Hagio Moto in Conversation with Tezuka Osamu (1977)
The following is a translation of a conversation between Tezuka Osamu and Hagio Moto, two giants of manga, which was published originally in 1977 in Special Issue New Review (Bessatsu shinhyo). It’s rather long, so I’m publishing just the first part of it here. I need to go back and do some cleanup of the English, but I’d like to get it out for a while. Let me know if you find any troubling passages, typos, etc at jonhulkholt AT gmail.com. Enjoy!
Interview with Hagio Moto and Tezuka Osamu
“Let’s Talk about SF Manga”
– Shôjo Manga and SF Manga –
Tezuka: You know, coming up I have a trip to Easter Island.
Hagio: Whoa! Neat! That’s neat, but what’s going to happen with your serials?
Tezuka: I’ll take a break and go. This trip just might be the thing that saves me. Yet, I might get over there, fall in love, and stretch my wings, but once I do, the serials will determined and I end up having to draw them on the island. Have you yourself ever drawn your manuscripts while living abroad?
Hagio: I have. I drew some in Paris. But somehow the job doesn’t get done, you know?
Tezuka: Paris figures most into your illustrations, huh? I thought so – it’s Paris I see when I look at your drawings. Where else though? South America? Brazil?
Hagio: No, I haven’t been to those places. I’ve often thought I’d like to go there though.
Tezuka: Even Greece?
Hagio: Oh yes. I’ve planned a trip there next spring .
Tezuka: This year won’t you go somewhere?
Hagio: This year’s work is pretty much set…last year I often took off, you know.
Tezuka: Right. It seems like you’re already into your series. Mitsuse Ryû’s piece and…
Tezuka: Will it follow Mitsuse’s original? Or will it be a Hagio adaptation?
Hagio: I’ve made some modifications, but the plot is the same.
Tezuka: I think even when you drew Bradbury’s short stories [her U wa uchûsen no u collection of adapted stories such as “R is for Rocket”], you make little changes. I guess certain things you change, right?
Hagio: More than a little – ultimately you do change them, don’t you agree? For those stories, Jesus Christ became a villain for the most part. Even so, I rather like Christ, so it made things quite difficult. But then you go, I gotta do this, and I made Christ the villain after all, and it was Judas who came alive. You know, speaking of that, a few days ago I was making a little tour of Nara and Kyoto, and I thought, wow, Teishakuten, Bonten, the four divine guardians and the twelve dieties, well, they are all pretty neat. So now I’m thinking about doing a manga with them in it next time.
Tezuka: Wow, that would be unusual for you. Normally we don’t see Buddhist elements in your work.
Hagio: What happened was that I was reading Mitsuse’s book and I thought, Ok, if I don’t try it once…When I was a high school student, I saw them all on a trip but it’s different when you look at [Buddhist art] at the age I am now.
Tezuka: Wait, are you saying you’re really going to put a Buddhist image in your manga?
Hagio: Certain arrangements will have to be made…
Tezuka: Writing [sentences] is not so hard, but you can’t make them work with manga pictures. Mitsuse and other writers like Komatsu [Sakyo, author of Japan Sinks!] usually put [Buddhist] things in their works, you know. It really seems like Komatsu looks at Buddhist imagery a lot. If you are a SF writer, on a certain level I think they generally have a connection to religious systems of like like Buddhism and so lately you get a lot of writers who have taken it as a second point of departure.
Hagio: I think so. We have this new home that is rather close to the back of the Tenmangû of Dazai-fu, then there is the Anraku-ji temple close to that. My mother now goes to Anraku-ji to copy sutras. Plus, Mom and Dad get up every morning and chant the Kannon Sutra, so I live in that kind of atmosphere. When I return home, Dad’s reading Umehara Takeshi’s Stupa. “Hey this is pretty interesting, give a read.” He’s right, it’s pretty good.
Tezuka: That’s what I’ve heard. So I guess you’re saying that from here on out, with you drawing those kind of [Buddhist] things, your stories might change with that influence?
Hagio: I don’t know.
Tezuka: What is the reason that you picked up Mitsuse’s novel?
Hagio: It started because the editor of Weekly Young Boys’ Champion was a fan of Mitsuse and when I told him that I had no experience with his novels, the editor kindly lent me all of Mitsuse’s books. Once I borrowed them, I had to read them, so…Well, we talked about how great his Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nightswas, so he said, “If you’ll draw it, then I will ask Mitsuse for you.” And that’s how it happened.
Tezuka: See, I have been wondering how it is you converted from Bradbury to Mitsuse. Was it a change in your opinion about them, I wondered, how you could go from something fantastic to, well, the other way, to serious SF?
Hagio: It’s nothing like that. After all, you Mr. Tezuka and Mr. Ishi[no]mori Shôtarô have drawn quite a bit of girls’ comics, and in just one panel you both have tightly drawn layouts, so that the manga page has great breadth. Since I was little, I grew up reading your work, so I think I can’t get away from your dual influences in my manga.
Tezuka: OK, but how is that connected to Mitsuse?
Hagio: Right, there is a connection to boys’ comics. What I’m saying is I want to try to draw for boys’ comics. Something with a big, wide space like SF. With girls’ comics you don’t get to develop any depth (okuyuki ga dasenai). Now that I’m working in this new area, I keenly feel [the chance to make something profound].
Tezuka: Oh, come on! If you say something like that, well there’s no hope [for girls’ comics]. It’s girls’ comics that probably has more of that potential, what do you call it? A profound view of human life. The kind of character description that has depth.
Hagio: Right, but I only do that because I cannot take a simple scene of a wasted desert and make it stretch across 5 or 6 pages.
Tezuka: Oh ho, you’re talking about how lazy I am in my work. (Laughs.) Don’t you think artists draw those [big, atmospheric] pages for people who like exactly that kind of thing? Or is it that the artist takes 1 page of art and spreads it over 2 or 3 pages in order to rake in more page fees?
Hagio: Really? You’re being modest. When I read your work, I feel intensely stimulated.
Tezuka: Oh no, it’s a terribly cheap technique. I guess you can’t do that in girls’ comics. We’re still at a stage where one shouldn’t do Oryaa or Dya. Speaking of that, in girls’ comics artists waste so much of their energy, taking so trouble to do things. With girls’ comics, so much details goes into the frills and flare of the characters’ costumes. I think the reason why it’s so hard to do girls’ comics is that you lose so much energy there. Guys [in boys’ comics] just trick the reader with lots of diagonal scratches.
Hagio: I wonder if that’s true… (laughs).
Tezuka: Even in my Black Jack, I get readers who say, “I think Black Jack is really mean to his own daughter. Why does she have the same dress story after story?!?” If my female readers think that way, then I’ve come to realize, gosh, I’m going to have to learn how to make vibrant costumes and scenery from the girls’ comics.
WHY ARE THERE SO FEW FEMALE SF AUTHORS?
Tezuka: When you think about most SF interviews or discussions, the most serious discussions become big messes. That’s why I’d like us to have a talk today on women’s SF today. I realize I’ll probably beat you up on this, Ms. Hagio.
Hagio: Oh no! Don’t scare me!
Tezuka: In the world of SF today, most the writers are men, but if you think about the really famous women of SF, there’s Judith Merrill – she’s one famous editor for the field – but I guess not many women write, are there?
Hagio: What about Ursula K Le Guin? Henderson?
Tezuka: Ok, I can’t come up with anyone I’d put on the same level with Asimov, Clarke, or Bradbury. So, with women, you might have many of them you become SF fans after reading male authors, and they then go on to write their own SF stories or draw their own SF manga. Instead of asking why there aren’t a lot of women SF fans, I really want to know why is it there are so few women who write it. At the same time I wonder if these women fans don’t feel the depictions of women and femininity by the male SF authors as being strange?
Hagio: Wow, I haven’t really thought about that topic too much.
Tezuka: For example, don’t you think a male hero drawn by a women, like Northwest Smith, is pretty good? But we really don’t have SF with a female, Barbarella-like heroine becoming a series.
Hagio: Not at all.
Tezuka: That’s why I think when a woman writes a SF story, a SF masterpiece can get created with a powerful, well-rendered heroine that even entices male readers. In SF we get depictions of a hero seeking the love of a woman in the far-future or among the stars, but that’s because it’s often the depiction of love, romance, etc., from the view of a man. Don’t you ever feel dissatisfied reading those stories?
Hagio: Sure, but I also don’t feel that much dissatisfied either.
Tezuka: For me, you know.
Hagio: They are dissatisfying?
Tezuka: Well, no. I think it’s the opposite. For example, look at the girls’ comics in the SF vein like yours or Takemiya Keiko – certainly we’ve seen an increase in them. So when I read SF girls’ comics, I think, “A man like me can’t draw that way,” and I really admire what you do. So it’s not that woman have a special female way of [visual] expression, but when you add up the themes, plot and descriptions in those comics, I strongly believe that you all have an extremely special power when it comes to SF. Maybe it’s natural and that men too will get pulled in those stories, but there just aren’t that many women out there doing SF. You are writing really unique stories, you know, and short-story were are common. Hmm.
Hagio: Mr. Oscar was one character who caused quite a sensation for his being a hero in a feminine mold.
Tezuka: OK, but that [Hagio’s The Poe Clan, 1972-1976] is not SF. In your case, when you’re drawing your Edgar and your Alan, do you do it feeling like a man? I’d love to hear more about this today from you. Even in Takemiya’s case, even for you, I wonder why do you enjoy drawing men?
Hagio: No, you don’t get it: I like [drawing] kids.
Tezuka: If that’s the case, is that your characters look androgynous (chûsei-teki)? Ôshima Yumiko also is like this, you know, she draws a lot of men. Is it androgyny?
Hagio: I guess so. How should I put it? Maybe they are ideal forms…?
Tezuka: If you put it that way, are you saying they don’t feel to you like sexual people?
Hagio: For me, I don’t feel they are that sexual.
Tezuka: What you’re saying is that inside the adrogny there is something like affection (aijô), right? So then you are consciously drawing the protagonist as a male character, aren’t you?
Hagio: Even in love there is the platonic kind, after all, they are children.
Tezuka: Don’t tell me things like it’s because they are children. Come on, I’ve drawn my share of children’s comics. When a man like me looks at your work, [it seems] that you are drawing your comics as a man. That’s why if the characters are kids, then you can feel their sexiness as kids. This leads us to our topic of SF. The SF a man writes, from my point of view, has a kind of inorganic feeling to it. Mr. Mitsuse’s is just one example, but his and other male SF doesn’t have that worldly smell (namakusasa ga nai: not fishy, not smelling of blood). Even in a work like Tomita Yuukô’s Himiko [queen-figure of pre-historical Japan], you have male and female interactions but they are colorless, watery depictions of love.
Hagio: That’s exactly right. They are ideal.
Tezuka: You say that, but from the way I look at it, that is so different from your work and that of Takemiya’s in which I feel has this sex appeal (iroke). So when a woman draws a story that comes off as truly sexy SF story, it doesn’t work for me. In that sense then I wonder we should have a lot more female SF writers coming out, but why not?
If you’re wondering if this is worth getting: yes. It’s the best Hagio Moto artbook I’ve seen around, featuring about 120 old and new color images as well as reproductions of many black and white manga pages. I was especially thrilled by the inclusion of art from Unicorn to shojo (top image), an early romantic science fiction piece by Hagio that I’ve always adored. This book also includes a database of all of Hagio’s sci-fi works, and brief comments by Hagio on many of her favorite pieces.
The cover image for the Hagio Moto artbook SF Artworks, on sale April 9th, has been revealed! It’s a super stylish Sei from Star Red. This 192-page, B5 format artbook will contain color art from Hagio’s science fiction works such as They Were Eleven, Otherworld Barbara, Star Red, and Hyaku-oku no hiru to sen-oku no yoru, as well as a database of Hagio’s sci-fi work.
I personally consider Hagio a science fiction writer first and foremost, so I can’t wait to get my hands on this. I’m hoping for lots of Gin no sankaku art! And Sei from Star Red and Ashura from Hyaku-oku no hiru are my favorite Hagio heroines, so that’s going to be awesome as well.
In related news, a Yamato Waki artbook to commemorate her 50-year career as a manga artist will go on sale March 29th, and a box set of Hagio’s Poe no ichizoku containing 8 exclusive postcards will be released in May.