Dec 2, 2012

The Interview with Moto Hagio about Receiving the Medal with Purple Ribbon

I introduced three of my favorite manga authors, Moto Hagio, Katsuhiro Otomo, and TaiyoMatsumoto on my weblog.

Moto Hagio was received the Medal with Purple Ribbon, which honors the achievement in the academic and artistic fields.

The entry about the translation of "Haruki Murakami's Speech on Catalonia InternationalPrize" was well received, so I'd like to translate the interview with Moto Hagio about receiving the medal with purple ribbon (「萩尾望都さん・紫綬褒章インタビュー」) into English.

It made me understand what she said more deeply to translate this interview.

Interviewer: At first how do you feel about receiving the medal with purple ribbon?

Moto Hagio: I've been really surprised until now. I'm wondering if I am suitable for this prize.

When I was preparing for attending "Salon du Livre" at Paris, I heard about receiving the prize. I was so surprised that I can't remember what I replied to the call, which told me that this news wasn't unofficial and you shouldn't tell about the prize before the official statement. I told about it only to my stuffs.

I wanted to tell about this news to my father, because he was admitted to a hospital. I thought that he would pass way while I had been visiting Paris, and he did so. After I returned Japan, I went to the ritual at the forty-ninth day, and I reported about the prize to my father and mother.

She was also surprised and said to me, "Well, congratulations." She is a fan of the drama "the Wife of Gegege", which described the detail of the manga author's life, and she was surprised with it. She might realize that even manga authors lived seriously. She called me and said, "I watched "the Wife of Gegege", and I realized your life at last. I'm sorry." I thanked her.

Interviewer: How do you think about that your manga works are described as "literary?"

Moto Hagio: I have no idea about it. I'm introvert, so I tend to take everything too seriously. I've wanted to be a "girl manga" author, and I've been publishing my works as "girl manga", but at the same time I might be influenced by science fiction and the works of Herman Hesse and Romain Rolland, which I've read.

From my childhood, I've also read both of "boy manga" and "girl manga", and I thought vaguely that I could express my soul through the style of manga, so I began devoted to drawing manga.

Usually I couldn't share my worries, but I found people who worried about the same things, when I read Herman Hess's works, so I was fascinated by them and I felt that I got help from his works.

Interviewer: When did you read Herman Hess's works?

Moto Hagio: When I was about twenty years old. At that time I thought about the reason why I existed and the way that I should live. In everyday life people told me that you should stop thinking about them and do only proper things, like studying hard and getting a job. Ordinary people stopped thinking about them, because thinking about them impeded doing proper things.

But Herman Hess faced such worries seriously, and wrote about wondering how he himself should live and his failure and success. His novel told me that I could worry about them.

Interviewer: Did you want to express them through "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: I might be permitted to this extent. In "Heart of Thomas (トーマの心臓)" the central character worried himself over. In my adolescence I also worried myself over about everything that my friends did and said. I thought that humanity was quite delicate and I wanted to express the delicacy.

Interviewer: How did people around you thought about expressing these things in "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: I thought that the works of Osamu Tezuka, Sanpei Shirato, and Tetsuya Chiba actually expressed them. In "girl manga" world, Minori Kimura and Ryoko Yamagishi were pursuing the subtleness of the human mind, so I thought that I also could express them. But at that time we were minor.

Interviewer: How about the reaction from the readers of your works?

Moto Hagio: Some readers were moved deeply, and others complained that they couldn't understand at all.

Interviewer: But "the Poes (ポーの一族)" was sold out.

Moto Hagio: Fortunately "the Poes" in book form was sold out soon. It was really good.

Interviewer: Were you surprised?

Moto Hagio: When "the Poes" was sold out, I was drawing "Heart of Thomas" regularly for a magazine, but it was really unpopular. It could be dropped, but the editors changed their minds, because "the Poes" was sold well. It helped me a lot. I just felt relieved that I could continue "Heart of Thomas", and I couldn't analyze the popularity of "the Poes" objectively.

Interviewer: How do you think about the power of "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: At Salon du Livre, I was asked why there were "boy manga" and "girl manga" in Japan. At that moment I couldn't understand the meaning of this question, because it was so natural for me that there were both of them. But a person who asked me couldn't understand the differences of these genres. To explain simply, the reason why there were the two genres is that interests of boys and girls are different. Girls are interested in love, and boys are interested in adventures and teamwork

Most early works of "girl manga", which I read in my elementary school days, were almost stories about relationship between mother and child, valley ball, detective, in which girls played active roles or are faced with tragedies. As "girl manga" magazines increased, more female authors were needed. Kodansha and Shueisha established manga awards, and young authors applied to them. At the beginning Machiko Satonaka and Noriko Aoike came out. A little while ago Sachiko Nishitani drew love stories, and then Machiko Satonaka and other young authors began to make the second boom of "girl manga."

They described girls' minds from the girls' stand point of view. Almost of their works were fantastic and some of them were about sports, for example valley ball. From the late 1960s to the 1970s, they draw these manga works, and manga readers liked to read them.

Interviewer: What do you think of the attractiveness of manga?

Moto Hagio: Graphics and words. We, manga authors, construct frames in order to express a story by graphics. When we make perfect series of frames, they could move readers deeply like great films or music. They pierce directly through readers' hearts. I, myself, was moved by great manga works, and I'd like to give something back by drawing manga, which will move someone.

I think that manga, as a genre, resemble to music and films. When we read a novel, sometimes we stop reading them and think about the reason why the main character talked about such things, but we watch through a film without stopping it to think about the meanings. It's the same with music. We don't think about the meaning of the sound of a cymbal, when we heard it. Films and music move us at once. Manga is like them. When we want to stop reading, we couldn't stop reading through, if we watched the next frame.

Interviewer: Manga is the art of time, isn't it?

Hagio Moto: Yes, it is. We manipulate time freely.

Interviewer: After you have been drawing in the front lines for forty years, what would you like to draw now?

Moto Hagio: I wanted to keep drawing manga in the same way, but I was really shocked with the images of the earthquake and the tsunami of the East Japan last year. And then I could hardly believe that it was real to explode Fukushima nuclear power plants, because I had believed that it should be the happening just in the science fiction. I felt like that the world came to the end.

I found that I only draw the stories about this disaster, so I intend to draw other kinds of stories, like "Nanohana." It's really hard to think only about the disaster, so I'd like to get away from it and draw science fiction or a historical story, in which beautiful costumes appear.

I tend to be drawn into this topic, and the half of the books that I read is about nuclear power.

Interviewer: What manga authors should express in this situation?

Moto Hagio: Some manga authors, for example KotobukiShiriagari and Osamu Yamamoto, drew manga works about last year's disaster in their own ways. Someone drew a fantasy, and another drew a real story. I can understand that there are someone who can't help but drawing about this disaster, because it is a really big affair.

Interviewer: It's a long time since manga have taken root in Japan. Do you think if manga will be attractive?

Moto Hagio: Yes. When I was a child and I just became a manga author, the genre of manga was criticized, especially at school. But now people are favorable about manga. I wonder when they turned to be favorable. I guess that the generations who read manga in childhood have grown up and they are not negative about manga.


  1. Some girls prefer adventure! ;)

    Her comments about the big quake and nuclear power made me remember 火垂るの墓. That's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Not just one of the best anime, but one of the best movies in any genre.

    Thanks for this post. I knew about Akira, but the other two authors are new to me.

    1. >Some girls prefer adventure! ;)
      Haha, I think so.

      Moto Hagio isn't well known in the world like Katsuhiro Otomo and Hayao Miyazaki, but she might be the best author in Japanese manga history.

  2. Many thanks for sharing this translation, I really enjoyed reading Hagio's Drunken Dream and Other Stories sometime ago and am looking forward to reading Heart of Thomas.

    Sometimes the sheer number of manga and different types of manga leaves me slightly bewildered and wondering which authors/artists to begin to read, I've enjoyed the works of the two other authors you've mentioned that I've read and would like to read more from Yoshiharu Tsuge.

    The next manga I have to read is MW by Tezuka.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I can keep this weblog, because I've got comments like yours.