You! (who Pine eternally for Tragic Love at Bhikkhuni Bridge)

This is my best attempt at translating the title of this story from Matsumoto’s collection Tale of a Time Gone by.

It starts with a woman waiting for her beloved at Tokyo’s Bhikkhuni Bridge on a moonlit night.  The man’s name is Michio, and she  waits for him every Friday though he never shows up.  Yukiko, as she is called, returns to her husband who is angrily waiting for her.

The husband accuses her of infidelity and abuses her sexually (with words and with S&M tools as well).  She endures it all and thinks only of Michio, whom she met sometime in an indefinite past.

All of the sudden the mangaka writing these pages on Yukiko and Michio’s tragic love tears up the page he’s been drawing in frustration!  Here:

He’s upset that his earnest attempt at writing a straight-up romantic melodrama has turned into sadistic porn!  He fears what will people think of him if they read it…

The scene shifts in the next page to a Yattaran-like fellow riding along on his bicycle at night.  He stops to urinate and hears two people moaning in an apartment above (Yukiko and her husband likely).  He curses them for not being mindful of passers-by.

Immediately on the following page we are back to Yukiko in the daytime, crying and wishing she could die.  That night she finally meets with Michio again.  They see a couple making love nearby and they are contemptuous, declaring their own love to be purer than that.  But after a number of kisses they end up on the ground making love.  Then they head for Bhikkhuni Bridge.

The Yattaran-like fellow is about to cross the bridge and he notices the couple kissing.  He decides to be polite and cross under the bridge and through the shallow river (carrying his bicycle over him so it won’t get wet).  Unfortunately for him, Yukiko and Michio have decided to commit double suicide: they jump off the bridge and land on the poor fellow.

On the next page we see the fellow with his head bandaged, in his home talking to what we presume it’s his father.  The old man congratulates him for having saved the doomed couple (they survived after crashing on him!) and then points out that indeed it is much better to peep on lovers from an inferior position looking up.  The fellow screams that he wasn’t going under the bridge to peep on them at all, only to give them privacy.

And now we see the last comic panel on a futuristic computer screen aboard a spaceship.  Two voices are heard discussing the entire story we’ve just read.  Apparently they’ve unearthed a microfilm copy of the comic book from ancient ruins Earth.  They are Earthlings from 5 billion years in the future, examining human past and awaiting imminent annihilation as the Sun is about to die.  They look like brain blobs, and one of them is quite unhappy at how humans back then we’re thinking of silly things instead of larger cosmic questions like the eventual downfall of the race.  THE END.

It’s a weird tale.  One thing that I found striking was the tear on the page that the mangaka makes.  It came as a huge surprise and I think a sexual interpretation of the tear itself is unavoidable.  The first time I read the story I actually though the Yattaran clone was the mangaka, that he had tried to write a story, torn it up, gotten into his bicycle, then somehow managed to run into Yukiko, her husband and Michio.  Reading it again I see there is no reason to suppose this fellow is anything other than another character in the comic book story.  Then the question becomes: what is the status of the mangaka vs. the futuristic humans?  Are the futuristic humans simply characters in the mangaka’s tale?  [this would be odd, since the mangaka was trying to write a melodrama…]  Or is the mangaka a part of the past history of mankind? [in this case, how come the futuristic humans could know about the tear in the page; the microchip should only hold a copy of the comic book as it was finally edited, without including these “revisions”!!]

There must be at least two mangaka, the one in the story and Leiji Matsumoto himself.  Or are they but one?  Maybe this is a mise en abyme with an infinity of mangaka?  I don’t know.  Any thoughts?

~ by Haloed Bane on November 22, 2010.

2 Responses to “You! (who Pine eternally for Tragic Love at Bhikkhuni Bridge)”

  1. Nothing clever comes to mind 😀

    Must be several managakas in this story though – Matsumoto-sensei himself has never had qualms about making a story into something porn-like, has he? 🙂

    Since when is it a good thing to prevent a lovers’ double suicide?

    Well, actually, when you are through the whole volume, I’d like to get your take on it as a whole – from what I am reading here (plus that Wild West story) it seems Leiji was experimenting with shifts of point of view and frame of the story – very interesting!

    • I think most socially attuned folk would argue that it is a good thing to prevent a lovers’ suicide, but that said, I’m in your camp on this one. My two
      favorite Japanese writers were both lovers’ suicides (Dazai, Mishima).

      I just finished the whole book, and you’re right. One of the things Leiji does consistently here is change the POV radically toward the end of each story. This surprises us but there is more to it than that. Leiji is not changing the POV from one side of the story to another, but from the inside (small-scale) to the outside (large-scale). The effect is to shock us into an awareness of the abject ignorance of his characters. It reminds me of Lovecraft’s “cosmic horror” except that of course it’s not as horrible. And the reason it isn’t as horrible is that Leiji lets us know that even the technologically advanced aliens surveying us from their heights are ultimately clueless as well (thus the Wild West story)…I think what’s scary about Lovecraft is that he hints that some entity or entities do know exactly what’s going on and they will never, never tell us.

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