Hensoukyoku (Variation) by Keiko Takemiya (1976)
Takemiya Keiko is often known as the “founding mother” of Boys’ Love, due to her popularizing of the genre with classics like The Poem of the Wind and the Trees. This manga is a magnum opus containing some of her most exquisite art, and a complex, masterful story that is as heartrending as it is breathtaking. A story of tragedy and the triumph of music over it. The protagonists of this story are all gifted, but some of them are tormented - not only by their gifts, but also by their pasts.
Variation follows the stories of this group of young men, entangled in a web of lust, forbidden love and thwarted genius. There’s Albert, the young music critic, who finds himself intrigued by Edouard, a beautiful violin virtuoso with a dark past - but there’s also Wolfgang, the genius pianist with a pure heart, who is caught between the two. Trapped in an era where their feelings are neither socially nor personally acceptable, time and tide tear these young men apart and bring them back together throughout their lives - through intermittent sexual encounters with each other and marriages to other women. But will they ever find happiness? Will the symphony of their loves ever reach a culmination, or will it lapse into the silence of ever-lasting night?