The first major publication of gay manga to be printed in English was The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: The Master of Gay Erotic Manga. Soon after its release a new project–a gay manga anthology called Massive–was announced by the same team that worked on Tagame’s debut English collection. Originally intended to be released by PictureBox, the anthology was temporarily orphaned when the publisher ceased releasing comics before the volume was completed. I was thrilled when Fantagraphics took on the project. Edited by Anne Ishii, Chip Kidd, and Graham Kolbeins, Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It became one of my most anticipated releases of 2014. Gay manga is an extremely underrepresented genre of manga in English. Massive, like The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame before it, is a groundbreaking work. Through manga, interviews, photography, and essays, the anthology introduces nine of the genre’s most influential, respected, and promising creators to an English-reading audience.
The volume’s table of contents is formed by a gallery of photographs paired with full-page color pin-ups illustrated by each of the contributors to Massive: Gengoroh Tagame, Inu Yoshi, Kumada Poohsuke, Takeshi Matsu, Jiraiya, Gai Mizuki, Fumi Miyabi, Seizoh Ebisubashi, and Kazuhide Ichikawa. This is followed by introductory essays written by each of the three editors. Kidd’s “It Feels Too Good” conveys the excitement over the fact that a volume like Massive even exists, while Ishii reveals some of the steps it took to publish the material in “Seeking English Translator.” Kolbeins essay “Glocalizing Gei Manga” is particularly enlightening, providing a greater context for Massive and a brief overview of the history of gay manga and how the volume fits into it. Also included is a timeline of male-male sexuality in Japanese culture, a list of recommended readings, and numerous photographs and illustrations. However, the real meat of the collection is the individual profiles of each of the creators introducing their work and personal histories and exploring their careers and the impacts they have made on the genre of gay erotic manga. The other major highlight of Massive is the inclusion of examples of their manga.
For most of the contributors, Massive marks their debut in English. Excluding Tagame, who has thus far had four collections published, Matsu is the only creator to have had a major release in English. And except for Jiraiya’s “Caveman Guu,” which was previously printed separately, all of the manga collected in Massive is being translated into English for the first time. Some are excerpts of longer works, like Tagame’s Do You Remember South Island P.O.W. Camp? and Poohsuke’s Dreams of the New Century Theatre, while others are shorter, standalone stories. There is humor and playfulness to be found in Yoshi’s “Kandagawa-Kun” and Matsu’s “Kannai’s Dilemma,” more dubious encounters in Mizuki’s “Fantasy and Jump Rope,” Ebisubashi’s “Mr. Tokugawa,” and Ichikawa’s “Yakuza Godfathers”, and even mythological inspiration in Miyabe’s “Tengudake.” The manga collected in Massive is most definitely erotic in nature. Some of the selections are simply suggestive, but many feature explicit, uncensored, and uninhibited sex between hypermasculine, muscular, and otherwise large-bodied men. It is called Massive for a reason, after all.
The profiles of the creators included in Massive are just as engaging as the manga that has been collected. The volume provides an incredibly valuable look into the creation of gay erotic manga and art. Interestingly enough, several of the contributors mention that they would like to create gay manga without as much erotic content, but to successfully do so would be difficult due to the demands of their audience and what is expected from the genre of gay manga as a whole. The artists address many of the same subjects in their interviews but they each bring their own perspective to the discussion. It’s fascinating to learn about how the manga industry has changed and continues to change, the impact and challenges presented by foreign scanlations of manga, the benefits of working within the manga industry or independently outside of it, the use and misappropriation of the term bara both in Japan and in the West, and the relationship between gay manga and boys’ love manga, among many other topics. Massive truly is a spectacular volume and highly recommended for anyone interested in gay manga, its history, and its creators; it’s a fantastic introduction to the genre.