Attendee 4: Your page layouts and panel designs are very attractive, but they're also thoughtful, in terms of knowing how a reader will experience it; it has a very particular rhythm. Do you feel that you and other artists who were your peers knew you were being innovators or were there prior influences that helped you to develop this style of drawing?
Moto Hagio: I think it comes from before our generation. Osamu Tezuka's page layouts were very beautiful and very easy to read; that had a big influence on our generation (of manga artists).
TELLING TABOO TALES AND BREAKING BOUNDARIES
Attendee 5: A Cruel God Reigns is a very dark story. I wanted to know why you decided to create such a story.
Moto Hagio: Because of my problems with my parents, I did a lot of reading about psychology and counseling. Among those stories were a lot about stories about sexual abuse. I always had a hard time understanding why other members of the family, particularly the mother, does not step in and help. In order to search for the answer to this question, I started that story.
Attendee 6: The themes that you cover are very taboo in society, even today. I was wondering whether this was due to requests from your readers to create stories about these sorts of topics, or were you exploring something within yourself?
Moto Hagio: My ideas come from inside myself, not from my readers. I write about things that I'm interested in myself. For example, in A Cruel God Reigns, this was an idea that I thought about for 10 years. I had the idea, but it was such a dark, heavy story, it took me 10 years to find a way to put it into manga form. When I started A Cruel God Reigns, I told the editor it would probably last two years, but it took a lot longer; it took nine years.
Attendee 7: There are a lot of shojo manga right now that depict very strong, active women, who are perhaps stronger than actual women in (Japanese) society today. This trend seems to mimic a lot of the stories that you did earlier in your career. What are your thoughts on this?
Moto Hagio: I think this is a very good development. Japan has a long tradition of being a very male-dominated society. For a very long time, it was expected for a woman to get married, stay at home and have children. One of the main reasons why my parents were pressuring me to quit work was because they had that same preconception that a woman should not work outside the house for too long; she should get married and become a housewife.
My own feeling is that the idea that men should be this and women should be that is just ridiculous. The individual should be able to choose what that individual wants to do. That's what I do. (applause)
Attendee 8: Did you have trouble getting problems getting your manga published in the beginning?
Moto Hagio: When I first made my debut, It was with Kodansha publishing in the magazine Nakayoshi, which at the time was geared toward elementary-aged girls. Of course, children are full of energy, optimism and hope, and so the editors asked me to write happy, energetic and fun stories. But in most of my stories, people die, so uhm... (laughs) they weren't happy with that.
While I was struggling with my editors at Nakayoshi, I got head-hunted from Shogakukan Publishing. An editor there said, 'How would you like to draw for us?' All of the stories that I had written for Kodansha that been rejected by Kodansha were published by Shogakukan, regardless if people died or not. (laughs) Since then, I've been killing people left and right! (everyone laughs)
Attendee 9: Several (Japanese) artists are reluctant to have their work translated into English. Were you reluctant to have your work translated?
Moto Hagio: I never had any problem with being translated into English at all; in fact, I was very happy that this has happened. All great works should be available to everyone around the world.
Attendee 10: I've been a fan of yours for over 30-something years, and I just love your work. I have zillions of questions, but I wanted to ask you, why did Allan have to die at the end of The Poe Clan?
Moto Hagio: For all of you who have read it, Allan is a character from The Poe Clan. The hero of the story is Edgar, a boy who was turned into a vampire at the age of 14. He had a little sister named Marybelle, who dies fairly early in the story. It was a huge shock for Edgar, and he felt completely alone, since all of the other vampires were grown-ups; it was a world where you don't turn a person into a vampire until they are a grown-up, but he was turned into a vampire as an adolescent. Edgar wanted someone to keep him company, so he turned another 14-year old boy named Allan into a vampire.
But Allan was not popular with the readers because he wasn't as strong as Edgar. He was a whiner. (laughs) I was planning to kill him off earlier, but I wouldn't have killed him off if I knew it would have this horrible effect on you! I'm sorry about that! (everyone laughs)
Matt Thorn: Let's have Hagio-sensei share a final word or two.
Moto Hagio: I'm sure you all read kilos of comics, so I'm very happy and honored that you have read mine. A lot of them are quite dark and heavy, but I hope you will continue reading them!
CREATING COMICS FOR THE WORLD: INTERNATIONAL GRAPHIC NOVELS PANEL
Moto Hagio, along with Italian comics creator Milo Manara, French comics creator Emile Bravo and Canadian comics creators/husband and wife team Stuart and Kathryn Immonen were on a panel dedicated to "International Graphic Novels Creators," moderated by Tom Spurgeon, from The Comics Reporter. Here are Hagio-sensei's responses to a few questions.
Attendee 11: When you create longer works, do you already have the ending in your mind, or do you make it up as you go along?
Moto Hagio: I'm very timid, so I don't want to start any long project unless I know exactly how it's going to end. There was only one time in my career when I have had to start a story without knowing how it would end. It was a long story called Star Red. I was told three days in advance from the editor that we need commercial copy for this story, so give us a story. I don't like to do that.