Monday, 23 January 2012

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

At the moment it seems that my reading is not complete without having at hand a manga to read, and after reading Mitsuse Ryu, Moto Hagio seems like a logical choice, with the news that Fantagraphics will be publishing Hagio's shojo classic The Heart of Thomas/ Toma no shinzo I thought I'd better catch up with their previous book by her. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories collects ten stories that spans thirty years, 1977-2007, the stories are translated by Matt Thorn and includes the essay The Magnificent Forty-Niners, in which he introduces the artists that made up the  influential manga group, all commonly believed to have being born in 1949, although as it turns out Hagio was the only one actually born in this year. I'd have to admit being torn between either posting solely on  Iguana Girl or posting on the collection as a whole, although reading through the stories in this selection, they seemed to get better and better as they went along that not to post on any of the others seemed like a little of an injustice. The narratives in Hagio's stories are quite simply conveyed, most of these stories are brief but everyone leaves a resonance with the reader after finishing them, most are largely told from the perspective of a child who is caught at the moment as they are beginning to interpret and awaken to the machinations of the adult world, or are caught responding to some distant tragedy that has taken place in their past,  Hagio's  use of metaphor in her stories adds another dimension to them. A predominant theme that appears is that of societal conceptions of the normal, well adjusted  child as opposed to those that are seen as being ugly or not fitting in, as in Hanshin: Half God from 1985 a story about a pair of conjoined twins, one beautiful, who is brash but also has a limp and is therefore carried by the other twin who is not as beautiful but is studious and takes care of her sister, it's also implied in the story that the beautiful twin is sapping the uglier twin's good health. The story explores her feelings of resentment with her beautiful twin, and Hagio's ability to examine the motives and perceptions of the reasoning process in her characters is both exacting and moving to read, the moral table is turned many times in this story when the doctors come to the conclusion that they should be separated,  although it will be the case that one of them will die in the operation, Hagio leaves it to the last pages in adding the unexpected twist that changes the perspectives held by her characters. 

The title story A Drunken Dream/Suimu, also from 1985, stands out from the others as it's setting is on a space station, it's a fantastic love story that spans across dream and reality, as well as shifting between time periods. The story is seen through the narrator, an androgyne, who has a reoccurring dream of a love unfulfilled, a mysterious person inhabits these dreams and when a group of new recruits arrive at the station the narrator excitedly  discovers that among them is the person in the dream.  At first reality seems to intervene on the dream, although Hagio has a knack of pulling the rug from beneath your feet at precisely the right moment which ends most of her stories in an enigmatic way, things come to a conclusion but a sense lingers that things are far from being resolved, which leaves the reader contemplating again what has occurred in her stories. The two longest stories Angel Mimic and Iguana Girl, (both from 2008),  see Hagio exploring the traits of her characters to a greater degree, Iguana Girl is a story that explores the neurosis between a mother and daughter, (and sister?), the use of metaphor leads the reader into perceiving the narrative one way, but then Hagio turns the story in an unexpected direction which leaves you wondering which of the characters the metaphor is being applied to or which of them it is being perceived by. Angel Mimic/Tenshi no gitai follows the complex relationship between a young high school teacher and one of his pupils whose irrational behaviour hides an episode from her past, at the same time she harbours a fascination for angels which is another enigma to the teacher. The selection also comes with an interview between Hagio and the translator Matt Thorn where they discuss her beginnings and influences as a manga artist.   

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories at Fantagraphics


sumit said...

How do you do? Gary introduced this great web site of yours.

As a Japanese and a shojo manga fan, I am very happy to read this wonderful review on the works of one of the best manga artists in Japan.

Hanshin is one of the best short manga I have ever read. Iguana Girl is one of my favorite Hagio works in 90s. Did you notice the small igana in the river in the last page?

me. said...

Thanks for the comment, as you may tell I'm still a novice in the world of manga, so any recommendations are welcome.

Iguana Girl and Hanshin are highly recommended, completely amazing stories, Hagio's use of metaphor is profound.

Thanks for visiting!

sumit said...

Hello again.

I just forgot to recommend:

A A Prime
by Moto Hagio, if you like sci fi.

Thanks for promoting Japanese culture!

me. said...

Thanks for the recommendation, I'd very much like to read A,A Prime, it looks fascinating, although it looks quite expensive, perhaps it has gone out of print in English?, maybe I'll save up some money for a copy, and Heart of Thomas when it's published.

There's so many Japanese novels I want to read.

I checked for the small Iguana in the river at the end!

Anonymous said...

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