Kurimoto Kaoru

Tagged: Author

Working name of Sumiyo Yamada (1953-2009), sometimes known under her married name Sumiyo Imaoka or by her pseudonym Azusa Nakajima; an immensely prolific author, mainly in the Fantasy mode, but with strong enough connections to the sf community to ensure attention and accolades at the Seiun Awards. As a celebrity, commentator, critic and novelist, she was arguably one of the most influential Women SF Writers in Japan for the last three decades of the twentieth century.

Graduating in literature from Waseda University, she was first published as a literary critic, with scholarly essays on the work of Yasutaka Tsutsui, Kazumasa Hirai, and other prominent figures. She wrote "Nihon SF Sakka Note" ["Notes on Japanese SF Writers"] (April 1976 Kisō Tengai), the first in a series of nonfiction articles on Japanese authors that ran for three years. Her first work in volume form was her collected essays as by Azusa Nakajima, Bungaku no Rinkakusen ["Outlines of Literature"] (1978), after which she moved into broadcasting as the host of a genre-themed radio show. She continued her nonfiction work throughout her career, including publications such as Bestseller no Kōzō ["The Bestseller Lectures"] (1983), Manga Seishunki ["My Youth in Manga"] (1986), and Waga Kokoro no Flashman ["Flashman of My Heart"] (1991), a compelling account of the allure of prose heroes, including Yukio Mishima and T E Lawrence.

Kurimoto was the author of some 400 works during her career, in a number of genres; the Checklist below barely skims the surface. Beyond her work in sf and fantasy, she also won several literary awards for her detective fiction beginning with Gen no Seiiki ["Sanctuary for Strings"] (1980), and horror such as Makai Suikoden ["Demonic Water Margin"] (1981), a retelling of the Chinese classic of The Water Margin in the mode of the Cthulhu Mythos of H P Lovecraft. She is likely, however, to be remembered by posterity more for her powerful influence on the genre of male-on-male erotica (shōnen-ai), particularly for her erotic detective novel Mayonaka no Tenshi ["Midnight Angel"] (1979), and her extensive involvement in the 1978 inaugural issue of June magazine, the fulcrum of the entire sub-genre to this day (see also Rieko Yoshihara). She set down her thoughts on power, patriarchy and Women in SF in a widely-read polemic, Communication Fusen Shōkōgun ["Communication Breakdown Syndrome"] (1991), which remains a cornerstone of Japanese discussions on Gender.

Her sf work represents only a small part of a diverse canon, beginning with the excruciating puns and parodies of her first sf novel Alien Satsujin Jiken ["The Case of the Alien Murderer"] (January 1981-April 1981 Yasei Jidai; 1981), written to cash in on the media splash of Star Wars. The later novels Medea 9 (January 1981-June 1981 SF Adventure; 1982) and Leda (August 1981-October 1982 SF Magazine; 1983) share a milieu, with mild satire in the latter aimed at a future Utopia named Far East 30, the denizens of which have an overly optimistic belief in the perfection of their society. Seemingly in celebration of the landmark year marked in the fiction of George Orwell, her Guernica 1984-nen ["Guernica 1984"] (February 1984-April 1984 SF Magazine; 1984) depicts a TV director who comes to suspect that the entire population of Japan is being hypnotized into the belief that it is at peace, whereas it is in fact embroiled in the middle of a savage war (see Basilisk). Her oddest sf work is liable to be Maboroshi Shinsengumi ["Phantom Shinsengumi"] (April 1992 Yasei Jidai), a novelization of an sf stage musical originally by Haruna Akagi, in which Time Travel transports several members of Japan's ultra-nationalist samurai vigilante group, the "Shinsengumi", from 1863 to a contemporary Japanese high school.

Her best-known work, however, is the sprawling Guin Saga that began with "Hyōtō no Kamen" ["The Leopard-Head Mask" vt "Persona of Panther" on some Japanese editions] (May 1979 SF Magazine), in which an Amnesiac hero, trapped inside the titular headgear that obscures his true identity, even from himself, becomes a key power-broker in a prolonged conflict over a magical kingdom. Predating similar situations in the fiction of Yoshiki Tanaka in the 1980s, Kurimoto's world-building is unashamedly pulpy, positing a savage horde modelled on the Mongols ("the Mongauls"), displacing the blond, violet-eyed twins Rinda and Remus, who are the last rightful heirs of the empire of Parros, seeking a champion to restore them to their throne. Any likely complaints that such a storyline should not belong in an "sf" publication were decisively quashed in 1981 when Kurimoto married the magazine's editor, Kiyoshi Imaoka.

The stories of Guin were originally planned as a 100-volume saga, but managed to reach 130 before Kurimoto's own death; they have since been continued for further volumes by other authors (see Sequels by Other Hands). In volume form, they benefited from artwork from some of the genre's greatest names, including Naoyuki Kato, Yoshitaka Amano and Jun Suemi, while Kurimoto's own charismatic media presence (she was a regular fixture on panel shows and TV variety events) helped propel sales to a much-hyped global total exceeding 28 million. Kurimoto was also known for a high level of interactivity with her fans, happily discussing readers' letters and suggestions in afterwords to every volume. The Guin Saga enjoyed a number of spin-offs, including a series set in its own future. This Twilight Saga, so named in English despite never being translated, has been swamped in the twenty-first century by online references to the similarly-named Twilight sequence of Stephenie Meyer (see Vampires), somewhat obscuring its artistic heritage, even in Kurimoto's native Japan.

Guin Saga was adapted into both Manga and Anime versions, although neither of these relatively short-lived Ties successfully imparted the scope of the huge narrative, the mighty-thewed hero of which, not unlike Robert E Howard's Conan, eventually carves a kingdom for himself, amid a series of bridging novels and spin-offs that effectively tie many of the strands of Kurimoto's serials together into something of a Multiverse. Although several volumes of the novels were translated into English, they failed to ignite quite the same fires in Anglophone fandom, quite possibly because foreign readers did not derive any frisson from the sense of the exotic occident. Pending any other translations of her corpus of work, Kurimoto is liable to remain relatively unknown in English, despite having been a giant of the Japanese Media Landscape for several decades. [JonC]

Sumiyo Yamada

born Tokyo, Japan: 13 February 1953

died Tokyo Japan: 26 May 2009

works (selected)

series

Guin Saga (English translations only, 130+ volumes untranslated)

  • Hyōtō no Kamen ["The Leopard-Head Mask"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1979) [Guin Saga: binding unknown/]
    • The Leopard Mask (New York: Vertical, 2003) [trans of the above by Alexander O Smith: Guin Saga: hb/]
  • Kōya no Senshi (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1979) [Guin Saga: binding unknown/]
  • Nospherus no Tatakai (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1980) [Guin Saga: binding unknown/]
  • Ragon no Ryoshū (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1980) [Guin Saga: binding unknown/]
    • Prisoner of the Lagon (New York: Vertical, 2008) [trans of the above by Alexander O Smith: Guin Saga: hb/]
  • Henkyō no Ōja (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1980) [Guin Saga: binding unknown/]
    • The Marches King (New York: Vertical, 2008) [trans of the above by Alexander O Smith: Guin Saga: hb/]

Makai Suikoden

  • Makai Suikoden ["Demonic Water Margin"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1981) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 2 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1982) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 3 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1982) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 4 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1982) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 5 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1983) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 6 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1983) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 7 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1984) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 8 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1984) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 9 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1985) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 10 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1985) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 11 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1986) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 12 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1987) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 13 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1987) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 14 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1988) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 15 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1988) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 16 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1989) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 17 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1990) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 18 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1990) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 19 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1990) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]
  • Makai Suikoden 20 (Tokyo: Kadokawa Novels, 1991) [Makai Suikoden: binding unknown/]

Twilight Saga

  • Karon no Kumo ["The Spider of Karon"] (Tokyo: Kōfūsha, 1983) [Twilight Saga: binding unknown/]
  • Kanan no Shiren ["The Trial of Kanan"] (Tokyo: Kōfūsha, 1983) [Twilight Saga: binding unknown/]

individual titles

  • Mayonaka no Tenshi ["Midnight Angel"] (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 1979) [binding unknown/]
  • Gen no Seiiki ["Sanctuary for Strings"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1980)
  • Alien Satsujin Jiken ["The Case of the Alien Murderer"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1981) [binding unknown/]
  • Medea 9 (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 1982) [binding unknown/]
  • Leda (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1983) [binding unknown/]
  • Guernica 1984-nen ["Guernica 1984"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1984) [binding unknown/]
  • Saraba Ginga ["Adieu, Galaxy"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1987) [binding unknown/]
  • Maboroshi Shinsengumi ["Phantom Shinsengumi"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1992) [binding unknown/]

critical works

  • Bungaku no Rinkakusen ["Outlines of Literature"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1978) [nonfiction: as by Azusa Nakajima: binding unknown/]
  • Bestseller no Kōzō ["The Bestseller Lectures"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1983) [nonfiction: as by Azusa Nakajima: binding unknown/]
  • Manga Seishunki ["My Youth in Manga"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1986) [nonfiction: as by Azusa Nakajima: binding unknown/]
  • Mato Note: Ikei Engeki Ron ["Devil-city Notes: On the Theater of the Grotesque"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1989) [nonfiction: as by Azusa Nakajima: binding unknown/]
  • Waga Kokoro no Flashman ["Flashman of My Heart"] (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1991) [nonfiction: as by Azusa Nakajima: binding unknown/]
  • Communication Fusen Shōkōgun ["Communication Breakdown Syndrome"] (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1991) [nonfiction: as by Azusa Nakajima: binding unknown/]

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