Literary critics say it is a fallacy to expect aspects of the life of an artist to appear in her work. But it occurs to me that three of Yugi Yamada’s most charming enthusiasms – her love of cats, flowers and delicious edible treats – might shed some light on her work and her conception of gay love.

Many of her characters exhibit a feline character, spirit and behaviour. They inhabit deep interior spaces. Consider the introverted translator and bookstore owner Kusaka in “No One Loves Me”. Even Ms. Yamada’s smiling, friendly ukes have inaccessible inner lives. For example, Hayakawa in “Doushite Namida ga Derunokana” has a minimalist self-conception that is completely at odds with his glamorous image as a famous actor. Lawyer Mikami Haruhiko in “Isshou Tsuzukerarenai Shigoto” has a warm, caring exterior which belies inner torment over a lost classmate.

Ms. Yamada’s characters are also feline in their arguments and fights. They get on one another’s nerves and lash out in anger, without doing real harm. And then suddenly their moods shift, and they are playful and affectionate again. Surrounding these couples are emotional stillnesses which are barely disturbed by the outside world, despite the  demands of career and family commitments.

Flowers and food symbolize the two kinds of love that Yugi Yamada combines so effortlessly in her characters’ relationships: the platonic and the erotic.

The cherry blossom (“sakura” in Japanese) symbolizes the ephemeral grace of Bishōnen (beautiful young males) captured by the phrase “mono no aware” (the pathos of things). The true, yet fragile, love between Bishōnen is the central feature of the older shōnen ai genre which preceded Yaoi or Boys’ Love (BL) fiction. Flowers are a metaphor for the pure platonic longing to find completion in another person that Plato spoke about in The Symposium. Whatever their past loves and experiences, Yugi Yamada’s characters discover in each other the person they have been longing for.

The delicious edible treats Ms. Yamada enjoys showing her twitter followers suggest the erotic, carnal side of love. Her characters taste one another hungrily. Their lustful appetites anchor their relationships. No one draws a steamy, yet amusing, love scene like she does.

It goes without saying that this analysis is rather reductive, and  does not capture fully the subtlety of Yugi Yamada’s art. If she or anyone else takes offence at what I have written here, I humbly withdraw it with a Hayakawa smile.

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