After two pricey new releases, this month the LGBTQ Manga Book Club is looking at an older title accessible for free: Rica ‘tte Kanji!? by lesbian artist Rica Takashima. The omnibus Tokyo Love is available to read online for free or for purchase in English by ALC Publishing. Although the protagonist shares a name with the mangaka, the manga follows the fictional adventures of a young lesbian who moves to Tokyo and meets her first girlfriend. Be warned it contains brief instances of sexual content, attempted sexual assault, and transmisogyny.
Rica Takashima was born in 1966 in Shinjiku Nichoume, the gay village of Tokyo. As she explains in the first “free talk” session of the Rica ‘tte Kanji!? omnibus, she began the manga at 28 years old. Takashima created RTK out of a desire for a story about every day lesbian life, rather than tragedy found in other manga. The original chapters were published first in the short-lived lesbian magazine Phryne, then the women-loving women magazine Anise. (Anise is often referred to as a lesbian magazine, but it’s worth noting the solidarity apparent in the covers with “lesbian and bisexual” on them.) After Anise ceased publication too, all chapters of RTK from 1996 to 1998 were apparently left uncollected. In 2003 Takashima teamed up with translator Erica Friedman, the founder of the United States convention Yuricon, to publish the manga in English through ALC Publishing. The Japanese edition was released later that year.
Takashima returned to Rica and her girlfriend Miho with new chapters for the bilingual edition of RTK and ALC Publishing’s Yuri Monogatari anthologies, translated by Erin Subramanian. In 2012 all RTK chapters and new RTK content were collected in English for the Rica ‘tte Kanji!? Tokyo Love omnibus. The omnibus also includes the previously untranslated manga Fight! Cutey Beret, a collaboration between Takashima and Takami Koka and also translated by Subramanian, which is optional for this book club discussion.
In 2006, filmmaker and colleague Yoriko Murakami made a short animated documentary about Takashima and her body of work titled Talking About Amy. In 2008, Takashima moved to New York City with her family to leave behind “the stifling atmosphere” of Japan. She still creates manga and art, including her New York Foundation of the Arts-sponsored project Aliens in New York. Takashima’s experience as an immigrant and observation of marginalization inspired her interactive installation in which participants put themselves in the shoes of others by standing behind diverse “peekaboo” statues.
- Aozora Art, Rica Takashima’s website
- Rica Takashima on Twitter
- Rica Takashima’s blog
- Yuricon and ALC Publishing
- Erica Friedman on Twitter
- Erin Subramanian on Twitter
- Pro Amateur Comics – Yuri Doujinshi Rica ‘tte Kanji!?
- Yuri Manga: Rica ‘tte Kanji!?
- Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – Rica Takashima and Yuri Monogatari
- Japan: Fertile Ground for the Cultivation of Yuri by Rica Takashima
- Seamlesss relation between Rica Takashima, Fine Artist and RICA TAKASHIMA, Comic Artist
- Talking About “Talking About Amy”
- What are your overall thoughts on the book? How did reading it make you feel? What chapter or moment stood out to you?
- What do you think of the pop artwork? How does it compare to mainstream manga?
- Takashima wanted to create a down to earth, lighthearted manga about lesbian life, unlike yuri she read in the past. What does RTK contribute to the realm of yuri manga?
- Takashima also set out to create a “happy” story, though there are conflicts of interest between Rica and Miho in their relationship. How does conflict play out in this “happy” story?
- Rica is both anxious and excited about visiting a lesbian bar in Nichoume at first, but then later feels more comfortable hanging out there and socializing with other lesbians. What are your experiences in local LGBTQ+ spaces if you have them? (This can include temporal events like pride parades and meetups.)
- RTK begins exploring the lesbian bar culture of Nichoume, then delves into the personal life of Rica. How does this shift in focus change the nature of the manga? Does it change your experience and feelings reading it?
- The sequel RTK chapters look back to Rica as a teenager and Miho as a child. Can you relate to them? How do their past experiences as lesbians differ?
- Any other thoughts?
- Any discussion questions you have for fellow book club members?
- Bonus: What did you think of Fight! Cutey Beret?
You may answer as many or as few questions as you like.