“10 stories of the human heart.
Forty years ago, the legendary manga artist Moto Hagio reinvented the shōjo (girl’s comics) genre with an ongoing series of whip-smart, psychologically complex, and tenderly poetic stories. Here now, in English for the very first time, as the debut release in Fantagraphics Books’ ambitious manga line of graphic novels, are ten of the very best of these tales.
The work in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories spans Hagio’s entire career, from 1970’s “Bianca” to 2007’s “The Willow Tree,” and includes the mind-bending, full-color title story; the famously heartbreaking “Iguana Girl”; and the haunting “The Child Who Comes Home” — as well as “Autumn Journey,” “Girl on Porch With Puppy,” the eerie conjoined-twins shocker “Hanshin: Half-God,” “Angel Mimic,” and one of the saddest of all romance stories, “Marié, Ten Years Later.”
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is supplemented with a feature-length interview with Hagio, where she discusses her art, her career, and her life with the same combination of wit, candor, and warmth that radiates from every panel of her comics.”
[Text from the backcover; see also the publisher’s website]
>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<
Bianca, p. 16
For an introduction on Moto Hagio (her membership of the Year 24 Group and contribution to the development of the modern shōjo manga as well as a selected bibliography) I refer you to my commentary on The Heart of Thomas (it is in French but you can read an auto-translated English version).
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is a compilation of ten short stories selected and translated by Rachel (formerly Matt) Thorn. It also includes a very interesting introduction to “The Magnificent Forty-Niners” (Year-24 Group) and a fascinating interview with Moto Hagio (both originally published in The Comics Journal #269 [July, 2005]).
Bianca, p. 13
The anthology starts with a short story titled “Bianca” (ビアンカ, 16 p., first published in Shoujo Friend “Signature is V” special issue in 1970). Bianca comes to live with Clara’s family for a week because her parents are away for work (actually they are going through a divorce). She is shy but free spirited: she talks to herself in the mirror and dances barefoot in the forest. Clara finds her strange and laugh at her. When Bianca learns what her parents are up to she runs into the forest. Later that night she is found dead. Now an old woman and a painter, Clara has not forgotten her and keep drawing her into her sylvan paintings…
Girl on Porch, p. 23
“Girl on Porch With Puppy” (ポーチで少女が小犬と / Pōchi de shōjo ga koinu to, 12 p., first published in COM in January 1971) offers a similar story. A little girl doesn’t behave has it is expected of her: she talks to and kisses her little dog, enjoys the beauty of nature and walking in the rain. She’s told she is too old for such child play. In the end, all the disapproving adults are pointing their index finger at her and she disappears! I guess this story refers to the fact that in Japanese society where conformity is the norm, if you diverge one way or another, you are ostracized and you become invisible to them (if they could they would make you disappeared!).
Autumn journey, p. 46
In “Autumn Journey” (秋の旅 / Aki no tabi, 24 p., first published in Bessatsu Shoujo Comic in October 1971), a boy takes a trip to meet with his favourite author. He is unfortunately out on a horse ride but the boy meet his daughter instead. She discovers that her father is also his and that he abandoned the boy and his mother to start a new family. As he comes back from his ride, the father runs after the boy, but he has already boarded the train in tears, thankful that his father remembers him…
“Marié, Ten Years Later” (十年目の毬絵 / Jūnenme no Marie, 16 p., first published in Big Comic Original in March 1977), tells the story of Shima Taichi who nostalgically remembers his college years with his two best friends, Marié and Tsugawa. They were all aspiring artists. He was in love with Marié, but out of the blue she married Tsugawa who was a better artist and both left. He hasn’t seen them since. Shima always felt he was a loser, a geek, an average artist. Ten years later, Tsugawa calls him to let him know that Marié died and left a letter for him. Marié was missing the time when the three of them were together in perfect harmony. Tsugawa ended up not such a good artist after all and couldn’t produce anything for years making Marié unhappy. Shima decides to organize his first gallery show and invites Tsugawa…
A Drunken dream, p. 79
In “A Drunken Dream” (酔夢 / Suimu, 20 p., first published in the illustrations collection 金銀砂岸 [kingin suna-gan / lit. “Golden sand coast”] in 1980), Lem Palomino works on a research station on Io and always has the same dream: he is a girl (in fact he is an hermaphrodite) and meets a beautiful stranger, but before they can consummate their love one of them dies. One day, she meets a newcomer on the station, Dr Gadan Safaash, who is the man of the dream! He also has the same dream. It seems the dreams are in fact past life memories. They are both stuck in a space-time gap and constantly relive the same tragedy…
Hanshin, p. 98
“Hanshin: Half-God” (半神, 16 p., first published in Petit Flower in January 1984) is about two conjoined twin sisters, Yucy and Yudy. Yucy looks like and angel but she’s simpleminded and cannot process well the nutriments, so she’s slowly sucking the life out of Yudy, who is very intelligent but looks ugly because of her bad health. The doctors decides to separate the twins to save Yudy. After the operation, Yucy withers and starts looking ugly like Yudy used to be. After her death, Yudy has recovered and, when she looks in the mirror, she sees only the sister that she hated (or has she become her sister?). But she also loved her. She has an identity crisis and it makes her depressed…
Angel mimic, p. 145
In “Angel Mimic” (天使の擬態 / Tenshi no gitai, 50 p., first published in Petit Flower in November 1984), Tsugiko “Alice” Arisugawa tries to kill herself. She wanted to become an angel. She is rescued by father Joseph and Shiroh who was walking the dog (Jiroh). At school, Tsugiko and Shiroh meet again as he is the new biology teacher. As they learn to know each other, he tries to cheer her up and figure up what’s wrong with her. At first he thinks that she’s depressed because she was dumped by her boyfriend, but then she confesses having had an abortion. She felt she was not good enough to raise a child by herself. He tells her “it was the child who became an angel. You want wings for the child.” She thinks, until human evolve into winged angels, she can at least pretend to be one… A touching story.
Iguana girl, p. 174
In “Iguana Girl” (イグアナの娘 / Iguana no Musume, 50 p., first published in Petit Flower in 1991), because she’s “different”, a mother sees her baby girl as an iguana (at first I thought it was an allegory for a handicap baby but it seems that it’s simply because the girl was bigger and tomboyish). Rika will grow up complexed. Even if she is very intelligent and beautiful she will see herself as an iguana. However, she realizes that some other people look like animals too and she meets a nice guy that looks like a bull (he’s big and clumsy). When her mother dies, she sees her on her dead bed as an iguana too and imagines the fantasy of her mother being an iguana princess who fell in love with a human and asked a sorceress to transform her into a human. Maybe her mother felt also “different” and transposed her fear into her child? Rika then comes to term with her relationship with her mother. She’s able to move on in her life, marry and have a family of her own… Moto Hagio has confessed that this story is inspired by her own difficult relationship with her mother.
“The Child Who Comes Home” (帰ってくる子 / Kaette kuru ko, 24 p., first published in チャイルド 異形コレクション7 [Chairudo igyō korekushon 7 / lit. “Child Heteromorphic Collection 7”] in 1998) is a ghost story. After her youngest son dies in a traffic accident, a women pretend he is still there and even “sees” him. When she injures herself and is hospitalized, her older son (who’s in trouble at school for cheating and bullying) runs away to the grand-parents. On his way back, he sees his brother. The mother realizes she had been neglecting her other child (she also learns that she’s pregnant again) and stop pretending…
“The Willow Tree” (柳の木 / Yanagi no ki , 20 p., first published in Flowers in 2007) is another ghost story with the first sixteen pages containing only two panels each without any dialogue! A woman with an umbrella is waiting under a willow tree through several seasons to show the passage of the years. Finally, a man go see her and tells her that he was resentful and felt abandoned when she disappeared from his life suddenly. “You’ve been watching me all along (…) I am all right now, mother…” and he hugs the tree…
This superb anthology offers an excellent introduction to the work of Moto Hagio. With narratives imbued with broken families or the burden of non conformity, and their simple but effective art, they are very good examples of the shōjo and josei manga with great depth and complexity despite the fact that they are short stories — although the best stories are the two longest. It is a very good reading that will entertain you but also touch your heart…
A drunken dream and other stories, by Moto Hagio (translated by Matt Thorn). Fantagraphics Books, September 2010, 288 p., 7.3“ x 10.1“, $29.99 US, ISBN 978-1-60699-377-4. For young adult readership (16+).
For more information you can check the following websites:
[ Amazon • Goodreads • Google • Nelligan • Wikipedia • WorldCat ]
Original stories © 1977, 1985, 2007, 2008 Shogakukan Inc. English edition © 2010 Fantagraphics Books. Interviews © 2010 Matt Thorn.