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Hagio Moto

Entry updated 23 December 2023. Tagged: Artist, Comics.

(1949-    ) Japanese artist, often described as the "founding mother" of modern Japanese comics for girls, regarded, along with Keiko Takemiya, as the epicentre of the Year 24 Group of influential female Manga creators (see Women SF Writers). Much of the style of Hagio's early output was born from her attempts to circumvent restrictions; she produced relatively tame works for Kōdansha magazines, before being lured to Shōgakukan by editors ready to publish the more experimental material rejected by their competitors. Among these, "11-gatsu no Gymnasium" ["November Gymnasium"] (November 1973 Bessatsu Shōjo Comic), would become pivotal in the history of manga. Exasperated with the impossibility of depicting female characters without patriarchal assumptions or traditionalist tropes, Hagio simply left them out, instead telling a homoerotic love story set at a boys' school. The subsequent fixup Tōma no Shinzō (1974-1980 Shōjo Comic; fixup 1980; trans Rachel Matt Thorn as The Heart of Thomas graph 2013) would help establish many of the tropes of the emerging "boys' love" genre in manga, which would continue to entertain female readers by excluding any negative (or questionably positive) images of them from the works they read.

Her subsequent Poe no Ichizoku (March 1972-June 1976 Bessatsu Shōjo Comic; trans Rachel Matt Thorn as The Poe Clan graph 2019) is of greater genre interest, chronicling two centuries in the history of a family of Vampires, as seen from the point of view of two of its "youngest" scions, Edgar and Marybelle, who remain perpetual teenagers after their recruitment in the late 1700s. The reader-response cards common to manga magazines nearly killed the series, but it endured at least in part because readers warmed to Hagio through the popularity of other works running concurrently. Paramount among these was Jūichi-nin Iru ["We Were Eleven"] (September 1975-November 1975 Shōjo Comic trans Rachel Matt Thorn in Four Shōjo Stories graph anth 1996), in which a ten-person space academy training/testing mission is thrown into Paranoia by the discovery that there are eleven on board, one presumably a stowaway; this was adapted as the Anime They Were Eleven (1986). Of particular note in this story is the androgyne character Frol, who comes from a planet where sex is assigned at adulthood, and desires to pass the exam in order to avoid becoming a woman (see Transgender SF). A professed misogynist, Frol nevertheless became a touchstone for the discussion of Women in SF in Japan, posited by some as the inspiration for early cross-dressing at local Conventions. Others have suggested a more nuanced appraisal of Frol's behaviour, suggesting that the "women" Frol cannot stand are the female stereotypes of Confucian tradition, which progressive Japanese Feminism in the 1970s similarly repudiated. Hagio offered an explanation of her own in an interview (3 June 1997 Asahi Shinbun):

"We are the generation that grew up in the post-war educational system, taught that men and women were equal. However, our parents took for granted the socially restricted imagery of women. Our problem went beyond whether or not they could understand us. The more we tried to bridge the gap, the more we were isolated from them."

Hagio ended the 1970s with a series of eight adaptations into comics form of stories by Ray Bradbury, beginning with "The Fog Horn" (23 June 1951 Saturday Evening Post; trans Moto Hagio as "Muteki" 1977 Margaret), and including "R is for Rocket" (December 1943 Famous Fantastic Mysteries; trans Moto Hagio as "U wa Uchūsen no U" 1978 Margaret) and "Jack-in-the-Box" (in Dark Carnival coll 1947; trans Moto Hagio as "Bikkuri Hako" 1978 Margaret). This, coupled with her growing fame for Jūichi-nin Iru, propelled her into the transom of Japanese sf Fandom, securing her three Seiun Awards in the 1980s, beginning with Star Red (1978-1979 Shōjo Comic). Clearly conceived as an hommage to Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (coll of linked stories 1950; complete edition rev vt 2010) it is a series of linked stories set on Mars, detailing the initial exuberance of colonization, and the thinning of local society after human females appear unable to carry children to term on the planet. Mars goes through a period as a prison planet, before on-world births are finally achieved... with a concurrent increase in Psi Powers among the young generation.

In an effort to corral Hagio's sf work into more sellable formats beyond the shorts that tend to fill magazines, Shōgakukan published four of them as A, A Dash (graph coll 1984; vt A, A'; trans Rachel Matt Thorn as A, A Prime graph coll 1997). Three of the stories share a setting, a future in which genetically-engineered "unicorn" humans are bred for space travel, but thereafter endure an uneasy and strife-prone relationship with humans, into whose society they do not quite fit. Also included is "X+Y" (July-August 1984 Petit Flower) another Seiun winner for Hagio, which deals with the anguished discovery of a person who identifies as male that he is, in fact, biologically female, and doomed to become more identifiably so as he matures. The titular story of A, A Dash dealt with the emotional attachments between Clones, a clash of physical appearance and historical intimacy (or lack of it) that would also be a feature of her third Seiun-winner, Gin no Sankaku ["The Silver Triangle"] (December 1980-June 1982 SF Magazine; graph 1982). Again seemingly pastiching Bradbury, this was a tale of a golden-eyed prince whose tribulations on a desert planet are variously caused, solved and resurrected by different clone iterations of the same protagonist, Marley.

Marginal (August 1985-October 1987 Petit Flower) posits a Far-Future Earth largely populated by women, in which men are short-lived genetic throwbacks, purportedly only born from a single individual, the goddess-like Mother. When Mother is assassinated by a male cultist, society is thrown at first into a scramble to create a replacement through Genetic Engineering and more prosaic transplants, and then the dawning realization that the whole Mother industry has been a scam, and that males are actually smuggled in from the true home of humanity, on Mars. The danger presented to female protagonists by other women became a recurring theme in Hagio's work, most memorably in "Iguana no Musume" ["Daughter of Iguana" in signage] (May 1992 Petit Flower; trans Rachel Matt Thorn as "Iguana Girl" in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories graph coll 2010). In a work of sustained Magic Realism, its protagonist is a teenage girl convinced by a troubled mother that she is a lizard Shapeshifter who merely passes for human. In this, as with many of Hagio's work, the author appears to be using genre tropes to exorcize demons from her own past: an issue dealt with at some length in the text interview that accompanies the Drunken Dream anthology.

Hagio's work is not restricted to the sf genre, leading to long absences from the concerns of this encyclopedia on works that have included accounts of child abuse, suicide and revenge, as well as more prosaic slice-of-life dramas. Following the Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident of 2011, Hagio returned to environmental concerns in her work, an area largely untouched since the Pollution-themed "Katoppo no Furugutsu" ["One Pair of Old Shoes"] (April 1971 Nakayoshi). Beginning with "Nanohana" ["Rape Blossoms"] (August 2011 Flowers) she serialized several linked stories that anthropomorphized various radioactive elements, including Madame Plutonium and Lady Uranium. These stories, along with works of Recursive SF evoking the romances of Kenji Miyazawa, can be found in her later collection Koko de wa Nai Dokoka ["Anywhere But Here"] (graph coll 2011).

Hagio entered the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2022. [JonC]

Moto Hagio

born Ōmuta, Fukuoka, Japan: 12 May 1949

works (selected)

  • Poe no Ichizoku (Tokyo: Flower Comics, 1974) [graph: in five volumes: pb/]
    • The Poe Clan (Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics, 2019) [graph: trans of the above by Rachel Matt Thorn: hb/Moto Hagio]
  • U wa Uchūsen no U ["R is for Rocket"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1978) [coll of stories adapted from the works of Ray Bradbury: graph: pb/Moto Hagio]
  • Star Red (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1980) [coll of linked stories: graph: in three volumes: pb/Moto Hagio]
  • Tōma no Shinzō (Tokyo: Flower Comics, 1980) [graph: pb/Moto Hagio]
    • Heart of Thomas (Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics, 2013) [graph: trans of the above by Rachel Matt Thorn: hb/Moto Hagio]
  • Gin no Sankaku ["The Silver Triangle"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1982) [graph: pb/Moto Hagio]
  • Mosaic Rasen ["Mosaic Spiral"] (Tokyo: Flower Comics, 1983) [graph: pb/Moto Hagio]
  • A, A Dash (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1984) [coll: graph: pb/Moto Hagio]
    • A, A Prime (San Francisco, California: Viz Communications, 1997) [coll: graph: trans of the above by Rachel Matt Thorn: pb/Moto Hagio]
  • Marginal (Tokyo: Flower Comics, 1989) [graph: in five volumes: pb/Moto Hagio]
  • Jūichi-nin Iru ["We Were Eleven"] in Four Shōjo Stories (San Francisco, California: Viz Communications, 1996) [graph: trans Rachel Matt Thorn: story first appeared September 1975-November 1975 Shōjo Comic: also includes stories by Keiko Nishi and Shio Sato: pb/]
  • Barbara Ikai (Tokyo: Flower Comics, 2003) [graph: in two volumes: pb/Moto Hagio]
    • Otherworld Barbara (Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics, 2016) [graph: trans of the above by Rachel Matt Thorn: hb/Moto Hagio]
  • A Drunken Dream and Other Stories (Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics, 2010) [coll: graph: trans by Rachel Matt Thorn: pb/Moto Hagio]
  • Koko de wa Nai Dokoka ["Anywhere But Here"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2011) [coll: graph: pb/Moto Hagio]

about the author


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