I also like her creepy vampire kids.

Posted by on March 10th, 2010 at 1:57 PM

One of the first manga I ever read, back in college when I was plunging into the dorky depths of anime fandom, was Moto Hagio’s A, A’, published by Viz during an abortive early attempt to sell Americans on shojo manga.  In retrospect, the initiative probably failed because the selected titles–Hagio’s A, A’ and “They Were Eleven,” Keiko Nishi’s short josei stories–were too good for readers like me and my otaku friends.  Matt Thorn, the guy who chose much of Viz’s early shojo material, had much better taste than the rest of America.

Now Thorn is heading Fantagraphics’ new manga line, and we can only hope America has caught up with him.  Among the launch titles is A Drunken Dream, the first in a planned series of Moto Hagio manga.  Hagio, the most fascinating and challenging of the inhumanly talented “Year 24 Group” of artists who revolutionized girls’ manga in the 1970s, is often ranked second only to Tezuka among manga creators, but barely the tiniest smattering of her work has ever been published in English, and all of it (A, A’, “They Were Eleven,” and the short-short story “Hanshin”) is out of print.  Well, it took a while to get Tezuka over here, too.  But now it looks like Fantagraphics is correcting the problem.

Is there an animated gif of a unicorn with the head of Jason Shiga devouring the universe and exploding?  Because that might just about express the awesomeness of this development.  Moto Hagio is one of my favorite cartoonists, and I’ve barely read any of her work.  All I can do is look at the pictures.  But the pictures say a lot.  Hagio is one of the more cerebral manga artists, consumed with psychology (child abuse and its effect into adulthood is a running theme), her characters’ tangled inner lives, and, perhaps inevitably in a Year 24 artist, almost academically broad questions of sexuality and gender identity.  But her visual expression of these ideas is dreamlike, dense with symbolism, theatrical, strikingly ornate.  There is no one like her.

Since I’m posting this gushing testimonial on the TCJ blog, I could be accused of shilling for my blog host, Fantagraphics.  To be perfectly honest, I’m irked that my primary employer, Viz, isn’t doing the Hagio project, because that would give me an outside chance of working on it.  Even manga editors have dreams, and editing Hagio’s Otherworld Barbara is one of mine.

But no one could do it better than Matt Thorn.  He’s spent some twenty years pushing classic shojo manga, convincing Viz to put out a book here and there in the early ’90s, reshaping Dirk Deppey’s all-shojo issue of TCJ with a phenomenal Hagio interview as its centerpiece (an interview you can now read online, with extra illos, and aren’t you lucky?), and now this.  I’ve said it before, but right now, with manga in recession along with the rest of the publishing industry, publishers are putting out more artistically interesting, daring and potentially uncommercial manga than ever before.  I’m not sure why now’s the time we get all the good manga.  Maybe it’s all thanks to the hard work of guys like Thorn and Deppey.  Or maybe it’s because, ten years after reading A, A’, the rest of us have finally caught up.

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4 Responses to “I also like her creepy vampire kids.”

  1. Great article! I’ve only been reading manga for a few short years, and I feel like I’ve arrived during a golden age. I’ve kicked myself for not discovering manga sooner, but perhaps I found it at just the right time.

  2. […] Shaenon Garrity at The Comics Journal blog […]

  3. Shay Guy says:

    You don’t suppose there a chance of a The Rose of Versailles license anytime soonish, do you?

  4. Shay–

    From what I’ve heard, it hasn’t been translated because the artist is asking, quite rightly, for a lot of money. That said, yes, there is a very, very strong chance.