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Before the Forty-Niners

Since I recently ranted on Twitter about the Magnificent Forty-Niners (here, here), and specifically about how glorifying them diminishes the contributions of their predecessors (here), I suppose I should offer some information about the giants on whose shoulders the women of the Year 24 Group stood. I won't go into a lot of detail here, because if I did, this piece would never get posted. So here goes. (Names given in the Japanese order; surnames first, given names second.)

If shōjo manga has a birth parent, I would say it is Matsumoto Katsuji (松本かつぢ, 1904-1986). I have written about him in the past (in an incarnation of my blog that was eaten by a spam virus), and I also wrote the bulk of the Wikipedia article on him, so I won't repeat myself here. Instead, I'll recommend you read what Ryan Holmberg has written about him in The Comics Journal here and here, with the caveat that I think Ryan occasionally draws bold links based on slim circumstantial evidence. I will point out, though, that Matsumoto's influence on later shōjo manga was not limited to his manga and illustrations. Matsumoto did something remarkable for a successful male artist in prewar Japan: in 1935, he took on a young female apprentice, whose name was

Ueda Toshiko (上田トシコ, 1917-2008). Through Matsumoto, Ueda found a bit of work before the war, but it wasn't until after the war that she really began to shine. Her Boku-chan ran in Shōjo Book from 1951 to 1958, but she is most famous for Fuichin-san (1955-1962), the story of a lively young Chinese girl based on Ueda’s experience of growing up in Japan-occupied Manchuria. Realistic and touching, Fuichin-san stood out as a dignified and sympathetic portrayal of Chinese, free of the standard stereotyping all too common in Japanese popular culture even today. What made Ueda distinctive, and popular, was her graceful, slick drawing style, tasteful humor (both reminiscent of her mentor’s work), and touching stories of simple compassion and kindness. In a time when the image of humor manga was one of crude drawings and simple, slapstick humor, Ueda’s manga must have been a breath of fresh air to the style-conscious girls of the 1950s.

Watanabe Masako (わたなべまさこ, 1929-) debuted in the rental manga market in 1952, when Mizuno Hideko was still in middle school, and became a master of the shôjo melodrama that was the standard of the day. In a time when many readers of shôjo manga were still living in poverty, the romantic, exotic, and luxurious worlds she portrayed had an undeniable appeal. She worked in the popular “mother” genre (described earlier), but also created a number of stories about twins, beginning with her first serial, Echo Girl. This motif of twins appears again and again in later shôjo manga. Watanabe was an important early contributor to the "ladies comics" genre in the 1980s, and has had an astoundingly prolific career, continuing to work through her 70s. (She is currently 88.) Whenever I see Ms. Watanabe at a manga-related gathering, she is always accompanied by her "young" friend,

Maki Miyako (牧美也子, 1935-). Like Watanabe, Maki got her start in the rental manga market, in 1957. But while Watanabe labored away in the comparatively obscure rental market for five years before moving to mainstream magazines, Maki made the leap almost immediately, so despite the difference in age and experience, both made their "real" debut in 1957. And like Watanabe, Maki also contributed enormously to the early ladies' comics genre, most notoriously with the deliciously named Bad Woman's Bible (悪女聖書).

Mizuno Hideko (水野英子, 1939-) was the only female manga artist to live in the famous Tokiwasō Apartments with such legends as Ishimori Shōtarō, Akatsuka Fujio, and the duo Fujiko Fujio (Fujimoto Hiroshi & Abiko Motō). Mizuno's first published story appeared in 1956, when she was just 16. She often worked with Ishimori, who also made his debut in 1956, and, like Ishimori, she was a craftsperson of great technical skill who helped define the cutting edge of manga technique in the 1950s and 1960s. A self-described tomboy, she hated the weepy girl-separated-from-her-mother stories that were so popular in the '50s, and preferred fantasy, Westerns, and just about anything not involving sad little heroines. In 1969, after a research tour of the U.S., Mizuno began work on Fire!, a dark story about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Fire! was too hot for the mainstream girls' magazines, though, so Mizuno had it serialized in the Japanese version of Seventeen. Fire! won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1969. Mizuno was the second woman to win the award, the first being Ueda Toshiko in 1959.

Takahashi Macoto (高橋真琴, 1934-), the only other male artist I'll introduce in this post, made his professional debut in 1953, in the rental manga market, and didn't begin to work in mainstream girls' magazines until 1957. It is no exaggeration to say that Takahashi revolutionized the way shōjo manga artists lay out their pages. Tezuka Osamu, Ishimori Shōtarō, and others had experimented with page layouts previously, but Takahashi's pages were designed as an esthetic whole, specifically for the very shōjo purpose of conveying the mood of the protagonist and the atmosphere of scene. My friend, Fujimoto Yukari, discusses Takahashi's contributions in great detail in her 2012 paper, "Takahashi Macoto: The Origin of Shōjo Manga Style" (which I translated into English for publication). But he made another important contribution, and that was the introduction of teenaged protagonists in a genre where pre-teen heroines were the rule. This was a reflection of changing reality. By the late 1950s, manga were being enjoyed by girls in junior-high. Raised on more sophisticated manga, these children were reluctant to "graduate" from manga in elementary school, as previous generations had.

Nishitani Yoshiko (西谷祥子, 1943-), who made her pro debut in 1961, while still in high school, took Takahashi's experiment to the next level. Until the mid-1960s, the only shōjo manga stories in which the protagonist could have a romantic relationship were fantasies, historical works, and stories set in distant lands. When the heroine was a contemporary Japanese girl, she was portrayed as a child, and romance was out of the question. Instead, she would experience romance vicariously, usually through an older sister or sister figure. But by the time began work on Lemon & Cherry in 1966, it was not uncommon for high school girls to read manga. That work was the first shōjo manga set in a contemporary Japanese high school and in which the protagonist falls in love with a boy. If that seems unremarkable, it's probably because this setting--the high school romance--has been the tried-and-true staple of shōjo manga for forty-some years now. But in 1966, it was stunningly new, and it all began with Nishitani. Both Hagio Moto and Takemiya Keiko have cited Nishitani as an inspiration, with Hagio saying Nishitani was the only artist doing "self expression" in the 1960s, and Takemiya crediting Nishitani with giving her the push to become a professional manga artist.

This is just a sampling of some of the artists who pioneered the genre of shōjo manga before Hagio Moto, Takemiya Keiko, or Ōshima Yumiko ever dipped a pen in ink. I could've have mentioned Chiba Tetsuya, Yamada Eiji, Yokoyama Mitsuteru, or more than a dozen women artists who were all cartooning prior to 1968. In his 1980 History of Postwar Shōjo Manga (the only history of its kind), manga critic Yonezawa Yoshihiro lists twenty-six women manga artists who were working before Takemiya or Ōshima appeared on the scene in 1968. And I know for a fact that there were probably more than twice as many women actually cartooning at the time. Yonezawa overlooks most of the women working in the rental manga market (which I'll explain someday in another blog post). On my bookshelf, I have rental manga books from the '50s and '60s by eleven women who didn't merit a mention in Yonezawa's history. Who knows how many more there are? In 1950, a female manga artist named IWATA Hiyoko (岩田ひよ子) was contributing manga to at least two major girls' magazines, and yet I have never heard her name mentioned by a single scholar or critic. Who was she? What's her story? No one knows, or at least anyone who knows has never shared her story publicly.

Shōjo manga wasn't invented by a group of Baby Boomers who have been labeled "The Magnificent Forty-Niners." The full story of shōjo manga has yet to be told.

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