mō ichido, shōjo. (70s, 80s & 90s shōjo manga retrospective)
Kaze to ki no uta vol. 1

Takemiya Keiko - preface to Kaze to ki no uta

  • Source: Chuokoronsha "aizōban" edition of Kaze to ki no uta volume 1
  • Chuokoronsha / 1993

I recently received a letter from a reader which started, "This is the first fan letter I'm sending you in 18 years."

When you've been drawing manga for 25 years, this is not so uncommon. When I do book signings, many people bring their little children. Some men in suits claim to have come to get their daughters' books signed, but then turn out to be fans themselves.

But this one letter was a little different. 18 years ago, the writer of this letter had "felt more repulsion than affinity" for me as a manga artist (or should I say author?), and so had "rejected" me. I don't know how old this person is now, but from the bottom of my heart, I want to celebrate with her that she has now lifted her own ban on Takemiya Keiko. It doesn't seem appropriate to thank her, or give her a handshake. She protected her own self-respect, isolated herself to her heart's content, and although it took her 18 years, she has undergone the process of asserting her own autonomy and independence by accepting herself and allowing the outer world in. I applaud her. She is my comrade in arms, it wouldn't be right to thank her.

Counting back, it was 18 years ago that I started the serialization of Kaze to ki no uta. I was just as extremely self-conscious as this person was. I was ticked off by fan letters and nearly sent replies refuting their points; over and over again, I would write a few pages of a reply before realizing that there was no way I could fully express what was in my heart in mere writing. I once sent a reply saying, "Then don't read it." Looking back, they're all fond memories.

Because I was like this, Kaze to ki no uta was a "stone" I was throwing into still water, and simultaneously, it was also a battle where I constantly fought to answer all the questions that were thrown my way from the readers. Sometimes I went too far, and sometimes, I chose lines of dialogue in the spirit of giving an inch to get a mile. It was truly a case of "I am ecstatic and I am terrified to be chosen."1 Thinking back, I had a very lucky debut, but I was a young manga writer who always seemed dissatisfied with something. I was hungry for something bold and daring, and something to turn the established sense of values on its head. I came into possession of my "stone" surprisingly early on, and it already had a name from the day it was born. I was a self-conscious child, so I didn't know what to do with it for a few years, hesitant to actually throw it. But the fact that this was a "stone" meant to be thrown had been imprinted in my mind like a spell, and this thought always excited me. A feeling so desperate it almost made me cry sat personified next to me, whispering "I love you."

Nowadays, they say that young people try hard not to be too different from everyone else. It was the biggest goal and pride of the baby boomers to stand out from the crowd, but perhaps this is a thing of the past. Maybe, sometimes, the effort to not change is more important than the effort to start something. But the present me knows how happy I was back then.

However, if I'm being honest, this work was never going to be as accepted by the mainstream or as popular as Toward the Terra, which I wrote around the same time. To prove this, this story ended without the blessing of being able to come to its conclusion. I don't want to say it was canceled. I still believe that I'm satisfied with the way I chose to finish it. For a majority of fans, the story of Serge's coming of age and marriage would be a superfluous "tail" to this work. But I did write one story, set after the end of the series, that I was unable to incorporate into the main storyline, which I wish to include in this edition. I wrote it a few years after ending the serialization, so I can't say that my art has stayed the same, but I can always return to how I felt in those days. It's a story that was included in an art book which didn't have a very large circulation, so I believe most people will not be familiar with it. Please don't be too shocked when you read it.2

So, if I have to say anything about the actual work, it's that I truly despise writing love stories, and if people pick up Kaze to ki no uta believing it to be "the love story between two boys" or "a homosexual love story", they will probably be sorely disappointed. Love stories obviously need to have love at their center, and the two lovers must necessarily either end up together, or die together to fulfill their love. Even aside the fact that this story ends midway through, it is not a work where "love triumphs" in this manner.

Saying more about the work will sabotage the reader's freedom to interpret a work as they see fit, and it feels like I'm being a critic rather than a manga writer. I will go back to my starting point, which is to play it by ear.

Lastly, The sole reason I was able to retain my enthusiasm for this work from the first chapter all through to the last, is that all the kind readers were so invested in the story and constantly worried about where it was heading. I can admit this now, and I feel so much gratitude. Thank you so much. And to those people I was a nuisance to, because despite my enthusiasm my work always managed to fall behind, my deepest apologies.

— July 1993

  1. This is a phrase from a poem by Paul Verlaine. It's quite famous in Japan because Dazai Osamu used it as an epigraph in his novel Ha (Leaf).
  2. A short story about Rosmarine and Jules, Kōfuku no hato (The Dove of Happiness), was included in the final volume of this edition.

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