Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Tale Of Genji Comic Book - 1880s - UPDATED

I thought I would share with you a pair of Japanese comic books from around 1880 - I believe it's a version of The Tale of Genji.
The Tale of Genji (源氏物語 Genji Monogatari) is a classic work of Japanese literature written by Shikibu Murasaki (surname first), a Japanese noblewoman in the 11th century.

The comics are two books sewn together, but if they were apart, the two covers would join together - it's funny. Marvel and DC comics think they have created something original with their comic books having covers that join together to make a massive picture. They are only about 100 years behind the Japanese comics.

I thought perhaps you would like to see these comics. They are essentially a story with pictures - different from a lot of comic books one might find today, but I do know that back in the 1880s, the U.S. and Europe were also creating comics that looked like this. Dave Sim, a Kitchener, Ontario writer artist here in Canada would often do whole chapters of 10 or more issues of his Cerebus comic book in the style. I have to admit in all honesty that I didn't care for it, but it was still an interesting read - I never missed an issue of your book from #54 on up to #300 when you stopped. Cerebus is missed, my friend.

Anyhow... in these Japanese comics, the writing is very difficult to read - even for native Japanese, as the writing uses archaic Japanese Kanji (Chinese-style) characters that many today simply can not read.

I should also mention that I only have two copies of this long story - and there are evidently many, many more. Damn it all, I can not find any more information on this particular comic book - I did find it in an antique shop in Nikko, and was immediately drawn to it, what with it being a comic book and all. At least that's what I believe it to be. 

I also have several original ukiyo-e (Woodblock prints) of the Tale of Genji drawn by master artist Kunisada Kunihisaii, which I shall present to you all shortly.

Regardless... here are scans of the first comicbook, with the second to follow tomorrow (I may repeat some of this background information there) . The covers are all in color, with interiors in beautiful black and white. Like all Japanese books, they read from right to left, with each individual line read top to bottom.

It's a scant 4.5-inches wide x 7.0-inches high with each book coming in at 24 pages including outside and inside covers. Oh... hopefully it comes through in the scans, but the binding is sewn via four holes utilizing red and purple thread picking up the chief colors from the cover. This shade of purple, by the way, was not used in Japanese prints until after 1868. I did learn something from my antique shopping at Takemoto's in Nikko-shi.  

And... I refuse to call these manga, as that whole genre seems to imply large-eyed characters. The art in these books looks like it was taken from the same block of art as the ukiyo-e it was originally commissioned for.It sure does look like Kunisada's work.

Should anyone out there know anything more about this series of work, please e-mail me or leave a comment. Your help in this matter is appreciated.

UPDATED: Hey - I just found out thiese books are known as Genji Action Story, E-hon books and are actually drawn by Kunisada II Utagawa (1823-1880). I'm still saying that these comic were printed post 1868 because of the purple inks used.

Andrew Joseph

No comments:

Post a Comment