By Leroy Douresseaux
August 16, 2008 - 15:13
|June's edition of this tankoubon will keep the original edition's cover illustration but replace the Japanese cover copy with English titles.|
Rated “YA” for “Young Adults 16+”
Wild Butterfly is a short story collection which gathers the early work and some previously unpublished work by manga-ka Hiroki Kusumoto (Vampire’s Portrait). Two of the five stories are boys’ love or “BL,” manga which depicts the love between two male characters. Except for one tale (“Fangs”), the stories that do depict relationships between men portray a kind of platonic love, in which intense mentoring, camaraderie, and partnership replace passionate love. This is romance of admiration or of the mind – man-crushing because some dude impresses you.
The title story, “Wild Butterfly,” is set in a Germanic type country – a warlike nation in a constant state of conflict with its neighbors. Here, young teacher Oliver Lehman gets a new colleague, Michael Von Straum Liedelhart, who has served as a military officer on the frontlines of the current conflict. Rather than indoctrinate his students with nationalistic teaching methods, however, Michael teaches them to enjoy the things that don’t recognize borders like flowers, butterflies, and ideas. Oliver wants to inform the authorities on Michael, but finds himself increasingly drawn to the haunted war veteran. Wild Butterfly ultimately delivers a beautiful and valuable anti-war story that effectively portrays how militarism destroys freedom of thought, expression, and individualism for the sake of the war machine.
There’s also a story about a traveler who encounters a demon in a lonely graveyard in “Senyõden: Legend of the Demon Oracle.” “Tomuraishi: Protector of the Dead” finds a young boy and a supernatural hero trying to stop an otherworldly invasion of the boy’s hometown.
While all these stories, except “Wild Butterfly,” are decidedly supernatural, they delve into male bonding. There is an insistence in these stories on the unity of two men toward a common goal; where there is a lack of understanding and/or a failure to recognize each other’s talents, disaster is inevitable. Because of these tales twisty and sometimes tragic ending, I have to tread carefully or I may reveal too much. There is, however, one thing I don’t mind revealing about Wild Butterfly. These stories have supernatural elements that are creepy and occasionally quite scary, and the character drama sticks the landing (some Olympics humor), making this a volume of supernatural drama worth reading.