In the United States, classic shoujo manga (comics aimed at young girls) in English can be hard to (legally) come by. Books like Four Shojo Stories are long out of print, if titles are licensed at all. Even as more manga from the 1970s are brought to the United States, such as through the “Classics” line from Seven Seas Entertainment, almost all are originally shounen manga (comics aimed at young boys). Claudine…!, a historical fiction manga about a European closeted transgender man, by Riyoko Ikeda from Seven Seas is a recent shoujo exception. Compared to the past, 2019 has been a relatively big year for vintage shoujo manga in the Anglosphere, with some available in print as well as attention brought to other titles through discussion. Here are some highlights of the year.
Shoujo Manga’s Lost Generation
Even in Japan, not all vintage shoujo manga is readily available to read. As Megan D. explains in an article for Anime Feminist, shoujo manga of the 1950s and 60s have fallen into obscurity due to loss of manuscripts and lack of academic attention. Now, although the manga are not available to read in English, at least in-depth information on titles such as Attack No. 1 by Chicako Umano and Fire by Hideko Mizuno are available in this easily accessible article.
The No.1 Volleyball Anime
For more on Attack No.1, see Marion Bea’s video essay on the 1969-1971 anime adaptation here. Marion Bea covers its groundbreaking history, Kozue’s growth as a volleyball player, the supporting cast, surprisingly intense plot lines, how it addresses sexism and racism, and more; all while showing off the psychedelic and striking visuals.
The Lost 70s Shojo Fashion Anime
Marion Bea also released a video essay on the anime Mon Cherie Coco, a piece of partially lost media as almost all episodes are inaccessible even in Japan. The 1972 anime was adapted from a manga of the same name by Waki Yamato, the author of shoujo classic Here Comes Miss Modern. As Marion Bea notes, the character designs are different between anime and manga, but any other differences are a mystery unless the anime is someday recovered.
The Rose of Versailles
As for titles available in English, 2019 saw two print releases of vintage shoujo manga: The Rose of Versailles volume one and The Poe Clan volume one. The Rose of Versailles was created by Riyoko Ikeda, the same author as Claudine, for Margaret magazine in 1972. Ikeda originally planned a biography of Marie Antoinette, then turned the manga’s attention to Marie’s fictional gender non-conforming guard named Oscar. The manga is beloved to this day for its luscious artwork, high drama, and memorable characters.
Udon Entertainment first announced licensing The Rose of Versailles in July of 2015, and it has been a long road to publishing. In that time, Nozomi’s license of the Rose of Versailles anime expired. The DVDs from 2013 are now out of print, and the show is no longer streaming. In July of this year, covers for the manga were finally revealed and release dates confirmed. According to the press release from Udon, the length of production was in order to make the release as consistent in localization as possible. The Rose of Versailles deserves that level of detail. So far the first volume has been released in select retailers, and will be widely available in 2020.
The Poe Clan
The Poe Clan is not the first work by Moto Hagio, a mangaka considered part of the Year 24 Group for her work in shoujo manga, available in English. The Heart of Thomas, another 1970s shoujo, and Otherworld Barbara, a 00s josei series, were also published through Fantagraphics. The Poe Clan is one of her most famous creations, told through non-sequential chapters about a pair of eternally youthful vampire siblings and a human boy turned by them. It was so popular in the 1970s it was the first shoujo title released in tankoban format by Shogakukan, which became the norm for all manga. From haunting art to poignant drama, it’s clear why it became so famous.
Shojo and Tell
Before Fantagraphics, some manga by Moto Hagio were published in English by Viz Media. In September, podcast host Ashley McDonnell invited manga critic Kate Dacey to discuss They Were Eleven, A Drunken Dream, and A, A’ all by Moto Hagio on Shojo and Tell. They Were Eleven and A, A’ were originally created in the 1970s, while A Drunken Dream is a collection of short stories throughout Hagio’s career. McDonnell and Dacey discuss the rarity of science fiction in shoujo manga, the queer appeal and themes of Hagio’s work, the emotional resonance of “Iguana Girl,” and more.
Toward the Terra
Keiko Takemiya is known for her work in shoujo manga as a member of the Year 24 Group, but has also created shounen manga such as the science fiction series Toward the Terra. No matter the demographic, Takemiya is worth noting in an overview of shoujo manga such as this. Toward the Terra in particular shares sensibilities and aesthetics with her shoujo works. The story follows a boy named Jomy, who discovers he belongs to a group of disabled and psychic human rebelling against a computer-controlled dystopia. It was once published in English by Vertical as To Terra, but is now available digitally from the manga subscription service Manga Planet. Chapters are being released for free weekly to read in-browser.
The British Museum
Toward the Terra and other manga by Keiko Takemiya were featured in the British Museum’s Manga exhibit, the largest exhibition on manga outside Japan. No overview of manga would be complete without historic shoujo. Manga by Moto Hagio was also included in the exhibit, and Hagio herself was invited to speak at London’s Japan House in May. She and Asako Furukawa, the current Deputy Editor of the shoujo magazine Flowers, held an hour-long talk on shoujo manga available on Youtube.
Here’s to more old school shoujo manga in the next decade!