Read Hayashi Sei’ichi’s RED COLORED ELEGY and then enjoyed Agata Morio’s song based on the manga

   Read Hayashi Sei’ichi’s Sekishoku Ereji today and then listened to the song Agata Morio wrote based on the manga.  I like the song a lot more than the manga, but here are some of my favorite images from the manga.  Nice contrast between Ichiro and Sachiko.

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Real Inner Speech (and the Fake Stuff): AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #33 (1966) versus ATTACK ON TITAN Vol. 3 (2010/2012)

The greatest charge I get when reading comics is when the two-dimensional, flat characters have the spark of inner life and their thoughts, not their actions, take over the narrative.  Panel by panel, I’m witnessing a flat character become even more static and frozen, yet the words spilling out from his brain (or sometimes, his mouth, if it’s a soliloquy) belie that inert body and instead show the potential for the most amazing change of all:  mental growth.  I suppose I’m a product of Marvel comics produced in the 1960s and 1970s with their style of broken, anguished and anxious superheroes who struggle more to cope with their inner demons than their actual super-villain antagonists.  Over time, I’ve gravitated to the subgenre of Japanese girls’ comics (shôjo manga) for the kind of exploration of interiority I once enjoyed in American (boys) superhero comics but now cannot find there.

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For a new project, I went back and re-read Ditko and Lee’s Amazing Spider-Man, issues #32 and #33 (the wrap-up of the “Master Planner” storyline; 1966) and I was struck by the contrast between it and a scene and one in the more recent shônen mangaAttack on Titan (Shingeki no kyôjin), Isayama Hajime’s runaway hit both in Japan and the United States. 

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What struck me was now inner-voice sequences in both comics are given the form of soliloquy, but whereas one clearly reflects the protagonist wrestling with his

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psychological demons (and overcoming them), the other simply shows the protagonist speaking out to his enemies, somewhat indirectly challenging them with internal thoughts rather than direct address (in one case, Eren is in the belly of his interlocutor, who thus is capable of digesting Eren, not listening to him).  In other words, there is a clearly

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visible shift in American and Japanese comics where protagonists have stopped thinking to themselves.  As this short look at Attack on Titan reveals, in fact even when contemporary manga characters speak to themselves, they are actually speaking to an imagined other addressee, even if that addressee is not present.  I’m arguing that comics were much better when they had interior monologues rather than fake ones.  (Sorry, Attack on Titan.)

The Spider-Man issues discussed here represent a true peak not only in Marvel’s output of original comics but also Steve Ditko’s creative work.  Issues #32 and #33, published in 1966, number among the last Ditko would create as his last issue (#38) hit the stands in July of that year.  Issue #33, “The Final Chapter,” features the now-famous image of Spider-Man trying to rise out from under a “locomotive”-size piece of rubble. 

In this two-issue closing act, Spider-Man has to overcome not only a number of impossible of obstacles but Failure itself.  As editor and narrator for issue #32, Lee pitches the contents in his typical hyperbolic fashion:  “You and Spidey are about to meet one of his most powerful former foes…with every tick of the clock bringing him closer to DEFEAT!” (ASM, 4: 23).  Issue #32 ends with a long, third-tier panel of Spidey talking to himself:  “I’ve FAILED!!  Just now – when it counted the most – I’ve FAILED!!” (42)  If Spider-Man fails to escape from the crushing piece of roof (in Doctor Octopus’ underwater lair), not only will he die, but his Aunt May also dies because the anti-radiation serum she needs to live would also perish.

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Spider-Man’s “trapped” soliloquy actually spans the ending of #32 and the opening of #33, running for more than seven pages.  It is perhaps one of the most truly representative scenes that distinguishes Marvel’s superheroes from those of their competitors at DC Comics.  In these seven-plus pages, Spider-Man is trapped like a bug, squirming under an obstacle that would challenge even a stronger superhero like the Incredible Hulk.  He does more than lift the impossibly-heavy rubble, he lifts himself.  “Within my body is the strength of many man..!” reads the character’s spoken inner voice.  Panel 2:  “And now, I’ve got to call on ALL that strength – all the power – that I possess!”  With a twist on the classic and original theme of the series that with great power comes responsibility, Spider-Man says to himself in panel 3:  “I must prove EQUAL to the task – I must be WORTHY of that strength –“ and in panel 4, “—or else, I don’t DESERVE IT!” 

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The conclusion Spider-Man, one that will enable him to transcend defeat and death, is that with great power, a hero must not only be responsible but also deserving of the gift.  It’s a thrilling, perfect sequence of comic-book art and story where the closure between each set of panels stimulates the reader to become imaginatively vested, making decisions about how much time elapses from panel to panel, and at the same time, the time it takes Spider-Man to leap from each part of his stunning resolution even though the physical action depicted across the panels is what would Scott McCloud would call “Moment-to-Moment” closure, typically one of the most basic and boring comic-book panel layouts.  It’s a breakthrough moment in American comics where Ditko uses a straightforward panel layout to create a densely imaginative and tense portrayal of character growth.

This sequence is also a crucial moment in Ditko’s oeuvre.  What Ditko articulates here (and surely it is Ditko’s writing, not Lee’s) is an important part of his developing worldview, call it Objectivist, that a true individual has talent and that “power” that makes him individual.  Spider-Man emancipates himself from agonizing gloom of failure (crushed into obscurity) to a triumphant individual.  “I DID it!  I’m FREE!” he claims at the sequence’s end, a full-page panel (49). At the top of the panel, Lee summarizes the entire seven-page “ordeal” unnecessarily; moreover, he fails to reach the right conclusion. 

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Ditko would have his readers know that Spider-Man is more than simply liberated from a deathly episode, he has overcome his hangups and feelings of insecurity.  The final pages of the issue make it clear that Ditko closed the “Final Chapter” on a weak-minded Peter as Ditko (as the “plotter”) depicts Peter Parker finally standing up to his swindling boss J. Jonah Jameson, deciding to end his relationship with Betty Brant, and finally making up for his “failure” to Aunt May (his proxy for Uncle Ben).

Ditko wrote about this “lifting scene” in a letter to Comic Book Marketplace (#63):

In your Comic Book Marketplace #61, July 1998. page 45, Stan Lee talks about “…a very famous scene…” of a trapped Spider-Man lifting heavy machinery over his head. The drama of that sequence was first commented on and popularized by Gil Kane. Stan says “I just mentioned the idea…I hadn’t thought of devoting that many pages to it…” I was publicly credited as the plotter only starting with issue #26. The lifting sequence is in issue #33. The fact is we had no story or idea discussion about Spider-Man books even before issue #26 up to when I left the book. Stan never knew what was in my plotted stories until I took in the penciled story, the cover, my script and Sol Brodsky took the material from me and took it all into Stan’s office, so I had to leave without seeing or talking to Stan.  (Reprinted from a comment on The Comics Journal website.)

Ditko’s comments on this story serve to remind us of two things:  first, Ditko (not Lee) created this important sequence in the narrative, attesting to his skills as a sequential-art master; second, for Ditko (not Lee), a sustained inner-voice sequence (here, a soliloquy), was quite important both for the story as well as his own sense of self-worth as a comic-book artist.  The special care Ditko took to have Spider-Man’s talk to himself mattered to Ditko.  It’s an important moment for Spider-Man, but also for Ditko and American comics.

Now let’s look at a similar sequence in Japanese comics today from the 2010 hit-manga and anime series Attack on Titan, where the protagonist Eren has a flashback to when he was trapped in the belly of a Titan.  His soliloquy, which starts in the past moment,

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threads him back to the present moment, reinforcing his will not to be defeated by his oppressors.  Although the content of Spider-Man and Eren’s soliloquies are quite similar, the tone of each is very different.  Whereas Ditko uses inner-speech (spoken thoughts) to dramatically advance both the story and the character’s development, Isayama uses spoken thoughts to simply move the story forward.  Inner thoughts in Amazing Spider-Man show the protagonist wrestling with his inner demons, but those in Attack on Titan are used to simply repeatedly articulate the protagonist’s hatred for his enemy.  Like the Attack on Titan series itself, Eren is lifeless, lacking the possibility for a complex worldview.  The theme of Attack on Titan is predictable:  kill or be killed.  The way Isayama uses soliloquies in the work illuminates the false complexity of this boring, one-note story.

Eren does not think in the comic.  He always speaks to others.  Even when he seems to be ruminating and reconsidering himself (allowing for possible complex thinking), he is simply voicing variations on his moe character trait, the desire to beat the superior Titans.  Those moments that resemble inner speech are actually articulations of this obsessive personality characteristic.  In volume 3 of the series, the reader has access to Eren’s mind in one of his darkest moments, when he was trapped in the belly of a giant and would soon emerge transformed into a Titan.  Episode 10 (“Where’s the Left Arm?”) opens with a replay of events from the previous episode as Isayama shares with his audience just how did Eren survive being consumed by and later transformed into a Titan.  “This can’t…This can’t be happening…We’ve strategized desperately…to beat these bastards” (Attack on Titan, Vol. 3:  28).  In English, “these bastards” reads as though Eren is talking about his enemies in the third person, however the original Japanese “koitsu” could easily be interpreted also as “you bastards.”  I would argue that Eren actually is not

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speaking about the Titans, but to them.  It is not “they” he is speaking of, contrasting them to his fellow humans, but an implied but unarticulated “you” that often occurs in Japanese language, even when an interlocutor uses a person’s name although one is essentially addressing the other in second-person.  Sheldon Drzka’s translation is quite good and I am not faulting him, but I simply want to raise the possibility for another interpretation of Isayama’s writing that would allow for us to understand this sequence not as true inner speech but an articulation of second-person address.  It would be a mistake to attribute interiority to Eren’s character.  Repeatedly throughout the series, he has shown he is capable of only ranting about his obsession to kill the Titans.  He is incapable of thoughts that would allow him to imagine himself ontologically.  For me, this is why the story is so disappointing.  A narrative about human beings faced with other creatures, who are extremely humanlike but actually are extremely animalistic in their cannibalistic habits, should tell us more about Japan today, Japanese youth in the 2010s, and Japan’s shrinking position in the global economy.

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For this fourteen-page sequence, the reader travels back with Eren when he was trapped to the present moment when he emerges from his flashback (and his former Titan state) and realizes he is surrounded by his fellow soldiers who view him as a threat.  Eren is changed physically, but not mentally.  He has metamorphosed from a human into a Titan and back into a human.  He was consumed, and thus changed from the top-of-the-food-chain human consumer to the bottom, the consumed.  He changed from predator to prey, and now back to prey who possibly can become predator.  Nonetheless, his thoughts are inanely simple.  “Gonna…destroy them.” “Every last one of these animals../that’s on this earth!”  And finally,  Eren says “I’ll kill you all…” as he emerges from his memory.  His words are inconveniently timed as the “you” can be heard by his former human allies as referring to them, not the Titans.  Isayama plays on the audience of Eren’s soliloquy, switching it from the intended addressee of the Titans to the unintended humans.  Eren is dangerous, but inept.  Reading Amazing Spider-Man’s prolonged inner-voice epiphany, I respond with an encouraging “Go on!”  There is something encouraging about Spider-Man’s struggling to achieve a stronger sense of self. At this point in Attack on Titan, Armin, Erin’s friend who is close by and listening to his friend’s inner thoughts, should tell him, “Shut up!”

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Attack on Titan is an impressive epic saga for its imaginative setting and fast-paced action sequences, but it is disappointing as a manga.  The panel layout and failed use of interiority ultimately deny the reader ability to create closure for the text.  Unlike Ditko’s ground-breaking Amazing Spider-Man, Attack on Titan is a text that is already closed to the reader, repeatedly denying one the possibility to imagine a complex reader and instead it constantly distracts the reader with crumbs, forcing one to march through a disappointingly barren world.

Comments?  Questions?  jonhulkholt AT gmail.com

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Excerpt from a conversation between Hagio Moto and Umino Chika (2000s)

I ran across this section in a later cross-talk where Hagio discusses how you interrupt the reader’s gaze and force them to stop.  If you ever wondered about Scott McCloud’s idea of aspect-to-aspect panels, this is a good example.  (Keep in mind that his panel types can overlap — so what’s being discussed at the end of the interview is aspect-to-aspect and scene-to-scene>).  

My apologies to fans of Umino, Honey and Clover, etc., for not including more Umino parts.  I have yet to track down the date of this interview, but I’m guessing it occurred in the late 2000s.

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Umino Chika x Hagio Moto (with Yamada Tomoko)

METHODS TO HALT YOUR READERS’ GAZE AND CHANGE THEIR SPEED

Yamada:  Hagio-sensei, what is generally more difficult for you:  the storyboards (neemu) or the production (sakuga) of the pages?

Hagio:    Neemu.  I generally have a solid pace of turning out 2-3 pages a day, but when you go back before that stage, you have to reach the point before production where you’re finishing up the storyboards.  With the storyboard phase, the more time I have the better – even if it’s just an extra day or two.  Because I’ll go back and re-read what I have.  In order to produce a 40-page story, the actual finished drawing time is roughly 10 days, with 10 days to final-proof things, and I’ll spend 20 days usually doing the storyboards.

Umino:  That’s true for me, too.  There are many more days spent on neemu.  For neemu, do you do all the panel breakdowns (komawari) from the story’s start?  Or do you make a scripted plot?

Hagio:    I guess I write the plot out first.  Assuming I can get the final part of the story done.  Generally I write out the plot’s first part.  But there are many different situations.  Sometimes I get the beginning, the middle, and the end all figured out, but then I bury the connections (ma), you know?

Umino:  Do you feel you often re-draw things?

Hagio:    I’m always, always redo my drawings.  For example, I’ll get together 10 episodes.  Let’s say the last part is number 10, ok?  I’ll get 1, 2, and 3 figured out, but then 4 won’t come to me.

Umino:  Yes.

Hagio:    But then I have number 5, 6, and 7.  A lot of times it’s like that.

Umino:  I know, I know.

Hagio:    That’s why I’m always going back and trying to re-work first three parts of the story with the plot.  Once I do that, then I’ll finally get number #4 to come to me.

Umino:  I know what you mean.

Hagio:    But then I’ll get number 4, but something about it won’t seem right.  So then I’ll start over with number 1.  When I do this, sometimes I might get a rebound and a new 4 will come to me.  I’ll do this any number of times, going back and forth repeatedly.  At some point I get the 4 I exactly wanted and I think, “Whew, glad I made it” and tell myself to get going again.  That’s why when I don’t get my part fours, I end up taking the whole day just thinking about the stuff in 4.  Should I go that way?  Maybe take it this way?  Constant vacillation.

Umino:  From the point of view of the person who draws, doesn’t it have to be that way?  You gotta do it your way.  Since you can do the story in all kinds of ways, the toughest part is choosing which one to go with.  The options are limitless, so I guess it all comes down to how one chooses.

Hagio:    So true.  I might suddenly get my 4 and as soon as I think, “Ok, that’s good,” I’ll go, “But what if?  What if it wasn’t 4 then 5?  Maybe 5 then 4 would be better.”

Umino:  Yes.

Hagio:    So once I start doing that, I go back and forth thinking about which one would be better, and I will end up mulling it over for nearly three days with nothing to show for it.  Three days I worry like this and, poof, I’ll suddenly stop knowing why I did it.

Umino:  (Laughs.)

Hagio:    What then happens is that I end up drawing the story now thinking, “Gosh either way will be okay,” and then a year passes and I go back and read it again.  Then I can’t understand what it was I fixed in the first place!

Umino:  No way!  (Laughs.)

Hagio:    I’ll end up completely in the dark:  which part was the one that made me worry?  All that pain and anguish:  where did it come from? (Laughs.)

Umino:  So I have to tell you, when I was a child, I bought Suzuki Mitsuaki’s book Introduction to Shôjo Manga (Shôjo manga nyûmon; 1979).  It was a reference work for me.  For example, there’s one part in it that I often saw about your work.

Hagio:    What was that?

Yamada:  It was Suzuki’s most famous book, very popular.

Umino:  There’s one part where he wrote, “Hagio-sensei creates a timetable (nenpyô) for each of her characters.

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[IMAGE:  “Edith” from The Poe Clan.]

Hagio:    Actually, I am quite weak when it comes to math.  I do that because even as I draw I try to keep in mind the boy is ten and the girl is eight, I later have to make an effort not to screw that up.  That’s why there are timetables for them.

Umino:  After I read that, I tried to make timetables for my characters, too.  Since I have them for all the characters up until they die, I think to myself I am the only person who knows their whole lives.  Makes me really wonder how weird that is.

Hagio:    Well, the reader only understands the parts that are drawn, not the ones that aren’t, right?  That’s actually pretty neat.

Umino:  In [Suzuki’s] handbook, he uses a story with Edgar [from The Poe Clan] as an example of how to change the speed at which the reader moves through the manga.  Edgar is standing on top of a car that has sunken under the water.  Suddenly the panel cuts to looking in the opposite direction.  Edgar’s looking down, but the water is above him (the opposite direction of the flow of his vision).  The reader’s line of sight gets halted at this point.  I think.  I wonder if this is something you calculate as you draw?  Or is it unconscious?

Hagio:    I carefully plan those out.  What you’re talking about is common when I read someone else’s manga.  I would get manipulated by the artist.

Umino:  Right.

Hagio:    At first you, as the the reader, are unaware of it.  Then, as you come to get swung around more and more, at some point after reading the story a few times, you think, “Ah!  The protagonist’s line of sight here suddenly shifts up, so here is where it shifts up to, right?   I really learned a lot from those times.  At one point I said to myself, “All right, I’ll use that trick!”

Umino:  Me too.  Ever since I learned that technique, I’ve been consciously using it when I want to slow down the reader’s speed.

ungoliantschilde:

the Incredible Hulk, Vol. 1 # 454, by Adam Kubert.

One of my all-time favorite covers of HULK by Adam Kubert (Peter David period).

Hayashi Seiichi’s JAPANESE WOMAN (1989) and SHORTCUT (1992)

A current project has had me looking into the illustrations of Hayashi Seiichi over the 1970s through the early 1990s as a kind of side project.  Lately I’ve greatly benefited from the work of Ryan Holmberg who has done more than anyone to introduce Hayashi’s manga to the English-speaking audiences.  His two translated books, Red-Colored Elegy and Gold Pollen are wonderfully produced and help us realize the importance of this early manga master.  I look forward to reading the latest translation, Flowering Harbour (Breakdown, 2014).

My own interest in Hayashi Seiichi currently is the collaborative work he did with tanka poet Hayashi Amari (b. 1963-; no relation to Seiichi):  SHORTCUT (Sanrio, 1992) and NEE, KISSU SHITE (Hey, Kiss me; Endeishon, 1996).  Like Sanrio’s earlier JAPANESE WOMAN (Japaniizu uuman, 1989), these two collections reveal Hayashi’s obsession with Japanese femininity, although the Hayashi Amari poem-illustration collections tend to feature more mature women than the “musume” or shôjo (girls or unmarried young women) type we see in Seiichi’s work when it is targeted for younger audiences.  Looking at the colophons of all three books, the images of JAPANESE WOMAN were mostly compiled from illustrations Seiichi made for Sanrio’s magazine Shi to meruhen (Poetry and Children’s Stories) and published mainly in the magazine from 1977 to 1981.  In SHORTCUT, there is no list of previous publication for these images, leading me to believe that indeed the artist Seiichi and the poet Amari “collaborated” to make SHORTCUT an original book of art and poetry that organically wedded their two sensibilities.

What is their shared sensibility as seen in SHORTCUT?

What did Hayashi Amari contribute to the senior Seiichi’s view of women?  Did she in some way shape his artistic direction and did that hold?

Why did the two Hayashis come together to make these two collections of poetry and art?

I plan on answering these questions in the upcoming months, but for now, here are a couple of images that interest and have stirred me to see how SHORTCUT indicates a shift in Seiichi’s artistic vision.

In “Life Partner” (Raifu paatonaa; 1981 Junon) in the “Lady Doll” section of Japanese Woman, we see one of Seiichi’s most modern-looking women.  In both this and the next image, the subjects are not young girls dressed in Taisho- (1912-1926) or early-Showa era (1930s) fashions.  They wear 1980s or 1990s panties and lingerie.  They have short, cropped and angular hair styles.  The only thing perhaps traditionally Japanese here in this intimate scene are the zabuton floor cushion over which our two sexually-sated bodies lie.  What is very interesting here in terms of composition is the inclusion of the Japanese Woman’s male partner, metonymically presented with just his arm, reaching out for her (and she, slightly disinterested, ignoring his touch).  Typically in Seiichi’s illustrations from these collections, there is no male figure.  The male is generally only determined as the person gazing at the “Japanese Woman”, invisible to us, but certainly felt by us and by her, who will be pensive and incomplete.

The next image is from SHORTCUT.

This is one of the “REIKO” pictures.  In SHORTCUT, there are four divisions:  Reiko, Miki, Kaoru, and Woman.  The last of the four allows for some various images (mature women, young girls, and one teenager), otherwise Seiichi develops a kind of loosely linked narrative for each of his named principal characters.  In this Reiko image, like the “Life Partner” seen above, we see our female character lingering, lost in thought, but most importantly doing it in her lingerie.  Lingerie makes the woman feel attractive, for Seiichi one supposes, and makes the waiting more bearable (perhaps for her; definitely for the image’s viewers).  Seiichi’s SHORTCUT women have far more detail in their faces and clothes.  The eyes and the lace of lingerie have great detail, making it a more realistic illustration.  In the earlier “Life Partner” image, the figures are flattened to near two-dimensionality as Seiichi applies colors in a more uniform fashion to clothing and bedding.  The skin of the “Life Partner” image seems as white as the background of the image only demarcated by the strong solid outline.

By contrast, this “Reiko” image does have a soft flesh-color tone with parts of her body having ruddy splashes (perhaps showing her skin alive and warmed by the champagne she has half consumed).  Although Seiichi’s treatment of Reiko’s hair is uniformly black (as are almost of the women in SHORTCUT), somewhat restraining her from achieving three-dimensional depth, she seems to emerge more from the picture than the woman in “Life Partner”.  Moreover, Reiko is alive.  Her eyes are open; she focuses on her champagne.  And through her intent gaze, she shows her dissatisfaction or boredom not with her absent man, but with their affluent lifestyle.  There is also a nice balance of green color throughout the illustration with the plant leaves, the lighter green of her garment, the greenish champagne, and finally the green parts supports of the rattan chair.  Green is also the color of the text of Hayashi Amari’s tanka:

忘れたいことさえなくて

 休日はチェリーの茎をむすぶだけの舌

He’s not really something I want to forget —

   A day off spent tying cherry stems with my tongue

Paired together, Amari and Seiichi’s “Reiko” has a life before and after the tanka, part of life behind her and one she seems to be turning her eyes away from in the picture.  This is just a segment in her life drama and we get to witness it.  The “Reiko” of SHORTCUT, unlike the “Life Partner” of JAPANESE WOMAN is more than ideal or stereotype.

An excerpt from an interview of Hagio Moto about her childhood (2014)

I’m working on translating an interview of Hagio Moto by Saito Tamaki.  Here is the opening part that talks about Hagio’s difficult relationship with her mother.  I think it sheds a lot of light on why her characters are usually cut off from their parents in her manga.  There is a big discussion of Hagio’s gem of a story “Iguana Girl”.

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Saito:    …First, I can’t say it enough, but I just can’t put down Iguana Girl (Iguana no musume; [See Matt Thorn’s excellent translation of this story in A Drunken Dream; Fantagraphics, 2010]).  There’s really nothing else to say about it except it is a true masterpiece, especially the idea how a person ends up being seen as an iguana.  There’s something so visually exciting about that, and I think it’s really effective in the way you symbolically draw certain types of relationships.  Well, I wonder why you chose “iguana” of all things?

Hagio:   Thank you very much.  I have a fairly strong reptilian side to me.  (Laughs.)  Their color doesn’t seem at all bad to me.  I like lizards.  A long time ago I would occasionally watch videos with images of iguanas from the Galapagos islands.  When I looked at them, I noticed they had these bodies that would stomp around on all four and stare into the sun –– it seemed like all they were doing was sunbathing, but — one seemed to have a face saying, “Ah!  I ended up becoming an iguana, but I really wanted to be human!”  You probably know this but the human fetus while it’s developing in the womb has a tail, the eyes are on the side not the front of face, and they even have faces like lizards.  It’s only over time that the fetus will become more human-like.  Looking at those iguana faces, I thought, gosh, they have faces like a human fetus.  I then started thinking how interesting it would be to have a story where an iguana wants to become a human.  That’s how Iguana Girl was born.

              An iguana princess living near the sea wishes “I want to be a human” and with the power of magic, she becomes one, grows up, and gives birth to two daughters.  However, the eldest of the two girls ends up looking like an iguana.  The mother ends up hating her own child, thinking, “It’s because she looks like me” but since the mother is the one who gave birth to an “iguana” then she thinks there must be something iguana-like quality even in me.  That’s how this fantastic story goes.

Saito:    You’re right in that when it comes to mother-daughter relationships, the body has an important element.  So now I would like to ask you something because I was wondering if you thought the problem of development is tied up in that.  In your work Alternate World Barbara (Barubara ikai, 2003-2005), why does your character Kiriya read Stephen Jay Gould’s Ontogeny and Phylogeny [Translated into Japanese by Watanabe Masataka in 1988].  How did things come to get tied up to those questions?

Hagio:   I’ve long been a fan of books on heredity and evolution.  Because I often wonder how did humans come to human.

Saito:    I see.  So then we have a character who is compensated for having failed to become a human.  In a sense, you’re stressing our similarities when you have the mother hate her daughter Rika for looking like an iguana.  The younger sister Mami is the one who is showered with affection by the mother.  Is it because they don’t look alike?

Hagio:   That’s correct.  It’s because Mami was born looking exactly like the mother thinks a human should look.

Saito:    So it’s because the younger sister looks human, right?  Only when the mother dies do we get the shock that even the mother had an iguana face.  Did the mother then have a sense that she herself looked like an iguana?

Hagio:   We learn from Rika’ aunt, that every time her mother was told by her sister, Rika’s aunt, “Rika-chan looks just like you,” the mother would become enraged.  However the mother herself has the memories of her being an iguana locked away, and she has forgotten it all.  But we do see her viewpoint of her daughter change bit by bit as she gets more objective.

Saito:    As long as her self-awareness that they look alike is weak, it stays unconscious and only comes out in her action, so she has fewer and fewer chances of her fixing her behavior.

Hagio:   That’s why when the mother is asked, “Why do you hate your daughter?” she herself doesn’t know the answer.  Even so, there is this very thing part of her that notices how her daughter carries on the parts of that self she so dislikes.  If only she could see things clearly and realize that well, she is my daughter so I guess we just live with it.  But because she doesn’t want to acknowledge that, she goes on just seeing things she doesn’t like.

Saito:    Could it not be the opposite?  The daughter looks at the mother and goes, “I don’t want to become like her”?  I think there are cases like that.

Hagio:   I think you’re right, there are a lot of those cases.

Saito:    So the possibility for the opposite situation is common?

Hagio:   Yes, you’re right.  When I was little, I long thought that if there is one thing I don’t want to become it’s my mother. (Laughs.)

Saito:    Why was that?

Hagio:   Well, you see, my mother is like an active volcano.  (Laughs.)  She’s a high-tension person, who for 365 days of the year is angry all 365 days.

Saito:    Constantly erupting?

Hagio:   Oh yes.  She’s one who constantly erupts.  As a child, I once asked my mother, “Why are you mad everyday?”  But my mother said, “I am easygoing,” telling me, “It’s my mother [my grandmother] who was extraordinarily strict, and because I suffered that, now I want to be nice to my own daughter.”  She then said, “That’s why this anger of mine is a result from you not listening to what I say.”

Saito:    I see, I guess your mother has this strong side to her that wants to control things.

Hagio:   She doesn’t admit it, and what’s more she is, I think, a person who really demands we [children] do things exactly the way she wants.             

Saito:    Even so, it’s not that it was an unreasonable kind of anger, a kind of abuse, right?  She had her reasons.

Hagio:   Hmm…I think she might have had them.  Still, it was the kind of thing where all day long she would violently slam open the doors ga-shin ga-shin!

Saito:    But she would have a reason every time, right?

Hagio:   She would have a reason, sure enough, but she’d also take it out on people.

Saito:    She would have no realization she was taking it out on others?

Hagio:   Not really.  I think my mother is not the type of person who could be aware of her own actions like that.

Saito:    Nonetheless she seems to have this recognition that she was at least better [to you] than her own mother was to her.

Hagio:   I was only in 2nd grade when my grandmother passed away, so I really don’t have a memory of her, yet there were times [I recall] she would come visit us, and, oh yes, I do remember she was a person who could easily get angry right away.

              My grandmother ran a general store.  Among my friends, “KenKen” [Hopscotch] was popular game and when my stone split and I couldn’t use it anymore, I went up to her and asked her, “I would like this kind of rock,” and she told me, “Next time you come, I’ll have one ready for you.”  That was nice.  So I said, “Bring me a big one!”  But then when I saw her next, she brought me a small rock so I asked, “Granny, I told you didn’t I to bring a big one.  This one is just too small!”  When she heard that, she flew into a rage.  (Laughs.)

Saito:    She got mad at her granddaughter!  (Laughs.)  She never did anything like raise her hand to you?

Hagio:   That she never did, no, but even so, she might really surprise me and so I always ran off crying to my mother, who would be angry.  (Laughs.)

Saito:    But she seemed to be justified being angry, right?  Let me ask you – does a part of you understand now that your mother was a person who she was because she was raised by this kind of person [your grandmother]?

Hagio:   Now as we talk about it, yes, I do.

Saito:    What about the idea that maybe your mother was a bit better than your grandmother?

Hagio:   My mother also has this tough side to her, so these days when I go home to visit, I’ll try asking her, “Mom, were there times when you’d fight with Grandma and cry?”  There are a lot of things I want to ask her about.

Saito:    These days does your mother still get angry?

Hagio:   Right.  Well, I take extra precautions not to burn her fuse, but suddenly her tension level will just go up.  For example, let’s pretend my mother, who’s in high-tension mode, is here with us.  She will get irritated at the unopened water bottle there next you, Saito-san, and she will go, “Saito-san, why don’t you drink it up?  It’s right there, drink it!” (Laughs.)  “But right now I’m not thirsty, so give me time.  I’ll drink my water,” you say to her knowing you have to restrain yourself with all your might.  But she will seem to suddenly get annoyed with that water.

Saito:    She has these quick escalations where you don’t know why it happens.  In one sense, I guess she is a treasure-trove of story ideas.  (Laughs.)

              So let me ask you, Ms. Hagio:  you come from a family where there is 4 kids.  Among them, there are 3 girls.  Was there no discrimination among you like we see in Iguana Girl?  Did you mother equally get angry at you all?

Hagio:   Yes, she spread her anger out equally to us all, but my eldest sister was a daddy’s girl with a quiet disposition, so when my mother would go on a rant, she would burst out crying.  At those times, my mother would complain to other ladies in the neighborhood, “That cries at no matter what I say, so I can’t do anything.”

Saito:    Did her crying have a pacifying effect?

Hagio:   She would calm down then, yes.  But that’s why most of her anger would turn to me, my youngest sister, and my little brother.

Saito:    Did you often cry?

Hagio:   Yes, I did.  And if I did cry, mother would tease me about it, and that would hurt.

Saito:    Were there times when things would escalate beyond that?

Hagio:   Sometimes my younger sister would hurl complaints back at her and she would cry.

Saito:    The three of you each had their own way of coping.  Until about when did that go on?

Hagio:   Well, my mother really hasn’t changed over the years, so…

Saito:    Ms. Hagio, didn’t you at one point leave home?

Hagio:   That’s right, I did.  I was around 20 when things got to the point where I left home and tried to live as a manga artist in Tokyo.  After that, I was able to have some distance, both physical and emotional from my mother.  She was living down in Kyushu, so I finally could relax being up in Tokyo.

Saito:    I imagine you had quite a sense of liberation then.

Hagio:  I didn’t really notice it myself, but sometimes when Mother would come visit me in Tokyo, I seemed to get fidgety.  Friends would ask me, “Hagio, why do you fidget around your mother?”

Saito:    Someone on the outside could clearly sense it, right?

Hagio:   I would deal with her visits by always, always trying not have her get mad.

Saito:    Would it go well then?

Hagio:   I guess so.  Because I was always on the lookout.  But it really wore me out.

Saito:    “Mother, please go home without getting mad.” (Laughs.)  I understand that drawing manga was very important for you, but do you think perhaps you really ran away to escape your mother?  Was that part of the reason why you went to live in Tokyo?

Hagio:   That’s definitely true.  Ever since I was a third-grader I had been thinking I’ve got to run away.  At night I’d bury myself under the covers and think things like, “To run away, where would I have to go?” 

Saito:    I see, so from that time there was that kind of atmosphere in the house.

Hagio:   Right, because my mother could be just so uptight about things.  I wanted “anywhere but here”.

Saito:    People often talk about a “family romance” where a child goes, “What if I am not really from this family?”  Did you ever think that?

Hagio:   Yes, my younger sister often had this competition over “Which of us is not really from this family?”

Saito:    Since she would get scolded so harshly, your younger sister too often had those ideas?

Hagio:   That’s right.  But if one of us said, “Ok, then you were the one they picked up under the bridge?” then we’d have to make concede to each other and remind us that it wasn’t true.

Saito:    But your older sister didn’t factor into those talks.

Hagio:   Right.

Saito:    Your older sister then must have gotten along well with your father, right?

Hagio:   She did, quite well.  My father is basically a gentle person, so he was easy to get along with for everybody.

Next:

PARENTS WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND MANGA

(Source: 1nho)

Manga vs. Art History: Hayashi Seiichi at SISJAC | The Comics Journal

Great new article by Ryan Holmberg on Hayashi Seiichi!

An interesting characteristic of the Year 24 Group is, although they all wrote shōjo manga, their protagonists were not girls but rather boys.

(…)

The Year 24 Group fought editors who resisted their innovation. Editors would say, ‘The audience of shōjo manga is girls, but you want to write protagonists who are boys or men? That’s impossible!’ But the Year 24 Group won the support of female readers, and proved to the world that their form of expression was valid.

Their epoch-making innovation was to take girls, who back then were not even allowed to behave and express themselves as they desired in the world of fiction, and dress them up as boys.

These desires included sexual desire. Although the characters looked like beautiful boys, the persons inside of them were girls or women — and so, their objects of desire were boys and men. This is why, on the surface, it looked as though these works portrayed pederasty or homosexuality (laugh).

This is confusing because pederasty and homosexuality exist in real life, but the truth is, these were works of fantasy for girls.

What is the Year 24 Group? by Sagawa Toshihiko, editor in chief of JUNE magazine (via brickme)

THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (8/13/14 – Tangled Notes Toward an Early Biography of Ryōichi Ikegami) | The Comics Journal