Online Exhibition: The Diverse World of Manga: Shōjo Manga and Female Manga Artists: Artistic Innovation

Artistic Innovation

According to manga critic Yonezawa Yoshihiro, shōjo manga was an object of contempt in its earlier stage. This is because characters have disproportionally large eyes, some have stars on their irises, flowers are drawn behind characters for decorative purpose, the drawing technique was of poor quality, and often unnecessarily full-length portraits were inserted and looked like fashion plates. However, Yonezawa argues that shōjo manga artists have explored the psychology of the characters, and while doing so, they have invented new techniques by attempting to visually express the emotions of the characters. Through these experiments, shōjo manga has evolved both in content and in visual presentation (Yonezawa, 18-20). This case discusses the variety of techniques used in shōjo manga.

Influence of Illustrated Books

Earlier shōjo manga artists were influenced by post-war illustrators such as Takahashi Makoto, Nakahara Jun’ichi, and Takabatake Kashō, all of who contributed illustrations to girls’ magazines, popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Readers loved the colorful illustrations of young girls posing in fashionable and feminine clothes. Takahashi Makoto in particular created many illustrations of young girls with shiny eyes, and often added flowers behind her to emphasize her beauty. In girls’ magainzes, colorful illustrations of young girls received the readers’ primary attention, rather than being supplement to the texts.  

The earlier style of shōjo manga strongly shows the influence of Takahashi and the fashion-plates style illustrations. This page (『星のたてごと (Harp of the Stars), 314) presents the full-length portrait of the heroine Linda. Although this reproduction is in black and white, the page was originally drawn in color.  

Influence of Illustrated Books (continue)

Created by Urano Chikako (1946-), 『アタックNo. 1 (Attakku No. 1)(1968-1970) is an extremely popular sports manga featuring volleyball. In the top half of this page (v. 2, p. 144)Urano depicts the heroine Kozue and her teammates at a party. She sketches the scenery of the party on the right side, but adds Kozue on the left. Kozue has big eyes with stars shinning inside, and rose flowers surrounding her to make her more gorgeous. These are typical expressions shown in the earlier shōjo manga works. Similar themes are shown in 『キャンディ・キャンディ (Candy Candy)(1975-1979) drawn by Igarashi Yumiko (1950-). In this page ( v. 2, p. 54), the orphan heroine Candy appears fully dressed up. Flowers are drawn along the bottom and behind her, and flower petals are floating in the air. It is especially important to make a strong impression when introducing new characters. In『はいからさんが通る (Haikara-San: Here Comes Miss Modern)(1975-1977), the author Yamato Waki (1948-) introduces a new character, Tamaki, who is the best friend of heroine Benio. In this page (v. 1, p. 17), the author uses half of the whole page to portrait Tamaki Lilies are added behind her, and small dots with radiant lines are added as a lighting effect. 

Layout: Intricate Camera Angles

Reading manga can be challenging. Japanese books open from the right to left, as opposed to English books which open left to right. In addition, a page of manga usually consists of multiple illustrated flames, called koma, vertically organized in three or four rows. When manga artists draft the layout of a page, they place koma to lead the readers’ eyes from the right top to the bottom left, and this flow also suggests the flow of time. Each koma depicts characters and/or scenes from one perspective, so koma function as a camera shot, with multiple koma representing multiple camera shots. The layout of koma used to be simple, but manga artists began to experiment with the layout for more effective and/or dramatic presentations. This tendency is particularly notable for shōjo manga; where the shape and size of koma tend to be more flexible than other genres of manga.  

The displayed pages fromSwan( v. 21, pp. 76-77) by Ariyoshi Kyōko (1950-) depict that the protagonist Masumi, a young ballet dancer, is struggling with her dancing. The gray shadow in the second koma on the right page expresses her agony. The camera catches her face up close. Then on the left page, the camera zooms out, then again closes up on her face. The left bottom koma shows Masumi crying, but her hair is extended to the following koma, which depicts somone’s eye. The following koma shows the camera zooms out to show it is Lilliana, Masumi’s rival. This last frameless koma is placed behind the two previous pictures. This presentation means that the last three pictures depict two characters at the same time. The reader can also see the first koma on the same page is Masumi as viewed by Lilliana. Strong light is expressed by radial lines from the left shining onto her face. To present stronger light, the black line of the koma above is also partially removed. The outline of her face is also partially broken, and gray dot screen tone is added to emphasis the strength of the light.  

Bibliographical References

Abstractive Presentation

One of the major themes of shōjo manga is to depict the psychological relations of the characters, and the artists explore techniques to effectively present emotions. These excerpts, taken from Hagio Moto’s 『残酷な神が支配する (A Cruel God Reigns)(v. 14, 50-52), present the unstableness of Jeremy and Ian. Jeremy and Ian become step-brothers by the marriage between Jeremy’s mother and Ian’s father. After a car accident kills the parents of the boys, Ian finds out that Jeremy was sexually abused by Ian’s father Greg. Ian’s question triggers Jeremy’s memory of abuse. By depicting Jeremy as a broken and dismembered doll, Hagio expresses that the abuse has torn his heart and body.  

Special Effects by Black & White

Manga is most frequently published in magazines, and are usually published in black and white, though manga artists sometimes create manuscripts in color. Illustrations are usually drawn in pen, using Indian ink or black ink. Within these limitations, manga artists have created unique techniques to express both the visible and the invisible. The displayed samples are excerpted from 『陰陽師 (Onmyōji)』(v. 13) and『妖魅変成夜話 (Yôni henjô yawa)』(v. 2 and v. 4), both of which are created by Okano Reiko (1960-). 『陰陽師』was originally based on a novel series with the same title written by Yumemakura Baku (1951-). Onmyōji is a practitioner of Onmyōdō, a traditional Japanese esoteric cosmology based on the Chinese yin and yang philosophy, and this fiction uses the myth and legends of the famous Onmyōji Abe no Seimei (921-1005). However, in the middle of the series Okano separated her work from the original novel and created her own story, linking the drama with Egyptian mythology. She creates delicate effects of light and shade by applying layers of screen tones, resulting in an illustration that radiates as if it has an aura. Okano does not rely on digital tools to create these illustrations. In another work, 『妖魅変成夜話』, she presents a comical fantasy story using an ancient Chinese myth. In this work, Okano uses a brush instead of a pen. Originally, her choice of tool was to save her time, but her brush drawing has become more delicate and complex over time.