License request day: Song of the Wind and the Trees

As the current Manga Moveable Feast nears its conclusion, I thought I would consider the unlicensed Keiko Takemiya. It’s widely known that she was likely the first person to professionally publish a boys’-love comic, and yet her available-in-English work is science-fiction shônen. There are admittedly some shônen-ai underpinnings, at least in my view, but what about some unvarnished Takemiya male-on-male romance?

For that, I would love to see her Song of the Wind and the Trees licensed by some hardy publisher. In the current discourse on the manga industries various commercial woes, some have argued that boys’ love and yaoi seem to be relatively immune to the downturn. But this is a 17-volume series that’s over 30 years old, and it’s not clear to me that the yaoi audience is particularly interested in classic material. I’m not saying they aren’t; I’m just saying that I don’t know if they are.

It would take a publisher that’s demonstrated a commitment to archiving classic comics, which would point at Fantagraphics. Since that publisher’s manga imprint is being helmed by shôjo manga scholar Matt Thorn, and since Thorn is a colleague of Takemiya’s in the Faculty of Manga at Kyoto Seika University, the pairing seems even more apt. Also, Song of the Wind and Trees was originally published by Shogakukan, the publisher that’s partnered with Fantagraphics to a degree. Still, 17 volumes of 30-year-old manga is a risky proposition.

So what’s it about? Here’s a bit of what Wikipedia has to say:

“Serge Battour is the son of a wealthy man and a Roma woman. Taking place in the late 19th century, the story is a recollection of his memories of Gilbert Cocteau at Laconblade Academy in Provene, France. The story has themes of class prejudice, racism, homophobia, homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, rape, prostitution, and drug abuse.”

That entry also notes that Takemiya refused to allow it to be published until she was promised that it would be run uncensored. It was, and it won awards, and it’s widely considered one of the first major works of shônen-ai to be published professionally.

Here’s a link to Shogakukan’s nine-volume release of the series. It might be more reasonable to ask someone to publish Takemiya’s much shorter In the Sunroom to help fulfill the need for a representation of her boys’-love work, but why not dream big?

11 Responses to License request day: Song of the Wind and the Trees

  1. judi(togainunochi) says:

    I can dream big, too. I want Mirage of Blaze, which I believe is now 30 volumes, but it won’t happen. The anime barely scratches the surface. Too bad I can’t read Japanese then all my desires would be satisfied.

  2. […] Ed Sizemore kicks off the weekend with a thoughtful essay on the tragic flaw in To Terra: The belief that humans have unlimited control of the world around them. Sam Kusek compares To Terra to The X-Men, and Kate Dacey rounds up the rest of this week’s Manga Moveable Feast links. All this inspires David Welsh’s latest license request, Song of the Wind and the Trees. […]

  3. When I read/watched yaoi, lo these many years ago, the big properties were those which had been adapted into OVA’s or anime. So Song of the Wind and the Trees was definitely popular. Actually, there was a trio – SWT, Ai no Kusabi</i and Zetsuai – that were seen as sort of the grand dames of the genre. I could be wrong, but SWT might be the shortest of the three.

    Still, 17 volumes sounds a bit much to me, too. How about a collected edition? Viz is putting (I think) four volumes in each of the VizBig editions, so that would make about five volumes total for SWT. That sounds a lot more reasonable.

    • davidpwelsh says:

      Yup, handsome three-in-one volumes would be a good solution for the length of the series. And they could pad out the final one with In the Sunroom.

  4. LillianDP says:

    If we’re talking progenitors of modern BL, I think Heart of Thomas has a better shot at publication–especially given the Hagio Moto/Matt Thorn connection (although SWT’s anime did give it more fan-recognition here). I’ve read the first few volumes of Song, thanks to the Japanese bind-ups, and while I like it okay, it pales in comparison to the emotional and psychological depth of (the much shorter) Heart of Thomas. Song generally reads like a twisted soap opera, so it’s exciting and sexy, but while Heart of Thomas involves similar themes on some level, the pacing is much tighter and the themes are both more sophisticated and better-developed. In my humble opinion.🙂

    • davidpwelsh says:

      I’m game for any and all Hagio manga anyone ever wants to publish in English, trust me. I was just going with Takemiya in the spirit of the Manga Moveable Feast.

      But Heart of Thomas does sound awesome, and I’d love to get a look at Poe Clan.

  5. TEX says:

    @judi(togainunochi) I can sympathize with you, I also want a series called, “Fujimi Orchestra” to be licensed and its almost as lengthy as Mirage Blaze, but *sigh* . They say that age is good for wisdom but apparently bad for memory.

  6. […] but not least, David Welsh (The Manga Curmudgeon) makes an eloquent case for licensing another Takemiya series for English-speaking audiences: Song […]

  7. Houston says:

    I don’t know much about BL, if anything. But this past year I’ve fallen in love in a small way (Loveless) with the genre and I came across some fan translations of this manga, SWT, and fell in love (as far as I know I’m heterosexual, however . . . well mostly ;)) I’ve read I think the first volume and would love to see it released in America. I would definitely buy it, but the collected editions would be the best option too, imho.

  8. Ed Sizemore says:

    David,

    I want that top image as a poster. It is soooo beautiful. I hope if that get’s licensed they keep the cover.

  9. Jura says:

    Neat artwork. Would be better if they were shotacon. :>

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