Comic Jun, October 1978
March 3, 2012
In the newest installment of Insane Things I Bought Off The Internet, I present to you Comic Jun, from October 1978. This is the anthology that went on to become June, the first regular BL magazine, as I understand. As far as I can tell, Comic Jun ran irregularly for a few issues before the title changed to June in 1979, and then it ran with one hiatus until it ceased publication in 1996.
I’m fairly interested in the history of the genre. There’s a lot of information in English about the roots of BL in the 70s, and then a few examples of series that came out when it looks like the genre experienced a modern resurgence in the early 90s. But there’s a big gap in the 80s where it seems like nothing but June and doujinshi were coming out, and I just can’t find any information about this. What’s most interesting is that the 90s series seem to have almost no relation to what was coming out in the 70s, so whatever happened in the 80s was quite transformative. Comic Jun doesn’t really answer my questions about this, but I do like it as a look at 70s shounen ai stories that aren’t by Keiko Takemiya and Moto Hagio. Not that those two aren’t great, and I would dearly love to read more by either of them, but they’re also all I know. And for the record, Keiko Takemiya is in here. She drew the cover, too.
Again, I can’t read Japanese. I’m doing my best with the content in here, though, so bear with me. I blew my Friday deadline for the first time since July because I spent so long trying to research and translate what I could of this, so I really did try hard.
Also, some of the images and content are NSFW.
So, I wasn’t lying when I said Keiko Takemiya drew the cover illustration. She has a short story included in the magazine, called “Variation,” and also illustrated a text story called “Le Chateau de Rose-Croix,” originally in French and written by Justine Serie. I think. But I can’t find any evidence that this is a real person, and I don’t speak either French or Japanese, so don’t take my word for it. Takemiya later went on to write a popular feature called “Manga School” in later issues, so she was deeply involved in this title at launch.
That’s a page from “Variation,” by Takemiya. It’s a very short story (11 pages) and dialogue-heavy, so I can’t really tell what it’s about. The two boys do play cards and swap memories most of the time, though, with a 70s naughty panel (read: artful draping) on the last page.
And again, much like all the coolest things I own, I found this by searching Yasuko Aoike’s name in the Yahoo Auctions. She does not have a story in this magazine, and I’m not even sure if this illustration is an exclusive, but she does adorn the fold-out poster in the front of the magazine. Kenkichi Sato has the back side, with a lovely illustration of Bjorn Andersen, a relatively obscure actor that played the young boy the main character is obsessed with in the movie Death in Venice.
The first story in the magazine is by Akemi Matsuzaki, called “Je Vous Aime.” You may remember her from the Illustrations of Rock collection I covered a while back. She’s the first artist in that book too, and I talk about her a bit there. I don’t know that much about her, but I recognized her style right away, surprisingly. The story here is set in France, is in color, and seems to be a tale of lost love.
There’s a few of these one-page “film strip” comics scattered throughout. I don’t know the author of these, though I tried! This one is particularly violent/tragic, and I think the only one that isn’t overtly sexual (though it is definitely sexually charged).
I’m sparing you the page of illustrations of Tezuka characters and other famous old male manga characters having naked embraces or sex with each other (Hyakkimaru… Lupin/Jigen… Duke Togo… sob). It exists. I’m also omitting some gag and essay content. The latter is mostly lost on me, though I’m sure there are at least a few of you that would love to see the Hiro celebrity photo shoot at the beginning of the magazine. I’m really impressed by the diversity of the content here, and I only wish I could enjoy more of it.
Another contributor is Yukimi Yamaguchi, the title of her story is something along the lines of… uh, “Dream Premonitions.” I can’t find any additional information about this artist aside from a book called “Gold Crucifix.” Anyway, “Dream Premonition” is a period piece, set on a ship, that seems to involve a rather passionate and treacherous relationship. It’s a bit longer and more involved than the other stories in the anthology, too, and the period setting definitely gives it a different feel. The two-page spread I scanned there is fantastic, but I can’t fit the whole magazine in my scanner.
Yamaguchi also contributed to a selection of single and double page color illustrations in the middle of the magazine. These were all lovely, and may or may not have included dancing nazis, but my favorite was this one:
Sadly, this was another where I couldn’t figure out the artist’s name, and the double-page spread is too big to fit into my scanner. But look at this! It’s amazing!
Yayoi Takeda is the artist of this story, which is titled “Beware the Devil’s Trap” This is some sort of unholy cross between Sons of Eve and Bride of Deimos, and proves other artists aside from Yasuko Aoike were doing BL comedy in the 70s. Also, it seems to once again prove that Kiss was very popular in Japan, especially among shoujo manga artists. I’m not sure how popular Yayoi Takeda is or was. I found tankoubon by Yayoi Takeda, but they seem to start in the late 80s/early 90s, and the artists spells her name with kanji instead of hiragana, so it might be a different person. But the genre is right, as they seem to be shoujo/josei and a few BL volumes.
Ai Murasaki is the artist of this story. “Aiyakko” is the very straightforward title in Japanese, and I’m afraid to google it to figure out the best English translation (it’s something along the lines of male love). This seems to be a story about a young, sadistic, and very female magic user in love with beautiful boys rather than the young men being in love with each other. Again, I’m impressed with the variety of stories here. This one’s still a drama, and has a little kink in it to boot, but the fact it had a female protagonist sets it apart just a bit.
The fact that this was full of very short stories and very physical relationships (most of them at least implied one with a few panels, and a few showed rather overt physical relationships) sort of shattered my mental image of 70s shounen ai being full of mostly platonic relationships, drama, and hand-wringing. I’m fully aware of the content of The Song of the Wind and Trees, but that series was rather controversial, so I was under the impression that the sexuality was abstract or non-existent elsewhere. Not so here. It’s never outright smut, like, say, The Finder Series, but it’s still pretty sexual.
“Everyday Feelings” is by Haruka Orihara, another artist I can find literally nothing about. The only mentions seem to refer back to this anthology. But “Everyday Feelings” is almost like a textbook example of what I imagine 70s shounen ai to be. It seems to be about a student that admires a classmate, but he walks in on said classmate experiencing abuse one day. The sequence of memories above is followed by a dark, tragic montage of the abuse, and both pages could almost be a modern parody of the genre. I’m uncomfortable with content like this, so I don’t really want to comment on it further, but… yeah. This is Song of the Wind and Trees territory.
The last story in the anthology is “Hitsujikai,” by Michio Hisauchi. This almost looks like the work of Yoshiharu Tsuge, though more coherent than that. The fairly realistic-looking characters and backgrounds is a little freaky and surreal, and definitely makes this story stand out in the anthology. It appears to be about a monk that saves a beautiful young man and brings him to the local monastery. It is almost completely dialogue-free, and in fact the above page is about 3/4 of everything said in the story. Whatever that Guy Fawkes-looking outsider is saying there, it causes him to get his throat slit and thrown down a well. I assume it has something to do with why the monk was self-flagellating earlier in the story.
Interestingly, Michio Hisauchi is a man, and appears to have had a long career full of many strange books. I will do some more thorough research on him later, because he appears to be very much worth the effort.
And that’s all the manga short stories, but as I mentioned, this magazine is literally packed full of other interesting content. The idol spotlight/photo feature in the front on Hiro, some strange and rather elegantly illustrated poetry (?), a manifest, what appears to be a spotlight on various shoujo manga and other books of interest, the aforementioned translated story “Le Chateau de Rose-Croix,” some 4-koma and comedy pieces, some fanart and illustration submissions (one of which is a rather explicit image of two men having sex in fishnets with the lyrics to Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle” written out next to them), a music/celebrity writeup corner, something about David Bowie, and an editorial in the back. I can read almost none of this, or I would be talking about it to everyone who passed me on the street, because there’s just so much content packed into these 150 pages.
Mostly, it’s just an interesting peek into the past. As I said, I had some preconceived notions about 70s shounen ai that this completely shattered, and I was also impressed by the variety in the genre, even at this relatively early date. It’s also surprisingly inexpensive, considering the historical value. I have a very nice copy (save for the fact I cracked the spine at the color pages while I was scanning it) considering it’s a 35-year-old magazine, and I think I only paid $8-$15 for it. Not that I think it’s particularly worth seeking out, but still, if you’re so inclined, it’s out there to b ehad.