rushthatspeaks: (Default)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Okay, so. When I decided to do this thing where I read a book every day, I thought, well, I have to leave out manga. Why? Because I have on multiple occasions timed myself reading a volume of manga, which I do at a consistent rate, such a consistent rate that I can use reading a volume of manga to regulate timing for activities such as cooking. One standard volume of manga equals fifteen minutes. Period. And that was on some level not what I had had in mind. Also, many manga are serials, and many manga are very long serials, and I do not particularly want to write a review of volume twenty of something, because, not being representative of the work as a whole, that review would be neither terribly helpful nor very interesting to people who aren't reading that thing already. So I decided to leave out manga, and then I remembered A Drifting Life. A Drifting Life, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, is complete in one volume, eight hundred pages long, very interesting, and did not take me fifteen minutes.

The upshot is that I am counting manga if a) it is complete in one volume and is longer than the usual or b) I read the entire serial in one day so I can review it as a whole. I think this should work.

I was delighted to hear that Fantagraphics Books was putting out a Moto Hagio collection. Moto Hagio is one of the most important and interesting of the mangaka called by critics and fans the Magnificent Forty-Niners, a group of women who made shoujo manga what it is today. There's been some Hagio in English before-- her They Were Eleven appears in the rare out-of-print Viz collection Four Shoujo Stories and was also printed as single issues, and her A, A' came out from Viz at about the same time-- but her major and long-form works have never been translated. I was made very hopeful by her prominence in the 2005 shoujo manga issue of The Comics Journal, and the translation of her contemporary Keiko Takemiya's Terra E and Andromeda Stories by Vertical over the last couple of years. Fantagraphics are not the house I expected to pick up any Hagio (that would be Viz or Vertical), but I take what I can get.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is as great an addition to the work of Hagio in English as one might want it to be. It collects all her short work, meaning up to about twenty-five pages in length, between 1977 and 2007, and from this I have come to the conclusion that Hagio is best in a longer format.

Do read this. But then agitate for somebody to reprint They Were Eleven (or-- please-- print the sequel at all). They Were Eleven is a taut sf thriller with interesting characters, a gripping plot, an emphasis on character development, and a sense of worldbuilding that reaches far beyond what we see in the story. Hagio's short work tends to be in two modes: the literalized metaphor and the existential kick in the pants, and neither is quite as good, really.

The literalized metaphor stories are what they sound like. They are very complex and well-worked-out, and they tend to give you one primary image which is then elaborated in all directions. 'Iguana Girl', for example, does exactly what it says on the label, and the subtle 'Hanshin-- Half-God' uses Siamese twins to look at the nature of duality and self. They showcase Hagio's spectacular art and work in a mode of explicit surrealism. I like them, but I think that once you've grasped the metaphor, that's pretty much what there is to get out of them. (This is not quite true of 'Hanshin', which has a second layer, but most of them don't.)

The existential kick in the pants stories are classical shoujo-- family problems, romantic difficulties, grief for the dead-- with determinedly downbeat endings that sometimes feel wallowingly angst-ridden. Her art is much more conventional in these, and the ones that I enjoy are the several that have a touch of sf or surrealism in them as well, which is rarer than in the metaphor stories. 'A Drunken Dream', the title story, is in fact the strongest story in the book, a beautifully drawn spiral of fate, dream, and confusion which I wish had had oh, about ten more pages to breathe; I also like 'Girl on Porch with Puppy'. In general, though, I could predict the plots of these on page one, and they make up more than half the book.

The book itself is very pretty-- good paper quality, good image reproduction. Couldn't they have gotten a proofreader? The copy-editing is bad enough to be painful, and in one instance genuinely aggravating, as all the pictures in the author interview portion at the back of the book have the same caption, which is of course for most of them incorrect. Also, the author interview is a reprint from the Comics Journal issue. I suppose it's good to have that one in a more archival format, but I would have liked some new material.

I don't know. It's better than no Hagio. It's better than most comics out there-- more original subject material, more surety of thought, more emotional depth, less cliche. It's just frustrating to have only small trickles of an author I know for a fact has written multiple masterpieces; this really is the minor work before the major, and I can only hope that some house will take on something longer of Hagio's. Maybe, for Fantagraphics, it would be profitable, though Vertical's experience with Takemiya does not make me hopeful. (I think the people who bought those were pretty much my household. Vertical talks shudderingly at cons about how much money they lost on that.) Maybe, even if it isn't a huge hit, someone will consider it important enough to do anyway. For the time being, do buy this.

several disjointed thoughts

Date: 2010-09-06 06:43 am (UTC)
starlady: (tomoyo magic hope)
From: [personal profile] starlady
"The Magnificent '49ers" is such a weird locution to me--I first encountered them in Japanese as the "Shôwa 24 crew," and that's how I still think of them. I don't know how much traction the first term has outside of manga-in-translation circles, either--do you have any idea?

I know Vertical would like to get Moto Hagio, but who gets what and what comes over here isn't governed by strictly capitalist metrics. :-/

I had suspected as much about Takemiya, which is a damn shame.

Date: 2010-09-06 11:55 pm (UTC)
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] lnhammer
I've seen Matt Thorn claim they've been called the "Fabulous Forty-Niners," but not anyone use "magnificent," at least that I can recall. The Wikipedia article mentions "the Forty-Niners" as an alternate name, without any adjective. (All usual disclaimers for Wikipedia, of course, but also the disclaimer that I've been one of the article's editors.)

---L.

Date: 2010-09-06 02:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com
Before "Hanshin" was officially translated, I did a translation of it for a friend in Japan who was presenting a paper at a conference. This was in the 1980s sometime.

I liked "Hanshin" and "Iguana Girl" a lot, I have to say. And I loved A-A'; I read that and translated it myself, too, before there was a published translation. I liked all her "Unicorn breed" stories.

And Takemiya Keiko's Andromeda Stories! That was what I learned my hiragana on--and a number of kanji, for that matter.

Have you read Marginal? I only have three volumes out of five, and I've only read it in spots and bits.

Date: 2010-09-06 03:32 pm (UTC)
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] larryhammer
Is it really all of Hagio's shorts from that period? I thought it was specifically selected to be best/representative ...

---L.

Date: 2010-09-06 07:40 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)
From: [personal profile] sovay
'Iguana Girl', for example, does exactly what it says on the label

I wish I could remember who has been talking to me about this story. It wasn't you, by any chance?

Date: 2010-09-06 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erinlin.livejournal.com
I am *dieing* for someone to reprint "They Were Eleven"

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