Yoshihara Rieko

Tagged: Author

(?   -    ) Japanese author and a key creator of the homoerotic subgenre known in Japan as shōnen ai ["boys' love"]. Yoshihara spent the first three years of her career writing straightforward homoerotic romance, before stumbling into sf, seemingly by accident, with the success of her signature work Ai no Kusabi (December 1986-October 1987 Shōsetsu June; 1990; trans as The Space Between 2007-2008 [see Checklist for details]). Originally published in book form as a single hardback novel, it was later reissued as a six-part series, from which the English translation was made.

Yoshihara's work is strongly redolent of the sexually-charged mysteries of Ranpo Edogawa, and shares many overt themes with the controversial sf of Shōzō Numa. However, it reached an entirely different audience, one largely unaware of these precursors. The world of Ai no Kusabi is divided by decree into classes defined by Genetic Engineering as signalled by the hair colour of the blond rulers and their black-haired subjects. The Blondies are forbidden from sexual intercourse, but often keep members of the dark-haired underclass for use as "pets" and "furniture". In an attempt to curtail Overpopulation, no more than 10% of births may be female, effectively rendering the milieu as an all-male environment, as opposed to the female Keep of Yoshihara's contemporary Yumi Matsuo.

In a sense, Yoshihara's work is an extreme comment on Women in SF, by excluding them almost entirely from a narrative of intense homoerotic relationships and macho vendettas. In depicting abusive relationships between men, in a world from which women are removed or somehow distanced, she tapped into an unexpectedly large subsection of female fandom. Ai no Kusabi found a passionate readership in Japan, sufficient to secure a Seiun Award for its illustrator Katsumi Michihara, although not for its author. The series has twice been adapted into anime, as a two-part video in 1992 and on DVD in 2012; there have also been CD dramas in the style of Radio plays, as well as a Manga edition. Long before its licensed translation in the twenty-first century, it gained a similarly passionate fan following at the periphery of US anime fandom, often among viewers who were forced to guess at the Japanese plot. In its romanticizing of both abstinence and abuse, it can be seen as a forerunner of certain subsets of twenty-first century fantasy, particularly the depiction of Vampires typified by Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.

Ai no Kusabi was the subject of a prolonged fan translation project, the results of which are often at odds with the output of the legal English-language publication. This is a feature of the sheer fanaticism of Fandom, but also of the many difficulties facing a translator of its complex, multi-layered situations. Even the title encompasses a multiplicity of meanings, with "The Space Between" in Japanese also a pun on "Bonds of Love", "Wedge of Interval" and numerous other possible readings. Moreover, some of Yoshihara's editions offer a decorative English-language subtitle on the Japanese cover, even though her English-language title is often an inexact or counter-intuitive rendering of the actual Japanese. Such fogging of meaning is commonplace in modern Japanese sf, but plays havoc with encyclopedia listings (> Hisashi Kuroma).

Although hardly one of the Mainstream Writers of SF, Yoshihara shares many of their concerns, being primarily an author in one genre (her mundane homosexual romances are largely unlisted here), who only occasionally dabbles in Fantastika. Several of her other books touch on otherworldly themes. Kage no Kan ["House of Shadows"] (1994) eroticizes the relationship between Lucifer and his sworn enemy, the archangel Michael. Although not listed as a sequel per se, the following year's Satan no Fūin ["Seal of Satan"] (1995), shares an illustrator, as well as an apparent continuation of the story as Lucifer lives out his exile on Earth (> Gods and Demons). [JonC]

see also: Women SF Writers; Race in SF.

Rieko Yoshihara

born Fukuoka, Japan: 10 April [year unknown/]

died

works (selected)

series

Ai no Kusabi

  • Ai no Kusabi ["The Space Between"] (Tokyo: Kōfūsha, 1990) [Ai no Kusabi: hb/Katsumi Michihara]
    • Kaette Kita Otoko ["The Man Who Came Back"] (Tokyo: Seibidō, 2001) [partial reissue of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
      • Stranger (Los Angeles, California: Digital Manga, 2007) [trans of the above: note that although the publisher's name is Digital Manga, the book is in prose form: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
    • Meidō (Tokyo: Seibidō, 2003) [partial reissue of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
      • Destiny (Los Angeles, California: Digital Manga, 2008) [trans of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
    • Kokuin ["Carved Seal"] (Tokyo: Seibidō, 2004) [partial reissue of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
      • Nightmaresfgateway.com (Los Angeles, California: Digital Manga, 2008) [trans of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
    • Konmei ["Stupefaction"] (Tokyo: Seibidō, 2005) [partial reissue of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
      • Suggestion (Los Angeles, California: Digital Manga, 2008) [trans of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
    • Nagai Yoru ["The Long Night"] (Tokyo: Seibidō, 2005) [partial reissue of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
      • Darkness (Los Angeles, California: Digital Manga, 2008) [trans of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
    • Shōdō no Hikigane ["Trigger Impulse"] (Tokyo: Seibidō, 2005) [partial reissue of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
      • Metamorphose (Los Angeles, California: Digital Manga, 2008) [trans of the above: Ai no Kusabi: pb/Katsumi Michihara]
  • Midnight Illusion (Tokyo: Tokyo: Kōfūsha, 1996) [Ai no Kusabi: hb/Katsumi Michihara]

individual titles

  • Osana Najimi Shimi ["Taint of a Childhood Friend"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa, 1993) [pb/]
  • Gin no Requiem ["Silver Requiem"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa, 1993) [pb/Akiko Hatsu]
  • Jigsaw Puzzle (Tokyo: Kadokawa, 1994) [pb/Mayu Ishidō]
  • Katsuai ["Love Thirst"] (Tokyo: Hakusensha, 1994) [pb/Yoshimi Ozaki]
  • Kage no Kan ["House of Shadows"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa, 1994) [pb/Kumi Kosuga]
  • Satan no Fūin ["Seal of Satan"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa, 1995) [in two volumes: pb/Kumi Kosuga]

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