Thursday, August 4, 2011

Marimite in the 50s: Sakura Namiki ("The Rows of Cherry Trees")

This is the oldest thing I have ever reviewed, by far.

Sakura Namiki came out in 1957, long before the Year 24 Group stepped up. (The Year 24 members were all 10 or younger when this was published.) Sakura Namiki's author, Takahashi Makoto, was especially prolific in the 60s. His profile rose again in the 90s-early 2000s, when the Gothic Lolita Bible featured his art on some covers. Sakura Namiki is a perfect example of what yuri was like while it was still incubating in Class S form, before it was really "born" in the 70s.

At Sakura Girls' Institute, located at the top of a sakura-clad hill, walking slowly is pref- whoops, wrong series.

First-year Yukiko and second-year Ayako compete against each other in their school's athletics festival's table tennis competition for the chance to play against their beloved Chikage-oneesama in the finals. (Chikage likes Yukiko more, causing Ayako to hate Yukiko.) Yukiko wins against Ayako, but loses to Chikage. Yukiko's classmates' gossip about whether she threw the final game and Ayako's hyper-clinginess to Chikage after the game both drive a wedge between Yukiko and Chikage.

Yukiko eventually challenges Chikage to a re-match and they resolve their misunderstanding. In the end, they walk home together, as usual, underneath "the golden tops of the cherry trees."

The premise isn't what makes the story memorable so much as the execution: the elegant, old-fashioned art (and the layout, especially in the early pages), the setting (love the historic details), the complete earnestness with which the story is told (the girls' school setting has been played out so much that it's kind of impossible to write a contemporary girls' school story without a knowing wink at the audience; even though I enjoy Sakura Namiki's writing style, it would be a lot harder to pull off today without sounding cheesy or affected), and...well, it makes me feel like listening to Classical music, or attending the ballet again. ^^;

And again, it isn't really canon- but there's so much freaking subtext.

Story: B
Art: Not as refined as Takahashi's later art, but still pretty. B+
Overall: B+

For anyone who has read Sakura Namikithis is what "The Dying Swan" looks like when performed live. The picture quality isn't as good for this video, but it's "The Dying Swan" performed by the ballerina it was originally written for. And this is Schumann's "Träumerei (Reverie)", the song used in the music box scene.

Sakura Namiki can be bought in a bundle, together with Takahashi's Paris ~ Tokyo tankoubon. (It isn't sold individually.)

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