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Goin’ Japanesque!

Old Manga of the Life of a Square and Honest Researcher: Tensai Yanagisawa Kyoju no Seikatsu

A short diligent person with an overbite who is always smiling – this is perhaps a typical image of the Japanese that foreign people in many countries across the world might have had in the recent past. I wonder what kind of image people from abroad have for the Japanese today.

This time we are introducing the manga “Tensai Yanagisawa Kyoju no Seikatsu (Genius Professor Yanagisawa’s Life)” in which the protagonist is a prototypical Japanese, who is diligent and honest to a fault.

 

Synopsis

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Yoshinori Yanagisawa works as an economics professor at a university, and if someone would describe him in one word, he is a straight-laced man.

His actions in a day are meticulously governed by his schedule, and he basically dislikes anything that is not included in his schedule. He leads a well-regulated life, waking up at 5:30 AM in the morning and going to bed at 9:00 PM at night.

But Yoshinori is not narrow-minded, as when life presents him unexpected happenings, he would not flatly refuse to deal with it.

His curiosity is exceptional and he tries to find out why it happened and what needs to be done to resolve it.

The story humorously depicts Yoshinori’s everyday life in which his square personality and actions drag people around him into unintended troubles.

 

Characters

1. Yoshinori Yanagisawa

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He is the main character of this story, and an economics professor at Y University.

His hair is grey and appears to be past middle-aged, however, his age is not indicated.

Once he gets interested in something, he has a tendency to strongly focus on it to the extent that nothing else catches his attention. Neither can he let go of anything unless he studies it until he is satisfied.

He is thought of as a “stiff” but it’s not that he only tries to measure the world by his own standards; he also has the flexibility to change his beliefs once he learns new facts that prove him wrong

When he was young, he didn’t have this flexibility, and he disliked associating with people.

However he had experienced living in the confusion at the end of the World War II, and learned the importance of associating with people. This experience motivated him to study economics.

2. Masako Yanagisawa

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Masako is the wife of Yoshinori. She was a daughter of a wealthy family, but her family’s fortune was ruined at the end of the war.

Masako married Yoshinori by an arranged marriage.

Today she is a good wife and mother, who has supported her husband Yoshinori and raised their four daughters to adulthood.

But in early period of their marriage, Yoshinori’s stiffness ran her life miserably and gave her hard times, including his taking all the money set aside for living expenses and spending it in purchasing academic books.

She is a little different from her husband and somewhat sloppy here and there, but she is a normal housewife with ample common sense, keeping the family on good terms with their neighbors.

3. Setsuko Yanagisawa

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Setsuko is the fourth daughter of the Yanagisawa Family, and currently commuting to Y University as a student.

The other daughters have already married and left home, except for Setsuko, and she is the only one living in their parents’ house with them.

Sometime she is at odds with her father Yoshinori, but essentially she respects and trusts him.

She is a contemporary young woman but has a strong sense of morality inherited from her father’s personality.

4. Hanako Yamaguchi

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Hanako is a daughter of Yoshinori’s second daughter and a grandchild to Yoshinori.

She is still a child who goes to kindergarten but she respects and adores Yoshinori and tries to imitate anything about him as much as possible.

From this relationship a spinoff story was published later, centering on the two as the main characters and it was titled “Tensai Yanagisawa Kyoju: Mago Hanako tono Seikatsu (Genius Professor Yanagisawa: His Life with Grandchild Hanako)”.

 

Analysis

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One must wonder if the main character Yoshinori Yanagisawa may be the oldest as the main character of a manga.

In this story he is portrayed as a young man around the end of World War II, thus he must be well over 70 years old.

The author Kazumi Yamashita is a shojo mangaka (manga writer aiming at teenage female readership) and her drawings are delicate, and form a feminine and soft touch.

Her drawings are unlike what we often see in anime, and they are delicate and realistic.

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This story was first published in 1988 and 33 volumes have been published until the present in 2016.

At the beginning, the story primarily focused on humor, however, there are more episodes recently that focus on the theme of how the main character, Yoshinori, is growing old.

With regard to growing old and changing through aging, the story tends to depict it optimistically to say that growing old is not so bad.

 

In Japan people fear the decreasing birthrate and aging population.

There appears to be a tendency in Japanese society to have a negative view on aging.

We can surmise this work is trying to assert to the young generations who are to become “old people” in the future, or against the general trend, that growing old is not that bad.

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As a matter of fact, the author Kazumi Yamashita apparently created this work by modeling the main character, Yoshinori Yanagisawa, after her own father.

In addition to the fact that the story has an interesting plot in its own light, this story is one of the fine pieces to help you understand ordinary Japanese people’s lives and anxieties as well as problems in Japanese society.

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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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