Matt Thorn, the translator and editor of Moto Hagio’s Drunken Dream from Fantagraphics, commented on a number of my posts about that volume. I thought I’d reprint one of his discussions here.
Wow! I just found this today. Sorry to come so late to the party. I’ll respond to your reviews the same way you did to the stories, i.e., as I read them.
I don’t want to argue the merits of the works, because if you don’t like something, you don’t like it, and no amount of exegesis can change that.
But just some factual clarifications. 1977 is the *copyright* date of the first stories, not the year they were published. “Bianca” was published in 1970, when Hagio was 21, but was actually written/drawn a year or two earlier. “Girl on Porch with Puppy” was published in 1971, when Hagio was 22, but this one, too, was actually created a year or two earlier. “Autumn Journey” was also published in 1971.
And now for some cultural/historical background. This was a time, both in Japan and throughout most of the developed world, when youth culture was pretty melodramatic and more than a little self-indulgent. Things that seem clichéd and embarrassing today were seen as “real, man,” and the kids could “grok” it, you dig? Just think about “Easy Rider.” It is worshipped by Baby Boomers as anthem of their generation, but most young people watching it today would probably think, “What the hell are these people doing and why the hell should I care? And what’s with the random redneck drive-by shooting ending?” The Baby Boomer response is, “You had to be there.” Ditto for these stories. Perhaps I should have written a brief introduction to each story in order to provide this sort of context, but it never occurred to me, probably because I’m too close to the work.
As a social scientist (of sorts), this context is interesting to me, and it is a matter of historical fact that these stories were considered to be groundbreaking and fresh in the world of shoujo manga, and were extremely influential. If you’re going to measure them against something, it would be more fair to measure them against 1) other shoujo manga of the day, or 2) English-language romance comics of the same period, keeping in mind that the target audience here was considered to be girls aged 8 to about 15.
On a personal level, I chose these stories not only because Hagio aficionados consider them representative or her work at the time (they are), but because, 1) “Bianca” is just damned pretty to look at, and showcases her technical skills as a young illustrator (if not storyteller), 2) “Girl on Porch with Puppy” captures the kind of quirky, Twilight Zone, sci-fi/fantasy element that was influenced by such male artists as Shinji Nagashima, but which was practically taboo in shoujo manga of the day, and 3) “Autumn Journey” embodies the vaguely-European adolescent boy romance that was influenced by European cinema of the day, and which Hagio went on to develop in more sophisticated ways, in works like “The Heart of Thomas.”
In short, I wanted to represent her whole career, not just collect a bunch of first-rate stories that modern anglophone readers today can easily appreciate. If I had wanted to do that, I would have selected very different stories, and there would probably be none from the first few years of her professional career.
But, hey, at least nobody dies in “Autumn Journey.”