The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame Volume 1
I became familiar with the work of Gengoroh Tagame, as so many people did, through My Brother’s Husband. That’s a well-meaning, comfortable story about a man learning not to be afraid of gay people by meeting his dead twin’s husband. Many of the chapters are almost lessons, or even in the style of a very special sitcom episode, the kind that educates on social issues.
The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame of course shares the art style, with glorious images of strongly built gay men (bears), but as indicated by the subtitle, “Master of Gay Erotic Manga”, this book has a very different audience.
The handsome volume, substantially sized with crisp white pages and French flaps, is clear about what it contains. These seven stories are all about gay encounters, most with heavy BDSM elements, and from the first pages, the explicit nature is obvious. The endpapers, table of contents, and title page all feature naked men, bound, with erect cocks.
It turns out that this volume, now published by Fantagraphics, is a reprint of a book first put out by Picturebox in 2013. Having a better-known publisher pick it up worked to bring it to my attention, and now that other works by Tagame have been translated here, it makes sense to give this material, although more specialized, another chance at finding an audience.
All these stories were translated by Anne Ishii. There is also (reprinted as well)
- an introduction by Edmund White
- a piece by Chip Kidd about discovering these works and bringing the book about
- an essay by editor Graham Kolbeins about the artist’s history and inspirations
- and of most interest to me, endnotes to each story about where it appeared and with Tagame’s comments
Concluding the book are a baker’s dozen full-color pinups and illustrations.
The tales I enjoyed most were those with a bit more plot and not the most extreme. “Hairy Oracle” is about a policeman who solves cases when he’s well buggered (and was created for a magazine where half the readers were women, so purposefully included “romance and lightheartedness”). “Class Act” was created for this book’s English-speaking audience, about a student who fantasizes about being punished by his professor.
Other stories include the longest, about a guy who thinks he’s a great fighter who’s repeatedly beaten and raped by others on drugs; a historical fantasy about a samurai and his very dedicated retainer; one about a country doctor who becomes the town bicycle; and a journalist who goes to another country run by a strongman leader to find a missing man.
That’s a lot of words to give this short review: if you know and like what this is, it’s very well-done. Next month, The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: Master of Gay Erotic Manga volume 2 is due out, with stories new to English translation.