The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari) by Murasaki Shikibu is a book from a distant era. Widely recognized as the world’s first novel. Written by an aristocratic woman for other women of her rank, sure this wasn’t an easy read. The Tale of Genji centers on the life and loves of a charming prince, Hikaru Genji. It is an epic romance story, tells 75 years of court life with a dizzyingly large cast of characters. If you are planning to read this book, several translations by Edward Seidensticker or Royall Tyler can guide you through the fascinating world of the Heian Period.
Actually I’m not a book person. Pages filled with words has always successfully make me fall asleep, so reading this novel is absolutely impossible for me. Lucky me, a lot of manga and films adapt the story of Genji Monogatari. While reading the novel, read the manga version Asaki Yumemishi by Waki Yamato really help me a lot. Watching the movie, Genji Monogatari: Sennen no Nazo also give me a deeper picture of aristocratic life at that period.
Asaki Yume Mishi
Asaki Yume Mishi which means “I had an ephemeral dream” created by Waki Yamato is first adaptation of the tale to manga. It follows nearly the same plot with the original novel.
The story begins with a romance between The Emperor and Kiritsubo, a low-ranking but beloved concubine. Then born Genji, he becomes an uncommonly handsome and gifted young man. Kiritsubo, his mother, suffers the jealousy of rivals at court then becomes ill and dies. The distraught emperor eventually finds another concubine, Fujitsubo, who reminds him of his former love. Genji loves her first as a stepmother, but later as a woman, and they fall in love with each other.
Genji is frustrated by his forbidden love for Fujitsubo. He engages in a series of unfulfilling love affairs with other women, but in most cases his advances are rebuffed, he becomes bored of his lover, or his lover dies suddenly during the affair. It’s a tragic love story of one man with a dozen of women.
For non-native readers who are not familiar with Japanese culture & references, reading this manga can get kind of confusing (plus, almost all the women characters are look alike in this manga). But still the gorgeous details in art are simply wonderful.