Now on view in Modern Love: 20th-Century Japanese Erotic Art is Anno Moyoco’s Sakuran—a manga that tells the story of Kiyoha—a young girl in early 19th- century Japan. Moyoco’s graphic novel tracks Kiyoha’s rise through the hierarchy of the Yoshiwara brothel district, from a lowly kamuro (adolescent attendant), all the way to oiran the highest achievable rank of all Yoshiwara courtesans.

'Sakuran' cover image

‘Sakuran’ cover image

Along with a copy of the manga in paperback and digital format is a set of Moyoco’s original illustrations for Sakuran. At first glance, one of the illustrations (pictured at top) appears to be highly intense, with a frightening figure appearing to discipline a young girl. In context however the feeling is a bit lighter.

“The composition, which, like traditional manga, is read from upper right to lower left, displays Anno’s brilliant sense of cinematography,” explains Stephen Salel, Robert F. Lange Foundation Assistant Curator of Japanese Art. The stage is set with a shot of an empty corridor, along which the children’s argument can be heard. We turn to see the kamuro themselves, and as our eyes descend the page, we see the looming figure of Kiyoha from the point of view of the terrified girls.’

Modern Love is on view through March 15. Don’t miss Anno Moyoco’s lecture, book signing, and manga demonstration on Feb. 22.