Today I award myself a Yuri History Achievement Badge. I have finished Yoshiya Nobuko’s Hana Monogatari, Part 2 (花物語 下).
So many dead girls.
Girls died from starvation, illness, train accident, ship sinking, and at least one threw herself off a tower. It would be creative if it were, say MURCIÉLAGO, but as it it wasn’t, it was actually a little distressing.
The second half of the series continues the trend we saw in the first half of the collection, as stories became longer and longer as the series went on. In some cases, it worked and others not so much. I will say this about Yoshiya-sensei’s writing – as she has more time/page count to spend on story, she never fell back into lazy writing. Characters get more developed and fleshed out and while large, overarching themes repeat, none of the stories are themselves repetitious.
This second half is notable for containing the fascinating, yet ultimately depressing, Yellow Rose (which has been wonderfully translated by Dr. Sarah Frederick and is available digitally. I recommend it highly and hope you’ll all consider picking it up For a mere $2.99, you can read one of Nobuko’s best-known, and genuinely interesting stories.
Of the two stories that stick with me, most I have completely failed to remember which flowers they were attached to. ^_^; One, exceedingly long story, spoke of two sisters, one plain and of average intelligence and accomplishment who sacrifices everything to help her musically talented and attractive younger sister to thrive after they are orphaned. It was such a massive ball of misery that just kept dragging on. It never became hopeless, it just didn’t end, and then she died. Well, then. But her sister, at least, did thrive, and I suppose that made it all worth it. Somehow.
My second-favorite tale was about a young woman who lived alone with her mother and younger sister who quits school to begin working. The description of the office workplace, with the female secretarial and typist pools working with the male staff was fabulous. It was if suddenly we were catapulted from the turn of the century into a 20th century background that we would instantly find recognizable. Men and women smoking in the office(!) and the young typist forming a strong affinity for the woman who ran the typist pool. It was all so 1930s urban. I could picture the clothes very clearly. ^_^ This stood out because, along with Yellow Rose, it portrayed a young woman becoming a professional typist as a kind of freedom and also as a kind of bondage.
Also very interestingly, the second half includes bullying at school – of the sniping behind one’s back kind – and a few stories which were built around betrayal.
If there was one theme, though, that kept repeating, it was the way in which young women interacted with the technologies of the day. From a steam train ride through a horrible frightening storm, to war-time telegraphs, to typing, this books is set firmly in the 20th century in a way that the first half just wasn’t. City vs country was another motif. A number of the stories contrasted urban vs rural. It was pretty obvious that Yoshiya-sensei herself favored the city, but that meant that she often had her characters defend the rural areas with vehemence.
Hana Monogatari was less inside it’s own head than the dense and self-absorbed Yaneura ni Nishojo. The short-story format gave Yoshiya-sensei a chance to really delve into creating different scenarios and the characters who would inhabit them. We spend enough to time with characters, to (in many cases, ) predict the character’s reactions. There’s less frivolity and phantasm in this half, but instead it is filled with a loving look at modern Japanese life in the 1930s through the eyes of young women who lived or died during that time.
Overall – 9
I’m pretty sure that, despite the privation and deaths, I enjoyed the collection as a whole. ^_^ But “Moyuruhana” from the first half still wins and I hope one day to read that in translation.