Gengoroh Tagame, 271 pgs, PictureBox, pictureboxinc.com, $29.95
Reviewing pornography is tricky business: perhaps there is no clearer example of something, the primary value of which is the potential appeal to each person’s idiosyncratic tastes and desires. And there is no doubt that The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame is a work primarily intended to titillate and to arouse.
Tagame has a huge North American fan base, despite the fact that The Passion is his first book-length collection of manga porn published in English. Until now, English speakers looking for his particular brand of gay, beefy, bearish S&M comics have avidly collected Japanese editions of his work. This is no surprise, as Tagame’s visual storytelling and his rendering of hyper-masculine, muscular-yet-chubby men offer plenty to enjoy, even if (until now) we couldn’t understand what his characters were saying (or screaming, or moaning…).
Thanks to the folks at PictureBox, we Anglophones finally have access to this selection of Tagame’s works in English translation. The Passion contains eight short erotic pieces with a variety of settings and scenarios, from the almost vanilla to the decidedly sadistic. And though these stories do indeed speak to idiosyncrasies of sexual taste, we see that they also explore more universal questions of power, of fantasy and reality, of desire and gratification. Introduced by Edmund White, The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame includes an essay each from editor Graham Kolbeins and from Chip Kidd, who also designed and art-directed this volume.
Obviously a must-read for fans of bear porn or S&M, The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame offers plenty of enjoyment for a general readership interested in gorgeous, thought-provoking comics. (Andrew Woodrow-Butcher)