Friday, March 12, 2010

Moto Hagio... FINALLY

Earlier this week, Fantagraphics had been secretly gathering material for their planned Manga line, when their earlier ventures into Japanese comics were generally regulated to Independent & Porn comics. (Fun fact - their Eros line was their most profitable line of publishing that kept them afloat before the Peanuts reprints put them in the black indefinitely) The annoucnement was originally going to be shown on AnimeNewsNetwork earlier this week, before Amazon revealed their intentions one day early.

The overall response was such that the moderator Dirk Deppey declined going to the hospital in order to give enough feedback on his most heavily guarded secret project. After all, as he said, “Four years is a hell of a long time to keep a secret.”

This is the kind of news I’ve been going to Manga news sites for years in anticipation for. In addition to being one of the founders of Shojo Manga, Hagio is also an accomplished Sci-Fi writer. I’ve been curious about seeing more of Moto Hagio’s works ever since I read A,A’ Prime years ago. A,A’ Prime is a collection of three short stories about a genetically created race of “Unicorns” with Spock-like Aspergian traits. The difference is, emotion plays a higher role with these Unicorns, even with the abscence of emotion. The ways the Unicorns display their feelings tend to be disproportionate to the people around them.

The only other story of hers I read was her classic space mystery, They Were Eleven. I first found it when I was trying fuel my Manga cravings in the late 90s, and found the first three issues in a comic bargain bin - cheap. It was made even more effective, since the 3rd issue ended on an awful cliffhanger. But it gave me the chance to reread the story, and try to figure out who the "11'th" was. After I was done, I'd limited the suspects to two people, and was pleasantly surprised when upon finding the elusive 4th issue, that my deductions were spot on.

I was greatly disappointed when Vertical made their foray into old-school Shojo with their subpar Toward the Terra, which I found difficult to warm up to, despite this awesome preview of the series. It might have been the lukewarm reaction that made Vertical reluctant to continue pushing Keiko Takemiya Mangas. On the plus side, we got Seinin Mangas from Tezuka, including the inimitable Black Jack, so it’s not all bad news there. Just general disappointment.

As enthusiastic as I am about Fantagraphics Manga lineup, I think they’ve miscalculated the length of the book. Their total comes to 228 pages, and mine come out to 249 pages. Unless one of those stories is going to be left out, they should issue a correction soon.

In the words of Frederik L. Schodt in the introduction to Tezuka’s Adolf (the first translated Tezuka Manga), it’s about time. Although Tezuka eventually got some recognization, Moto Hagio always seemed to be the forgotten sister to Tezuka's star - a sun that shone so brightly that it blinded other sources of light. Rather fitting that her first foray in the Comics Journal 269 was the ambitious Hanshin. In that short story, she covers conjoined twins, favoritism, and survivor’s guilt - all in the span of a mere 16 pages.

For those curious, you can read the whole story here:

If she can manage that kind of emotional punch with such a small frame, then her larger works must surely be major masterpieces. And then, maybe finally I’ll be able to see what the big fuss is about the Song of Wind & Trees. Myself, I'm more curious about The Poe Family, about a family of eternally young vampires. Unlike the popular image of highly-sexualized versions of vampires, the Poe Clan focuses on a hundreds-year old prepubescent boy who can never be an adult, and thus, has no concept of sex, since he's unable to experience puberty.

I'm not alone in this. David Welsh is at a loss of choice in deciding which Haigo titles he'd want to pick up. Given the chance, I'd just as easily snatch all of them up, given than apart from Candy Candy, Rose of Versailes and The Glass Mask, old-school Mangas aren't scanlated as much as the later stuff. Hopefully, with Moto Haigo's work, that might change...

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