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Archive for the ‘Manga’ Category

In our final section of our series, we take a look at shojo manga in North America.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Origins of Shojo Manga
Part 3: Riyoko Ikeda (Part 1)
Part 4: Moto Hagio
Part 5: Keiko Takemiya
Part 6: Interlude: The Rose of Versailles Franchise
Part 7: Riyoko Ikeda and The Influence of The Rose of Versailles, 1990s
Part 8: Riyoko Ikeda and The Influence of The Rose of Versailles, 2000s

Shojo manga (and the animated adaptations of these manga) have had a strong cultural impact on recent generations of fans in the United States and Canada. During the past fifteen years, fan discussions and fannish artistic production have nourished diverse interests in Japanese cultural products, which are beginning to exert a stronger influence on mainstream geek media.

steven-universe-reads-sailor-moon-screencap

Screen cap of Steven Universe of a desk with a copy of a Sailor Moon manga on it. Although the lamp is supposed to be the character Cookie Cat, it has a striking resemblance to Luna the cat from Sailor Moon and Chibiusa’s balloon “Luna P.”

 In 2002, the now-defunct manga publisher Tokyopop launched a program it called “Global Manga,” which was kicked off by the Rising Stars of Manga talent competition. The winning entries were published in a volume of the same physical dimensions as the publisher’s Japanese manga titles, and there were eventually eight volumes of The Rising Stars of Manga, with the last appearing in the summer of 2008. During this time, certain winners were encouraged to submit proposals to Tokyopop, which published their work as OEL, or “original English language,” manga. Because Tokyopop’s bestselling titles where shojo manga, about half of their OEL manga were characterized as shojo as well.

bizenghast_v1

Cover art of M. Alice Legrow’s Bizenghast, with an image of Dinah as a violin playing herself.

One of Tokyopop’s most commercially successful original OEL manga titles was M. Alice LeGrow’s eight-volume series Bizenghast, which, like Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, is a shojo story with shonen elements. LeGrow’s story takes the adorable mascot creatures, monsters-of-the-week, cute costumes, adoring and beautiful young men, and powerful female villains of Japanese manga for girls and transplants them into the small Massachusetts community of Bizenghast, which becomes an Edgar Allan Poe-ified Gothic wonderland after dark. The art style combines the huge eyes and wide panels of fan-favorite shojo manga like Cardcaptor Sakura and Fruits Basket with steampunk Art Deco motifs and Edward Gorey-style line etchings. The artistic and narrative conventions of manga and the stylizations of Western fantasy are so blended and intermixed that it’s impossible to tell whether Bizenghast is a manga with American influences or a graphic novel with Japanese influences.

As Tokyopop began its decline in 2008, an imprint called Yen Press rose to fill the void. The publisher’s magazine Yen Plus solicited reader contributions, which resulted in both one-shot and continuing OEL manga appearing within the pages of the magazine. These titles were written and drawn by women and featured clear shojo stylizations. In addition, Yen Press’s parent company Hachette began releasing manga adaptations of some of its biggest young adult properties, including Gossip Girl, Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Protectorate series, and Twilight. All of these manga adaptations are imbued with a strong shojo feel.

What Yen Press seemed to be jumping on was the idea that manga could reach an audience of young women (and young-at-heart women) who may have felt excluded from traditionally male-centered genres like action comics and science fiction. These female readers increasingly came equipped with access to online and in-person fandom networks, which could help ensure the longevity and profitability of any given franchise, as was famously the case with Star Trek and Harry Potter.

As a result of the creation and growth of an audience for shojo manga in North America, it’s easy to see a definite shojo influence on mainstream entertainment media. One of the most interesting incarnations of this trend is Cartoon Network’s animated television series Adventure Time, whose producers have actively scouted young talent from places like comic conventions and fannish art sharing websites such as Tumblr. A number of these artists are women from the generation that grew up reading and watching shōjo series such as Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, and easily identifiable references to these titles occasionally pop up in the show. As a result, Rebecca Sugar, a former storyboard artist for Adventure Time, was given a green light by Cartoon Network to create a magical boy show, Steven Universe, which features all manner of references to anime, manga, and video game culture. Since its first season aired in 2013, Steven Universe has received an overwhelming amount of support from both Adventure Time fans and the enormous shojo anime and manga fanbase on Tumblr.

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Promotional image for Steven Universe with Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl–and Steven!

Seeing better representation of diverse female characters in shojo manga has encouraged more young women outside of Japan to seek careers in comics and animation. In the future, we will probably see an even stronger embrace of shojo-related narrative influences, art styles, and fandom cultures as the members of the Adventure Time and Steven Universe generation start coming out with their own work. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of shojo manga, which continues to be as vibrant, appealing, and supportive of a diversity of female and gender-nonconforming identities as it was in the 1970s.   

This panel and series of essays is copyright Kathryn Hemmann and L.M. Zoller 2015-16 and was originally presented as the panel “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga” at Geek Girl Con 2015.

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Part 6: Interlude: Riyoko Ikeda and The Rose of Versailles Franchise

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Origins of Shojo Manga
Part 3: Riyoko Ikeda (Part 1)
Part 4: Moto Hagio
Part 5: Keiko Takemiya

Before I get back to The Rose of Versailles, I want to make a quick note that the manga The Window of Orpheus (1975-1981), which also features a girl being raised as a boy for the sake of being an heir, but is very different than Oscar. Julius von Ahrensmeyer is the daughter of her father’s mistress, who later becomes his second wife. Because von Ahrensmeyer’s first wife had two daughters, when Julius was very small, her mother began dressing her in boy’s clothes and passing her off as a boy; when she married von Ahrensmeyer, Julius became his heir. Julius has to keep up the disguise as long as her father lives so she can inherit.

The Window of Orphesus 1

Unlike Oscar, who enjoys her work and her unusual life for the most part, Julius does not. She wants to wear dresses and be allowed to express her romantic interest in her crush Klaus, which she can’t do partially because of her all-boys music school’s strict “no homo” policy and social norms, as well as a desire to be true to herself. Additionally, she has to deal with the doctor who delivered her blackmailing her mother and threatening to out her. It’s a different take on the women-performing-masculinities genre in that, instead of being freeing or transgressive, Julius is unhappy in her role, a predecessor in some ways of the manga that would explore trans identities and social dysmorphia.

 

While many manga in our discussion had anime versions released, The Rose of Versailles stands out from the crowd with 40 years of continual media adaptations and marketing. In the years after the manga wrapped, The Rose of Versailles became a cultural force unto itself. First, let’s take a brief look at how The Rose of Versailles has become as recognizable and referenced in Japanese culture and media as Star Wars before we delve into the other media the series inspired.

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Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Origins of Shojo Manga
Part 3: Riyoko Ikeda (Part 1)
Part 4: Moto Hagio

 

Keiko Takemiya, Trailblazer with Stars in Her Eyes 

The Song of Wind and Trees

Image: The cover of The Song of Wind and Trees, featuring Gilbert Cocteau and Auguste Beau, both draped in translucent robes holding onto vines

Keiko Takemiya is famous as a pioneering artist in the genre of shônen ai (now generally referred to as “boys love” or “BL”) and known for her sensitive and nuanced portrayals of androgynous characters and fluid sexualities. Takemiya’s dark and explicitly homoerotic manga The Song of Wind and Trees (Kaze to ki no uta) became a major cultural force as it was published in Shôjo Comic magazine from 1976 to 1984. Takemiya has since stated in various interviews that she was using her beautiful boys to explore issues relating to sexuality that the mainstream media at the time wouldn’t touch. In fact, she had to fight with her editors to get Wind and Trees published, and it was partially because of the support of her fellow artists, primarily Ikeda and Hagio, that she was finally successful. (more…)

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Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Origins of Shojo Manga
Part 3: Riyoko Ikeda (Part 1)

The Heart of Thomas

[Image: the cover of The Heart of Thomas manga by Moto Hagio: an illustration of Erik in the foreground, who has blond curly hair and Juli, who has straight black hair, in the background)

Moto Hagio, Social Critic and Beautiful Dreamer

Like Ikeda, Moto Hagio’s work deals with themes of gender identity, political upheaval, and class issues, themes that she often refracted through the lens of androgynous young men in love with each other.

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Part 1
Part 2

Although she was born in 1947, Riyoko Ikeda is included in the Year 24 group along with Moto Hagio and Keiko Takemiya, whom we will discuss later. Best known as a manga artist, Ikeda also worked as a scenarist; in 2001, she enrolled in and later graduated from music school, where she studied opera.

The Rose of Versailles Volume 2

Cover of an edition of Berusaiyu no Bara, Vol. 2, featuring Oscar and Marie Antoinette in portrait on a blue background

Ikeda’s works include Berusaiyu no Bara (The Rose of Versailles, or BeruBara), Oniisama e (To My Elder Brother), and Orufeusu no Mado (The Window of Orpheus). Many of her manga are historical fiction that examine topics in gender and sexuality; some feature queer or gender- nonconforming characters. While she does focus somewhat on coming-of-age romances, which are topics typically featured in shojo manga, Ikeda wrote about adult relationships, particularly in The Rose of Versailles, as well as gender identity, political upheaval, and class issues.

The Rose of Versailles is arguably one of the most famous and most influential manga ever. (more…)

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Princess_Knight-1

Image: Princess Knight (リボンの騎士) manga cover. Tink, dressed in a green tunic and cap, whispers in Princess Sapphrie’s ear. Sapphire has short black hair and is wearing a big hat with feathers in it and a puffy-sleeved tunic.

Part 1: Introduction

Origins of Shojo Manga

Manga historians tend to identify the prolific and influential artist Osamu Tezuka as the creator of shojo manga, but the true origins of the genre are somewhat more complicated – and interesting!

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In this reader: lack of treatment options for eating disorders in Japan, women sushi chefs, including trans and non-binary people in US health care, the daycare crisis in Japan, the Rokudenashiko, and more.

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Megumi Igarashi’s illustration of one of her trials (photo via @6d745/Instagram)

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