The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is a supernatural BL manga which recently inspired a television anime. The series stands out because of how it combines elements of mystery, horror, and romance, which challenge typical perceptions of the BL genre. ANN spoke to the manga creator Tomoko Yamashita about her approach to creating manga, her feelings on The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window as a BL story, and her intentions behind the seemingly dysfunctional romance.
You’ve written works across a variety of genres – BL, romance, mystery, yuri. Do you have a genre you most enjoy creating in? Why or why not? Do you have any feelings about the fact that most of your works in English translation are in the BL genre?
YAMASHITA: Every genre has its pleasures and challenges, and I want every work of mine to be read equally, regardless of genre. I hope that my non-BL works can also be translated into English and read by many people.
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window deals with a lot of difficult topics – child abuse, cults, and the misuse of power among them. How did you decide to handle these topics, and do you think that they contribute to the success of the story? Does it appeal to readers who might not otherwise pick up a BL story? (Assuming you think it does have that appeal to the BL-shy!)
YAMASHITA: I always have and always will have an interest in those themes. I suppose they are recurring themes, although there are also plenty of parts that developed a lot differently from my expectations and inadvertently became big parts of the story. I hope that those developments succeed. To a certain extent, it was a bit of an experiment to see if a BL can stand firm even without hinging on romance. Also, when I see others label this series as “not a BL,” it made me wonder if it can become a work of entertainment that counters homophobia.
Some readers/viewers on our site have found Hiyakawa to be off-putting in that he doesn’t seem to respect Mikado’s bodily autonomy and personal boundaries. How did you decide to write his character that way? Is it tied up in his upbringing outside of social norms?
YAMASHITA: To be completely honest, when I started creating this manga, I was not mindful when it came to fictional expressions of invading other people’s boundaries, and I did not think about the absence of mutual consent. I realized that as the series progressed, and so I tried addressing it by depicting the harms in the relationship as part of the story developments. From his past experiences, Hiyakawa grew up not learning to respect others, but as I continued writing, I wanted to make it into a story where he becomes someone who can respect others and himself.
There seems to be a definite psychological element to The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window. Assuming that to be true, what is it that you want readers to take away from the work as pertains to the characters? Is it about how their pasts inform and shape their presents? How one destructive personality (Sensei) can cause havoc across multiple lives?
YAMASHITA: It would be that it’s never too late to turn your life around.
What research, if any, did you do to write The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window? Did you look into spiritual beliefs and practices or the psychology behind cults, for example?
YAMASHITA: I have a general interest in this genre, so I didn’t do any special research.
There are elements of The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window that seem to relate to folklore about death, or Death as a person, such as the Grimms’ tale “Godfather Death” or superstitions about what happens to souls. Is this deliberate? What are your thoughts about folk beliefs about death/Death and how they relate to Mikado and Hiyakawa’s story?
YAMASHITA: I don’t know how it’s translated, but when it came to the supernatural depictions in this series, I tried to avoid the language often used in urban legends, ghost stories, and folklore. As much as I enjoy ghost stories and folklore, I’m an atheist without any religious faith and I don’t believe in supernatural phenomena.
I depicted the dead as beings that have lost their identity when they were living and exist in a hazy state between themselves and the boundaries of the world; their previous flesh-and-blood form can no longer be perceived. I attempted to reconstruct ghost stories from the perspective that death is but a mere phenomenon, and that it’s human emotions that generally affects others.
While The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window uses a lot of common BL tropes, it also twists them and makes them into horror elements as well. How did you decide to do this? Are there any elements of the story you’re particularly pleased with?
YAMASHITA: I wanted to deliver what was promised to the readers in a completely different, out-of-place way, thinking it would be enjoyable in a new way. As for whether there are any elements I’m satisfied with, I’ve been writing it for so long that I’ve completely forgotten by now. What a shame.
You’ve created both longer series and short story collections, as well as single-volume series. Do you have a preference in terms of what’s the easiest or the most enjoyable to create? In your opinion, what are the benefits to a short story versus a longer series?
YAMASHITA: I have the most fun with really short-length stories that are around 10 pages long. They’ve got the transient fun of a momentary explosion of light. Structuring individual chapters of a long-running series like a short story is also fun, too.
In a long series, there’s a lot of fun in portraying the characters’ backstories and the relationships between characters outside the main cast, but making it all come together coherently is tough. For short stories, it’s tricky to work out how to explain the necessary elements in a concise manner.
You’ve had a remarkably varied career in terms of genres of manga that you’ve created. Are there any genres or stories you’d like to try that you haven’t yet? Or do you not necessarily think in terms of genre when you’re creating manga?
YAMASHITA: I don’t particularly think about genres. Although I do consider the trends and genres of the magazine I’m being serialized in, I actually think about how I can buck those trends and genres. I’ve written plenty of science-fiction and fantasy, but maybe it’s because of the literary style or because I’m always thinking of how to distance myself from the typical conventions, but I have the feeling that they’re not really read as genre fiction.
Do you have any concerns when your work is translated into another language? Are you ever worried that overseas readers won’t fully understand your work?
YAMASHITA: Much like how even if I were to express my intent in Japanese it doesn’t always get across exactly like it does in my head, I think it’s the same for other languages. So I don’t worry about it at all. I think that my overseas audience takes into consideration the differences in culture and translation as they read.
Do you have anything you’d like to say to your English-language readers?
YAMASHITA: It still feels like a dream to me that people overseas are reading my manga in different languages. I really hope that you enjoy it. The English version hasn’t released the story to its conclusion yet, but I hope you can all enjoy the finale. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for speaking with us, and we’re looking forward to reading your next work!