Yukio Mishima’s novel Onnagata (1957) is an important literary work that represents Mishima’s interest in Kabuki. Mangiku, the main character of this novel, is a male actor who plays female roles in Kabuki, that is, Onnagata. Masuyama, an observer of Mangiku, is intoxicated with the charm of Mangiku, who crosses the boundary of gender. The narrator in this work focuses on Masuyama and defines Mangiku’s gender.
Previous studies have not offered sufficient reviews of Masuyama till date. However, this paper analyzed, in detail, how Masuyama recognizes and names Mangiku’s gender. As a result, it was found that Masuyama derives femininity from the appearance of Mangiku behind the stage, regardless of Mangiku’s gender identity, and calls Mangiku “her,” a female pronoun, after knowing about Mangiku’s same-sex love. This confusion between gender roles and sexual orientation represents a contradiction to the sexuality expressed by Onnagata, and the gender norm of heterosexuality is latent in the background.
Moreover, Onnagata received relatively lesser attention among Mishima’s novels depicting male homosexuality. However, it can be said that it is worthy of re-evaluation. This is because Mishima also applied a number of motifs of his representative works, Confessions of a Mask (1949) and Forbidden Colors (1951-1953), to Onnagata. Therefore, Onnagata needs to be discussed in relation to these preceding texts.