“But like the cut flower that I have chosen for you from thousands, the most beautiful is the young man who falls first on the lawn, to show that life has no meaning, without dying, to emulate the heroes’ considerable sacrifice …”. So Federico Goglio, aka Skoll, in his song dedicated to Mishima. A few dense verses that tell the life of the great Japanese writer who committed suicide on November 25, 1970 with seppuku. But that’s not all: Goglio also wrote a comic strip, illustrated by Massimiliano Longo, entitled Yukio Mishima. Last Samurai (Ferrogallico), winner of the Acqui Edito and Inedito prizes (the Acqui Storia prize for graphic novels). We interviewed him.
Why did the character of Mishima fascinate you?
Mishima was one of the best-known Japanese writers of his time in an era of great cultural and economic change. In its last decade it experienced a constant but only apparent and formal contradiction: on the one hand, it literally made itself the shield – even before a sword – of the old values of a lost Japan, defeated and overwhelmed by the rampant materialistic modernity and globalists; on the other hand, he embraced and rode forms and instruments typical of this American culture, which he would have identified as one of Japan’s evils. They were forms, only forms, that he used and rode to better disseminate what might be called an attempt at cultural restoration. However, the plans were slippery… He stressed that he was the last Japanese writer to write novels in a hyperclassical language, but had no intention of starring in them yakuza films; he composed works of rigorous traditional theater and was the protagonist of improbable poses in modern photographic settings; Parades and military exercises with his Tate-no-kai (Association of Shields, a nationalist and explicitly anti-communist paramilitary organization founded by Mishima in 1968) with gala evenings in trendy restaurants or in the rooms of his luxurious Tokyo Art Nouveau mansion. In a way, he was a true rock star, an icon, and – if you understand the power of the image and images in advance – an influencer ante litteram…
Mishima died in 1970 and is far removed from us, at least in age. Why talk about it again?
In a way, the society we live in is rooted in the very time that Mishima is rocking Japan. I am referring to the movements of 68 and to the globalism that will emerge from it and that will proliferate years later by exploiting the starved planetary revolution of the internet. Mishima fights globalism – the globalization at the bosom of the left in 1968 – and “Western” materialism of American origin. Two tendencies that ended up merging into a single new ideology, the magnitude of which we can appreciate today. Mishima explicitly and openly combats the seeds and first shoots of this change. It is topical because it lives at the origin of our time.
“Human life is short, but I want to live forever”. So wrote Mishima. Did the last samurai really succeed in his feat?
In Japan in the 1960s there was a lot of talk about Yukio Mishima and his “eccentric” positions. He almost made fun of himself Tate-no-kai, about its continuous and very different references to death (in novels, in films, in photo shoots), about excessive references to the ancient era of the samurai, about the rediscovery of a nation-epic in contrast to the monotony of the company-factory . After seppuku in 1970, no one joked anymore. Mishima had come full circle, demonstrating that he had not directed any fiction, acted a role, or simply constructed a provocative image in the past decade. Few had wanted to take it seriously and ignored its linear path, suffered, but clearly.
You dedicated an album and a comic to Mishima: two completely different languages. What is your goal?
I’ve devoted a lot of time to Mishima, but there was never a specific goal in choosing the form. As a journalist and musician, composing and writing came naturally to him. there Graphic novel is my personal and definitive tribute to Japan’s last true samurai. It was born from the encounter with the master Massimiliano Longo who, with his extraordinary pencil, literally gave birth to “my” Mishima…
You just won this year’s Acqui Edito and Inedito awards (the Acqui Storia awards for graphic novels) with the comic about Mishima. What do you think of this message?
A great joy. For me and for Massimiliano, such a prestigious recognition is – totally unexpected – an end point. It is the recognition of a very long work, a passionate study. Win with a book about Yukio Mishima…
Japan Has Now Launched Into Modernity: Was Mishima’s Sacrifice Useless?
I sincerely believe that there is never a useless victim. Right now — but only because it’s the first thing that comes to mind among an infinite number of possible examples — we wouldn’t even be talking about him if he hadn’t existed 1970’s seppuku. Mishima, moreover, didn’t fight against “train or car” modernity…far from it. He fought against horizontal forces, against materialistic superficiality, against the suffocation of man’s natural need – a true vocation of our species – for the spiritual dimension. Humans are made up of matter and spirit. Today we suffocate the spirit. Mishima’s sacrifice is the opposite dominance. Certainly extreme, flashy, maybe too ostentatious… but “useful” – to take the question back – to keep us in the right balance between the two opposites, to balance things out, to show that we have to stay today – not only can right in the middle.