Sing me an Opera

Last year, Digital Manga released Reversible, an anthology of short boys’-love comics. It was a terrific idea, to provide a sampler of work by relatively unknown talents. Unfortunately, I found the reality of the book to be a bit tepid. The notion of the book has stuck with me, though, so I would like to propose that someone else take a crack at it, using Akaneshinsha’s edgy yaoi anthology Opera as its source.

I don’t have a ton of Japanese-language comics on my groaning bookshelves, but I do have a copy of an issue of Opera, thanks to Christopher (Comics212) Butcher. I can’t read a symbol of it, but I flip through it all of the time, always marveling at the sheer variety of styles it encompasses. There seem to be a range of character types and story tones, from slice-of-life to comedy to heavy drama to period pieces and even some fantasy.

It’s one of the magazines where Natsume Ono’s yaoi (created under the pen name “Basso”) has been published, including Amato Amaro. Looking at the anthology’s roster of titles at Baka-Updates, it seems like there are several one shots that could be included in an Opera sampler. Titles that reach volume length could even be published under some kind of subsequent “Opera presents…” label, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. (Of course, getting ahead of one’s self is what license requests are all about.)

I’ve made no secret of my fascination with comics that fall under what Erica (Okazu) Friedman has described as “the fifth genre.” I could be wrong about this, but I get the sense that Opera is very much fifth-genre yaoi, at least in the sense that it doesn’t seem at all concerned with conventional, commercial concerns of its category, taking a more inclusive and experimental approach. And the possibilities of that excite me very much.

I also think it’s smart (and generous) when publishers give you a low-risk taste of what might be considered higher-risk material. I don’t know how much of a market there is for the kind of yaoi Opera publishes, but I’d certainly relish the opportunity to explore it in depth in the form of a licensed, translated sampler. A similar approach seems to be working for Viz with SigIKKI, so maybe Akaneshinsha could partner with someone to try and expand horizons. And the magazine has a blog, so you know they’re at least a little bit down with this whole internet outreach thing.