Taiwanese manga artist Gao Yan (高妍) on Wednesday launched a standalone edition of the manga series Lu Zhih Ge (綠之歌) in Taiwan and Japan.
Gao has worked at manga artistry since childhood, and was working as an illustrator in 2018 when she published the critically lauded Lu Zhih Ge as a short story, the 25-year-old creator said at a book launch in Taipei.
“It is because of Lu Zhih Ge that I found my path as a manga artist,” she said.
Photo: CNA
The story — Gao’s first manga to be published — revolves around a young Taiwanese woman surnamed Lu (綠) and the real-life Japanese lyricist and musician Haruomi Hosono, who fronted the band Happy End, she said.
The independently published work garnered applause after Takashi Matsumoto, a member of the band, wrote a glowing review on social media.
The next year, Hosono traveled to Taiwan and invited Gao to join a production of No Smoking, a biographical documentary on Hosono that screened later that year.
Gao was also featured in several high-profile international exhibitions of manga art, and illustrated the cover for acclaimed novelist Haruki Murakami’s literary self-portrait Abandoning a Cat, When I Talk About My Father.
Gao last year developed Lu Zhih Ge into a full-length manga that was serialized in the Japanese-language magazine Comic Beam before publishing the series in a standalone of two volumes.
“I am just a regular Haruomi fan,” she said. “I never imagined Lu Zhih Ge would catch Takashi’s eye.”
She said that the story’s protagonist, Lu, is an homage to a character from the Murakami novel Norwegian Wood, whose given name contains the kanji that is rendered Lu (綠) in Chinese.
“I did not expect to draw my first real commercial illustration for Haruki either,” she added.
“I believe that Lu Zhih Ge has a power in its clumsy honesty that drew people in,” Gao said. “Creation can bring me to faraway places that I could never have reached on my own strength. This is the power of books.”
Although the title is serialized in Japan and tied to that country in context, the story is essentially Taiwanese, she said.
“I hope that the publication of this book can give confidence to Taiwanese and make them understand that they are from a talented country,” she said. “Young artists and authors should know that their creations have power.”
Lu Zhih Ge bears endorsements penned by Matsumoto and Murakami.
“Gao’s drawings are full of fresh air as if carried in a tunnel. It evokes a feeling of comfort and resonates with nostalgia,” Murakami wrote.
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