One of the better manga I’ve really gotten into this year is Okachimachi Hato’s Horii-shimai no Gogatsu (Eng: The Horii Sisters in May). I discovered its first chapter in a copy of the now-defunct Manga Erotics F I picked up for Awashima Hyakkei a year ago, got interested, bought the first collected volume a few months ago, and fell in love. Among other things, it prominently features a gender role-flipping adult relationship with great emotional complexity that’s right down the middle of my strike zone. So I got interested and tried to dig up some stuff on it. I found out on Okachimachi’s twitter feed that she had done an interview for women’s magazine An-An with some thoughts on gender, and I decided to translate it.
There’s plenty of literature out there pointing out the importance of examining the role gender plays in Japan, but I think it’s worth noting that a survey in the same magazine asks “Can a man and a woman have a stable friendship?” and gets a very wide spread of responses.
It’s really not much, but read it if you want. You can follow the interviewer on twitter here.
“Horii-shimai no Gogatsu”
Pictures (book): Katou Jun
Interview, Text: Miura Asako
Caption: The eldest daughter, Haruko, who lives at home even though she’s married, the second daughter, Sakurako, who, though beautiful, is also insecure and a long ways away from a happy ending. The third daughter, Namiko, currently living with a feminine boyfriend whom she surpasses in masculinity. The fourth daughter and former idol, Kanako. What lies in store for the Horii sisters as they face these romantic challenges?
Kodansha 579 yen
Title: The romantic chronicles of four individualistic sisters, linked with gender issues, starts!
Bio: Okachimachi Hato
Manga Author. From Tokyo. Debuted in 2006. Her notable works are “Fujoshi-ssu” (7 volumes, Kadokawa/Ascii Media Works) and Fantasy (Ohta Publishing).
The story of four sisters is a narrative setting which has been loved and retold in all ages and worlds of novels and manga. Okamachi Hato-san’s Horii-shimai no Gogatsu is also an erotic and heat-thumping love comedy about the romantic travails of 4 women. However, each individual cause of their struggles their struggles is packed with a sense of modernity that makes it hard to take your eyes off the story.
The story opens with their uncle’s funeral. At this gathering of relatives, it becomes noticeable that each of the four sisters has her own hassles to deal with. The eldest, Haruko, though married, is in the middle of an unexplained return home, the second daughter and former teacher, Sakurako, is in the middle of a 13-omiai losing streak. The third daughter, Namiko, is now a gym teacher after the corporate sports team she played for dissolved. The fourth daughter, Kanako, has withdrawn from the idol business and seems to be unemployed.
“You could say the girls are living their lives in decline, having slipped and fallen from the blooming springtime of life. There’s a distinctive image of the slightly melancholy season of May Disease. However, this gloom tends to house some erotic aspects, and I felt I wanted to include those as I drew.”
In the first volume, two romances are depicted – the age-gap romance between Sakurako and her former pupil, Nakamura-kun, and the role-reversal romance between Namiko and the feminine-tongued Shige-chan. Both are tangled in romantic and gender issues, in a truly modern way.
“Until it was pointed out to me that there were gender themes in the work, I myself wasn’t that conscious of it. But it’s certainly true that in both cases, the foundation is a relationship between a princess and a prince. How exactly that changes is interesting, and I haven’t even figured this out myself yet, but I think both the eldest and youngest daughters will be shouldering burdens similar in that sense.”
Like any good sister story, there will occasionally be scenes wedged in where they gather together and chat.
“There’s sort of this expectation that girls will scatter. Even though during puberty and such, we’ll be really tight-knit, eventually everyone goes away to handle their own forward-looking life. But if, like these four sisters, we could regain that togetherness, I think that by itself would make for a happy scene.”
As conversation partners, sisters can be much less careful than female friends in making their true feelings clear, as Okamachi-san says,
“For example, if female friends are the ones to tell you ‘That’s not it at all-‘ when you open up about a complex, sisters are the ones who shoot straight and say ‘That’s it!’ They’ll accept you knowing full well you are who you are. I think, that sort of presence, removed from interpersonal relationships, is quite the luxury.”