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In Japan, queer manga is not just for LGBTI people

In Japan, queer manga is not just for LGBTI people

Tagame Gengoroh's work (Photo: Provided)

A new online documentary airing this week has unveiled the broad appeal of queer erotic comics in Japan.

Director Takashi Nishihara met with two of Japan’s most influential LGBTI manga artists Tagame Gengoroh and Kou Usaki.

‘I was surprised that their manga was not only popular with LGBTI people but with young people as well’ Takashi told Gay Star News.

Takashi produced the documentary as part of the Queer Asia docu-series.

Takashi said manga was a good medium for people to understand the world of LGBT people. He said the mix of words and images gave a more complete depiction of LGBT life.

‘The two manga artists who I featured write Manga based on their own experiences as gay men’ Takashi said.

‘I felt their sense of incompatibility with the society, and therefore I felt [their manga] was a very powerful expression he told Gay Star News.

The show will go live this Friday (21 December) on Asia’s dedicated LGBTI streaming service, GagaOOLala.

Japan’s Tom of Finland

People often refer to Tagame as Japan’s Tom of Finland—a leading artist of masculinized homoerotic fetish art in the 20th century.

Tagame, now 54, is Japan’s most famous openly gay manga artist. In the documentary he shared the story of his sexual awakening with Takashi.

Tagame was exposed to S&M at primary school after reading Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom. He confirmed his sexuality as a gay man when he fell in love with a male classmate.

Tagame Gengoroh (Photo: Provided)
Tagame Gengoroh (Photo: Provided)

His fascination with S&M was piqued by straight magazines and he delved into gay erotic manga. He described his work as depicting ‘virile men and their apprenticeship of physical and mental submission’.

Tagame’s later work, My Brother’s Husband, was a more family-friendly comic. It follows the relationship of a single father and the Canadian husband of his deceased brother. Broadcaster NHK later adapted it for television.

Tagame Gengoroh's work (Photo: Provided)
Tagame Gengoroh’s work (Photo: Provided)

The departure from overtly sexual and at times violent depictions surprised Tagame’s audiences. Takashi asked him about this:

‘It’s rare in Japan to see out-of-the-closet gays’ said Tagame. ‘Even if you don’t have gay friends, you can still resonate with gays and understand the reality of being gay via my work. This is my original intention’.

Tagame Gengoroh's My Brother's Husband (Photo: Provided)
Tagame Gengoroh’s My Brother’s Husband (Photo: Provided)

Queer Asia

GagaOOLala’s Queer Asia series explores Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan and Vietnam.

In the first four episodes, Cheuk Wan-chi met a number of Hong Kong’s LGBTI icons. It featured the last interview with LGBTI pop star Ellen Joyce Loo before she passed away.

Cheuk also talked to film director Jun Li. What’s more, the director has recently released Tracey, telling the story of a transgender woman.

The third episode revealed the story behind Hong Kong’s successful 2022 Gay Games Bid. The final episode, Welcome to Our World, focused on lesbian and transgender Filipino migrant workers in the city.

Organizers of the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival launched this year GagaOOLala to amplify the voices of LGBTI people and generate awareness across the region.