So what's in this Volume One anyway?01/17/2018 - By: Daniel Miles
It was years ago that Ben first told me I should read the Tale of the Heike. And I trusted his judgement when he recommended it, but I was in grad school, without much time for pleasure reading, so I told him I’d put it on my list. And never got around to it.
Then, in October 2016, Ben decided he wanted a partner to write this graphic novel adaptation with, so he took a stronger approach. He typed out an entire chapter from the Tale into Skype and told me to sit down and read it. That chapter was “The Death of Seno.” And it immediately sold me on the entire project. It’s a frank discussion of familial loyalty and what that means, and it really forces a reader to sit back and think in order to come to terms with the ways that loyalty is expressed. It became, of course, the first story we adapted. It’s also from ⅔ of the way through the epic, chronologically.
Our version of the titular Seno.
So why start with Seno? Our original plan was to tell the entire epic straightforwardly, from start to finish. If we’d stuck with that, “The Death of Seno” would have been a sort of teaser before we went back and started from the top. And it makes a good teaser. It gives readers knowledge of the coming war, it hits on several of our key themes, and it gives the spotlight to a minor recurring character in other stories. But once we realized we wanted to release the story through trade paperbacks and not issue-by-issue, we got a better idea.
While some literature from Heian Japan tells events in roughly chronological order, many pieces, especially poetry collections, are ordered by theme instead. And throughout the Tale of the Heike, Seno embodies the theme of loyalty. Loyalty, then, became the theme of our first volume.
The Other Stories
The next story to add was an easy choice. Where “The Death of Seno” explores loyalty on the battlefield, “Gio” brings that theme into the home lives of women at court. It gives us a close look at Taira no Kiyomori, who will be a central character in the epic. But the focus is on the choices of the young dancer for whom the story is named. Finally, we round out our major stories with “The Exile of the Abbot Meiun”. This story is less explicitly about loyalty, but in the contexts of the others it highlights how loyalties within the court cause one young courtier’s foolish mistake to spiral into disaster.
Each of these stories could stand on its own, but by presenting them together we hope to draw out the connections between them. This compilation format lets us easily sprinkle in a few smaller stories to ease the transitions. And taken all together, these stand-alone stories give readers a strong feeling for this setting and story.
We look forward to bringing you Tale of the Taira, Vol. 1: Debts to Heaven and Earth.
By: Daniel Miles
Co-Founder of Peers of Menard
Of the two Tale of the Taira co-authors, Dan is the one with the beard.