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[personal profile] starlady
Hagio Moto, A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. Trans. Matt Thorn. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2010.

So this is the new, shiny, and last Hagio available in English. My overall reaction can be summed up by saying, "Please sir, I want some more."

Translator Matt Thorn chose this selection by asking the members of Hagio's Mixi fanpage what they thought would be best for a hypothetical English-language Hagio anthology, which is an interesting editorial strategy. It also tends to give a diachronic view of Hagio's output which quite frankly I don't think is necessarily representative in the fullest sense of the term. To say this another way: only one of these stories, the titular "A Drunken Dream," is SF-nal, which frankly I think is a disservice to Hagio as a creator; SF-nal manga is the heart of her oeuvre. It's also the only story in here that really plays with the intersection of bodies, gender, and sexuality, which is also a disservice to her body of work.

"A Drunken Dream" is far and away the best story in here, if too bloody short, but there are other really good ones; none of these is bad or uninteresting or less than aesthetically skilled: "The Iguana Girl" nearly had me in tears, and "Girl on a Porch with Puppy" is just chilling. I also liked "Angel Mimic," despite the fact that in some ways it's pretty conventional. Like all Hagio stories I've read, these swirl around insuperable barriers, wounds that cannot or will not heal, differences that can't be bridged. It is, overall, a melancholy if minorly masterful book.

The book also includes the Comics Journal interview Thorn did with Hagio in 2004, which on one level is doubly frustrating because a) it thereby lends the stories in A Drunken Dream to biographical criticism, which I'm not sure is a move I really want to make; and b) all Thorn and Hagio talk about practically is her longer works Heart of Thomas and Poe no Ichizoku, both of which are acknowledged masterpieces of the genre and which are entirely unavailable in English. I'm not sure what the deal is with lacking Hagio's longer works--certainly there's the question of whether or not there's a market for them, but I really think it would be possible to market either or both manga to receptive core audiences in the States and then rope other people in by beating the "this is a classic!" drum, coupled with decent production values (speaking of which, Fantagraphics: fire your copyeditor). It's also possible that the obstacle comes from Hagio herself; mangaka retain a good deal of control over whether and into which language(s) their works are authorized to be translated. I can only hope, if that's the case in this case, that she changes her mind. 

I would be remiss if I didn't point to [personal profile] rushthatspeaks' review of this book, which led me on the whole Hagio excursion in the first place; rush makes some different points about these stories that I agree with.