Title: Garden Dreams
Author: Fumi Yoshinaga (Antique Bakery, Ōoku: The Inner Chambers)
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Volume: One-shot, $12.95
Vintage: 1999 from Shinshokan in Japan, 2007 from DMP
Genre: Shojo I think is the easiest label to give it; maybe josei. There’s a lot of love and tragedy in here; be prepared for an emotional trip.
First of all, I’d like to point your attention over to the Manga Bookshelf, where manga blogger Melinda is running a week long look at the works of Fumi Yoshinaga. Yoshinaga-san is a cherished favorite among many manga bloggers, so be sure to stop by and take a look!
Garden Dreams is a collection of interconnected stories revolving around a pair of traveling bards and a feudal lord. After the death of his mother during a war (which seems to have been the Crusades), Farhad is found crying in the desert by a man named Saud. Saud teaches Farhad to play music and sing, and they become traveling bards together. Eventually they wind up at the manor of Baron Victor Bianni. While there, the Baron’s daughter takes an interest in Saud, and through song, the two discover that they are connected by a tragic past. When Saud and the girl disappear during the night, leaving Farhad and the Baron alone without a word, Farhad stays on as the Baron’s bard, and the two bond over the tragedies in their pasts. The Baron tells the story of how he fell in love with and lost his first love to murder the night before their wedding. In the midst of his sorrow, he dutifully married the older daughter from the same family. Hoping to run from his grief, or perhaps end it permanently, he headed off to war. When he returned, he found himself able to love again, but a dark secret once again tore him from the woman he loved. Their lonely souls find solace with each other, and Farhad eventually becomes a permanent resident at the manor, becoming friendly with a young maid named Natalie, and growing closer to the Baron. When the Baron’s personal secretary falls ill, Farhad takes over his duties. But when Francois succumbs to his illness, the Baron is weighed down with immense grief. When Farhad gets news of Saud’s fate, he too becomes intensely depressed. The two men are driven to a fateful decision.
This one is pretty simple to describe, but not a simple experience to read. It’s incredibly moving, and Yoshinaga writes with such honesty that it’s hard not to be pulled in. There’s a fairly minimal amount of background art, but I think it serves the scenes set against the garden and fields of flowers better to contrast with the blandness everywhere else. It’s the flowers that change and save the characters, after all, so while it appears bland, it’s actually effective. Yoshinaga sneaks a tiny bit of a yaoi presence into the pages, but it’s mostly a background element. The center of the story is the Baron’s personal tragedies, the two women he loved and lost. One at the hands of a stranger, and the other by his own mistake. It’s heartbreaking, and you can see the sorrow and weariness clearly etched into the Baron’s face on each page. The unexpected ties between the main characters bring everything together nicely, so the story’s focus can go where it’s needed. And there’s a lovely twist at the end that is sure to warm the heart. It’s not as heartfelt as Antique Bakery, but it’s also only a single volume, and Yoshinaga does well to fit what she can into the shorter format. At any rate, I have no problem admitting that the book brought me to tears more than once. So, again, I happily recommend yet another Fumi Yoshinaga title.
By the way, if you’re going to Comic-Con this weekend, Anime News Network has a look at all the manga and anime events going on throughout the weekend. Viz Media will be there, of course. Who wants to get me Yoshitaka Amano’s autograph? I would give up a select appendage for that.