I attended a very special panel hosted by The Japan Foundation at Foyles regarding the history of shojo manga with guest speakers Nozomi Masuda and Eiko Hanamura.
For those unfamiliar, Shojo Manga – often translated as ‘comics for girls’ – is a genre of Japanese comic books which has a history spanning many decades in Japan. Contrary to its male counterpart ‘Shonen Manga’, Shojo Manga features narratives of sweet love stories, anguished romances and even real-life issues facing women across a vastly broad range of genres. Whether a sci-fi, fantasy or even period drama, the stories reflect the desires and dreams of its mainly female readership, showing truly what girls want.
In this talk Nozomi Masuda, Associate Professor at Konan Women’s University in Japan, ran through the history and trends of the genre throughout the decades. It was really interesting to see how much the artwork had changed over the years,especially the westernisation of female characters.
Informative, I learnt about kashihonga , which literally translates as a lending book shop. Children could pay 10 yen to borrow a manga. Similar to our British libraries. At the peak of Shojos popularity it is thought that a single manga would be read by 1 million people in the peak of the sixties.
After a run through of the history, Eiko Hanamura joined Nozomi Masuda on the stage. With pink hair and a twinkle in her eye she could be mistaken for one of the girls in Shojo manga. Eiko Hanamura is one of the pioneers of Shojo manga in the 1960s. She has written and illustrated a variety of material including comedies, historical tales and mysteries, which have appeared in a wide range of comics for young girls to older women. Her major works include: Kiri no naka no shôjo (A Girl in the Fog), Hanakage no hito (A Woman in the Shadow of Flowers), Hanabira no tô (A Steeple of Flower Petals), Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji), and the Mitsuhiko Asami series.
The pair were interviewed by Paul Gravett and translated by Bethan Jones. Paul is an expert in the field, involved in comic publishing and promotion since 1981. In the Q&A Hamamura revealed that she never set out to be a manga artist, “I never had an ambition to be a manga artist but people kept asking me to draw so I did”.
The mic was then passed to the audience for questions. One attendee asked about why characters in modern day Shojo do not have stars in their eyes like they did back in the 60s. Hanamura explained that it is just the trends and fashion.
Another attendee asked what she thought of modern day Shojo, interestingly she replied that she liked them both but found they all looked the same.
After there was a drinks reception with wine and olives. The guest speakers joined in signing autographs and attendees could get a cheeky selfie with them.