The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga

Creator: Gengoroh Tagame
Publisher: PictureBox
ISBN: 9780984589241
Released: April 2013
Original release: 2000-2013

The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga was one of my most anticipated manga releases of 2013. I was astounded when PictureBox announced the volume, the first collection of bara manga—erotic comics created specifically with a gay, male audience in mind—to ever be published in English in print. I honestly never expected bara to be licensed and am thrilled that it finally has been. Tagame in particular is a highly influential artist working in the genre, gaining international recognition and renown. In addition to a piece specifically commissioned for the collection, The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame selects six of Tagame’s short erotic manga originally published in Japan between 2000 and 2010, only one of which was previously released in English (“Standing Ovations,” originally translated in the erotic comics zine Thickness.) The beautifully presented volume, produced and translated by Anne Ishii, also includes an introduction by Edmund White and essays by Chip Kidd and editor Graham Kolbeins.

The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame opens with the collection’s most lighthearted offering, “Hairy Oracle,” about a detective with a very unusual way of solving tough cases. This is followed by “Arena,” the longest and one of the most savage pieces in the volume in which experimental drugs cause the victors in an underground fighting tournament to rape their opponents. “Exorcism” is a period piece while “Country Doctor” takes place in a pre-modern Japanese village (at the moment, these two are probably my personal favorites.) With its inclusion of a fighter and a voyeuristic audience, the next story, “Standing Ovations,” is in some ways reminiscent of “Arena” but is shorter and more direct. “Missing” is also extremely violent and has one of the more involved plots as well. The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame closes with “Class Act,” commissioned by Chip Kidd for the volume, which features a college student, his professor, and a tough lesson. Most of the stories are also accompanied by commentary from Tagame discussing the history and thoughts behind their creation.

I’m not entirely sure how the individual manga in The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame were selected, but Tagame does mention that a few were particular favorites of his for one reason or another. Tagame creates manga for a very specific audience. As he himself puts it, “I don’t write love stories, I write pornography.” His work is incredibly intense and extremely explicit. Although there are moments of sweetness, charm, and delight in The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame, the stories are all sadomasochistic fantasies that explore brutality, humiliation, and desire. The power dynamics and psychological factors are complex, layered, and severe. While similar themes can be found in the manga included in the collection, the reasons behind each man’s submission, whether willing or forced, is different. I appreciate the range of stories in The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame. The collection includes tales that are extraordinarily dark and heavy as well as stories that are significantly lighter in tone.

Some of the selections in The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame are historical while others take place in contemporary settings; some are based in reality while others incorporate supernatural or speculative elements; one even includes religious overtones. But what every manga in The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame shares in common is Tagame’s powerful and stunning artwork. There is beauty and passion to to be found in the brutality; many panels are even reminiscent of traditional Japanese woodblock prints in their composition. Tagame’s subjects are hypermasculine men with burly and muscular physiques. There is some artistic exaggeration and stylization, but the men’s bodies and experiences, both of pleasure and pain, are realistically, exquisitely, and viscerally expressed. Tagame’s work truly is incredible. It is not at all an overstatement to call him a master. I sincerely hope that The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame will not be the last of his work to be released in English.


Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.


Comments

  1. “the first collection of bara manga—erotic comics created specifically with a gay, male audience in mind—to ever be published in English”

    Hmm. I think this is, technically speaking, not true, unless you append an “in print”. As stated, I think the honor might go to Ike Rebun’s Hide and Seek (digital-only from DMG), which consists of collected shorts from several bara magazines, although she’s a female artist who also does yaoi so I guess it doesn’t have the same impact. There are also a few very obscure doujin things available from weird, hard-to-use Japanese e-manga sites, but those fail the “collection” part of the sentence.

    I’ve read some Tagame in French and it was pretty clear that his stuff is not for me, so no comments on this collection. :P

    • Ah! Thank you for the information! (I will update the review for clarification.)

      I believe that some of est em’s work that made it into English initially appeared in bara magazines as well.

  2. “I believe that some of est em’s work that made it into English initially appeared in bara magazines as well.”

    Yup, two of the stories in Red Blinds the Foolish were from Gekidan; “Baby Stamp Your Foot” was one, I forget the other. Considerig how little tolerance most bara has for gender nonconformity, it’s kind of funny that the women’s-shoe fetish story was from a bara magazine… :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga probably couldn’t be more different from The Heart of Thomas, but I anticipated its release just as much. Tagame is an incredibly influential gay comics artist. The volume was not only the first collection of his work to be released in English, it was also the first collection of bara manga to be released in print. Happily, it won’t be the last. More of Tagame’s manga is already scheduled to be published. […]

  2. […] manga to emerge. Happily, that rumor was unfounded and not at all true; 2013 saw the publication of The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga, which collected stories from over a decade of Tagame’s […]

  3. […] important collection return to print. The original release was by PictureBox back in 2013 (which I reviewed), but Bruno Gmünder’s revised and expanded hardcover edition includes additional material, […]

  4. […] more of her manga) and the newly revised and expanded edition of The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame (I reviewed the original collection back when it was first released). However, what I think is probably one of the most notable and […]

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.