To that list add the name of Portuguese cartoonist/fine artist Tiago Manuel, who in 2008 produced a gallery exhibition entitled Mishima : Manifesto De Laminas —or Mishima : Blade Manifesto in English — a portion of which made it into print in 2015 in S! #20, from our Latvian friends at Kus!, and which has now (as of late last year) been published in its entirety by Portugal’s premier purveyor of all things artistically avant-garde, Chili Com Carne. Indeed, the release of CCC’s book coincided with the 50th anniversary of Mishima’s ritualistic act of seppuku, and while an extra layer of historic import isn’t exactly necessary to further one’s appreciation of what Manuel has achieved here, it certainly doesn’t hurt — even if the sword no doubt did.
To that end, expect to start walking a knife’s edge of internally conflicted thoughts and feelings from the moment you open this darkly exquisite volume until the moment you close it — and expect to keep walking it in the days after. I’m not privy to Manuel’s thoughts or feelings on either Confessions Of A Mask or Mishima himself, but there’s a very real sense here of someone trying to work all that out through his art. By turns respectful bordering on the humble, contemplative, elegiac, and despondent, the medium is the message here, but the messages are as much in conflict with one another as they are conversation — one image is turbulent and immediate, the next reflective with an air of the forlorn, and all points in between make themselves both known and felt along the way. If you’re looking for resolution of and to any of it, there’s none to be had — and that, of course, is both its beauty and its tragedy.
What I can say with a fair degree of certainty is that ultimately this isn’t a book that you “come to terms with” in a traditional sense so much as it is one that you continue to ruminate upon and analyze your own reactions to — it’s a fait accompli, as is the life of the author whose work inspired it, but as is the case with that life, deciphering its meaning, its purpose, and its repercussions and ramifications is an ongoing and ever-evolving process that, if you’re not careful, may just tell you more about yourself than it does anything else.