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Goin’ Japanesque!

Manga “PLINIUS” Depicts Everyday Drama in Ancient Rome

It is strange but Japanese people love history of their own country and that of foreign countries at the same time. They seem to have special fondness particularly for periods from ancient Greece to Rome, and Japanese museums hold historical exhibitions practically every year.

In the world of manga, many works also have focused on this area and periods, and among such workswe are introducing “PLINIUS”.

 

Synopsis

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Plinius is a natural historian, politician and serviceman, and he has served as Governor General of oversea territory in ancient Roman Empire. He takes a journey through countries in ancient Europe with his clerk and guard, Eukles and Feliks. While refusing Emperor Nero’s repeated demands to be his advisor, Plinius observes and records natural phenomena and incidents that take place in Roman countries, ranging from observation of volcanic eruption, rumor of encountering a merman, to regional plants and medical practice.

The story depicts the geopolitical situation of the era and typical Roman citizens’ lives from the protagonist Plinius’ point of view.

 

Characters

1. Plinius

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He is the main character of this story.

His full name is Gaius Plinius Secundus.

In the field of history, this man is called as “Pliny the Elder”.

He is full of curiosity and acts quickly on ideas he comes up with.

He has asthma and once an attack happens, severe symptoms manifest.

He published many works; however, the only existing work today is encyclopedia “Naturalis Historia”.

2. Eukles

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He is a Greek, and Plinius’ clerk.

The story starts when he comes to know Plinius in an incident and becomes his clerk.

He is a young man who respects the knowledgeable Plinius and serves him sincerely.

3. Feliks

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He is a middle-aged, slim man, and he has thin hair.

But he serves in the military under Governor General of Roman province Sicily, and he is a master of martial arts.

He is a squire and guard of Plinius.

He is quite fussy, and he conveys his criticism and complaints to his boss, Plinius, without hesitation.

4. Nero

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He is the fifth Emperor of the Roman Empire, and called a “tyrant” in later centuries.

In this story he hopes to assign Plinius to his advisor.

He has had little opportunity to meet Plinius directly up to this point.

5. Poppaea

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She is a mistress of Nero, and a future official empress.

She has strong desire for power and authority, and catches the former wife of Nero in a ruse and executes her.

 

Analysis

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This story is written by two authors, “Mari Yamazaki” and “Tori-Miki”.

“Mari Yamazaki” in particular has studied art history and oil painting at The Florence Academy of Art, and she is still living in Europe today.

She has deep knowledge and insight on Europe, and when she was living in Japan, she taught at University of Hokkaido and University of Sapporo as a lecturer of Italian language.

Her most popular comic “THERMAE ROMAE” has been translated and published in 8 foreign countries in the world.

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“Tori-Miki” is a mangaka not well known in the world, but he is actually a leading figure in Japan’s manga world with long publication history, and his popularity is supported by many obsessive and enthusiastic fans.

This work depicts the daily life of “Plinius”, who has actually existed in history. The story is written based on solid historical researches and it mixes facts and fiction, perhaps quoting information and episodes from Plinius’ “Naturalis Historia”.

Illustration by “Mari Yamazaki” has been somewhat lacking in precision and description when she draws landscapes and backgrounds.

In this piece, “Tori-Miki” has been supporting “Mari Yamazaki”, by covering her weakness.

 

In this piece two stories unfold simultaneously. In one story that focuses on Plinius’ daily life, as he travels around territories controlled by the Roman Empire, and he researches and records various incidents and phenomena. The other story describes political dramas of Emperor Nero and his advisors who sit in the center of the Roman Empire.

There is no direct relationship between the two stories yet, but we are dying to know how they develop.

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When ancient Rome is taken up as a theme, we tend to imagine a work that is majestic and dramatic like entertainment movies.

But this work is different from those, and it plainly depicts the daily life of general public. As a historical story, this manga has a somewhat unique style.

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Berial the Demon

About the author

It has been over 40 years of reading manga in the deep world of manga. Japan’s manga has an endlessly wide variety of genres. I will be recommending special manga for you to read from such infinite amount of works.

View all articles by Berial the Demon
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