Eroicaverse 1: Allman Stories

September 23, 2011

This is the first in a series of articles talking about From Eroica With Love and related series. For the index, go here.

First in my version of the Eroicaverse is Allman Stories, a volume of short stories released circa 1976. It’s only tangentially related to Eroica, in that some of the stories serve as a good lead-in to Sons of Eve, which is a prequel of sorts to Eroica. They aren’t really related, at least not as far as I can see, but they are the same type of story. That’s a bad reason to group an author’s stories together (she also writes shoujo, so maybe I should just talk about them all?), but they are very similar silly shounen ai comedies, and that’s a good enough reason for me.

As I was reading this to write it up for the Eroicaverse article, I realized it would be a good backwards look at the way her art evolved from the mid-70s to her debut in the mid-60s. So I’m going to talk about that in more detail than I did last time.

To my knowledge, there are two editions of this work. One that is rather rare and appeared in the mid-70s, and a recent reprint in the “Aoike Yasuko Collection” series, which is what I have. I have no idea if they have the same content or not.

Most of these stories appeared in Shoujo Friend, a Kodansha publication, with the exception of Riccard Pagani, which ran in Seventeen, a Shueisha magazine.  Post-1975 to the present, all but a handful of Aoike’s stories were published by Akita Shoten.  This reprint collection is published by a company specializing in reprints, thus the publisher mix.

The first two stories in the collection are semi-related, and are both “Allman Stories.” It’s less an Allman Brothers Band homage and more a reference to the fact that the characters are attending a male university called All-Man University. To drive this point home, the campus is decorated with male symbols and the main character in the first story, Dracula House, frequently sports clothing with the male symbol on it.

If you’ve read Ivy Navy, the unrelated short story in the second volume of From Eroica With Love, you have the gist of these two stories. Dracula House has a plot, but Allman University is more of a silly sex romp with a lot of gags and non-sequitors (and no sex, just lots of grabbing). I find it interesting that some of the first BL stories that appeared, written by Moto Hagio, were November Gymnasium in 1971 and Heart of Thomas in 1974, and yet, here we have a goofy take on the same thing in 1974. There is no romance here, only comedy, and Aoike has said that she wrote this type of story (especially Sons of Eve) because she thought it was funny when an older man went after a young fellow. It makes me wonder, was there a big market for these shounen ai comedies? Was this a subgenre? How many other crazy shounen ai variants from the 70s are unknown to English audiences?

Anyway. The first story in this collection is called Dracula’s House, which appeared in a March 1975 issue of Shoujo Friend. We start off in the All Man University with a look at a pair of friends, Craig Frost and John Road. One is super-manly, the other likes to cross-dress. One day, they decide to court some ladies and follow a girl into a nunnery. They both disguise themselves as women in order to sneak around undetected. I think the shirt with the female symbol on it is a pretty good disguise.

This nunnery winds up being infested with nun vampires that can switch genders, and have whips.

One boy is bitten (and returns the favor with a punch in the jaw) while the other slays the sex-changing master vampire.

You can click on that to make it bigger.  I really like the weeping Jesus on that cross, as well as his garlic necklace and the garlic background.

In the end, the cross-dressing nice boy is the one that gets the girl.

The next story is All-Man University (that’s the English title they give in the book, although I think the Japanese title translates to something else), from a special issue of Shoujo Friend in 1976.  This came out a month or two after the first installment of Sons of Eve, but that story ran at a different publisher.

This story… I don’t know, guys. It’s gag-tastic and hard to follow, especially since my Japanese is terrible. But it’s definitely a precursor to Sons of Eve. Aside from similar appearances for some of the characters (I’m going to kindly pass over that in almost every instance when it comes to these works, though the main character is almost certainly Justin, and one of the others looks like a proto-Heath), the themes of a straight guy (?) being chased around by over-zealous and bizarre male suitors that he wants nothing to do with are very much the same. And the University parallels the world of Sons of Eve to some extent, at least in craziness. Anyway, in this story, I think the main character is lamenting the lack of women, then is ambushed by an alien horse and other animals that fall in love with him, and are also male, much to his chagrin.

There are a lot of good gag images, though. Please notice the… uh, “Homo Milk.”

Both “Allman Stories” here stick pretty closely to the mid-70s art style we saw in the beginning of From Eroica With Love, and are dead ringers for the styles in Sons of Eve. Understandable, since Allman University came out just after the first installment, and just shy of a year before Eroica made its debut. Allman University uses a ton of gags per page, and crams a lot of stuff into every panel. These gag stories aren’t really my thing, especially since I have such a hard time following them in Japanese, but I can appreciate some of the detail that goes into the crazy busy art here. The eyes and proportions are the same, which are the two things that will change the most both forwards and backwards, but you’ll also notice she adopts a less busy style for Eroica and later works, and focuses a lot more on background detail for buildings and scenery.

Next is a story called Dear Father, which goes back to 1974 and also appeared in a special issue of Shoujo Friend. This story is, strangely, more like a regular shoujo manga short story. It’s a romance, it has no jokes, and it has women in it. As the main characters. Aoike won’t use women again for, like, 20 years after this. Anyway, the plot is fairly straightforward. Daughter falls in love with a nice boy, father won’t allow the marriage, daughter and father eventually reconcile and there’s a nice wedding.

You’ll notice that the art is slightly more “realistic” in this story, with less craziness and more normal proportions. The eyes are a lot more sparkly and large, which is consistent with late 60s shoujo. The backgrounds are also simpler, and there’s less going on per page, which is also consistent with a non-gag manga. Basically, it looks and acts exactly like what you’d expect from a story in Shoujo Friend.

You’ll see more of the same type of art in the next story, called Julian, Say Goodbye. It appeared in Shoujo Friend in 1972.

I honestly have no idea what’s going on in this story. It’s a romantic drama, but aside from that, I couldn’t tell you. Here are a few key details, though.

Both the heroine and hero smoke. They are also older than the average modern shoujo heroine, who is usually the same age as the reader.

There are some cute romance scenes.

There’s also some choice insanity.

This is two years older than Dear Father, but aside from some larger, sparklier eyes and slightly different hair styles, I can’t spot many differences. The backgrounds and linework look comparable to me, in that they’re not as simple as 60s shoujo linework, but not as complex as some of her gag stories and later work. I suppose there is slightly more simplicity in this story, in terms of detail and linework, but it’s nothing you’d be able to tell from my terrible scans.

The next story seems to translate as something like “Death Behind the Twilight,” but the English title offered in the book is Riccard Pagani. It appeared in Seventeen magazine in 1976, so it’s a strange step forward chronologically in this collection. This appeared after All-Man University and Sons of Eve, but at a different publisher, and during a time when Seventeen ran manga and had less hungry models.

This is another where the plot has missed me, but seems to have something to do with the relationship between a sculptor and his teacher. It’s another drama, though this time I… can’t tell, but I don’t think it involves romance.

The art here gives us the tall men of the Eroica era, and, in fact, may star the Earl himself.

Believe it or not, they are different characters.  The one on the bottom is the Earl of Gloria, from the very first double-page spread of From Eroica With Love.

Anyway, Riccard Pagani is certainly inspired by Robert Plant just as much as the Earl. He predates our friend Dorian by about six months.

Their eyes are different, though. This character has… I’m not sure how to describe that shape, but it’s not one I’m very fond of. The Earl’s eyes are slightly more elongated, even in the early issues, and not quite that arched.  The more complex panel layouts are back, as are the nice scenery details. We also see a familiar thematic focus on fine artwork and some fairly stylish characters in this story. And even a few girls, though the main character is a man.

The last story in this volume is Laura’s Smile, which ran in Shoujo Friend in 1965. I’ve seen it listed as Aoike’s debut a few places, but most recent sources attribute that to Sayonara Nanette, which appeared a month before this.  It’s about a boy trying to get poor wheelchair-bound Laura to smile.  She then passes away.  It’s a lot shorter than the others.

As you can see, this is very 60s. Simple lines, simple shapes, simpler panel layouts, enormous eyes with tons of sparkles. Very mod hair on this girl.

Overall, this is a nice collection of stories.  I’m not a big fan of Allman University or the style of story that leads into Sons of Eve, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Dracula House. And it’s definitely an interesting look at the roots of Aoike’s writing and art style. I’m happy that it was reprinted after all these years.

3 Responses to “Eroicaverse 1: Allman Stories”

  1. Ali Says:

    Come to think of it, Aoike was the only person who wrote wacky shonen-ai stories. A lot of other shonen-ai or shoujo-ai series were pretty tragic and dramatic. Thanks for writing this, I enjoyed it, I’m looking forward to the next article.

  2. […] and each volume is padded out with an unrelated short story (the first with Riccard Pagani, which I’ve already discussed, and the second with a story called Epitaph). When Akita Shoten got the rights to the series in the […]

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