Shoujo Art Lineage

I just finished reading Pure Trance by Junko Mizuno.  In true Mizuno fashion, the storyline is as funky as the art style employed to tell it. A lot of the situations in Pure Trance deal with Food and Death, and often both of these elements are combined.  So this is a cross between Cibo Matto (apostles of Food) and Yukio Mishima (angel of Death) and Mizuno pulls it off very well.

madness

madness

According to interviews and fansites, Mizuno has been deeply influenced by Osamu Tezuka and Leiji Matsumoto.  Of course, being a Matsumoto fan I was delighted by this and puzzled at the same time.  What could Matsumoto and Mizuno have in common?  I couldn’t tell straight off the bat!

But then I remembered that Matsumoto himself was deeply influenced by Tezuka (though seriously, which mangaka wasn’t?!).  The influence is most clear in their respective shoujo works.  Tezuka is famous for pretty much fathering the shoujo genre in the 1950s with Princess Knight [literally the name is “Ribbon Knight”].

Princess Knight ran from 1953 to 1956.

"Princess Knight" ran from 1953 to 1956.

Leiji Matsumoto began his career in earnest by drawing shoujo manga.  Already in the early 1950s he had created Harlock and put him as a side character in stories, but shoujo manga was were the money was for him.  Many English websites state that he always hated shoujo manga and was extremely relieved when he broke out of that genre in the the Seventies.  I’ve found, however, that Japanese sites put it much differently: what happened is that he gradually felt that shoujo wasn’t his “thing” (in Japanese, he felt “iwakan” [違和感] toward shoujo) which is much different .  And in an interview, Matsumoto states that he was encouraged to do shoujo work because of his fascination for actress Marianne Hold, who is one of the main inspirations for Maetel as well (interview here).  Anyway, here’s a Matsumoto shoujo cover for Blue Petal.

Blue Petal ran from 1957 to 1958.

"Blue Petal" ran from 1957 to 1958.

I think a lot of the details are similar, although the inital feel of Matsumoto’s girl’s face is quite his own.  Here’s another shoujo manga cover from a bit later.  The story is called Green Angel.

"Green Angel" appeared in 1960.

"Green Angel" appeared in 1960.

From here we can go to the long-haired blond Maetel that is Matsumoto’s classic lady, as seen here:

Maetel, Heir Apparent to the Mechanization Empire

Maetel, Heir Apparent to the Mechanization Empire

But we can also, instead of letting the shoujo (girl) grow into a mature woman like Matsumoto did, keep her small but have her lose her innocence and become totally twisted.  Ecco Mizuno:

"Cinderalla" appeared in 2000.

"Cinderalla" appeared in 2000.

It’s very interesting to see this sort of style lineage work.  I have read on a Japanese website that a couple of Junko Mizuno’s works (including Fancy Little Gigolo Pelu) are thematically related to Matsumoto’s Otoko Oidon series.  I haven’t read any of these works but it seems the connections run even deeper.  I might order Pelu for my birthday, so we’ll see.

As you may or may not know, I’m using a service called “ebook initiative japan” where one can find old out-of-print manga classics and “buy” them, or really, buy the right to read them on your computer.  I’m currently reading Matsumoto’s Miraizer Ban.  Anyway, after signing up for the service I received as a bonus 28 pages from a chapter of Tezuka’s Black Jack.  I just looked through it today and was shocked to find that even though I had seen Black Jack everywhere for years and years (there’s even volumes of the manga in Sri Racha, a not so large town in Thailand!) I hadn’t noticed that the dude looks strikingly similar to Harlock, right down to he huge fencing scar down his face!!  Tezuka’s influence on Matsumoto goes beyond shoujo…

I should add here that I think it’s wonderful that a few cutting edge female artists are getting translated into English (the French were there first when it comes to Mizuno, but that’s a given).  However, other artists are totally getting passed over, including my favorite Naito Yamada and also Aya Takano.  A handful of Yamada’s works are getting translated into French but I haven’t seen a single one licensed in English.  This is a travesty!!!! 😦

One of Yamada's masterworks

One of Yamada's masterworks

ONE FINAL NOTE: To call Junko Mizuno’s characters “Powerpuff Girls on Acid” (as Viz Comics has) is ridiculous.  The original Powerpuff girls are already on acid…

~ by Haloed Bane on June 4, 2009.

5 Responses to “Shoujo Art Lineage”

  1. There’s this excellent lecture on influence that Umberto Eco gave, where he acknowledged the possibility of ‘unconscious’ influence — to reference works that he never read. Very interesting, as he went on to discuss the particularities of the direct and indirect influence on him by Jorge Luis Borges.

    If I make a manga, am I influenced by Tezuka by default?

  2. Well, if you make a manga you’ll be influenced by people who were influenced by Tezuka, or at the very least who were influenced by others who WERE influenced by Tezuka. So in a genealogical sense, Tezuka will always have a role to play. I’m not sure if Eco was speaking of another, more mystical influence.

    Borges is a trap, in my opinion. Like Nabokov. Supremely endowed stylistically, these guys dazzle you into believing that what they’re doing has a deep, mysterious meaning, but it’s all a trap, all empty (unlike Hemingway, or Faulkner, who ooze meaning). But that’s just a ridiculously subjective statement on my part, a feeling rather..! That said, I love Borges and Nabokov.

  3. Pure Trance is pure fucked. If your regular shoujo was anything even close to Mizuno, Yamada, and Takano…..well, I bet I’d have less headaches.

  4. @prophet

    If that were regular shoujo then what would avant-guard shoujo be? I shudder to think…

  5. It’d make the world a better place, that’s for sure.

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