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A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

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A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio from Fantagraphics

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

© 2008 Moto Hagio

The Bottom Line

In some circles, shojo manga generally gets written off as sweet stuff that's "fine for girls," but not terribly intellectual or artistically innovative. But look beyond the flowers, the delicate linework and love stories, and you may find something dark, deep and slightly subversive — or at least you will in the work of Moto Hagio.

A Drunken Dream offers a long-overdue glimpse into Hagio's 40-year career, showcasing some early and recent stories. With its mix of sci-fi, romance, tragedy and comedy, A Drunken Dream is a memorable manga journey that shouldn't be missed or dismissed.

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Pros

  • Offers a tantalizing glimpse into the artistic evolution of a true shojo manga innovator.
  • Showcases Hagio's depth and range with a mix of sci-fi, romance, humor and slice-of-life drama
  • Several stories are have rare emotional depth that make them moving and memorable.
  • Matt Thorn's in-depth interview with Hagio provides excellent context for her work and ideas.
  • Lovely, thoughtfully-designed hardcover edition gives Hagio's work the respect it deserves.

Cons

  • Given that this offers stories from Hagio's 40-year career, it can look a bit dated and uneven.
  • It's an appetizer that generates hunger for more of Hagio's manga (there's not much in English…yet)

Description

Guide Review - A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

Some comics critics get sugar shock when they encounter the delicate linework, sparkly eyes and ew, romance found in shojo manga. It's too bad, because they're missing out. The best shojo and josei manga explores complex human emotions and relationships in a way that "comics for boys" or "comics for men" can rarely match. Some of the best examples can be found in the work of Moto Hagio.

The world of comics has long been a male-dominated craft in the United States, so it's rare to see comics by a female creator who has been consistently creating thought-provoking work as Moto Hagio has been doing in Japan for the past 40 years. There are a handful of American creators who fit the bill, but there are none that come close to what Hagio has done and continues to do: create ever-evolving, beautifully-drawn and profound stories from a mature, distinctively feminine point of view.

A Drunken Dream is a collection of short stories by Hagio, so it doesn't have the epic scale and intricate character development that her longer series have — but it does offer readers a rare overview of this influential creator's work. It's a bit uneven, but it does have several strong stories that can move a reader to tears.

Drawing from deeply-felt personal experiences, Hagio draws stories for every person who has felt like an outsider, who has regretted past actions that can never be erased, or who has longed to be accepted for being who they are, not what people want them to be. These ideas sound so simple – but when touched by Hagio's pen, this is punch-in-the-gut powerful. Seriously, some of these stories made me cry.

In earlier tales like Bianca and Girl on Porch With A Puppy, Hagio tackles a theme that wasn't very fashionable to shojo manga editors or readers: non-conformity. This may sound simplistic to American sensibilities used to the mindset of "be your own person"— but for stories written in the 1970's for young Japanese girls, this is very unconventional and subversive stuff.

The two standouts are Hanshin: Half God and Iguana Girl. Both stories are about girls who are smarter and more sensitive than the people around them, but are treated like outcasts simply because of the way the world (or in the case of Iguana Girl, her mother) chooses to see them. What can be more painful than to be rejected by your own family; to grow up believing that you're ugly, strange and unlovable?

What makes these stories shine is Hagio's ability to give each tale a twisted twist. The conjoined twins in Hanshin offer a creepy but compelling take on the love/hate dichotomy of siblings, while Iguana Girl provides a quirky, heartfelt metaphor for a dysfunctional family relationship. You'll read these stories once, and you'll never forget them — that's powerful stuff.

Even if you normally turn your nose at "girls' comics," you'd be missing out if you pass A Drunken Dream by. It'll open your eyes and maybe your mind — it's that darn good.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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