“Dirty Little Secret” – Ayako (manga) – 8/10 Streamers


A man’s true secrets are more secret to himself than they are to others. ~Paul Valery

Mangaka: Osamu Tezuka

Genre: Drama/Historical/Thriller

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US.

Art: This is very typical Tezuka, with cartoonish drawings, but definitely more serious, with no narrative jokes to be seen.

Summary: Initially set in the aftermath of World War II, Ayako focuses its attention on the Tenge clan, a once powerful family of landowners living in a rural community in northern Japan.  From the moment readers are introduced to the extended family, it is apparent that the war and American occupation have begun to erode the fabric that binds them all together.  The increasing influence of political, economic and social change begins to tear into the many Tenge siblings, while a strange marriage agreement creates resentment between the eldest son and his sire.  And when the family seems to have completely fallen apart, they decide to turn their collective rage on what they believe to be the source of their troubles—the newest member of the Tenge family, the youngest sister Ayako. (Amazon)

Review: Part family drama and part political thriller, Ayako is a story with multiple themes running through it, paralleling the story of a girl who’s the shame of a family and the potential destruction of it. Ayako herself is in turn lynchpin for what happens within the family, and at the same time not the focus of the story. Her story of being trapped in a cellar is glossed over, while Tezuka chooses to devote much of the story to the politics within the country and how they affect the Tenge clan.

A member gets caught up in internal politics, a loyal grunt for the Japanese government, a spy that gets involved in nefarious deeds- some that involve even his own family. His sister’s lover ends up dead, and he himself runs from the family, trying to escape the remnants of old corruption that run rampant throughout the Tenge’s. The Tenge family in turn is rife with internal politics, people manipulating with each other to try and become the head of the family, others trying to protect the family honor regardless of what innocent people get caught up in it, and two- quickly downed to one- trying to get Ayako freed so that she can live life as a normal girl.

The characters are fascinating, virtually all of them people who have struggled and fallen into compromise with the evil that’s being committed, or having fallen to it completely. Ayako is often taken advantage of in her innocence, her cousin falling in love with her and either unable or unwilling to seriously attempt escape with her, and falling into the twisted attraction that plagues the family. Her uncle is attempting to redeem himself to Ayako in the only way he knows how, though he continues to walk a dark path in life. Her mother is as much a victim as she is, taken advantage of by circumstance and circumvented when she attempts to save her daughter.

There are political references and incidents that are culturally quite Japanese, especially concerning the state of international relations. This does mean that at times, the plot can seem rather boring, too detailed in some places, but not enough in the character relations. Ayako is a metaphor in a few ways- for politics in Japan, and for the innocent that are affected by such things. She is more metaphor than character, a simple-minded girl who can’t understand the world around her, and no one really makes a decent attempt at helping her recover from her ordeal.

Both things work together to create a story that is more political thriller than character study, but manages to be a fascinating story nonetheless.

Overall, this is not as tightly-written or have as clear a meaning as Tezuka’s other works, but still manages to be a fascinating political thriller.

Recommended: 18+. This deals with incest- corssing over many generations, but only immediately dealt with between Ayako’s mother and father, and Ayako herself with her cousin. There are a few semi-graphic sex scenes between various people, attempted rape, partial nudity. There is also a good amount of violence, with a few murders, both on the page and off. Some are more graphic than others, with one person being drowned, while others are implied via starvation and suffocation.

Other titles you might enjoy:

MW (manga)

Ode to Kirihito (manga)

Himitsu: Top Secret (anime)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Osamu Tezuka Month « Paper Chimes

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