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Yakuza Moon: The Manga Edition by Shoko Tendo (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

June 6, 2011 by  



“Yakuza Moon: The Manga Edition” is a wonderful manga adaptation of Shoko Tendo’s memoir of her life! A heartbreaking and surprising look at the dangerous life of the daughter of a yakuza boss. An emotionally moving, very sad but true to life story of Shoko Tendo!  Highly recommended!

© 2011 by Shoko Tendo, Sean Michael Wilson, Michiru Morikawa and Kodansha International Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: Yakuza Moon: The Manga Edition

STORY AND ART BY: Shoko Tendo

DISTRIBUTED IN THE USA BY: Kodansha International

RATED: Mature Content

RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2011

At once heart-rending and eye-opening, this true-life memoiris a shocking yet intensely moving first-person account of one woman’s experience of growing up in Japan’s yakuza society.

Born into the family of a wealthy crime boss, Shoko Tendo lives her early years in luxury. But labeled “the yakuza kid,” she soon becomes the victim of bullying and discrimination from teachers and classmates at school, and of her father’s drunken rages at home. As her family falls into debt and her father’s influence wanes, Tendo falls in with the wrong crowd, and other men begin to appear in her life. By the age of fifteen she is a gang member, by the age of eighteen a drug addict, and her twenties are marked by a series of abusive and violent relationships with men.

Tendo sinks lower and lower, time and again an unwitting victim as she struggles to define her role as a woman in the violent, sexist, and drug-addled world she is thrust into at a far-too-tender age. After the death of her parents and her own attempt at suicide, she begins a tortuous, soul-searching reevaluation of the road she has taken—and it is only a startling, unconventional act of empowerment that brings her back from the brink.

A heartbreaking look at the dangerous life of the daughter of a yakuza boss. Moving, shocking, raw and very real!

In 2009, Shoko Tendo’s memoir “Yakuza Moon” was translated to English and released by Kodansha International and what people had to read was the shocking and heartbreaking life that Shoko endured since childhood.  And now, “Yakuza Moon” receives its manga version courtesy of Sean Michael Wilson (who worked on “Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai” with illustrations by Michiru Morikawa.

With a visual manga version of Shoko Tendo’s memoir, readers can feel the emotions that Shoko had gone through as a youngster up to an adult when she tries to make something of her life.

In “Yakuza Moon”, we learn how Shoko was the daughter of a yakuza boss.  Her father lived a good life, had a good business but also known to be with women, while her mother lived to be there for the family.  But there were times that Shoko’s father was drunk and abusive and while she had this life at home, her life as a youngster were not kind as well because she was a daughter of a yakuza boss.

Many people thought of her as stupid and for young Shoko, when she heard her own teacher talking bad about her to other adults (not knowing she overheard everything), she learned how people can be so cruel.

But yet, she took everything that was handed to her, all the bad, all the bullying and also the problems that came with being a yakuza daughter.

From when her father was sentenced prison time, she and her sister Maki would live a dangerous lifestyle with other young yakuza children as they lied and got into clubs and lived the fast life.  But while her father was in prison, one of the yakuza from her father’s group tried to rape her and for Maki, this led to problems trusting men.  In fact, you get to learn how badly her judgment of men will take her on a dangerous journey of sniffing thinner to experimenting with dangerous drugs.

And like many addicts, the longer you sink into that hole, the darker things get and the worse things become and for Shoko, this was her life.  She was confused, she was depressed, she was bitter but one thing that she knew from these men that she was with, was that drugs made the pain go away, or so she would have thought.

The situations that you see Shoko go through, throughout this manga is shocking.  From men using her as a sex toy as blackmail in order for her to protect her parents was very sad but it was the only way she could protect her family who was heavily in debt.  She was beaten, forced to do things against her will and she was a woman who lived in her own personal hell and she knew no way back.

And each time she would meet a man who would seem to be her saviour from the darkness, they turn out to be much worse than she ever expected as she became a victim of abuse.

And while “Yakuza Moon” is not the happiest memoir and while the storyline is quite dark and real, the purpose of this memoir is to show that one can emerge from the darkness, may come out of it bit scarred but are able to say they lived through it and were able to make something of themselves.

But Shoko’s story is that life in Japan that you don’t hear or read about in Japanese newspapers or publications.  While there are stories of yakuza and their wives, we don’t hear about the emotional and physical turmoil that exists for the children.  While every person is different, the fact is that Shoko paints a realistic portrait of how one’s life can be changed for the worst when the people you most trust, turn against you.  Your teachers, your family and the people who you think cares about you.

For Shoko, her life could have been your everyday drug addict tragedy or the woman who was beaten by her boyfriend that you would often read in Japanese newspapers but I do feel that this memoir was therapeutic for Shoko Tendo and also giving people an idea of how life for the children of yakuza is not ideal and in her case, life can be very screwed up.

“Yakuza Moon” is a wonderful manga adaptation by Sean Michael Wilson.  I personally haven’t read Shoko’s book but Michiru Morikawa’s manga illustrations really do make you feel the emotions that she has gone through.  Because we get to see Shoko’s sexual past of pleasure and pain, nudity and all, plus drug use, it’s the reason why this manga has received a “Mature Content” rating.

I don’t think I have ever seen a story like this, in manga, anime, drama or film from Japan.  And to follow Japanese culture for so long and read something that was even surprising for me is quite rare. I’ve watched many dark stories from Japan and situations that were very screwed up, but it’s one thing if it’s made for entertainment but to read one that is actually based on a person’s real life.  It was quite surprising and it makes you wonder how many other Shoko Tendo’s are there?  How many are suffering today?  And how many were not able to crawl out of the darkness and survive like Shoko was able to?

Unfortunately, this story is not just limited to Shoko and people in Japan but it happens to many children all over the world.  But not many live that long to talk about it, nor do many write about it.  So, I really did appreciate reading Shoko Tendo’s memoir and to see how through all that pain that she has gone through, that she was able to survive from it and to eventually write a bestselling book and also to have a few documentaries under her belt.  I’m also grateful that Sean Michael Wilson and Michiru Morikawa chose Tendo’s “Yakuza Moon” for a manga adaptation, it really gave us a visual look, and feeling that impact from Shoko Tendo’s memoir.

Overall, If you want a manga that is based on a true story, with a surprisingly dark but real storyline that you just don’t really hear about in Japan, I highly recommend “Yakuza Moon: The Manga Edition”.

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