I suppose that, since I asked others to pick their favorite Fumi Yoshinaga title, I should be willing to make the same impossible choice. It’s a thankless process, to be honest, since almost all of her works that have been published in English (which is almost all of them) assert their worth so forcefully. But, since I feel forced to do so, here are my five favorite works by Yoshinaga, in order:
- Antique Bakery, Digital Manga Publishing, four volumes, originally published in Shinkoshan’s Wings: As with many who left comments, this was my introduction to Yoshinaga, and it’s hard to get over your first time. A handsome straight guy opens a bakery and hires an irresistible gay guy to be his pastry chef. Additional employees of varying individual adorability hare subsequently hired, and Yoshinaga gives a glimpse into their complicated lives and those of their customers, friends, and families.
- Flower of Life, Digital Manga Publishing, four volumes, originally published in Shinkoshan’s Wings and later republished by Hakusensha: Yoshinaga dissects the milestones and tropes of school comedy with such precision and warmth that this series could easily have taken first place, though Antique Bakery gains an additional, slight edge by being about grown-ups. We follow a group of classmates and their teacher as they get to know outgoing (and blunt) Harutaro, a new student who missed a year due to leukemia treatment.
- Ichigenme: The First Class Is Civil Law, 801 Media, two volumes, originally published by Biblos: As I wrote in greater detail earlier this week, Ichigenme is at the very top of my list of favorite yaoi, tied with Saika Kunieda’s Future Lovers (Deux Press). What Yoshinaga has here is a fully fleshed-out tale of evolving love between grown-ups, funny, smart, and sexy as you could hope.
- All My Darling Daughters, Viz Signature, one volume, originally published in Hakusensha’s Melody: This is quite possibly my favorite fictional examination of a mother-daughter relationship, an all-too-often neglected dynamic. This collection of interconnected short stories isn’t limited to that topic, and Yoshinaga does a marvelous job throughout, but the best moments involve a grown woman whose relationship with her mother changes when the mother begins a new relationship with a much-younger man.
- Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Viz Signature, currently serialized in Hakusensha’s Melody: It’s probably strange, if not blasphemous, to put Yoshinaga’s most critically acclaimed series last on this list, but it’s hard not to favor completed works over one that’s still ongoing, good as that series may be. And, don’t get me wrong, Ôoku is very, very good. This history-with-a-spoke-in-the-wheels saga looks at a feudal Japan where the male population was decimated by disease, leaving the women to assume power, with all of the intrigue, drama, and conflicted emotions that prospect suggests.
There. I’ve committed my list to blog. I actually feel liberated. And it should probably be noted that all of these titles are among my favorite manga published in English, period.