Crying Freeman, Woman Slave to Desire! Sex, Sex, Sex [NSFW]

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The first volume of Crying Freeman is entirely about sex, and that’s no mistake on the part of creative teammates Ikegami Ryoichi and Koike Kazuo (like another buff brunette with tears in his eyes—Kenshiro, son of Hara Tetsuo and Buronson—Freeman is the product of two men working together. Uncommon for manga production, it’s almost as if these stories are so emotionally charged that one man can’t do it alone. He needs a wingman, a buddy, a protective pal to lean on). From the first pages to the first climax, the sexual connection between Hinomura Yo, aka Crying Freeman, and Hino Emu informs everything that comes after, everything that comes at all. It provides a second-layer framing of an otherwise linear story, and it defines the, hurr hurr, thrust of the narrative. What comes before, and after, sexual intimacy? How can intercourse reframe your entire life?

The comic begins with diary caption boxes; somebody (soon revealed to be Emu) is introducing themselves as almost thirty, a virgin, and alone. About a third of the way into the bumper-sized volume, Emu gets what she wants: she lays the man she’s after. At the point of introduction, on those first few pages, she’s already met him and she’s already hot for him; the story of this comic would not be, without Emu’s lust for Crying Freeman, and his slow, unsure response.

Out painting one day, artist Emu saw the infamous Chinese assassin known as Freeman kill three men, and she saw his face. She noticed that he was two things: beautiful and crying. She gave him a tissue to wipe his eyes. He told her his name: Yo. Then he left. Emu is a twenty-nine year old virgin because, she explains, in life her father was so respected and powerful that no man dared to approach her. Notice, though: she let this drought of intimacy stand. Looming death is what it takes for her to pursue a lover.

Crying Freeman, written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami, volume 1, Dark Horse Comics,

What she wants (can you blame her? He’s not bad)

Emu continues with her diary, telling her imaginary reader (and her actual reader: you, us) that Yo will most likely come to kill her, because she’s a witness. She’s not overly bothered, except she doesn’t want to die a virgin. Her analytical mind has provided a fix: she’s fixated upon her decision to ask Yo the assassin to make love to her before she dies. She is consumed by this possibility; she ignores police questioning and protection, yakuza threats, and a media circus in her treasury of the knowledge she alone has about Yo. She won’t gamble for safety by sharing this knowledge of her assassin with those equipped to deal with killers. Because that would endanger her opportunity to complete her fuckplan. She just wants to lay him. She just wants to go home, and wait for her killer, and get her body seen to. And fair play to her! Eventually, she does.

Yo and Emu fall in love while they make it, and the subsequent events of Crying Freeman are informed by their love absolutely. Love, of this sort, lives in responsibility. To find, to protect, to comfort, to know. He won’t let anybody murder her. She will find him no matter what bizarre murder-life he leads. Their romantic clarity comes packaged with a whole other, endangered life to answer for. Neither of them acknowledges this, as if the idea of “drawbacks” simply aren’t relevant to this new dual existence they’ve accessed. It’s so romantic, a Romantic romance.

Long-term, Freeman’s place in the 108 Dragons—a closed society within Chinese criminal culture—is secured and fundamentally altered with the addition of a wife. Previously, he was a loyal kidnap victim living with that mental and emotional paradox (the juxtaposition of extremes that initially attracted Emu). With the sympathetic enrolment of an equal, a true companion, he essentially comes of age as an adopted member of his syndicate. Why even dream of escape if everything you want is here? Emu counterbalances him: in further volumes she provides strategy, diplomacy, and wisdom to offset his deadly physicality and the duties of leadership within the 108 Dragons.

Crying Freeman, written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami, volume 1, Dark Horse Comics, Dark Horse’s cover copy lists Crying Freeman as “erotically charged,” which is not a label I’d personally apply. “Erotic” suggests a certain level of visual entendre to me, I suppose, an elevation of the sexual concept. Crying Freeman does not deal in illustrative metaphor. It’s kind of sleazy in places, it has a number of non-essential sex scenes to offset the perfect necessity of intercourse between Yo and Emu; earlier Emu is seen by the reader in a full-page shower scene, with a special panel set aside for a close-up on her breasts. Here are some nipples. So what? It’s dull.

Crying Freeman, written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami, volume 1, Dark Horse Comics,

Masculine entitlement and power structures are drawn into the frame; this is a bad guy whom Freeman will kill, so he has bad guy sex

Ikegami’s art is delicate, skilled, attractive, readable—it’s eminently capable as a storyteller’s tool, but it is also incredibly square. Unhip? It’s refined and sophisticated, has an elusive adulthood to the linework… I suppose the word I’m looking for is “conservative.” Arrangement of rooms is geometric and minimalist, anatomy is inexpressive, hairstyles are imperfect and unstylish. There has never been a draughtsman with more justified confidence in their panelled pace, but likewise never has a draughtsman had less cool. There’s a cognitive dissonance when he draws hipster yakuza Razor Ryuuji, sneering, swaggering, sunglasses and thrust-out lip. And there’s nothing rad or aspirational to his gratuitous sex scenes (I suppose instead of gratuitous, these spare sex acts could be identified as illustrative of the moral degradation of their participants. The criminals we don’t like have cheap-coded sex, the policeman finally falls to full corruption during a baptism of fuck, Yo’s tattooist orally rapes him to signify her loyalty to the 108 Dragons–who at this point in the story, are still more kidnappers than family), because they’re not conceptually elevated beyond the regular anatomy of the human participants. This makes things much more interesting, particularly in that first revolutionary horizontal tango between our two protagonists.

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After they start to undress, sixteen pages are given over to Yo and Emu’s sexual blossoming and gradually cementing closeness. They look at each other as they are. An unembellished naked woman, an unwillingly tattooed man. Two panels detail Yo’s removal of his underpants. Am I alone in finding this unusual? The awkward reality, that men have to step out of their underpants, before they can be naked and start to have naked sweaty sex. There are curved motion lines to indicate his precarious balance on one leg, as he carefully pulls his foot up and out of his briefs. This is a guy, we find out, who can balance on an unsecured, upright bamboo pole! Such nerves! Such sexual trepidation. From an eminently capable, muscular murderer. Later, when they’re done but still kissing, some yakuza come by to kill them. Freeman hears them breaking in and slips out of bed, grabs his knife, jumps up onto the open door to ambush them—but first, he puts his skivvies back on, one foot first. A panel for the stepping in of them. A killer in white underwear. It’s such a vulnerable view of a masculine hero. The awkward reality of the time it takes to dress and undress. Tell me I’m wrong: there was never an artist less engaged with cool.

The sex is given as much time and detail as necessary to register its character. After they lie together naked and kiss, her body arches to give her breasts proximity to his mouth. He licks her nipple: a whole half-page, one large panel of his face and hand and her breast gathered between them, then two more, each increasing the close-up. The tip of his tongue, trembling on the tip of her nip. Then again. Realistic illustrative detail, no stylisation, nothing of what I’d identify as eroticism. Just fact. This is how we bang. His tongue gently touches her papilla, back and forth, extended all the time, rubbing on this tiny area. Next page, next panel, and the nipple disappears into his mouth, his eyes are closed, and there’s the blurred multi-line suggestion of speed in his sucking mouthful.  The next panel is her eye, wavy lines filling her iris, pleasure waves, the most expressionism in the book. They’re trying things out together, seeing what feels good. They don’t know how to do full sex yet, but they are learning with each other, and they desire to keep learning.

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Yo says to Emu, “I don’t know what to do…” Both are virgins, both are definitively alone (she lives in her childhood home, a house marked for demolition due to dilapidation), both are caught up in mortal extremity. And as it turns out, in these circumstances in which they find themselves, they’re a perfect match. They’re grave, artistic individuals, brave and honest, and unflinching. Within their coupling they challenge each other, and accept each other. They communicate their own truths while trusting the other to field them. This lengthy, serious sex scene is the tipping point of a love story, the culmination of two strung-out lives void of friendly touch which overlapped by chance, and the revelation of an unexpected result: they fit.

From this point on, they need each other. They have fallen in love, twined their lives, and this is what endangers them both (each is a target on the other’s back, bait, somebody who must be saved)—and what gives them the strength to first knowingly create and then weather the hassles that follow when an assassin and a civilian come together, without secrets, without lies.

The series Crying Freeman is a digression on how love can change everything, and the power of romantic honesty. It’s big on stabbing and acrobatic assassination and international crime rules too, but the single-minded, bodily desire of Emu for Yo is the basis of its unique identity. In that sense, Crying Freeman is also a paean to erotic circumstance.

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About Author

The rock that drops on your head. WWAC Chief Comics Ed. Find me at claire.napier@wwacomics.com

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