marshtide: (Mist)
[personal profile] marshtide
Latest contribution to Awesome 70s Shojo Week from [personal profile] starlady: A, A' (Hagio Moto)

I'm sticking with Ikeda Riyoko a little longer, although I promise that I have some other people to talk about as well; I might as well just get this out of my system first, right? Today we're on a manga I don't actually like all that much, which might be a bit out of the spirit of the thing, but I think it's maybe worth talking about anyway.

Claudine is one of Ikeda Riyoko's shorter stories. It's only around a hundred pages long, and I have to say that it does feel like a summary of quite a long & complex story rather than a story which actually should have been that short. Anyway: the short version of this post is that this is another of those reach-exceeding-grasp manga, of which this group also produced quite a lot. I think it's the widest miss of Ikeda's that I've read. Which isn't to say that it's devoid of interest.

This story contains a lot of elements that you'll have seen before if you've read much of Ikeda Riyoko's work; the pseudo-historical setting, the floppy shirts, the gender issues, the father who wants his daughter to be a son (but not too much of a son). Oh and the angst! And suicide! And manipulative relationships! I think we are basically only missing drugs and mystery wasting diseases?

Wikipedia is currently describing it as a classic yuri story, but if that's how it's widely thought of then I'm afraid people are wrong again, because although the female-bodied main character is addressed as Claudine and with female pronouns for most of the story it's still a story that focuses on a character who is struggling with being trans.


It is not as successful as it might be, shall we say: partly because of the amazing brevity which means we don't get much of Claudine's thoughts on the whole thing and partly because of the structure which means Claudine only speaks for himself quite occasionally (it's narrated by Claudine's psychologist. I know). There are certainly other problems, though.

On the one hand it is quite a psychologically complex depiction (considering the length), as Claudine tries to balance various bits of identity and work with or around other people's ideas about said identity. On the other hand I could totally have done without the bit where the trans person is doomed not to be accepted by people they love, being viewed either as a woman or as some kind of imitation man who will do until there's a real one. I don't think that's a view Ikeda was trying to put across as correct, and maybe it would have come out better if the series had been several volumes long and we could actually get into people's heads properly (because I think the aim was probably to explore both the struggle to understand, deal with and express identity and how closed-minded society is be about the same), but there it is. Oops, Ikeda. On the other hand, despite giving Claudine a frankly messed-up family, some points are returned for not blaming Claudine's male gender identity on father issues or envy. I will give you that much.

But on the whole this is a really, really bleak manga and not well paced, and I'd recommend it more as something to look at in the context of 70s shojo at large (in which sense I did get stuff from it) than as a great read or a great examination of the issues at hand. I think the first time I finished reading it my main thought was wait, what the hell just happened.
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