Puppet's Heart


[Genzo and Kiku] Genzô Hitogata Kiwa is a new manga series by Takada Yûzô. Takada-sensei is also the creator of 3×3 EYES, Blue Seed, and Bannou Bunka Neko Musume (All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl). This latest series is a historical drama set in the civil war period of 16th-century Japan and revolves around the title character Tsujimura Genzô. He is a puppetmaster whose skill is unequaled, such that his puppets cannot be distinguished from living beings. He is joined by Kikuhime, a spirited young samurai whose tongue is as sharp as her sword.

This manga has the Takada trademarks of interesting characters, excellent artwork, a detailed setting, and of course a good bit of sex 'n' violence. Due to the infrequent publishing schedule when the series began, the early stories were episodic (one complete story per chapter), but recently the series has been appearing monthly and the plots are becoming more involved.


Takada Yûzô was busy working on the weekly manga series 3×3 EYES when he met the editor of Afternoon magazine. Takada-sensei desired a change of pace from his current work, so he asked to work on a new story with the editor when he had some free time. The editor agreed, and about a year later they were able to hold a meeting. Takada-sensei was thinking of doing a light romantic comedy, but the editor said, "Would you like to do a historical drama?"

[Takada in puppet form] The idea sounded tiresome at first, but Takada-sensei was curious, so he suggested a story based on a craftsman like the gargoyle maker Hidari Jingorô. The editor then suggested a puppermaster, and a man with no feelings as the main character. Thus, Genzô was born. He also suggested that the story should be set during the Warring States Period (1467 C.E. through 1568 C.E.), when nearly all of Japan was embroiled in civil war.

Takada-sensei worked very hard on the stories, in addition to all of his other work, and when he finished he found that he had no energy left. "Oh no!" he said, "I had planned to do something light like a romantic comedy!!" he said when it was all over. The new series did not turn out to be as relaxing as he hoped, but he still wants to go into more depth with the story.

By the way, Hidari Jingorô (左甚五郎) is a legendary Japanese artisan who lived during the 17th century. Even today, temples proudly display wood carvings attributed to him. One of his most famous works is the Sleeping Cat, which is reportedly so lifelike that no rats or mice can be found in the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko where it is housed. Events of Jingorô's life have been retold in books and film, and there is even a manga by Nagai Go (Cutey Honey, Devilman) about him. In this article about a Japanese dinner party, the author compares the story of Jingorô to that of Pygmalion.

(The first three paragraphs above are paraphrased from the afterword by Takada Yûzô in the first collected manga volume. I translated it myself, so I don't guarantee the accuracy.)


The title of the manga is rather difficult to translate. Of course, Genzô is the name of the main character, but genzô (written 幻像 with a different second kanji) means phantom or illusion. Hitogata is an alternate reading of the word ningyô, which means both doll and puppet. The alternate reading refers to a specific type of doll used in Shinto purification rituals. During the ritual the simple paper doll is believed to absorb and contain the evil and misfortune of the holder, after which the hitogata is tossed into a fire or river.

Kiwa is actually two words, the first meaning demon or ogre and the second meaning story or tale, so the combination means something like "ghost story". Like many Japanese titles, there is no simple translation that can capture all the connotations of the original. A simplified English title could be Genzô's Puppet Tales. KODANCLUB.com translates the title as Doll Maker Genzo: A Second Chance for Human Souls, a much more artful interpretation.

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Last updated: February 5, 2003 11:54PM EST