[From April Issue 2013]
Hiizurutokoro-no-Tenshi (Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun)
“Hiizurutokoro-no-Tenshi” (Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun) is a shoujo (girl’s) manga that depicts the life of Prince Shotoku from his childhood until he became regent (when he made political decisions for the Emperor). The manga was serialized in the manga magazine “LaLa” (published by Hakusuisha) from 1980 to 1984 and was awarded the Best Prize in the Shoujo Division of the Kodansha Manga Awards in 1983. The publication of the manga caused quite a stir by portraying this great man, whose likeness had been printed onto bank notes, as a homosexual with supernatural powers. The manga has been frequently reprinted in book form and has had an abiding appeal even though 30 years have now passed since it first came out.
The story is set in Japan during the Asuka era (6~8th centuries). Fourteen-year-old Soga no Emishi comes across ten-year-old Umayado no Ouji (Prince Shotoku’s real name) bathing in a pond on a spring day. He is so beautiful that Emishi mistakes him for a girl and falls in love. Later, when Emishi meets Ouji again as his retainer, he discovers that Ouji is a charismatic man who is cultured, talented and politically astute.
When Emishi becomes close to Ouji, he begins to have mysterious experiences because of Ouji’s special abilities. He realizes that, because of these abilities, Ouji is feared by his own mother and is isolated from his family. While confounded by his abilities, Emishi tries to treat Ouji as another human being. Despite the difference in their status and the fact that they are both men, Ouji finally falls in love with Emishi.
One day, Ookimi (the Emperor) – Ouji’s father – dies. Ouji and Emishi get involved in the dispute over succession. Though he is frightened by the cool headed, precocious way Ouji handles himself, Emishi decides in the end to give his support to the prince. The dispute develops into a great war.
After the war, a new emperor, or Ookimi, ascends to the throne and peace reigns. But, the Ookimi is put out by Ouji’s increasing influence. Though the Ookimi plots to have him assassinated, Ouji easily evades this disaster. With jealousy and intrigue swirling around him, Ouji realizes that Emishi’s purity is irreplaceable. But then, he gets a shock when he finds out that Emishi has fallen in love with a woman. The story develops dramatically.
When she was a child, the writer saw a newspaper article that read: “A sword inscribed with a message to ensure the repose of a soul has been found inside a Buddhist statue connected to Prince Shotoku.” She was frightened that a person whose spirit needed to be pacified this way had existed. This experience was the impetus for this work. In an interview printed at the end of volume seven of the complete collection (published by Media Factory), the writer says, “I thought about the hero’s character by imagining that somebody who people feared was sitting next to me.”
Although this work does not accurately portray historical fact, it skillfully incorporates famous episodes into the plot. For instance, in the story Prince Shotoku uses the Yumedono (Hall of Dreams), for meditation. This temple has been designated as a national treasure and is still in the grounds of Horyuji Temple. Since the characters are so unique and it has a historical appeal, the work has attracted not only shoujo manga fans but also a wide range of readers. Skillfully blending fact and fiction, the work gives us some insight into the Asuka era.
Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko