“The Tale of Genji: Dreams at Dawn” by Waki Yamato

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Thanks to Kodansha Comics and Netgalley for providing me with an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

A bit of a Japanese theme on my blog this week. I used to read a huge amount of manga before physical space and bank account constraints put an end to most of my habit, but I still pick the odd one up if it seems intriguing. I’ve always been a fan of the Tale of Genji, written in the 11th century by Murasaki Shikibu arguably the first novel ever written, and by a woman no less.

It’s great to see a publisher taking on one of these vintage mangas. I’m still holding on to the futile hope that Udon will finally release the Rose of Versailles manga that they’ve been promising since 2015…but I digress.

This manga adaptation of The Tale of Genji was first released in the 80s and 90s and has that flowery, vintage manga art style familiar to any fans of classic shoujo such as Rose of Versailles and Revolutionary Girl Utena.

The story is a well-known one, Prince Genji, notorious womaniser and owner of a famously fickle heart, falls in love with his father’s wife, Princess Fujitsubo. Having the hots for an Emperor’s wife is a no no even for a spoiled prince, so poor Genji has no choice but to drown his sorrow in the affections of other women, with the exception of his actual wife that is (sidenote – child marriage, never a good idea). Genji has some serious mother issues having lost his own at a young age which perhaps explains his fascination for his stepmother. Her physical similarity to Genji’s mother adds an extra sprinkle of Oedipus Complex to the mix. Genji is not always the easiest character to like but he’s certainly an interesting character and he’s not without his own charms and there’s plenty of angst in his story.

The art style wont be for everyone, but for those who appreciate this style there is lots to appreciate. The details are beautiful and there are classic Shoujo flourishes such as sparkly eyes and gorgeous clothing and hair. The story itself a good, if somewhat romanticised, adaptation of The Tale of Genji and if some of Genji’s less salubrious personality traits are glossed over then fans of the Shoujo genre will know this is pretty much par for the course. There’s romance, there’s angst, there’s completely inappropriate relationships…all classic Shoujo hallmarks.

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