From The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter to Princess Kaguya: Metamorphoses of the Tale in Manga and Beyond

Mika Saito


There are currently numerous manga adaptations of Japanese literary classics of the Heian period. Many of them have been created for educational purpose. It is debatable, however, whether they truly serve such a purpose. In this paper, I will discuss the case of Taketori monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, beginning of 10th century). Like all present-day adaptations of ancient texts, manga versions of Taketori monogatari differ significantly from its premodern counterparts. In this paper, I will examine the adaption of the theme, representations of the characters Princess Kaguya (Kaguya-hime) and the bamboo cutter, and manners in which Taketori monogatari metamorphosed into Kaguya-hime over time and when this metamorphosis occurred. Comparing manga representations with premodern versions, I will argue that government-sanctioned textbooks that began to be published in the early twentieth century have played some role in the transformation because they share common characteristics with the modern version Kaguya-hime. In addition, I will compare manga versions to Nara-emaki and Nara-ehon (picture scrolls and picture books produced between the late Muromachi and  Edo periods). Comparing these premodern sources with modern manga will help us see some of the differences in the ways the tale has been adapted over the centuries and to consider some of the factors that contributed to new interpretations.

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Manga and premodern texts

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