“Every year, Lord Nicola A. Bradherley, one of Europe’s leading aristocrats, sends his coach round to various orphanages to adopt little girls and trains them to join his opera troupe. But most of these girls never make it onto the stage—a far more sinister fate awaits them, sacrificed in the name of the greater good. ” (From MangaUpdates)
When Japan occupied its East and South East Asian neighbors during the World War II, hundreds of thousands of young girls from the occupied countries left their home and were shipped to war zones. A lot of them were tempted with false hopes of better living; some were promised with higher education, some others were lured with prospects of working in factories. Some were abducted.
What was awaiting there were no teachers. No factories. No boarding schools. Instead, these young girls had their innocence, dreams and future shattered as they were made into sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army. They were raped non-stop, beaten, and sterilized. They were even dubbed as “public toilets”.
By the end of the war, only a quarter of them survived — only to have their sufferings denied, only to be disowned and ostracized.
If you have read Bradherley no Basha, you will know what the manga and ianfu (comfort women, an extremely oversimplifying term, really) have in common: How these women – standing at the bottom when it comes to power relations – were systematically dispositioned as preys and never as humans. How some of them were lured with hopes and dreams. How these young women were sacrificed over the so-called greater good.
Curbing sexual crimes. Guarding moral of the soldiers. Preventing venereal diseases. Those were the case with jugen ianfu. Bradherley’s program was coined after a prison riot. Sacrificing these girls is seen as an immediate answer to avoid the same thing from happening in the future.
Here is the line that makes me feel extremely nauseous: “The memory of 37 who died in Hensley Uprising is still fresh today.” And the program was made honoring that very memory. I was like, wtf, what about the memory of these young women who were dehumanized and slaughtered?
I can actually rate Bradherley no Basha with quite a high score for a few reasons.
First, it successfully shook my conscience as woman living in a peaceful county in 21st century. Second, the plots, the stories, were so alluring I just could not put the manga down.
As a woman myself, my heart was aching so much when reading this series. I could feel these girls’ despairs. It wrecked my heart, really. It is not perfect, I know. I bet my whole fortunes that no one can ever perfectly capture what these girls feel. We don’t experience it firsthand. Not like we will come out alive if we do.
But as I read, I found myself — just like these girls — holding on that thin thread of hopes. Dangling. Hoping things would look up for them. The more chapters I read, the more I felt sick seeing the back of these girls as the coaches took them away from the orphanages.
Only a great storyteller can do this.
Is this how they felt, those “comfort women”? Did they know Japan was losing the war, did they feel a glimpse of hope before they were killed and were forced to kill themselves?
But on the other hand, I do not feel like I should rate this story at all.
The foreword at the end of the book ruined the whole experience for me. I might not be able to see this work the same way I did when I just finished reading it, before proceeding to the foreword.
I know that Bradherley no Basha might not be created with ianfu in mind. I know that it is completely up to me to actually make a connection between this manga to them or to other similar cases.
But I feel a lot of questions rising in the back of my head. The questions I’d like to ask the mangaka, Samura Hiroaki, the same person behind Blade of Immortal.
Dear Author. I don’t know how you see the bitter part of your country’s history. And while I know they were only some fictional characters that you created, but how do you actually see these women? Were for you they just commodities, too? To make an erotic manga? What’s so erotic about all of these? This could be something grand. This could speak for those women who lost their dignity and life. You have had me fooled for eight chapters. “Redhead Anne”, really? You could have said something to respect these women you created and you killed. Perhaps you should not have said anything at all.
But however much I loathe the fact that this manga was created on a very simple notion of “sexualizing” Anne of Green Gables, I will — for at least this moment — stand on my own conscience as a reader. This kind of systematized barbarity does exist. Not every proprietor of crimes against humanity is punished, not every suffering is redeemed.
And for people who say this level of atrocity cannot exist, here’s the thing: the fact that someone in this world could actually picture this kind of brutality and made it into a manga, the fact that some times in history there were similar crimes took place and there were efforts to cover them up for decades, the fact that hundreds of girls were kidnapped in Boko Haram only a few years ago… This thing does exist. What was happened in this manga might be exaggerated. Or not. Or it even might be palliated. We won’t know. We don’t stand on their shoes.
Will I read again? Yeah. When I am ready. Perhaps then I can review and score them better. With justice. Right now I am feeling rather conflicted. And torn. And tired.
Historical, Seinen, Tragedy