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Manga / Kaze to Ki no Uta

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"Gilbert Cocteau, you were the greatest flower to ever bloom in my life. In the faraway dreams of youth, you were a bright red flame, blazing so fiercely...You were the wind that stirred my branches. Can you hear the poem of the wind and trees? Can you hear the tumult of our youth? Oh, there must be others who do remember their own days of youth...."

It is 1880 at Lacombrade Academy, an all-boys' boarding school in France. Serge Battour is a cheerful and kind new student who is trying to fit in with the rest of the student body, despite the taboo of his Gypsy heritage, made obvious by his dark skin. However, his roommate Gilbert Cocteau—who will sleep with anyone if he can manipulate them to his advantage by doing so—is not helping the situation, especially when he makes it his personal goal to bring about Serge's downfall. The two boys may destroy each other or come closer together.

Kaze to Ki no Uta ("The Song of Wind and Trees" or "The Poem of Wind and Trees") is a manga series by Keiko Takemiya that was serialized from 1976 to 1984 (starting its run in Shoujo Comic, but later moving to Petit Flower in 1981 where it continued until its conclusion). It was one of the first shoujo manga to focus on a homosexual relationship between boys and the first to have sex play a major role in the story; Takemiya, along with her roommate and fellow mangaka, Moto Hagio, is credited with kickstarting the shounen-ai genre (Takemiya's earlier work, In the Sunroom was the first manga to have shounen-ai elements). The series, though controversial, was able to win the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award for shojo in 1979, as well as now being regarded as a classic.

The series was also adapted into a 60-minute OVA in 1987 that more or less summed up the first three volumes of the series, as well as revealing what happens at the end. The OVA was targeted towards those who have already read the manga, being quite fast-paced and skipping some story arcs.

This is a great series for those seeking a more unique take on the male/male genre, interesting characters, and endearing storyline. And when watching or reading, be sure to have some tissues ready.

Kaze to Ki no Uta provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Pascal refers to Serge as Astro Boy in jest, and there is an Astro Boy puzzle (when the story is told) and a bottle with a label that reads, 'Hello Mr. Kizakura, how are you?' in transliterated Japanese (in the flashback) in the pub where the Flashback of the infamous Gilbert incident takes place. (Kizakura, a sake company, was founded in 1951.)
  • Book Dumb:
    • Gilbert is easily more intelligent than most of the boys in his class, yet has little, if any, academic merit to speak of (although this may simply be because he just doesn't care).
    • Subverted with Pascal. He has proven to be more than capable of doing well in classes, but has failed three years in a row because he prefers to spend his time studying more useful/interesting things (like knitting) and because he wants to graduate with the very highest grade possible, as his dream is to raise a prodigy; he's willing to be held back a few years if it means he can build up the knowledge.
  • Book Ends: The titular 'poem' appears as both an opening and closing monologue.
  • Canis Latinicus:
    • The text in Latin in chapter 3 is badly mangled, including nonexistent words and dialogue that has nothing to do with what the characters are allegedly saying. In the OVA, it sounds a little more like actual Latin, but the accent the characters speak with is very, very thick and almost impenetrable.
    • The Latin Rosmariné speaks in the mass is actually taken random Latin text and has nothing to do with what he is actually said to be saying. The hymn they sing, however, is real (although mangled) Latin, not taken from anywhere else (according to Google), except the "Agnus Dei" part, which is actually... from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Koufuku no Hato, the one-shot epilogue to the story, focuses on Rosemarine and Jules.
  • Elite Man–Courtesan Romance: Serge's complicated social status derives from the fact that his father was a French nobleman but ruined the family's reputation by marrying a Romani High-Class Call Girl.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • In Gilbert's first appearance, he's just finished sleeping with another boy for a written paper. He hits him when he tries touching him again, walks out of the room with his clothes undone, gets called by the principal, and sleeps with him too.
    • Subverted with Rosemariné. His first appearance involves him taking grave personal offence at an act of bullying done by some seniors to a junior. It soon turns out that his moral code allows plenty of other instances of bullying, including his own physically abusive treatment of Gilbert.
  • Filler: The backstory arcs are far longer than they needed to be and are shown back-to-back, meaning the reader is taken away from the main story for six volumes. As nice as the chapters centred around Serge's parents are, the story could probably progress just fine without them.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Pascal says that Gilbert's 'illness' is incurable, and one might risk sharing it if one tries to help him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Some of Gilbert's classmates refer to Gilbert as 'the school's cancer' and talk about how he 'defiles' the school, while referring to the private study room as 'the Turkish bathhouse', the classes as 'the wilderness' and the club as 'the public bathhouse'.
  • Medium Awareness: A couple of blink-and-you'll-miss-it instances of characters grabbing onto/hiding behind their own speech bubbles.
  • Melodrama: It's a shoujo manga from the 1970s set in Europe in the 1880s. Were you really expecting anything else?
  • Odd Friendship: Deeply religious, straight-laced, hard-working honor student Karl and rebellious, eccentric, Brilliant, but Lazy atheist Pascal. Serge strikes something of a balance between the two, but they were friends before they met him.
  • One-Gender School: The story primarily takes place at Lacombrade Academy, a fictional all-boy's school in Provence.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Serge's parents died within a year of one another when he was very young.
    • Gilbert's parents moved away without him after his mother went a bit crazy and tried to kill him when he was still an infant.
  • Plenty of Blondes: All but about three of the female characters are blonde, and a rather large number of the males as well.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The OVA has a lot of classical music pieces in their soundtrack.
  • Shout-Out
    • Serge's father was named Aslan, almost certainly in reference to The Chronicles of Narnia.
    • Near the end of volume 1, Pascal tells Serge, 'Bye, lil' Astro Boy, ally of justice!' and in volume two, some boys are seen completing an Astro Boy jigsaw puzzle.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Is the school named Lacombrade or Laconblade? Meanwhile, the headaches that the characters' names cause are covered on the character sheet; Gilbert's about the only one whose name is spelt consistently.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Six volumes are devoted to Gilbert's childhood and how Serge's parents met and his early life.
  • Wife Husbandry: Auguste manipulated, tortured and warped Gilbert's mind as a child so he'll be absolutely devoted to him, "his puppet" as he calls him. The only difference is that Gilbert becoming his lover seems to have been initially unintentional, and that Auguste didn't wait until he was even ten.