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  • Writer's pictureAndréa Gilroy

March 7th: Moto Hagio

Born in Fukuoka prefecture in 1949, Hagio was always interested in art and manga. In high school, after deciding she wanted to become a manga artist, she began the doujin group “Key Rox” with her friend and fellow manga artist Chiyoko Harada. In 1969, the magazine Nakayoshi published the short story “Lulu and Mimi,” and with that, Hagio’s professional career began.

Hagio moved to Tokyo where she shared an apartment with another manga artist, Keiko Takemiya. This apartment would come to be known as the “Oizumi Salon,” the birthplace and headquarters of the “Year 24 Group.” Though there was no official membership, the Year 24 Group consisted of female shoujo manga creators working in Tokyo born around the year Showa 24 (1949). In addition to Hagio and Takemiya, the Year 24 Group includes other legends like Yasuko Aoike (From Eroica With Love), Yumiko Ōshima (The Star of Cottonland), Toshie Kihara (Yume no Ishibumi), Ryoko Yamagishi (Hi Izuru Tokoro no Tenshi), and Riyoko Ikeda (Rose of Versailles).

Besides being a highly accomplished and prolific group of artists, the Year 24 Group are best known for revolutionizing shoujo manga. These women popularized several now-standard genres in shoujo manga, such as the bildungsroman and shounen-ai. They also frequently incorporated science fiction elements into shoujo manga, a genre previously associated more closely with shounen manga. In addition to generic shifts, the Year 24 Group inspired new trends in composition, page layout, and other formal features of shoujo manga style. For example, the Year 24 Group eschewed traditional rectangular panels in grids in favor of open layouts with more creatively shaped panels, sometimes removing panel borders altogether if it helped enhance the emotional impact of a scene.

As a founder of the Year 24 Group, Hagio’s historical significance cannot be denied. Their influence is still clear in shoujo manga published today. However, Hagio’s work is exemplary in its own right as well. She is also deeply respected in the science fiction and shounen manga genres--in short, with works like They Were Eleven (1976), Hagio managed to produce something unusual in manga publishing: a crossover hit.

Critics, peers, and fans have lauded Hagio’s work. She has, over the course of her career, won numerous awards: the 1976 Shogakukan Shounen Award for The Poe Clan and They Were Eleven, the 1980 Seiun Award for Star Red, the 1983 Seiun Award for Gin no Sankaku, the 1985 Seiun Award for X+Y, the first Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize for 1997’s A Cruel God Reigns, and the 2006 Nihon SF Taisho Award for Otherworld Barbara. In addition to these awards for specifics texts, she has been recognized for her lifelong achievements in 2010, when she received the Comic-Con Inkpot Award; in 2011 when she received the Japan Cartoonist Association's Minister of Education, Science and Technology Award; and in 2012, when she was the first female manga creator to be awarded a Japanese Medal of Honor (purple ribbon). In 2022, she was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame. On top of it all, she is still producing manga at age 74, long after many of her peers have retired. 

Due to the vagaries of the US publishing market, Hagio’s work has only recently become available in English translation. Fantagraphics Books has released high quality editions of The Heart of Thomas, Otherworld Barbara, and a collection of short stories titled A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. Denpa is set to publish a new translation of They Were Eleven in 2024.


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