Essays

Why Kaori Yuki Is My Favourite.

Seeing as I now put in two days a week at a comic book store [hey there, Meltdown!] I thought I’d wax a bit on comics, conventional storytelling, and why Kaori Yuki is my favourite. [Note: This blog will contain spoilers.]

Favourite what, you ask?

Favourite everything. Writer, storyteller, artist, creative mind. She deserves her own fucking section at every store.

It’s astounding how many people dismiss this woman simply because she writes manga. I mean.It’s like dismissing an athlete for playing tennis instead of football. Different, yes. Less mainstream, absolutely. But inferior?

LUCILLE: Inconvenient realities are mercilessly purged and consigned to obscurity.

There is a stunning lack of real discussion regarding her comics available in English. I have trouble finding readers who are even able to communicate beyond internet anime-speak. If I ever dig up the time, I would love nothing more than to write a full-length study of the themes and symbols in Kaori Yuki’s work. It would fill three hundred pages. So many layers.

Such a project might be considered ridiculous by many, seeing as Ms. Yuki was first published in America in the venue of the girl-themed comics publisher Shojo Beat. That is to say, the final arc of her Count Cain saga, Godchild, ran alongside comics about a robot boyfriend, a female samurai, and a high school volleyball team (ripe with inter-team romance, of course).

The juxtaposition between these Teen Beat-esque dramas and Kaori Yuki’s tendency to be totally disgusting was actually laughable.

RIFF: This is no magic beauty medicine. The substances in this medicine are countless parasitic insect eggs… after entering the body, the eggs hatch and proceed to absorb the host’s nutrients in order to grow… in a month, they end their incubation period and climb up inside the host’s body, where they proceed to destroy the facial tissue. Some collect behind the eyeballs.

Which brings me to the definitive reasons I love Kaori Yuki and her crazy brain more than any other mangaka, American writer, or comic book artist.

She has balls.

This woman wrote a story based on the Christian pantheon [Angel Sanctuary] and then killed God. The protagonist—an obnoxious, incestuous, irreverent fallen angel—lives happily ever after. Yay, God is dead! The end. Is she fucking serious?

There is a scene in the latter half of of this same series in which the major heroine, Sara, is raped rather violently by God’s aborted baby disgusing himself as her brother. The layers of immorality compound. What about God’s son is worse than incest? Moreover, it does not happen  ‘off the page’. Yuki draws it. Horrified expression, venomous eyeballs, and all.

The hero of Ludwig Revolution is a prince who enters traditional fairy tales, fucks them up, and murders the princess and puts her in a jar. He likes dead girls and big boobs. He freaks out peripheral characters just by being himself.

In Screw, a boy wakes up believing that his girlfriend has been taken apart, organ by organ, and used for energy in a nuclear power plant. Oh, but she’s really alive, right? Right? Wrong. He finds her organs a few chapters later.

She pays no heed to genre.

I don’t even know what to call Gravel Kingdom. A fantasy? A warped fairy tale? A re-imagining of Frank Herbert’s Dune with even more racial tension than the original?

I can find science fiction, magic realism, mystery, suspense, romance, politics, new age, occultism, religious studies, and even mainstream supernatural drama in her comics. Often in the same twenty pages. Sometimes less.

She pays no heed to gender roles.

One of my favourite scenes in Angel Sanctuary involves a boy in a girl’s body making out with a girl who everyone thinks is a boy.

… Yeah.

She connects all threads.

Story, story, story, I say it over and over and it’s still there, watching. Story. Kaori Yuki is the consummate storyteller.

That scar? It has a history, and I guarantee there is a meaning in your birthmark. Abuse, maybe. Mistaken identity. Guilt, or something entirely emotional. That tattoo? Voluntary, but hardly optional. Indicative of inner struggle. Grown from each gritty event. An inky isomer. And that outfit, oh, careful how you judge, for the few who wear dresses are proving a point, disguising an origin, and distracting authority. And those pants, well. Pay attention to the color.

She blends morals…

LAWRENCE: You can kill me… if you eat my corpse when you’re done.    

Yes, Lawrence is the protagonist. In a manner of speaking.

… but still retains her sense of humour.

RIFF: Lord Cain, is there anything else you need?
[Cain raises one shoe. The lace is untied.]
CAIN: This.
[Riff bends to tie the lace.]
CAIN: Riff… if you ever betray me, I’ll kill myself.
[Cain leaves the room, only to find that the mysterious ‘Dr. Allen’ has been listening in.]
DR. ALLEN: Kill myself, huh? I guess when someone’s been serving you for so long, it’s better than saying ‘I’ll kill you’. ‘I’ll kill myself’ is much more effective, isn’t it… ‘Lord Cain’?
CAIN: Dr. Allen… if you ever eavesdrop again… I’ll kill you.

She makes up for linguistic nuance with subtle, detailed artistry.

I have conducted a lifelong love affair with words—it’s true. Comics involve fewer
instances of language than regular novels or short stories. It is a much more visual experience.

Call me crazy, but I don’t really miss the extra words when her artwork captures moments like this. —->

The narrative reads ‘Ore no kono te de koroshite ageru’ [‘I will use my very own hands to kill you’]. In context, it is a moment beyond sentences. And it breaks my fucking heart.

She creates true characters.

I dare you to find a stereotype. I dare you to find a typical hero, antihero, sidekick, or mentor.

I dare you to find one in Rosiel, an archangel who lives for his beauty, and in paranoia of decaying, uglies up the rest of of the world in order to match his resulting misery.

Or find solace in Lawrence – a saint of sorts, yes, but manifested in a fourteen year old prostitute, whose idea of true love is to keep a famed serial killer from killing him.

And Belial, oh, she tried so hard to stop puberty from picking her, but it did anyway, because she fell in love with a man who hated her and then commandeered butterflies to showcase the beauty she never wanted to have.

Do you know them?

You will.

She knows when to stop.

What number is Naruto on at this point? What about Bleach? They never end. Because fans don’t want them to.

A successful story, however, requires a stopping point in order to complete the arc.

The best thing Kaori Yuki ever wrote is a 100 page one-shot called Kaine: the Endorphins of Life and Death. There are enough mysteries and psychoses to fill an entire fantasy series. But there are only so many words, very few sentences, and a final page that invites only speculation.

The news of the famous star’s return from hell circled the country at the speed of light by the emotionless, clipped sentences of the news reporter.
To me, a dream is black death–when I wake up in the morning, I am resurrected again–I drag my body back from death only to deepen my sins for another day. But everywhere, screams of joy from girls with red hair and black clothes can be heard. I act as if I am happy, and laugh.

Oh, Kaori. You never waste your time, do you? Not on convention or cohabitation. Not on anthing expected, allowed, predicted, or pre-judged. You just write what you want. What the world needs to hear.

In summary, my love for this woman’s work is not a rejection of American comic books—which I am an enthusiastic fan of—but an embracing of something that is entirely different: bold, fluid, and unrepentant [not to mention chock full of explosions, government branding, tentacles, zombies, and mysterious gun-toting men in eyepatches].

American comic writer. So here’s a beloved character you’ve been attached to since you were a kid. We’re going to kill him off—but not really. He comes back! We’re only killing him to wrench temporary emotional turmoil out of you. Then everything goes back to the way it was before!

Kaori Yuki. Hm. I think I’m going to introduce a very sympathetic character and then kill him twenty pages later just to make a point. No, he’s dead. Really.

American writer. I am going to beat my effect into the ground by stretching out the same two seconds over ten splash pages!

Kaori Yuki. Remember that minute plot device I introduced in a single panel two volumes ago? Yeah, this won’t make any sense unless you remember that. Sorry.

American writer. Heterosexuality! Gender roles! Big neon signs! Arrrgghhh!

Kaori Yuki. You’re going to have no idea whether this character is female or not until five chapters in. Not that it matters, because everyone gets crushes on everyone else, and main characters tend to use androgyny to their advantage, anyway.

American writer. Don’t worry, the brand is sacred. I won’t piss you off.

Kaori Yuki. Nothing is sacred. If you aren’t questioning your entire moral sphere, then I haven’t done my job.

I really can’t describe her stories. They only describe themselves.

Well played, Miss Yuki. Well played.

Her leather messiah. I think Jesus should steal this look.

Don’t know where to start? Try these: Godchild Volume 1, Grand Guignol Orchestra Volume 1, Angel Sanctuary Volume 1.

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13 thoughts on “Why Kaori Yuki Is My Favourite.

  1. “The best thing Kaori Yuki ever wrote is a 100 page one-shot called Kaine: the Endorphins of Life and Death. ”

    Would love, love, love to say that this review gets everything right, but – no. nononononono. Angel Sanctuary, end of.

    Just finished rereading all twenty volumes and, if anything, I find it even better than I did when I first found it twelve years ago.

    That woman is one of the greatest talents alive today.

    • Nothing like a little healthy difference of opinion 😉

      Angel Sanctuary is indeed a masterpiece, but I’ve always been a sucker for shorter works in general. I vastly prefer short stories to novels, for example. I find something appealing about having so little room to work with and succeeding.

  2. Kaori Yuki is the ultimate in my opinion. Everything you said and more. From the research, ideas, theology, mythology, art, themes and emotions she manages to put into every page let alone every story and every book (subtlety or obvious) sets her apart from the dozens of authors and artists around her. The format she uses to display her stories should not take away from the stories themselves and to be honest manga lets her art speak as much as her words and characters do. I think if she made actual novels of her stories that a lot of the magic and subtleties would be lost. It’s so sad that most of the world will never be drawn into one of her worlds simply because of language or format. And you wonder why Hollywood is running out of ideas (SEQUELS AND PREQUELS FOR EVERYONE!!!!), maybe we might have different ideologies if we had more alternative and progressive material to challenge us and make us think… I hope she never stops writing.

  3. Pingback: Kaori Yuki MMF: Archive | the beautiful world

  4. Pingback: Kaori Yuki MMF: Introduction | the beautiful world

  5. Finally! A coherent review on Kaori Yuki’s work that expresses what my own sad limitations cannot! She is my favorite mangaka for the exact above reasons and I have striven to collect all of her works. A couple months ago I gave up waiting for an English translation of Boys Next Door (her masterpiece, in my opinion) and bought the German publication. I can’t read a word of German, but I know the story by heart and now have the pretty, pretty art!

  6. i have her angel sanctuary collection and godchild collection, absolutely adore them. Through the years i have refereed her to many of my friends looking for a great manga as she was the first one i bought.

  7. Pingback: This month in MANGA DOESN’T SUCK: Kaori Yuki’s GODCHILD. » Meltdown, Inc.

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