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Takemiya Keiko

Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: Artist, Comics.

(1950-    ) Japanese Comics artist, sharing with Moto Hagio a central position within the Year 24 Group and the winner of the first Seiun Award for Best Comic of the Year, in 1978. A precocious talent, Takemiya famously proclaimed herself to be Shōtarō Ishinomori's "first female disciple", after learning much of her craft from his book Mangaka Nyūmon ["Introduction for Manga Creators"] (graph 1965). After earlier competition wins, her first published work, "Kagikko Shūdan" ["The Latchkey Kids"] (July 1968 COM) appeared in Osamu Tezuka's studiously bohemian COM magazine, linking her to the avant-garde even as other comics appeared in more traditional venues like the girls' manga magazine Margaret. Takemiya herself comments in interviews that she regards her debut as simultaneously in COM and in Margaret, with "Ringo no Tsumi" ["Sin of the Apple"] (January Special Issue 1968 Margaret), which she delivered at the same time. Shortly after the student unrest of the late 1960s, which she deemed to have had a lasting effect on her sense of "revolution", she dropped out of Tokushima University in 1970 and shared an apartment with Moto Hagio while the pair worked as assistants for better-established creators; their Ōizumi address subsequently became known in manga history as a salon, crash-space and crucible for future female manga talents, comparable to the Tokiwa-sō, a rooming house that hosted many of the previous generation's male artists.

Natsu e no Tobira ["The Door into Summer"] (October 1975 Hana to Yume) and the longer running Kaze to Ki no Uta ["Song of Wind and Trees"] (January 1976-1984 Shōjo Comic) established Takemiya as an early proponent of the "boys' love" subgenre of male-male romance, from which women were often excluded or marginalized, in favour of characters not subject to patriarchal assumptions. She was also a prime mover in the largely unstudied but widely prevalent occidentalism that continues to pervade girls' manga, organizing a 45-day research trip to Europe for her circle, all the better to gather materials for exotic European settings.

Amid many melodramas and historical romances, Takemiya experimented with the sf genre with "Yume Miru Mars Port" ["Dreaming Mars Port"] (1977 SF Fantasia Chijo-hen), the first of several dozen Near Future shorts printed in various publications over the next decade, including For a Lady and Petit Flower, eventually fixed up as Watashi o Tsuki e Tsuretette ["Fly Me to the Moon"] (graph 1986). Characters from linked stories turn her future history into a gentle and often comedic account of the lives and loves of NASA personnel in a period of limited space travel and emerging Psi Powers. A 1983 album of music to accompany the series featured multiple versions of Bart Howard's "Fly Me to the Moon" (1954), and may have been the indirect inspiration for the re-use of the song over the ending credits of Shinseiki Evangelion (1995).

Terra e (January 1977-May 1980 Manga Shōnen; trans Dawn Laabs as To Terra graph 2007) is a Space Opera set in a Far Future in which Earth has been ruined by Pollution and humanity has spread among the stars. As part of a policy of "Social Domination", children are grown in test tubes and raised by foster parents, before having their memories erased at fourteen and dispatched to distant colonies. The protagonist Jomy is just about to be subjected to this Memory Edit when it is revealed that he has Psi Powers, and is hence one of the Mu Pariah Elite, an evolutionary leap that the agents of Social Domination are trying to hunt to extinction. The "Grand Mother", an AI created to cleanse the Earth and rear a humanity worthy to resettle it, is reframed as an implacable despot, an early exemplar of the "maternal fascism" alluded to by Mariko Ōhara in "Moshimo to iu Jikkenba de: Josei Sakka ni totte no haha: 2777-nen no Jo-ō" ["An Experiment in Speculation: What 'Mother' Means for Women SF Writers: The Queen of the Year 2777"] (1995 New Feminism Review).

It is Jomy's destiny to replace Soldier Blue, the aging leader of the Mu, and lead his people back to their Promised Land, Earth itself, now green again after centuries of recovery. Notably, Terra e was published in a magazine for boys, smuggling in many of the narrative developments that had become commonplace in the girls' market, and lending it a degree of unexpected originality for the target readership. Of particular note is the combination of psi powers with girls'-manga tropes for manifesting emotions, leading to dramatic scenes in which emotional extremes exert physical transformations on the environment around telepathic characters. Takemiya added further twists with a Slingshot Ending partway through the story, suddenly leaping decades into the future and revisiting the plot from the point of view of Keith, an agent of Social Domination and Jomy's sworn enemy in the Future War that breaks out between humanity and the increasingly powerful Mu. Much like the similar allegories in the work of Moto Hagio, the "mutants" hunted by the state are emblematic of modern teenage girls, blatantly different from their parents, and often exhibiting liberal qualities to which the older generation (and, perhaps, the male readers of Manga Shōnen) have paid lip service, but not necessarily accepted (see Women in SF).

Eden 2180 (November 1984-May 1985 Petit Flower) is set aboard a Generation Starship plagued by a series of Suicides among the crew, and with a conflict developing between the older generation still attached to Earth, the younger generation experiencing a degree of Genetic Engineering in preparation for their new home, and the ship's crew, who live in a zero-gravity realm that has led to their nickname "the Flying Men". With the ship dividing essentially not only into three different enclaves, but also three different potential species, much of the drama revolves around families and parenthood – the crew have been recruited from orphanages, but are assigned cybernetic confessors in an attempt to support them emotionally. Takemiya is particularly interested in the psychological effects of being an intermediate generation on the ship – born without ever seeing Earth, and dying without ever seeing Eden, an allegory of certain elements of the Confucian psyche, duty-bound to be filial to one's parents' wishes, and to sacrifice one's own desires for the benefit of one's children.

Takemiya's output is not solely in the sf field, causing her to "disappear" from the concerns of this encyclopedia for long periods. For much of the 1990s, for example, she worked on Tenba no Ketsuzoku ["Bloodline of the Heavenly Horse"] (January 1991-February 2001 Asuka), a historical chronicle of medieval Mongol leaders. But as a pioneer in the tropes and concerns of sf comics in Japan, Takemiya's influence has been substantial, not only overtly, but also behind the scenes. Throughout her career, she also worked as a cover illustrator, imparting a shōjo sensibility to the Japanese editions of, among others, Ursula K Le Guin, Kaoru Kurimoto, Motoko Arai, George MacDonald and Thomas Burnett Swann. In 2000, shortly after she began serializing a how-to book in June magazine, she began to teach manga creation at the progressive Kyōto Seika University, inaugurating the "Genga Dash" programme in 2001, which aimed to preserve and convert many original manga works into forms more suited for exhibition spaces, and hence to encourage the consideration of Japanese comics as part of the arts. She rose by 2008 to dean of the manga faculty and was elected in 2014 to the presidency of the university. She returned to the manga faculty position in 2018 after serving her four-year term, imparting notable weight to the importance and respect accorded to comics creation in Japanese society. Several of her works have also been adapted into other media, including Anime. [JonC]

Keiko Takemiya

born Tokushima, Japan: 13 February 1950

works (selected)

  • Tera e (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1980) [graph: in three volumes: pb/Keiko Takemiya]
    • To Terra (New York: Vertical, 2007) [graph: trans of the above by Dawn Laabs: pb/Keiko Takemiya]
  • Andromeda Stories (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1981) [coll of linked stories: graph: in three volumes: based on the work of Ryū Mitsuse: pb/Keiko Takemiya]
    • Andromeda Stories (New York: Vertical, 2008) [graph: trans of the above by "Magnolia Steele": in three volumes: on sale in 2007 despite copyright date: pb/Keiko Takemiya]
  • Eden 2185 (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1985) [graph: pb/Keiko Takemiya]
  • Takemiya Keiko no Manga Kyōshitsu (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo, 2001) [nonfiction: graph: pb/Keiko Takemiya]
  • Watashi o Tsuki e Tsuretette ["Fly Me to the Moon"] (Tokyo: Flower Comics, 2005) [graph: in six volumes: pb/Keiko Takemiya]

about the author


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