.Chiho Saito article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 4, No. 1, December 2000
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Chiho Saito debuted in 1982 with the short story Ken to Mademoiselle (The Sword and the Mademoiselle). From the beginning, Saito showed a knack for drama and romantic settings. This talent, combined with her appealing character designs, has elevated her to become a star of Flower Comics and has garnered fans from around the world. A prolific as well as creative artist, Saito has published more than sixty volumes of manga over the past fifteen years. Animerica Extra is proud to bring you one of her most recent works, Shojo (first o long) Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena), the fantastically surreal tale of a girl who wants to be a prince.

Chiho Saito is best known to U.S. fans for her work with Be Papas as the anime character designer and comic artist for Revolutionary Girl Utena. Produced in tandem with the comic, the controversial TV series ran for thirty-nine episodes, the first thirteen of which have been released in the U.S. by Central Park Media. This modern-day story follows the odd adventures of Utena Tenjou, a girl saved from the despair of her parents' deaths by a mysterious prince. Transferred to prestigious Ohtori Academy, Utena finds herself quickly immersed in the bizarre intrigues of the student council, who are secretly known as the ‘duelists'. The characters and their conflicts, both internal and external, are like a distillation of Saito's style, delving into the dark depths of their tortured souls. In the unreal, pseudo-Baroque halls of Ohtori Academy, Saito is able to expose the extremes of human nature, from the base to the sublime, in a world safely separate from our own. She explores both the dark and light aspects of humanity with equal grace and drama, an ability which made her the best choice to be the artist of Utena.

Naturally, Chiho Saito was around long before Utena, which was published and released in 1997, fifteen years after Saito's debut. During those years, Saito developed a unique style of storytelling by never shying away from social taboos for the sake of drama. In her first series, Honoka ni Purple (A Hint of Purple), the romantic leads are step-siblings. Shino nearly bumps into Akio in a library which has a legend concerning couples meeting and falling in love. She doesn't like Akio at first; he is arrogant and irreverent and toys with her. Somehow she can't stop thinking about him, and she runs into him a few more times. She sees Akio for the fourth time at a dinner where her widowed father wants to introduce his children to the woman he hopes to marry; Akio is the woman's son. Living with Akio as a step-brother is awkward at first. Eventually Shino learns to appreciate him, and they become involved. Once the parents figure out what's going on, Shino's father sends Akio to America. Before he leaves, Akio and Shino consummate their relationship with a bittersweet sexual encounter. Not many writers for girls would portray such a relationship, let alone its most intimate moments, but Flower Comics often embraces more provocative writers.

Saito's second series, Koibito-tachi no Basho (The Place of Lovers), begins with the heroine, Maya, trying to live a normal life while her parents have a drunken party downstairs. This situation --the child coping with outrageous parents-- is not an uncommon theme in shojo manga; Marmalade Boy's Miki is also initially confronted with equally abnormal behavior from her parents and is alone in her desire to be normal. This role reversal, with the child representing maturity and societal norms, is very appealing to teenaged readers. Although few of her stories involve the leads trying to be average or normal, Saito's use of this situation demonstrates her insight into the preferences of her readers. It is Saito's innate ability to appeal to her readers' interests which has made her so successful. This is one of the reasons most of her stories have highly romantic situations and settings.

Artistic talent is a common trait in Saito's characters. Dance, music, acting, the fine arts and other creative talents appear with reliable regularity in her stories. Mo (long o) Hitori no Marionette (One More Marionette) revolves around a young ballerina named Nanami. A talented director, Jin, becomes involved in Nanami's life when her father collapses in his arms, begging him to deliver a bouquet to his daughter after her first major performance. Her father dies, but Jin has seen enough of Nanami to be convinced of her talent. He offers to pay for ballet school if she agrees to act in his troop. Their potential relationship is complicated by Jin's split personality, for his cruel half overpowers his kind side, making their lives wonderfully angst filled and difficult.

Etoile Girl (a.k.a. Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 3) is another story about dance. This one centers around Ristuka, a girl trained in martial arts who wants to become a ballerina. Of all of Saito's titles, this is the one which comes closest to a G rating. Two of the stories in Opera Za de Mattete (Wait for Me at the Opera, a.k.a. Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 5) also involve young people struggling to succeed in dance. Dance plays a part in Aoringo Meikyu (long u) (Green Apple Maze), as well. Eriko and Takeru find themselves trapped in the mountains and have to survive the night alone together. When they meet again, three years later, Takeru has taken up dance, and no one else can measure up to him in Eriko's eyes. Natsumi, another dancer, wants to keep Takeru for herself. Ah, romance!

One of Saito's more recent stories, Basilis no Musume (Daughter of Basilis), involves a young sculptor named Shuka. Despite her abusive sculpting master's attempts to get the job for himself, Shuka is determined to create a new sculpture of the horse Basilis, symbol of the Basilis hotel chain. To make the story even more dramatic, it turns out she and the handsome, compelling owner of Hotel Basilis share a great grandfather with a tragic past.

The title character of Kanon was raised by her mother in Mongolia. They had a happy life, although Kanon always wished she'd been able to know her late father. It comes as a shock to Kanon when her mother, on her death bed, confesses her father is alive and lives as a musician in Japan. With her remarkable ability, indeed, her emotional need to express herself through music, Kanon is determined to become a famous violinist in Japan in hopes of finding her father. Naturally, there are a couple good looking guys involved in the story, too.

Besides the romance of art, Saito also enjoys taking her readers to romantic settings. Exotic locales and foreign characters appear in many of her stories. Abudo (Abud?), the charming Arab prince who is not allowed to chose his own bride, brings a little excitement into the life of hotel clerk Miki in Aru Hi, Knight ni Attanara (Once Upon a Time, I Met a Knight a.k.a. Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 4). He returns to her for more adventure and romance in Saratte Watashi no Knight (Take Me Away My Dear Knight a.k.a. Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 6).

William Sajitto Aster is the half-Indian British officer who steals the heart of Koto in one of Saito's most engaging series, Waltz wa Shiroi Dress de (Waltz in a White Dress). In this pre-WWII story, Koto is a young girl whose sincerest wish is to become a dress maker, but she is promised to a Japanese naval officer named Masaomi. Koto falls in love with the young British spy when her childhood dream of waltzing with a man in a white uniform while wearing a white dress she made herself comes true. That Sajitto's terribly good looking and compelling has a bit to do with her infatuation, too, of course. The series continues in Magnolia Waltz when the lovers, with help from Masaomi, escape Japan for Singapore. There is also a tragic related story, Lilac Nocturne, concerning Masaomi as a soldier in Manchuria.

Kakan no Madonna (The Flower Crown Madonna) takes us to an equally romantic setting --Renaissance Italy. The heroine, Leonora, is a clever, courageous, willful young woman who, upon hearing of the prophesy of the Flower Crown Madonna, cuts and dies her hair, dresses as a boy, and escapes her undesired spouse on their wedding night! The prophesy says whomever finds the legendary sword, the Emerald Lion, will rule all of Italy. The secret of the sword is in the Leonardo da Vinci painting "The Flower Crown Madonna." Leonora looks exactly like the woman in the painting. Taking the painting with her, Leonora sets out to find da Vinci to make sure the wrong person doesn't get their hands on the Emerald Lion. Along the way she is helped by the dashing young Prince of Napoli, Falco, who doesn't realize Leonora and "Leo," her alias as a boy, are the same person. This fictional story involving historic characters is another example of Saito's interest in trying her hand at any topic which will interests her readers.

Science fiction is also fair game for Saito. The series Tenshi no Tattoo (The Angel Tattoo), is a bit reminiscent of the film The Terminator. Misaki is a regular girl except for the odd birthmarks on her back, like angel wings. One day, a mysterious young man appears in Misaki's life, changing it forever. He saves her life, then passes out from hunger. This mystery guy is actually a soldier from the future who has been sent back through time to kill Misaki, for in the future she is the mother of an evil ruler. The trip through time has caused him to forget his mission until after he falls in love with Misaki. An evil, satanic wizard named Kira is also after Misaki, and he will do anything to father his child with her.

Don't let all this angst and drama fool you; Chiho Saito can be funny, too. One of her more amusing tales is in book one of Love Stories. Tonari no Centaur (Centaur Next Door) is about a manager whose dog's soul transposes itself with that of the good-looking rock star whose career she's trying to salvage. Yu (long u) Matsuhara is a young, reluctant bride in the sixth volume of Chiho Saito Masterpieces, Take Me Away My Dear Knight. Yu's (long u) stories are equal parts awkward and funny as she overcomes her prudish shyness and the overwhelming changes in her life. In the Wait for Me at the Opera (a.k.a. Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 5) short story, Manatsu no Christmas Tree (Christmas Tree in the Middle of Summer), a young lover is plagued by the spirit of his girlfriend's deceased beau. There are also a number of amusing tales involving Chuchu in Utena, but you'll have to read about those in future issues of Animerica Extra!

After more than fifteen years in the business, Chiho Saito has become a master of appealing to the interests of her readers. Placing her stories in historic and romantic settings and putting her characters in impossible situations allows her to freely create the most dramatic stories of love without concerns about realism. By keeping her stories light despite the drama, Saito can more easily incorporate social taboos such as teen sex, incest and sexual obsession without moralizing about them. Forbidden loves and sexuality are mainstays in Saito's work, along with casts of incredibly beautiful characters. These are the major keys to her success. By dealing with taboos which are at once fascinating and illicit, she pleases her female readers as much as any scantily clad babe would please many male readers. Her work may not be for everyone, but with such a diverse and lengthy list of stories under her belt, Saito's place in the pantheon of manga masters is secure.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Honoka ni Purple (A Hint of Purple)
3 volumes
January 1986 - May 1987

Koibito-tachi no Basho (The Place of Lovers)
2 volumes
March 1986 - April 1986

Aoringo Meikyu (long u) (Green Apple Maze)
3 volumes
November 1986 - April 1987

Hi o Tojite Ai (Sunset Love)
Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 1
July 1987

Hoshi o Tsumu Donna (Pluck the Stars, Donna)
2 volumes
October 1987 - December 1987

KoYo (long o) In no Runpappa (Runpappa Lamb Seal)*
Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 2
August 1988

Etoile Girl
Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 3
December 1988

Aru Hi, Knight ni Attanara (Once Upon a Time, I Met a Knight)
Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 4
July 1989

Tenshi no Tattoo (The Angel Tattoo)
2 volumes
July 1989 - September 1989

Saito Chiho no Manga Academia (Chiho Saito's Manga Academy)
February 1990

Opera Za de Mattete (Wait for Me at the Opera)
Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 5
May 1990

Waltz wa Shiroi Dress de (Waltz in a White Dress)
4 volumes
June 1990 - December 1990

Saratte Watashi no Knight (Take Me Away My Dear Knight)
Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 6
April 1991

Mo (long o) Hitori no Marionette (One More Marionette)
8 volumes
June 1991 - February 1993

Koi Monogatari (Love Stories)
12 volumes
September 1991 - June 1999

Lilac Nocturne
Chiho Saito Masterpieces Volume 7
April 1992

Kakan no Madonna (The Flower Crown Madonna)
7 volumes
May 1993 - October 1994

Magnolia Waltz
3 volumes
June 1994 - April 1995

Kanon
3 volumes
October 1995 - October 1996

Shojo (first o long) Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena)
written by Be Papas
5 volumes
January 1997 - April 1998

Basilis no Musume (Daughter of Basilis)
4 volumes
May 1998 - May 1999

Tenshi no Bisho (long o), Akuma no Namida (Angle's Smile, Devil's Tears)
July 1999

Gekijo (long o) Han Shojo (first o long) Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena Theatrical Edition)
written by Be Papas
August 1999

Lady Masquerade
2 volumes
February 2000 - May 2000

Gin no Ohkami (The Silver Wolf)
June 2000

 

NOTES:
One site about the Chinese versions translates this title as "A Love Story in Shepherd Mount/Settle Down Kids!"

I don't know what Runpappa means, but could KoYo (long o) In maybe be a place name? This is the only reference for it on the web, so I'm really guessing at the yomi and meaning. And I thought I had almost all of them!

I've taken a few liberties with the translations of the titles; feel free to ask me to explain them.

I've dug up as much as I can about her most recent works, but I may have missed some. I also don't have complete information on all her latest titles, so I'll need you to look up a few of the dates/volumes.


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