Moto Hagio is considered to be one of modern shōjo manga’s pioneers, but English-language audiences haven’t gotten much of her work. Fantagraphics‘ forthcoming A Drunken Dream and Other Stories (available now at Comic-Con) will help to remedy some of that. (I did buy it yesterday, as I reported.)
Moto Hagio is also a recipient this year of Comic-Con Inkpot Award and this was her first-ever visit to the U.S.
During her interview session yesterday with manga expert Matt Thorn, who translated her comments from Japanese, Hagio was utterly charming and fascinating.
She said she made her professional debut at the age of 20 and gained fame through her vampire story, The Poe Clan. Greatly influenced by American science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clark (she specifically cited Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” as one of the stories that had a big impact on her), she tried her hand at sci-fi stories like They Were Eleven and Marginal.
Hagio incorporates a lot of darker ideas into her work. The short story, “Iguana Girl” is about a girl whose mother only sees her as being a lizard, although to everyone else she looks normal. Hagio said she created this story because she was trying to deal with her own issues with her mother, who believed that being a manga-ka was a “vulgar” profession.
Her longest-running story to date is A Cruel God Reigns about a young man seeking redemption after killing his stepfather who was molesting him.
During the audience question-and-answer session, someone asked if she had trouble getting published. She said when she first started out, she was doing comics for a magazine aimed at elementary school girls and her editors wanted energetic, happy stories. Instead, she was turning in depressing stories where people died. Another publisher approached her and it was glad to publish her dark stories. She said she kept right on killing people in her stories after that.
Someone else asked if she liked how shōjo manga now had a lot of strong female characters, and she said that it’s a good development. Japan has always been male-dominated, she said, and women are expected to get married, have kids and stay at home (she also remarked that she thinks that’s why her job was a source of conflict with her parents). She then went onto say that “The idea that men should do this and women should do this is ridiculous.” That got the most applause of anything she said.
At the end of her presentation, it was announced that she was donating the books of her works that she had brought with her to Comic-Con.