7 Women Who Changed Manga History
by Lynzee Loveridge,
Few manga artists are lucky enough to leave an indelible stamp on the industry to the point where their names are synonymous with changing the medium, like Osamu Tezuka, Leiji Matsumoto, Go Nagai, and Fujiko Fujio. Now all of those pioneers were men, but that's not to say manga didn't have important female artists. On the contrary, shōjo, yuri, and shōnen-ai wouldn't be what they are today without The Year 24 Group. The name refers to the approximate birth year of most of the participants, referring to Shōwa-era 24, or 1949. Unlike their male counterparts, many of the members' works are barely known to Western audiences, some having never been published stateside at all. This is unfortunate because, for their time, these women were introducing topics for female readers that hadn't been published before.
Moto Hagio The first member of this illustrious group is Moto Hagio. First off, hats off to her for covering all the bases over her still-active manga career. The woman has made waves with her early shōnen-ai work, The Heart of Thomas, but has also penned evocative sci-fi like They Were Eleven and Otherworld Barbara. Thomas, published in 1974, is an early example of aristocratic boys at a boarding school developing romantic, albeit tragic, feelings for one another. The characters and plotting are soap opera levels of dramatic (as is almost all shōjo manga of the time) making for an emotional marathon read.
Riyoko Ikeda Riyoko Ikeda is likely the only other name on this list to crack into Western anime fans' consciousness. If you aren't familiar with her name, you've at least heard of her most famous work. The Rose of Versailles is a historical fiction piece that would influence other landmark works like Revolutionary Girl Utena, leaving a huge mark on the manga industry itself. The series is credited with pushing publishers to release tankōbon and containing the first implied sex scene in manga. If you enjoy sexy manga fanservice, you can thank Ikeda for that.
Ryouko Yamagishi Yuri manga, especially early yuri, has familiar plot beats that many stories hit again and again. These have come to be criticized in modern times, as many of the stories fall into the Class S genre where homosexuality is seen as a temporary adolescent phase. Others may contain melodramatic, tragic endings of doomed romance. Whatever your opinion is on these tropes, yuri fiction would not be the same without Ryouko Yamagishi. Her manga Shiroi Heya no Futari (The Couple of the White Room) is one of the earliest examples of yuri manga for girls, starring the femininely serene Resine and the dark and dangerous Simone. It takes place at a French boarding school where the two's budding romance becomes the subject of terrible gossip.
Yasuko Aoike Aoike's most famous (and still ongoing) work is From Eroica with Love. Like the title suggests, the manga takes cues from other famous spy works like James Bond. The story stars the curly mop-topped Lord Dorian Red Gloria, as he attempts to steal works of art and make passes at Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, a West German NATO major. The manga started before the fall of the Berlin Wall and has continued on despite it. Aoike's art style falls outside what boys-love readers would be used to today; Dorian has hair like a 1980s rock god (Robert Plant to be exact), and Klaus would also fit in with a British pop-rock group. Characters also have pronounced, rounded chins and angled noses fit for a Roman coin.
Yumiko Ōshima Do you have a favorite cat girl? Cyan from Show by Rock, Merle from Escaflowne, or Ichigo Momomiya from Tokyo Mew Mew? None of these characters might exist today if it weren't for Yumiko Ōshima. While she didn't invent the cat girl (there's a giant one sitting in the Sahara that predates all modern anime), she definitely popularized their appeal in Japan. Her manga Wata no Kuni Hoshi (The Star of Cottonland) debuted in 1978 with an adorable kitten who believes she's a human and falls in love with her owner. She searches for the magical Cottonland so she can really become a human girl.
Keiko Takemiya Takemiya has the distinguishing credit of being among the few female artists to find success in both the shōjo and shōnen manga business. She broke new ground with her manga In the Sunroom, the first shōnen-ai manga to depict male-male kissing and possibly the first shōnen-ai manga to be published in Japan at all. She then branched out with her sci-fi shōnen series Toward the Terra, which won the first Seiun Award. Takemiya now serves as the president of Kyoto Seika University.
Toshie Kihara Kihara, like Hagio and Takemiya, also contributed to the budding world of shōnen-ai manga with a focus on historical settings. Her most well-known work is the 1979 manga Mari to Shingo, about two schoolmates attending an all-boys school in the early Shōwa period (mid-1920s) who gradually fall in love with each other over the course of 13 volumes. She would also take her readers to the Middle East, ancient Japan, and the French court to showcase forbidden romances, like a samurai and a cross-dressing pickpocket, or an Arabian prince and his kidnapper.
The new poll: Which Winter 2017 anime are you looking forward to the most?
The old poll: Which of these characters do you think would be suitable for a country's highest office?
- Roy Mustang (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) 24.6%
- Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass) 9.6%
- Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) 4.8%
- Karma Akabane (Assassination Classroom) 4.5%
- Tomoyo Daidouji (Cardcaptor Sakura) 4.5%
- Yona (Yona of the Dawn) 3.3%
- Yang Wen-li (Legend of the Galactic Heroes) 2.9%
- Nausicaä (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) 2.8%
- Daichi Sawamura (Haikyu!!) 2.7%
- Yukino Yukinoshita (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU) 2.5%
- Light Yagami (Death Note) 2.5%
- Reinhard von Lohengramm (Legend of the Galactic Heroes) 2.5%
When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.
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