Acony is Back!! Time to Ramble about Kei Toume and her Two Associates (NSFW)

Acony Chapter 13 is up!  Go go go!

Kei Toume fans are very devoted, both in Japan and overseas.  I know far too little about her and her work to speak intelligently on the subject, but that never prevents me from posting about whatever so I’ve been reading up on her background and have found out some very interesting things.

One thing that Japanese fans like to say is that Toume belongs to a trio of successful mangaka: namely Hiroaki Samura, Benkyou Tamaoki and herself.  To me this sounds like an Unholy Trinity, but there’s good reason for grouping the three together.  All of them studied during the same period at Tama Art University in Setagaya, Tokyo.  Apparently Toume was a senior when Samura joined, and she forced him to cross-dress for the university festival.  Tamaoki entered the university a bit later, so Toume was already gone, but she knew him from working in the manga industry and of course through Samura, who was still around at Tama.  The three of them collaborated on a doujinshi at one point.  To top it off, I have seen claims on the net that Toume actually advised and instructed Samura on the art of drawing.

Left: from Toume's "Acony" / Right: from Samura's "Ohikkoshi"

I do think Samura’s women resemble Toume’s designwise (I had thought of it before I ever heard about all of this).  Storywise of course they’re as far apart as could be.  Samura likes to torture his women, and I don’t mean this metaphorically in any way.  Maybe he’s taking revenge by proxy on his sempai Toumei??  Think about it…it makes sense!  Toume tells Samura “See, this is how you draw a girl?  Now dress like a girl in front of this crowd” and Samura goes home crying and says “OK, now that I possess the secret of drawing your girls look at what I’m going to do with them.”

Next, Samura and Tamaoki certainly share some themes.  Tamaoki’s celebrated Tokyo Akazukin (yes, I think “celebrated” is the right adjective here) gives Samura a run for his money on the question of how many ways can one mangaka torture his/her protagonist.  Designwise, I don’t see them as very close.  If there’s a connecting link in the Unholy Trinity it’s gotta be Samura then, because from his work you can approach Toume visually or approach Tamaoki thematically.  Below is a good example of two images that are strikingly different in arrangement, with moods diametrically opposite (one tragic, one comic), and yet portraying very similar situations of the sort Samura and Tamaoki revel in.

Top: from Samura's "Night of the Succubus" / Bottom: from Tamaoki's "Necromanesque"

This is not to say that Toume doesn’t have a mean (even deviant) streak.  The anecdote about the college senior forcing crossdressing on others might hint at sadistic impulses.  Besides, there’s more than meets the eye in Acony (the series), because there’s more to Acony (the girl/woman/zombie) than meets the eye.  Here’s my favorite chapter cover in the color version Toume did for the first volume:

Whether intentionally or not, the “shot” pays tribute to the great sadist Balthus’ work.  Anyone can stumble on a Balthusian pose by accident, but the Balthusian gaze means something.  Here are two of Balthus’ models:

Acony is very demanding.  She wants it three ways.  She wants to be a woman (see how she gets drunk in chapter 13 because she has a right to), she wants to be a girl (countless examples) and she wants to be a zombie (she plays with creepy crawlers and calls herself dead).  Then again, she doesn’t want to be any of these things.  Call her a zombie and she’ll scowl at you, call her a girl and she’ll scold you, call her a woman and she’ll tell scream at you it’s not polite to discuss girls’ ages.

Toume is quite the cruel mistress herself.  She keeps you guessing at what she wants to do with this manga throughout.  After finishing the first volume, you think it’s going to be a relatively lighthearted mystery plot.  The second volume begins with very silly episodic fodder.  The plot is almost forgotten, and yet as the second volume draws to a close (in chapters 14 and 15, coming soon), plot developments take place at an accelerated pace and you start wondering if this is supposed to be funny, serious or downright sinister.  I haven’t read the final Volume Three, but I’m happy to report Japanese fans loved the way the story ended and I’m looking forward to the experience.  And if you are too make sure to head the red rabbits.

P.S. Consider this: although she doesn’t ever get naked or take out a whip, the character of Misono in Acony (whose portrait I used in the Toume/Samura image above) is known to be a snake-like monster with an intense libido (the problem is she tends to confuse libido with appetite).  Now recall the crazy woman in Tamaoki’s Necromanesque  (the one in the Samura/Tamaoki image above, who BTW, has a massive snake tattoo across her back).  Below I’ve posted two more images of the same characters.  Compare them, discuss and produce a paper by Friday.  Class dismissed.

~ by Haloed Bane on November 28, 2011.

11 Responses to “Acony is Back!! Time to Ramble about Kei Toume and her Two Associates (NSFW)”

  1. This is a really mind-blowing connection to be told about. I mean, I put together puzzles like this with anime creators all the time on minimal info, but manga is so solitary that tracing lines requires things like knowing about the personal lives of mangaka or seeing who was who’s assistant etc, which isn’t info you’re likely to find anything about in English.

    This is especially interesting because of who the three artists are. I didn’t even know that Tamaoki Benkyou had a following at all. I mean, you’d think he would, but I think most of his work is just unapproachable to American audiences. Plus very little of it is translated afaik.

    Meanwhile, Hiroaki Samura is my cousin’s favorite manga-ka. I’ve not read more than the first volume of Blade of the Immortal, but I’ve heard cool things about him.

    I don’t care for Toume Kei. At first glance her art looks like something I’d enjoy, but when I get down to reading her stuff, I don’t like how it looks. That said, I’ve read very little of her, and indeed I’ve known her fans to be quite devout over her work.

    • Yeah, thankfully these stories about Kei Toume are all over the Japanese sites. I’m surprised that more of Tamaoki isn’t translated/scanlated. Necromanesque, of which I’ve only seen the first volume, looks very interesting. I haven’t actually read it because I’d have to wait until I could read the next two volumes. That said, he does tend to to do a lot of silly one volume all-out porn pieces.

      Samura has a lot of very interesting one-shots and shorter stories. He draws well and comes up with good stories, but it’s hard to stomach his obsession with torture etc. Even his PG stories have the threat of torture and abuse somewhere in the background.

      I knew you didn’t like Toume, but I thought it was the writing and not the art that was the problem.

      • How did you know I didn’t like Toume? In any case it’s been so long since I read any of her stuff I don’t even remember how the writing is at all.

        • On April 15th 2009 you wrote as follows on this blog: “I’m pretty sure I’ve read some of Acony somewhere down the line, but I flat out don’t like Kei Toume. I don’t like her artstyle, unique as it is, and she bores me with her nonsensical confusing plots. Her characters all look too fucking similar. ”

          Reading it now I realize you did mention not liking her art style as well…

  2. I had no idea of this connection (not surprising, as I haven’t heard of Toume’s “two associates” — well, I’ve seen both Blade of the Immortal and Blood the Last Vampire 2000 on the shelves, and Amazon keeps pushing Tokyo Akazukin on me).

    I think there is also a connection between Toume and Hajime Ueda?

    • I shudder at the thought of what purchases led Amazon to recommend Akazukin to you😀

      I don’t really know about Ueda, but I browsed through the net and discovered that there’s another trinity of associates from Tama Art: Reiji Yamada, Hajime Ueda and Kei Toume. So Kei was all over the place apparently.

      • I’m amazed Amazon even has Akazukin. I wouldn’t mind owning copies even if they’re in japanese, but like… what if they don’t make it past customs?!

        • Since Amazon is so respected, I don’t think there’d be a problem. But don’t take my word for it!! These days people are so anti-risque’ art that anything is possible.

      • I love Ueda’s stuff, and sometimes you can see the resemblance to Toume, especially in his doujinshi. As to what purchases led to a recommendation of Akazukin — none, I suspect, but a chain of wish-list additions based solely on “this looks interesting” through Hells Angels to Go Go Heaven to Girls Zombie. None of that would cause problems with customs. Those lead to ツバキ and ミスミソウ, which I know nothing about, but I think if you tell Amazon you’re curious about those, then Tokyo Akazukin starts to show up. Thanks for the warning, I guess.

        • I’m just kidding. As far as I can tell, Amazon tends to have a very silly idea of which purchases mean which tastes, believe me. Akazukin is good though.

  3. […] only satisfied with nudity.  For those hard to please “readers”, I offer [this] and [this] and [this] and [this] and [this], oh, and let’s throw in a little bit of [this] for good […]

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