Year 24 Group

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["Nijūyo-nen-gumi"] Critical shorthand used in Japanese Manga Fandom and academia to describe the community of female creators who transformed girls' comics in the 1970s, making a striking and enduring impact on multiple genres, including sf (see Women SF Writers). The name derives from the happenstance that several of the prime movers in the field were born in or around 1949, the 24th year of the reigning Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito. For similar reasons, they are sometimes parsed in English as the "Magnificent 49ers" or "Fabulous 49ers".

The first generation of post-war comics for girls in Japan were largely created by men (see, for example, Osamu Tezuka and Leiji Matsumoto). Women such as Moto Hagio, Keiko Takemiya and Yumiko Ōshima largely wrested control of girls' media from the men upon reaching the age of majority, not as a concerted effort in sexual politics, but simply through attrition and popular appeal. Their work in what is known today as the shōjo manga medium included stylistic flourishes such as the removal of hard, rectangular panel lines in favour of softer shapes, elided images or even panels designed as impressionistic commentaries on characters' emotions.

Not every Year 24 artist worked in sf: Riyoko Ikeda (1949-    ) and Minori Kimura (1949-    ), for example, are better known for historicals and romance. Hagio and Takemiya, however, experimented in genre topics, commentaries on Sex, Feminism, Transgender SF and the male-male romance subgenre of shōnen-ai [boys love]. Sf and Magic Realism, in particular, formed a common venue for discussion of new ideas, and speculations on identity, and the readership that grew up on their comics in the 1970s was, in turn, suitably placed to initiate new directions in women's manga from the 1980s onwards, and to form a ready market for occasional Anime spin-offs. Their use as illustrators for many works of prose sf has also formed a little-discussed influence on a generation of readers in Japan, indelibly associating the works of, for example, Motoko Arai with a shōjo sensibility through the employment of Keiko Takemiya artwork. Female creators, particularly from the Year 24 Group, dominated the first ten years of the Seiun Awards category for Best Comic, winning on six occasions between 1978 and 1988.

The term has come under fire for the ready ease with which it implies the existence of a "movement", when little unites most of the artists except their generational and, in the case of former flatmates Hagio and Takemiya, geographical location. As noted by the critic Tomoko Yamada in "Manga no Yōgo: '24-nen gumi' wa dare o sasu no ka" ["Comics Glossary: To Whom does 'Year 24 Group' Refer?"] (August 1998 Comic Box), the over-use of the term in the late twentieth century has not only privileged critical attention for Baby Boomer artists over those who are unfortunate enough to be a decade or more younger, but also overwrites and occludes the achievements of pioneering artists before them. Yamada points to a trend in referring to certain influential artists as also-rans, simply because they were born in 1948 or 1950. [JonC]

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