review/manga “Rohan au Louvre” by Araki Hirohiko

Rohan au Louvre
Rohan au Louvre

The other day, I bought a book from
The title of the book is “Rohan au Louvre (Rohan goes to the Louvre)” and the author is Hirohiko Araki, who is famous for the manga “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.”
“Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” is the second longest running manga in the Weekly Shonen Jump and it has over 100 volumes.
This “Rohan au Louvre ”  is Araki’s newly written work for the “Bande Dessinee Project,” which is a project that Musee du Louvre in France is developing in collaboration with the publishing company, Futuropolis.
La bande dessinee is a European comic movement mainly from Belgium and France.
In this project, five cartoonists received the requests from Musee du Louvre, to create a work on the theme of Musee du Louvre freely. Araki was the only Japanese artist to participate in it.
Araki’s book was published in France in April of last year and the Japanese version was put on the market at the end of May of this year.
(I’m wondering why there was a lag time for the Japanese version like this? I’m sure Araki must have written it in Japanese and it didn’t need to be translated.)
The main character of this book, Kishibe Rohan is a sub character in “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.” He is a manga author in Japan. In this story, he goes to Paris to search for the mysterious “Blackest Picture in the world.”

To begin from the conclusion, I thought that it was not bad, but this is not the best work by Araki Hirohiko.
I think that he is better at long stories than short stories. If you expect to enjoy this as much as “Jojo’s…” then you will be disappointed.
However, the art work is really excellent and the first full color book by Araki Hirohiko is worth seeing.
Also, there is something to enjoy for fans of “Jojo’s.”
Kishibe Rohan is a character from “Jojo’s” and some other characters from “Jojo’s” appear in this story too.
You can see Josuke, who was the protagonist of part four of “Jojo,” and his friends, Okuyasu and Koichi. (Although Josuke had no dialogue and we could only see his backside.) If you are a fan of part four, you will be glad to see them.
You can also see young Rohan before his debut as a manga author and his first love. I love part four very much and my number one favorite character in “Jojo” except for the protagonists is Kishibe Rohan. So, I enjoyed this sufficiently.
Although I said that this is not his best, if you don’t compare it with other works of his, this story is sufficiently good.
I thought that this story was one volume in the “Thus spoke Kishibe Rohan” series, although there is no clear explanation on this story’s relationship with the other parts of the series.
It’s a series of short stories in which Kisibe Rohan talks about mysterious incidents he comes across.
死刑執行中 脱獄進行中 (SCオールマン愛蔵版)
死刑執行中 脱獄進行中 (SCオールマン愛蔵版)

The first story of the series is in Araki’s collection of short stories, “Carrying out execution and breaking out of prison.” The second one was published in the magazine “Jump Square,” but is not published in book form. (I prefer the second one, so I hope that it will be published in Araki’s collection book.)
If you want to read the second one immediately, you can read it on this site.
(Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan – Mutsukabezaka
The original Japanese title of the series is “Kishibe Rohan wa Ugokanai (Kishibe Rohan doesn’t move/act)” This title means that Kishibe Rohan is not the protagonist but the narrator for these stories.
He does not fight for justice nor does he battle with vicious enemies.
He only talks about strange occurrence that he experiences (or is involved in) when he was collecting material for his manga or just for his own curiosity.
This is the difference from the Jojo series. The protagonists of Jojo are the heroes and heroines of justice. They fight with vicious enemies and of course win. They are perfect characters for “Weekly Shonen Jump.”
The “Kisibe Rohan” series doesn’t have a good and fresh feeling like the Jojo series.
I think that this is the reason why the fans of Jojo complain.
However, I like this series.
He is an attractive character even though he is not a hero of justice. He primarily appears as an antagonist in the story of Jojo. He is a genius manga author, has super manga skill and doesn’t spare any effort for his manga. But, for the sake of making his manga his personality is very forcing, selfish, amoral and unfeeling for others.
In spite of being very eccentric, he is very attractive and he became a popular character on par with the protagonist.
It seems that he is the author’s favorite character. It may be the reason why Araki writes many spin off stories using this character.
I heard that people think that Araki is an eccentric person and came to be afraid of him because Kishibe Rohan is a very eccentric and arrogant character, but it is said that Araki is an affable person with commonsense in fact.
Kishibe Rohan is probably Araki’s ideal rather than his self-projection.

However, in “Kishibe Rohan goes to the Louvre,” his eccentricity is more restrained than in “Jojo…” and other stories.
When Araki was asked about this point in an interview, he answered like this;

“This Rohan is little bit different from “Jojo..” and other stories because this is a story for the Bande Dessinee project for Louvre. Although it’s possible that he is doing strange things out of the story…(Laughter) ”

It seems that Araki can change his character flexibly adjusting to requests, but there was a point that he didn’t dare to change. 
Araki also talked about his work for Louvre like this;

“Bande Dessinee is avant-garde art rather than entertainment, different from Japanese manga. However, I wanted to be obstinate about making entertainment, because Japanese manga is entertainment. I thought this was the intention/purpose that they requested this work of a Japanese manga writer.”

Araki Hirohiko has pride as a manga author and is a fastidious manga author.
I think that he is an excellent manga author, although he is not like Kishibe Rohan.



Book review “Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari 巷説百物語”

巷説百物語 (角川文庫)
巷説百物語 (角川文庫)
Kousetsu is a rumor which people believe.
Hyaku Monogatari means one hundred stories.

“Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari is the first book of the Kousetsu series by Natsuhiko Kyogoku , while “Warau Iemon” was one volume of his another series, “rewritten classic stories in Japan.”
This book consists some short stories. The all of the stories are titled names of yokai.
Yokai is a class of preternatural creatures in Japanese folklore, like a monster or ghost.I will introduce the first story, “Azuki Arai.”

It is set in the Edo period.
Momosuke was a  writer. While he aspired to be a drama-writer, now he was writing riddle stories for children.
One day, on the way of his travel, he came across some strange people when he stopped at a small shack to take shelter from the rain.
There were some men and a woman in the shack. They too were taking cover from the rain.
One of them, a man who looks like an Ongyo— Ongyo is a person who wears Buddhist monk’s clothes and begs for money while scattering paper talisman. — suggests to play “Hyaku Monogatari” to kill time.
Hyaku Monogatari means one hundred stories. It is a game which was popular in Japan during the Edo-period. People in a room have to tell one hundred mystery, strange, ghost or monster stories. It was said that something mysterious would happen when all the stories were finished.
Momosuke was happy to hear the suggestion because he really loves mysterious ghost or monster stories, and he frequently traveled around Japan to collect them. His dream was to publish a hyaku monogatari book someday.
The woman began to tell her story. It was a story about a monster cat. She said that her sister, whose name was Oriku, met with the monster cat. It was the the day before her wedding. After seeing the cat, she became mad suddenly and shut herself up in a shack in a mountain. She refused to have a meal and died in the end.
It was a strange story.
Momosuke knows many monster stories, but this was the first time he had heard it.
When the story ended, they heard a strange sound from somewhere as though someone was washing rice or beans. Hearing the sound, some of the people in the shack said that it was the sound of a monster called “Azuki Arai.”
“Azuki Arai” means azuki beans washer. It’s a yokai.
There were many old tales about Azuki Arai in Japan. It’s said that it make the sound near a river, so that a person will become confused, and they will fall into the water. It’s also said that it sings, “Shall I wash azuki beans or eat a human?” while washing azuki beans.
Momosuke noticed that one man in the shack, whose name was Enkai, seemed to be uneasy while hearing the woman’s story. Moreover, Enkai overreacted to the word “azuki beans” sensitively.
Next, the middle aged man began to tell his story. Although it was a story about Azuki Arai, Momosuke didn’t know the story.
He was a master of a large wholesale store. There was an employee who had a special ability in the store. His name was Yasuke. He was a boy who had an interectual disability, but he had a strange ability. He could correctly add up the number of beans in a scoopful of azuki beans in an instant. The master was interested in his ability and gave him an important position in his shop, even although Yasuke couldn’t anything except for very easy job.
However, Yasuke was killed by someone and his body was discovered in a river.
From the  day, a strange incident began to happen in the store. People in the store heard someone’s voice singing, “Shall I wash azuki beans or eat a human?” It was Yasuke’s voice and azuki beans was scattered in the entrance.
After all, an employee, called Tatsugoro, confessed his crime to a magistrate. He was jealous of Yasuke and killed him secretly. He became half mad because he saw Yasuke washing beans.
When the second story ended, they heard the sound of azuki beans again.
Suddenly, Enkai, who was silently listening to the story, cried out.
He looked scared and paniced and rushed into the rain. After the rain stopped, he was found dead. He probably slipped in the rain and fell into the river.
It appears as though he was confused by the azuki beans washer.
The people agreed that this accident was due to the youkai.
The Ongyo rang a bell and prayed: “Ongyo, si-tatematsuru-”

However, afterwards, Momosuke found out the truth.
It was not monster’s evil doing but a human’s.
The man who looked like an Ongyo, was in fact an uncommon liar, whose nickname was “Komatakuguri-no Mataichi.” Komatakuguri means swindler. His job was to solve problems or negotiate a private settlement using his gift of the tongue and elocution. This time, his duty was to find a murderer.
The dead man in the river, Enkai’s real name was Tatsugoro.
He had raped a woman called Oriku who was going to marry with another man the next day. Oriku became mad because of her ordeal, shut herself up in a shack and died. He also killed her brother, Yasuke, because Yasuke saw him do it. Oriku and Yasuke’s father suspected him of the murders, but he had no evidence. So he requested the service of Mataichi.
The woman, Ogin and the middle aged man, Jihei who told the two ghost stories were his accomplices.Mataichi and his accomplices trapped Tatsugoro. They followed him who traveled and,lired him into the shack seizing the rain. the shack in which
It got down and this hut was the very hut in which they took shelter was the exact one in which Oriku had shut herself up.
Mataichi only intended for Tatsugoro to confess his crime by being frightened by the stories, but Tatsugoro killed himself because of his fear of hearing the names of his victims in the ghost stories, and the sound of the azuki beans. It was true that Yasuke had a special ability adding up the number of beans in a scoopful.
After finding out the truth, Momosuke thought that it was better that this incident appeared that it was due to the monster.
Mataichi said, “Shall I wash the azuki beans or eat a human-”

It is the outline of  “Azuki Arai.”
This story tells about Mataichi’s work (which is called “sikake” in this book, and it means a scheme or plot) and the encounter of Mataichi and Momosuke.

Mataichi is a komatakuguri. Although he dresses as a wondering monk, he is a faithless man who believes neither in God nor Buddha. Although he is a scoundrel, he is very likable character. When he solves a problem, he skillfully kids people into thinking that it was due to a monster or a ghost.
His accomplice,”Yamanekomawasi is a beautiful woman who is a street performer who uses a puppet. “Kotobure-no Jihei” is an expert in disguise. In a later story, “Yotsudama-no Tokujiro” appears. He is a showman and an expert hypnotist. They act in various roles in their work.
After this first story, Momosuke started to cooperate with them.
He is a writer and is well versed in monster and ghost stories, so he is able to give reality to Mataichi’s work.

They deceive people using the monster or ghost stories but, actually don’t believe in them. This is especially true of Matachi. He declared “There is neither soul nor a after world. Those things exist only in people’s minds. A dead person is only a dead body.” in the last story of the book.

This is the first book of the Kousetsu series. The later books are also fantastic.

Warau-Iemon(The Movie)

嗤う伊右衛門 [DVD]
嗤う伊右衛門 [DVD]

This is the poster from the movie “Warau-Iemon” by the director Ninagawa Yukio. 

People always complain about movies that are based on their favorite novels.

They always say “The bloody movie was so different from the novel!!” They say “That actor/actress didn’t fit the image of that character!” or “Why did they change the important words from the novel?”

They always think “If a good novel was made into a movie just like the original story, then it also would be a good movie.”

I used to think similar things but recently I found out that I was wrong.

The story in this movie is the same as in the novel. There isn’t anything that Ninagawa added or omitted. All of the episodes, the words that the characters speak and the setting of the story is the same as in the novel.

Also, the actors were good. Karasawa Toshiaki and Koyuki played Iemon and Iwa. Kagawa Teruyuki played Mataichi. They are very good actors and perfectly fit the characters. The other actors were also skilled.

However, this movie is very boring.

It’s probably due to the script and the directing . 

Making a movie be the same as a good novel will not necessarily make a good movie. It is because the techniques of making a good novel completely differ from the techniques of making a good movie.

A novel includes on enormous amount of information, and that a movie is not able to incorporate everything. In novels, writers can deeply describe the feelings of characters in word. They can write inner descriptions which are not expressed on the surface. This is impossible in a movie. A director of movie has to express things another way.

My friend whose job is translation said, “Our job is not limited to translating words into another language according to a dictionary. We need to understand what the writer meant and thought and use the best phrase we can, to expresses the original meaning, as much as possible. Word-for-word translation is just a poor duplicate.”

I think that what she said is also applicable to a drama based on a novel. This “Warau-Iemon” by Ninagawa is just a literal translation of the novel. It appears that Ninagawa just simply changed the episodes in the novel into a motion picture. I think it’s a poor copy.

Also, the music was bad. Not that the music itself is not so bad, but director’s use of it was awfully tasteless. However, It’s well known by many that Ninagawa Yukio has no sense of music.

There is one thing that Ninagawa added in the movie. He showed the scene in which Iwa died, which Kyougoku didn’t describe.

If I heard about the scene without watching the actual movie, I would think that it’s nice because it probably made the story easy to understand.

I was wrong again. When I watched the movie, I understood the reason why Kyougoku didn’t wrote the scene.

In the movie, Iwa appeared where Iemon was, and expressed her feeling for him. The two threw themselves into each other’s arms, then Iwa died while being held by Iemon. He then swore, “You won’t be alone for long.” 

The scene was too sentimental and totally made the movie into a cheap soap opera.

The movie’s subheading was “eternal love.” Of course, the sincere love between Iemon and Iwa was an important theme of the story, but emphasizing it   too much makes me disgusted.

Everything about this movie is deadly tacky.

 However, Kagawa, who played Mataichi, was excellent. He is a very talented actor. I’m a fan of his.

Although there are also other actors who played Mataichi in other movies or TV dramas, Kagawa is the best.

Kagawa can saylong and complicated lines very fluently. He also can express deep feeling with very few words.

 Moreover, Mataichi’s appearance in this movie is very dirty and he really looks like a beggar. I love this. One of the attractive points of this character is that Mataichi is “an ongyo(御行)” that was a beggar monk in the Edo period. He is on the lowest level of the society.

Kagawa’s Mataichi was perfect. I have to recognize Ninagawa’s sense of good acting  at least.

Warau(laughing) Iemon (1997)

嗤う伊右衛門 (中公文庫)
嗤う伊右衛門 (中公文庫)
This is a book by Kyogoku Natsuhiko. It’s from his series of rewritten traditional Japanese stories.
“Warau Iemon” is the written version of “Yotsuya Kaidan”.

Yotsuya Kaidan is the most famous Japanese ghost story and was written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV as a kabuki play. The original title was “Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan.”
It’s a tale of betrayal, murder and ghostly revenge.

Iemon, a samurai from Enya-han (塩治藩Enya-fief) ,and Oiwa, a daughter of the Tamiya family, were a married couple. Although Iemon had been passionate with her before they got married, he became tired of her because she was weak due to illness.
Oume, a granddaughter of a well-to-do neighbor called Itou Kihei, was in love with Iemon. Oume and Kihei poisoned Oiwa disguising it as medicine. However the poison did not kill her, but instead disfigured her, causing her hair to fall out and her left eye to droop. Seeing Oiwa’s disfigurement, Iemon began to hate her and he was lured toward the Itou family’s wealth and young Oume. Iemon and Kihei conspired to kill Oiwa.
Iemon killed Oiwa and flung her body into a nearby river.
Iemon planned his new marriage. On his wedding day to his new bride Oume, Iemon lifted her veil to find Oiwa’s disfigured face. Horrified, he thinks it’s a ghost and beheads her and discovers that he has in fact killed Oume. He also killed Kihei mistaking him as the ghost too.
After that, everywhere he goes, he sees the disfigured face. Oiwa’s ghost manages to kill all of the conspirators with Iemon. In the end, Iemon gets killed by his brother-in-law whom he had betrayed before.

This is the original story “Yotsuya Kaidan” by Tsuruya Nanboku.
There is a Japanese word “Iroaku(色悪).” It’s one of the kabuki terms which means a villain who has a handsome face.
Iemon is typical “Iroaku.” If you refer to the word in the dictionary, you will find that Iemon is written as an example in the difinition of Iroaku.

Kyogoku Natsuhiko transformed this traditional character and made a new “Yotsuya Kaidan”.
Iemon, in the story by Kyogoku, is a serious, honest and sincere man. He is silent and never laughs.
Oiwa, who was a powerless and obedient character in the traditional story, is changed into a courageous and reasonable character that is strong willed.
Oiwa’s face (it is a trademark of Oiwa) has been disfigured at the beginning of the story because of disease. Oiwa was a beautiful woman, but after her disease, it became difficult for her to find a husband. If she couldn’t find someone, the Tamiya family would lose its status. Oiwa thought that she didn’t need a husband and the Tamiya family should just accept it. However, her father asked a man called “Komatakuguri no Mataichi” whose job was to solve problem or come to a private settlement using his skill in speech and elocution, to find the husband. The man who Mataichi introduced was Iemon, an unemployed ronin. In spite of her disfigured face, Iemon decided to marry her to help the Tamiya family. Knowing his sincerity, Oiwa got married with him. Iemon respected her strong will. They were attracted to each other. They never spoke words of love, but it is clearly apparent to the reader that it is true love.
The two characters, Iemon and Oiwa in the Kyougoku version, are virtuous and they both wish for their partner’s happiness.
However, this story is a tragedy and all the characters die at the end of the story in the same way as the traditional Yotsuya Kaidan.
There aren’t any evil characters in the story by Kyougoku other than Itou Kihei. Kihei is definitely an evil character. Although he is cruel and killed some of his enemies all he did to iemon and Oiwa was to tell lies. He made Oiwa believe that divorce was the only way to make Iemon happy. So Oiwa decided to get divorced although Iemon opposed this. Iemon thought that she hated him so much that she would never change her mind. Despairing, he accepted her decision, and got married to Oume instead, following Kihei’s advice. Oume became pregnant. The baby was Kihei’s. In this story, she is Kihei’s secret lover. Kihei didn’t want to marry her because she is a daughter of a merchant and he was a samurai. So he shifted the responsibility of her and the baby onto Iemon.
Oume is not an evil character. However, she didn’t tell Iemon and Oiwa that he had lied. She is an unhappy and pitiful woman. Although she hated Kihei, she couldn’t escape from him. So she married Iemon to get away.
The other characters like Naosuke and Takuetsu, who were conspirators with Iemon in the traditional story, are not bad either. Their only fault was telling Oiwa the truth. They told her the truth because they thought it would be good for her.
It is interesting that the truth is more harmful than the lie in this story. When Oiwa believed Kihei’s lie, she was happy because she could believe that Iemon was happy. However, when Naosuke and Takuetsu told her the truth, this drove her mad. Oiwa disappeared and a rumor that she was ghost was spread around Edo. Iemon too became possessed by madness. When he became possessed by madness, Iemon laughed for the first time.
The story ends with some terrible murders and a miserable death.
Oiwa killed Takuetsu, Oume killed her baby, Kihei killed Naosuke and Iemon killed Oume and Kihei. All the main character eventually died.
In the end, Iemon got inside a chest in which he had hidden Oiwa’s dead body, and he let many snakes and mice bite him to death. Holding Oiwa’s dead body, Iemon’s dead face was smiling.

This is the synopsis of Warau(laughing) Iemon.
No ghosts appear in the story. Instead, the story tells how the ghost story was born. It’s a strange, odd, sad, dreary and beautiful human drama. I really love it.

Antique review 1

アンティーク~西洋骨董洋菓子店~ [DVD]アンティーク~西洋骨董洋菓子店~ [DVD]

“Antique” is a Korean movie based on a Japanese manga “Seiyou-kottou-Yougashiten 西洋骨董洋菓子店” (the English title is “Antique Bakery”)by Humi Yoshinaga.
Humi Yoshinaga is a manga author in Japan, and has become popular in recent years. Her fan base had been mostly Otaku ladies when she debued, but her work gradually became popular among a more widespread audience.
I am also a big fan of her manga and have read almost all of her works.
“Seiyou-kottou-Yougashiten ” is one of her most important works. It was published in Japan by Shinshokan and published in English by Digital Manga Publishing. The series won the 2002 Kodansha Manga Award for “best girl’s manga.” The manga was adapted as a Japanese TV drama.
Firstly, I will write about the manga story.
The story depicts the lives of four men who work in a small bakery.
Keichiro Tachibana is the owner of the “Antique Bakery.” He opened the bakery in spite of his disliking sweets. His reason was that almost all of the customers for bakeries are women. (At least he insisted that that was his reason. His real secret reason was not revealed during the first half of the story. )
Tachibana was going to hire a top-class patissier for his shop, and when he interviewed, he knew that the patissier had been his high school classmate.
The patissier, Tachibana’s former classmate, Yusuke Ono was gay. In their high school days, Ono summoned up the courage and confessed his love for Tachibana, but Tachibana gave him a flat cruel refusal.
When the two met again, 14 years after their high school, Ono had became a “Demonically Charming gay” who attracts a man, whether they’re gay or straight.
So Ono had wound up fired again and again because of his many romantic troubles with his coworkers, in spite of his top skill as patissier.
Tachibana felt guilty about what he had done 14 yars ago, but Ono said that he had spent his gay life freely since that incident and he was rather thankful to him.
His “Demonic Charm” doesn’t work with Tachibana for some reason or an other, so there is no fear that he will be fired because of any love affair.
Both of them promised to run a good bakery together.

Eiji Kanda is Ono’s apprentice. He was a former pro boxer, and had retired due to a retinal detachment injury while still young. He has a huge sweet tooth. He was attracted by the sweets Ono made and became his apprentice. He holds Ono in very high regard, calling him his “Master.”

Chikage Kobayakawa is Tachibana’s childhood friend. His family works at the Tachibana house. He was sent by the Tachibana family to watch out for his friend. Chikage is trained to become a waiter by Tachibana. However, he is very klutzy and has a hard time.

(Continued to review 2)