When I was a snotty teen, I read the manga ‘Haikara-san ga Tooru’ (There Goes Miss High Collar) by Waki Yamato-sensei. It tells of the ‘high collar’, feminist, rambunctious female character Benio, whose adventures include being a journalist reporting to a misogynist boss, doing time behind bars, chasing after bandits, and, of course, falling in love, in the Taisho era that spans from 1912 to the 1920s.
‘Haikara’ is still one of my favourite manga, particularly because of its bizarre humour. It often refers to the pop culture at that time (1970s)-thus it is only after watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show last year (it wasn’t that popular where I am from) that I get why that man in stockings keep appearing out of nowhere – and some of the jokes are probably Japanese puns that until now I still don’t get anyway.
I recently discovered that ‘Haikara’ won the 1st Kodansha Manga Award for Shoujo in 1977. like, THE first. Woah.
I also recently found out that Yamato-sensei’s influences also included Monty Phyton. A-ha!
All in all, ‘Haikara’ is hilarious. Partly because it just is, and partly because of the kooky Indonesian translation, which, in its own ways, also made lots of references to pop culture that are popular in Indonesia at that time. Interesting chemistry indeed. The Indonesian company that publishes ‘Haikara’ in the recent years have re-published the series, correcting the jumbled page mishap of the first effort. To my slight disappointment, however, the translation got a bit tamer this time.
Waki Yamato writes other great manga that are perhaps not as weird as ‘Haikara’ but still very enjoyable, such as Yokohama Monogatari (Yokohama Tale), the touching Nemuranai Machi Kara (From the City that Never Sleeps), and, of course, one of her most famous works, Asakiyumemishi, the adaptation of the classic Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji).
Yamato-sensei’s works are often considered as ‘classic’ manga. Particularly in the artistic sense, perhaps. Those big, doe eyes with huge lashes, the facial characters that are more Western than Japanese, the long, long legs, and so on. In many of her works, the characters, particularly the female ones, are open-minded, adventurous, willing to travel and accepting towards newcomers (Western people, oftentimes) but still very Japanese.
And, you know what, it’s her birthday today, so omedettou to her (anyone know where to write her fanmail? Do let me know!)
And yep, I am serious about the fan mail. I have no idea whether she uses the internet at all actually, but I would like to wish her a happy birthday anyway and I hope she is happy and healthy. I can’t even write in Japanese to her because after all these years of on and off learning my Japanese is still not that good yet. I would like to meet her one day ( I hope she’s nice) 🙂