspired.


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[Image: Richard St. Vier, looking hella dramatic with flowing cape and sword, on the cover of Swordspoint.]

This is very! late! But here it is!

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. 1987.

On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless–until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye. 


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Image: Princess Knight (リボンの騎士) manga cover. Tink, dressed in a green tunic and cap, whispers in Princess Sapphrie’s ear. Sapphire has short black hair and is wearing a big hat with feathers in it and a puffy-sleeved tunic.

Part 1: Introduction

Origins of Shojo Manga

Manga historians tend to identify the prolific and influential artist Osamu Tezuka as the creator of shojo manga, but the true origins of the genre are somewhat more complicated – and interesting!


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My co-panelist and friend Dr. Kathryn Hemmann of Contemporary Japanese Literature and I teamed up again at Geek Girl Con 2015 to give an improved version of our “Crossdressing in Anime and Manga” panel as well as a brand-new panel, “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga,” originally presented Oct. 11, 2015. We are pleased to present a multi-part series based on the latter panel on this blog. We’d also like to thank not just our readers and panel attendees but the awesome section of teens who sat in the front row and squeed at all our pictures, especially Oscar’s.

Panel description

Shojo manga, or manga for young women, is at the center of a thriving comics publishing industry in both Japan and the United States. The legacy of shojo manga is readily apparent in contemporary media from Sailor Moon to Steven Universe, but where did it all begin? This panel offers a glimpse into the classic works that shaped the genre and still inform international fan cultures. Join us to learn more about graphic novels filled with romance, political intrigue, and tons of gender trouble. We’ll introduce you to the work of legendary artists such as Riyoko Ikeda, Moto Hagio, and Keiko Takemiya while celebrating the appeal of illustrated explosions of flowers that rival the flowery speeches given by fascinating characters.

Kyoto Manga Museum

Kyoto International Manga Museum [image: ceiling-to-floor shelves of 1980s manga, with each shelf labeled by year at the Kyoto International Manga Museum]


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I’m productively procrastinating on a post about Ôoku, so in the meantime, you get more photos!

My partner and I went to Oregon last week and while we were there we visited the Portland Japanese Garden, which just reopened to the public on March 1, 2016. We may have missed the cherry blossoms and came too early for roses in the Portland Rose Garden, but it was a lovely spring day and there were plenty of azaleas blooming.

We even had a great view of Mt. Hood:

Portland Japanese Garden  | The Lobster Dance 16

Image: view of snow-covered Mt. Hood from Washington Park, Portland



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LINE has some new stickers from The Rose of Versailles (BeruBara)!
Translated from InternetCom.

Is the lovely Oscar-sama now spewing Internet slang?


(c)Ikeda Riyoko Production [Image: Rose of Versaille LINE stickers with the characters using Kansai Internet slang in Japanese.]


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LeftHandOfDarkness-ebookWhat’s the Non-Binary Book Club?

Our Feb/Mar 2016 book was Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1969 The Left Hand of Darkness, winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

The review contains spoilers.

The novel follows the story of Genly Ai, a native of Earth (referred to as “Terra” in the novel), who is sent to the planet of Gethen as an envoy of the Ekumen, a loose confederation of planets. Ai’s mission is to persuade the nations of Gethen to join the Ekumen, but he is stymied by his lack of understanding of Gethenian culture. Individuals on Gethen are “ambisexual”, with no fixed gender identity, a fact which has a strong influence on the culture of the planet, and creates a large barrier for Ai, a male raised on Earth. –Wikipedia (that’s how hard it is to find a short description!)

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