©︎ Moyoco Anno / Cork

23rd Manga Division Excellence Award

Bikacho shinshi kaikoroku (Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen)

ANNO Moyoco [Japan]

Outline

This manga is set in the early 20th century in a maison close (“brothel”) named “Night’s Egg,” located in a corner of Paris. Collette, who works there as a prostitute and has a certain coldness about her, has written about experiences with “amorous gentlemen,” all of them perverted, in a notebook she received from a customer. Leon, a pimp, is indispensable to Colette. She knows that he uses his sweet and convincing talk to draw money from women, but Colette can’t break off her relationship with him. Leon, however, is drawn in by Nana, a high class, gorgeous prostitute who craves money, putting an end to his visits with her. Colette begins writing stories on the theme of desire in her notebook during the ensuing gloomy days. The cravings in Colette and Leon, the vivid personalities of the other prostitutes, and the lives of their customers who all have their own unique desires, are portrayed in gorgeous yet melancholy drawings. The characters’ perceptive dialogues and monologues that appear throughout the manga, especially those of Colette as she attempts to face herself and the truth of her own story, steal the reader’s heart.

Reason

The scene is set in a high-ceilinged museum in Paris. Reading this manga gives one the sense of slowly walking alone in an empty exhibition room with black walls, gazing at each picture enclosed in its dull gold frame. Holding their breath while looking at the pictures, readers seem to be able to hear their own footsteps echoing from the high ceiling. From far away, a girl selling flowers on the corner is playing La Vie en Rose and L’accordéoniste on her accordion. Then, mixed in with all this we can hear the madams and mademoiselles chattering discretely about love. Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen gives readers the sense of viewing its pictures in a museum. Some of the pages are double spreads that make readers want to cut them out to decorate their walls. The dialogue is reminiscent of a poem being read alone to a background of music. No one else could have drawn pictures quite like these, nor imagined dialogue like this. This manga shows a new form of love and life, and stating simply that this work was done in “good taste” does not give it the credit it deserves. (KURATA Yoshimi)