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  • Takahashi Macoto: The Origin of Shōjo Manga Style
  • Fujimoto Yukari (bio)
    Translated by Matt Thorn (bio)

Features such as star-filled eyes and unconventional page layouts are often mentioned as key features of the style of shōjo manga (Japanese girls’ comics). But when, exactly, did a distinct “shōjo manga” style branch off from that of “shōnen” (boys’) manga? This essay argues that Takahashi Macoto’s Arashi o koete (Beyond the Storm), serialized in the magazine Shōjo beginning in January 1958, pioneered a distinctive shōjo manga style. The “three-row overlaid style picture”—a full-body drawing of a girl that has no direct relation to the story, stretching across three rows or the entire vertical length of the page—did not exist before Takahashi’s work. Further, this paper traces the way in which this work led to the spread of the “style picture” (sutairu-ga) in other girl’s magazines, in a little more than a year, and the process by which shōjo manga developed an unconventional page layout different from that of boys’ manga. I will also trace the development of Takahashi’s distinctive way of drawing eyes, which are said to be the archetype of the shōjo manga–style eyes, filled with numerous sparkling stars. I will discuss the existence of pre-Takahashi “starry eyes,” as well as the influence of Takahashi’s starry eyes on other shōjo manga artists. [End Page 24]

The Rise of the “Style Picture” and Changes in the Panel Divisions in Shōjo Manga

The Sudden Appearance of the Style Picture in the First Chapter of Beyond the Storm

The first time a three-row style picture consisting of a full-body drawing of a girl that did not directly relate to the story appeared in a girls’ magazine was in the first chapter of Takahashi Macoto’s ballet manga Beyond the Storm, which was serialized in the magazine Shōjo from the January to July issues of 1958, which I discovered while tracking down Takahashi’s works created in preparation for an essay to accompany a replica reprint of Rows of Cherry Trees and Paris–Tokyo, two of Takahashi’s works from his days of producing manga for the “rental manga” market.

Most people associate Takahashi with the many illustrations of girls he created throughout the 1960s and 1970s for the covers and frontispieces of girls’ magazines, as well as for his stationery goods such as notepads and pencil cases. Yet his earliest work was in manga, first as a popular creator in the rental manga market in the mid-1950s, and later, in 1957, when he produced a series of short stories for Kōbunsha Publishing’s magazine Shōjo: “The Seaside of Sorrow” (in the Special Summer issue), “The Swan of Tokyo” (September), “The Swan of the Rose” (November), and “The Cursed Coppéllia” (December). It was in the following issue—in January 1958—that the ballet manga in question, Beyond the Storm, began its run.

In that first chapter, readers are confronted immediately after the title page with two style pictures, one on each side of the two-page spread (Figure 1). Although divided into panels, the page is oddly layered with images from one panel overlapping those of other panels. What is compelling is that these are images from different narrative dimensions overlapping each other and, even stranger, although the images are not directly related to the story, they express in an abstract way the atmosphere of the world the artist wishes to convey.

In addition, on another page of this same issue is the first time the phrase “call for style pictures” was used: “Calling for style pictures! Draw Hitomi’s style in the picture to the right on a postcard and send it to us! Ten readers will receive a beautiful handkerchief!”(Figure 2). In this work we have the first appearance of what would come to be called a “three-row overlaid style picture,” now considered a distinctive technique of shōjo manga, accompanied by layered page layouts and actually given the name “style drawing” from the start. [End Page 25]

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pp. 24-55
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