The Heart of Thomas
|The Heart of Thomas|
Cover of the second volume of The Heart of Thomas.
(Tōma no Shinzō)
|Written by||Moto Hagio|
|Original run||1974 – 1975|
|Volumes||3 (1 in US)|
|Written by||Moto Hagio|
The Heart of Thomas (Japanese: トーマの心臓 Hepburn: Tōma no Shinzō) is a shōjo manga by Moto Hagio published in 1974. It is an early example of shōnen-ai. It has been adapted into a film, Summer Vacation 1999, and a stage play. In September 2011, Fantagraphics announced that it had been licensed for English release; the single-volume hardcover omnibus, translated by Rachel Matt Thorn, was released in January 2013.
Set in an all-boys boarding school in Germany. A boy named Thomas commits suicide, and he writes a letter to Juli, who Thomas has an unrequited love for. A transfer student named Eric, who looks just like Thomas, arrives.
The story opens with the death of Thomas Werner, a cute and popular thirteen-year-old eighth grader at the Schlotterbach Gymnasium boarding school in Germany, who reportedly "fell" off of a bridge. Everyone at the school believes the death to be an accident, thinking the bridge from whence Thomas fell had rickety fencing. However prestigious ninth grader Juli Bauernfeind receives a posthumous suicide letter from Thomas stating he killed himself out of unrequited love for Juli. The only person Juli confides in is his roommate and friend, the slightly older Oskar Reiser. Juli is haunted by Thomas' letter, but tries to keep an emotionless demeanor. Oskar, who is secretly in love with Juli, encourages him to move on from the event, however Juli consistently has nightmares and believes he hears Thomas' voice. During one of his night terrors, Juli goes unconscious and Oskar provides mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate him. This act is seen by Ante, Thomas' best friend who is secretly in love with Oskar. He asks for a kiss from Oskar in exchange for his silence, which Oskar hastily obliges to.
Two weeks after the suicide, Juli visits Thomas' grave and rips his suicide testament in front of it, hoping to end his visions of Thomas. Just as he is leaving, Juli runs into Erich von Fruhling, a young boy who looks almost identical to Thomas, excluding the color of his hair and eyes. Erich is a new student at Schlotterbach and is in the same grade as Juli and Oskar. The students and staff immediately notice his similar appearance to that of Thomas, frustrating Erich and setting off his temper in multiple situations. He wishes to move out of Thomas' shadow and insists he knows nothing of the boy and is nothing like him. Despite this, the students at the school take a liking to Erich solely due to his similar appearance. Erich is unhappy at the school and longs to return to his life with his beloved mother Marie, for whom he has an Oedipus complex. Marie married a man named Juli Schwartz and moved to Paris with him while Erich came to the boarding school to give them space.
During an invitation to a tea party with the senior students, Erich learns that Thomas made a bet with Ante to see if he could seduce Juli. When Juli found out, he coldly rejected Thomas in front of the class. In reality Thomas had already liked Juli for a very long time prior to the bet, so he could not bear the rejection, leading to his suicide.
Seeing Erich depressed about constantly being seen by his peers as a replacement Thomas, Oskar decides spend time with Erich to try and cheer him up. A jealous Ante sees this and out of spite decides to spread a rumor that Oskar and Juli are romantically involved, describing the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation he saw at the beginning of the story as evidence. Oskar angrily confronts Ante about his troublemaking, at which point Ante admits that he is in love with Oskar, and was the instigator of his bet with Thomas. He hoped that if Thomas and Juli were together, Oskar would pay attention to Ante. Oskar angrily turns down Ante and leaves. However Ante's rumors are enough for the school headmaster to remove Oskar from being Juli's roommate, and he instead arranges for Erich to take his place, much to the dismay of both Juli and Erich, who cannot stand each other. After a few volatile situations though, Erich and Juli slowly begin to warm up to each other.
One day Erich receives news that his mother Marie has died, sending him into a depressive shock. Though Juli tries to comfort him, Erich sneaks out of the school to spend time in his now-empty home. He finds out that he is to be adopted by his stepfather Herr Schwartz and go live at Lake Constance with him. Meanwhile, Juli takes off from school to visit Erich and bring him back. While at first they don't get along, Erich eventually warms up to Juli and realizes he is not as emotionless as he appears. During their journey back to school, Erich and Juli run into a man named Siegfried, who Juli is horrified to see and quickly runs away from. That night Erich and Juli spend the night at Juli's house, consisting of his snobby grandmother, sweet mother, and sickly sister. Erich discovers that Juli's grandmother looks down on Juli due to his mixed heritage and not being full German (Juli is half Greek, from his father's side). Because of this, Juli strives to maintain his pristine reputation at school and works hard to become someone his family can admire and be proud of. Juli and Erich become close after this revelation, much to Oskar's dismay once they return to school.
Erich confesses his love to Juli, but Juli coldly rebuffs him due to his feelings of guilt for Thomas' suicide. Regardless, Erich remains persistent. Even when his stepfather visits and promises to take care of him at his home in Lake Constance, Erich asks to remain at the school so he can continue being close to Juli.
After several dramatic events, Juli finally reveals the reason for his coldness towards Thomas. During one of the school vacation periods, Juli decided not to go home, and remained at school with some of the upperclassmen. One of these students was the delinquent Siegfried, the same man Erich and Juli ran into at the train station. Juli was attracted to both Siegfried and Thomas, even though he knew Siegfried was a man of darkness and bad temptations, and Thomas was a boy of lightness and all things pure. Juli ultimately chose Siegfried, and was subsequently abused and attacked by him, with a deep cigarette burn on his chest as a scar. Ever since then Juli felt guilty and tormented by the trauma from his decision, and felt he was not worthy of Thomas' love. He did not expect Thomas would commit suicide though, and was very upset to lose him.
Finally at peace after revealing his guilt, Juli decides to leave Schlotterbach and go to a seminary to become a priest and be closer to Thomas through God. Erich and Oskar tearfully bid him farewell at the train station, and the story ends with all three of them finding a melancholy peace.
- Thomas Werner (トーマ・ヴェルナー Tōma Verunā)
- Thomas is a thirteen-year-old boy, he commits suicide at the beginning of the story, leaving a letter for Juli. He was cute, innocent, and well-liked by all of his classmates. He deeply loved Juli for a long time, and committed suicide after being harshly rejected by him.
- Julusmole Bayhan (ユリスモール・バイハン Yurisumōru Baihan)
- Nicknamed Juli (ユーリ Yūri), he is older than Thomas, and is considered the model student at Schlotterbach. He in fact loved Thomas, but as he had been sexually abused by his upperclassmen, he believed himself unworthy of love and pushed Thomas away. He is shocked and guilt-ridden by Thomas' suicide, though tried to appear unaffected by it. His family consists of his over-bearing grandmother, his sweet mother, and gentle younger sister who is usually sick. It is revealed that Juli's grandmother looks down on him because of his obvious mixed heritage, being half-Greek from his father's side. Thus he strives to continue being the perfect student so that he can one day be someone worth admiring regardless of his physical characteristics. In the end of the story, Julii finds peace within himself and decides to train to be a priest so that he can be closer to Thomas through God.
- Oskar Reiser (オスカー・ライザー Osukā Raizā)
- In the same grade as Juli and is his roommate and confidante. He acts like a delinquent, but deep down has a strong sense of responsibility for others. He is one of the few who knows about Juli's past and truly cares for him. Oskar is in love with Juli, but he rarely admits it and never pushes himself on him. Oskar is the illegitimate child of his mother Helene and the headmaster of Schlotterbach, who was college friends with both of Oskar's parents. When Oskar's father Gustav found out that Oskar was not his child, he shot and killed Helene. Gustav pretended the death was an accident and abandoned Oskar at Schlotterbach to be cared for by the headmaster. Oskar dreams of being adopted by the headmaster, and it is implied near the end of the story that his wish will come true. While originally jealous of Erich because of Juli's fixation with him, Oskar quickly became one of the few people to genuinely befriend him and help him get through his issues with his peers. He comes to terms with Erich and Juli's growing attraction, and believes Erich might be the key to opening Juli's heart and healing his trauma.
- Erich Fruehling (エーリク・フリューリンク Ēriku Furyūrinku)
- A new transfer student in Juli and Oskar's class who looks like Thomas. But while their physical demeanor remains similar, their personalities are very different, with Erich being very irascible, blunt and somewhat spoiled. He has a Freudian attraction to his mother Marie, and resents her for marrying Herr Schwartz. About two weeks after starting school at Schlotterbach, Marie dies in a car accident, devastating Erich. During this time Juli comforts him and the two become close. Herr Schwartz, disabled from the accident, comes to visit Erich and promises to take care of him. Erich agrees to this, deciding to leave when the summer break begins. Over the course of the story, Erich eventually falls in love with Juli, choosing to be persistent in his efforts even though Juli rebuffs him out of guilt for Thomas. At the end of the book, Erich and Juli make peace, and though he is sad to see Juli leave, he knows he is optimistic for the future.
- Ante Löwer
- Thomas' best friend, and the accidental perpetrator of his subsequent suicide. Ante is in love with Oskar and blames Juli for having all of Oskar's attention. He made a bet with Thomas telling him to seduce Juli, hoping to put some distance between him and Oskar. His plan backfired when Thomas was rejected by Juli, leading to Thomas' suicide. Sometimes jealous, calculated and spiteful, Ante eventually matures and admits to the consequences of his actions.
- A former senior student at Schlotterbach. Siegfried was an atheist and a delinquent, considering himself higher than God. Nevertheless, Juli found himself attracted to Siegfried against his better judgement. This backfired when Siegfried ganged up on Juli with some other fellow upperclassmen and abused and tortured him, leaving a deep scar of a cigarette burn on Juli's chest. This event deeply traumatized Juli, and led him to push away everyone's care and affection for him, including Thomas.
Although Hagio had previously been exposed to the gay lifestyle magazine Barazoku, Hagio was inspired by Les amitiés particulières to begin The Heart of Thomas as a work for her own enjoyment, and soon afterwards wrote November Gymnasium as a work to be published. At one point, Hagio considered making the protagonists girls, and drew a few scenes in a sketchbook, but decided that the boys version was "smoother" and less "giggly". When it was serialised, The Heart of Thomas was unpopular, so Hagio's editors asked her to finish the manga up quickly, but due to the success of Poe no Ichizoku in the new bound format, The Heart of Thomas was allowed to continue.
In an interview, Hagio said that she felt the theme might be "When does a person learn love? When does one awake to love?"
A prequel manga was written called The Visitor (訪問者).
The film Summer Vacation 1999 (1999年の夏休み, directed by Shusuke Kaneko and released in 1988, was based on The Heart of Thomas, and the parts were played by girls as breeches roles, using male speech. The character in the film analogous to Thomas was renamed Yuu, and the analogue to Eric was renamed Kaoru, a gender-neutral name. The film was subsequently novelised.
Studio Life, a Japanese all-male theatre troupe suggested, in approximately 1995, that they stage a production of The Heart of Thomas. As of 2005, it had been staged twice.
Rachel Matt Thorn considers The Heart of Thomas to be about a "spiritual or mental love", and that Hagio's later work A Savage God Reigns is the "adult version" of The Heart of Thomas. Bill Randall notes Hagio's creation of several shōjo manga conventions such as the use of angelic wings. Midori Matsui interprets the manga in terms of Freudian theory and regards the relationships between the characters as indicating that they live in a "closed oedipal universe as fragmented personae of the narcissistic ego". For James Welker, the key theme is love, describing its depiction as "beautiful, if at times traumatic", looking at its role in the key characters' lives.
- Baehr, Mike. "Moto Hagio's Heart of Thomas coming in Summer/Fall 2012". Fantagraphics Books. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- Matt Thorn, Rachel (2005) The Moto Hagio Interview The Comics Journal 269
- Welker, James (2006) "Beautiful, Borrowed, and Bent: "Boys' Love" as Girls' Love in Shōjo Manga" Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 31 (3): 851. doi:10.1086/498987
- Matsui, Midori. (1993) "Little girls were little boys: Displaced Femininity in the representation of homosexuality in Japanese girls' comics," in Gunew, S. and Yeatman, A. (eds.) Feminism and The Politics of Difference, pp. 177–196. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.