Oct. 7th, 2010

starlady: (utena myth)
Awesome '70s Shoujo Week continues! [personal profile] marshtide has served up Gender, Sexuality and 70s Shojo Part Two: Psycopathic Lesbian Sorority Girls. [I totally have to read Oniisama E, seriously.]

Hagio Moto. A, A'. San Francisco: VIZ, 1996. [1981]

In these four interlinked stories Hagio explores a future solar system in which "unicorns," a rare subspecies of humanity genetically engineered for great computational and technical prowess and a minimum of external affect, mingle in isolate with the rest of their fellow humans, misunderstood and frequently vulnerable due to their difference.

I think I liked the first story, "A, A'," the best; it tells of a young unicorn researcher whose "original" is killed while posted to a remote research station and who according to company policy is cloned from genetic samples taken three years earlier, before her dispatch to the station, and sent out to replace herself. Naturally Adelaide has trouble reintegrating into the life of a group that remembers her old, three-years-their-comrade self; she particularly has trouble with her lover on staff, who can't accept that she's not who she was. The ending is weirdly hopeful and hopeless at the same time.

The other three stories, "4/4" and the two halves of "X/Y," follow the teenage and then young adult teek Mori, whose control over his psionic abilities is precarious--unless he's in the presence of a unicorn, as he learns when he meets the girl Trill at the space station where he lives. Trill, however, has a difficult relationship with her scientist father, and with the outside world, and Mori finds himself drawn into a fraught relationship with all three of them.

In "X/Y" Mori is living on Mars, where he meets a unicorn named Tacto, who is on Mars as part of a team from Earth proposing a revolutionary method to terraform the red planet. Mori finds himself drawn to Tacto, despite the fact that they're the same gender. Or are they? And does it matter?

I'm not entirely comfortable with the way Hagio handles transgender characters and stories about them--"X/Y" needs a warning for a trans character's suicide--and there's something a little off-kilter about her portrayal of gay characters, too. But I think on some level most of her protagonists aren't entirely comfortable in their own skin, or at least with the way society describes that skin, and on that level I imagine they have something in common with their creator and her fellow Shôwa 24 manga-ka. Which is another way of saying Hagio's reach sometimes exceeds her grasp--or the visual structures and language of her manga can't keep pace with her ideas--and reading her work is a fascinating exercise in trying to tease out all the implications of what she does and doesn't do. And it bears repeating that Hagio and the Shôwa 24 exploring these concerns at all in shoujo manga was revolutionary, and path-breaking; there'd be no Ôoku, or a host of other contemporary shoujo and josei manga, without Hagio Moto and Ikeda Riyoko, that's for sure.