marshtide: (Mist)
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.

Claudine )
marshtide: (Rei - go on you know you want to)
It's official! It's Awesome 70s Shojo week!

So far we have:

- Andromeda Stories volume 1 (Takemiya Keiko & Mitsuse Ryuu) reviewed by [personal profile] starlady

- Gender, Sexuality and 70s Shojo Part One: Oscar Is Hotter Than You (70s shojo and Ikeda Riyoko's Rose of Versailles) by yours truly

- Four Shoujo Stories reviewed by [personal profile] starlady

(Do join in if you've got anything!)

And now I present to you: the next installment in Why I Love Ikeda Riyoko. That is to say: Oniisama E.

If you thought that Rose of Versailles was too melodramatic you should be edging away about now; I am not actually sure that Oniisama E missed even a single opportunity for melodrama and angst. Also drugs, self-harm, suicide, abuse. It has everything. Fair warning?

Overview & pictures )

There are a lot of things in Oniisama E that Ikeda Riyoko really liked to use throughout her work. Of note is the whole "traditional femininity" thing (in this case Fukiko and the sorority) set in opposition to gender non-conforming characters (Kaoru and Rei, although in different ways and for different reasons), which is actually pretty centre-stage here but also felt like it existed in a less antagonistic form in Rose of Versailles. I don't think that's insignificant given the context of that whole group of writers and their exploration of what gender means. There's also a lot about freedom and dependence, and there's a not insubstantial element of revolution here too. More than any of her other works that I've been able to read, though, this is a manga which is almost entirely dedicated to relationships between women, whether they're friendly, romantic, twisted or openly hostile. And that's pretty great.

On the other hand, it does feel like it could have gone further*, and the ending (which is basically an exercise in hiding the queerness that the rest of the series has established) is not its finest point, although there are things leading up to it that I really loved, and other things that I found very powerful.

I do recommend this one, overall, but I'm pretty sure it has a more limited audience than Rose of Versailles. It's one of my personal favourites, but I'm perfectly willing to accept that this is because I have great big buttons and it is pushing them. Damn near all of them.

By the way, this series and Rose of Versailles, along with the Takarazuka aesthetic that they both borrow from and feed back into, feel like they make a pretty heavy contribution to the look of Utena, and some of the themes in there too. Just thought you might like to know that.

All images in this post come from Lililicious' scanlation of the series, by the way. But yes, damn it, buy the thing if it's available in a language you can read.

* I mean with the lesbians, damn it, not with the... anything else. In most other respects it went quite far enough and possibly then some.
marshtide: (Rei - go on you know you want to)
(This post is partly prompted by talking a little earlier with [personal profile] starlady about old shojo, and partly by [personal profile] timeasmymeasure's post about female characters. Because I've been meaning to inflict some of my favourites on you for ages. I also want to put disclaimers all over this saying I don't know what I'm talking about. Because I don't! But hell with it! Let's roll!)

Let's talk a bit about the group of female manga artists in the 70s often referred to as the year 24 group. They produced a lot of series that are now classics and they pushed, as far as I can tell, more or less every boundary they could think of. Quite a few of them were particularly interested in gender and in sexuality. In the way relationships worked. Or didn't.

From this we get a lot of stories about powerful women and women who struggle for power and women who just don't have much of it at all. We get philosophical stories. We get stories about negotiating gender, including stories which tackle trans issues in a pretty serious (if generally not upbeat) way and stories that play with the construction of gender. And we get stories about gay or ambiguous characters - both male and female, although more often male (in other words, the beginning of shonen-ai). These stories are generally deeply depressing. I get the feeling that a lot of the people who wrote these stories had more questions than answers - and that there were other constraints on what they could actually tackle and how they could show it, to some extent, though I am not that well read up on this stuff. But Oniisama E's pasted on heterosexuality? Yeah, sure, I totally bought that. And the characters who challenge norms tend to die and abuse is rampant and half the characters in a lot of these stories are actually insane and all the rest.

One can view it, in that way, as something negative. But I actually feel like that whole movement was really powerful, anyway, and had really interesting, good ideas, which were pretty far ahead of the curve in some respects. I have a lot of respect for their stuff, even with the dead lesbians/gay people/trans people. Positive representation is great, but what they were doing was pretty amazing on other levels. It is also not, by any means, absolutely all negative.

A few of my favourite series ever come from this lot's work.

My absolute favourite of these writers - of the ones I've managed to track down and read - is Ikeda Riyoko (Rose of Versailles, Oniisama E, Claudine, Window of Orpheus). I think the degree to which she actually nails her ideas is better than quite a few of the others. And her non-gender-conforming women? Yes please.

Possibly one of her best series, and the one I would make everyone read/watch if it was widely available, is Rose of Versailles, set in the run-up to the French revolution. It is gender-defying as anything!

Rose of Versailes. And Oscar. Mostly Oscar actually. )


This post doesn't need to be longer. I'll get back to you about some of the other series and characters I really fell for.


marshtide: (Default)

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