Shoujo Manga

Girls' Stuff, March (?) '94

If the letters I've received are any indication, most American fans exposure to shojo ("girls'") manga is limited to those that have been animated—specifically to those of a "mania" bent that have recently appeared in O.A.V. form. Naturally, fans would like to know more about the artists behind these titles, so this month I round off my recent batch of mini-bios by focusing on four major mania-muki ("mania-oriented") artists: CLAMP, Minami Ozaki, Yun Koga, and Natsumi Itsuki. One factor that unites these artists is the fact that they are all graduates of the thriving "dojinshi" (amateur manga) scene. Koga, in fact, continues to produce for the dojinshi audience. (I just picked up one of her recent amateur works at the Comic City market held in Kobe, January 9th.) This shared background explains certain similarities in visual style (bold lines, exaggerated features) and thematic concerns (same-sex love, sci-fi fantasy).

CLAMP is actually a four-woman team composed of Nanase Okawa (writer), Mokona Apapa (artist), "Mick" Nekoi (art director), and Satsuki Igarashi (art assistant). Their primary works include Tokyo Bablyon (the O.A.V. version of which was reviewed in the April '93 issue), X (on which the "image video," X2, is based), Rg Veda, CLAMP Campus Detective Group, and the manga version of the live-action film REX: A Dinosaur Tale. CLAMP's bold approach to visual layout is exquisite, but can sometimes make it difficult to follow their complex storylines, which often overlap with other CLAMP titles.

Minami Ozaki's major titles—Desperate Love 1989, Bronze, and Bad Blood—all deal with the intense and often grim love story of two teenage boys, pop star Koji Nanjo and soccer prodigy Takuto Izumi. Ozaki's extremely stylized, angular character design and the dream-like quality of her layouts have drawn the loyalty of fans all over the world. The O.A.V. version of Desperate Love 1989 was reviewed in the April '93 issue.

The eccentric Yun Koga seems little known on this continent, but is intensely popular with "mania" fans in Japan. Her major titles include Earthian, Genji (both of which have been animated) and Saffron Zero Beat. Koga's notorious habit of blowing off deadlines apparently cut short her one foray into a mainstream shojo manga magazine, but she (like CLAMP) has found a devoted following among readers of the mania-oriented shojo magazines, Wings and South, and, as mentioned earlier, she continues to contribute to the amateur scene, to which her quirky, impressionistic style is perhaps best suited.

Natsumi Itsuki is best known to anime buffs as the artist behind OZ, the O.A.V. based on her sci-fi manga of the same name, but her's is the longest career of any of these artists, and has resulted in such titles as Marcello Storia, Damask Triangle, Passion Parade, Eccentric City, Budding Youths, Eight Clouds Arise, and Passionate. Itsuki's stories often deal with same-sex attraction and other varieties of "forbidden love," such as incest, though (because the bulk of her work appears in mainstream shojo magazines) she is generally not as explicit as artists working in mania-oriented magazines.

If you liked their anime, check out their manga! (And don't forget to buy Keiko Nishi's "Promise," on sale this month!!)

©Matt Thorn 2004

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Matt Thorn ()
Cultural Anthropologist
Freelance Writer