Reading Shinohara Chie‘s twenty-eight volume epic, Sora wa Akai Kawa no Hotori is a hell of a way to bust my shoujo cherry. I have very little experience with shoujo manga—the ones I tried to read I found disorienting and hard to follow. I could be wrong, but my experience with shoujo has given me the impression that the stories move at a much faster pace than most shounen and seinen manga, and that visual orientation between panels takes a backseat to the beauty of the characters shown in the panel, often accentuated by intense flowery backgrounds. Those things are mostly true of (what I will henceforth refer to as) Anatolia Story, although there aren’t many flowers.
An aspect of Anatolia Story which particularly interests me is how the story is intensely physical. Particularly, the main character, Yuuri, spends a lot of time getting grabbed, carried, groped, injured, and thrown around, to an extent that is clearly purposeful. The intensity all begins after Yuuri’s transportation to ancient Anatolia, but there’s an emphasis on physicality right from the first page.
It opens upon Yuuri’s first kiss, which is the first moment of physical intimacy that she’s had with a man. Later in the chapter, Yuuri’s boyfriend is worried about her and embraces her, swearing to protect her. There’s an obvious meaning to this contact, which occurs just before Yuuri disappears into another world. From that point on, her physical contact with others is almost never gentle nor wanted.
Yuuri finds herself on the run from a group of guards and stumbles upon Prince Kail. Within ten seconds of this encounter, he drops her to the ground and shoves his tongue in her mouth. (He has a good reason for both actions—hiding her from the guards, and using magic to allow Yuuri to understand his language.) On the next page, she exclaims, “this is nothing like Himuro’s gentle kiss… this hurts!” A couple of pages later, she’s roughly apprehended and spends the next fifty pages or so getting thrown around either by captors or by the prince in efforts to rescue her.
Of course, action scenes aside, Prince Kail is a very physical person anyway, what with his being known as the biggest playboy in the kingdom. Between action rescues and sexual harassment, he’s always got his hands on Yuuri.
The purpose of these physical trials is twofold. On one hand, we understand the intensity of the situations and appreciate how traumatizing the whole experience is for Yuuri. On another, it strengthens the “we’re not in Japan anymore” feel, showing us the way a woman such as Yuuri is to be treated in this world.
It’s not just manhandling, either. Anatolia Story is a very violent manga, and not afraid to heavily injure the protagonista.
Still, the manhandling is the really intense stuff.
At a couple of points, it’s actually rather comical.
The story doesn’t stop at violence to the princess, and quickly establishes its dark and gruesome side by killing off one of the only three major characters from volume one early into volume two.
It is not pretty. The young boy is found dead with all of his skin torn off, and we see a little more of his corpse than I could’ve expected. This image I find particularly striking.
Now that there is some drama!
(Anatolia Story is licensed in my area by Viz Media with the name “Red River.”)