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  • Nanohana
  • Moto Hagio (bio) and
    Introduction by Frenchy Lunning
    Translated by Matt Thorn

We were very privileged to be given permission to reprint a short story from Moto Hagio’s Nanohana (2012)1 for this Mechademia book. Moto Hagio is one of the remarkable group of female mangaka called the nengumi 24, who are credited with developing the shōjo genre in all its visual and diverse narrative richness. Moto Hagio, who for the past forty-two years has produced one masterpiece after another, had a hit with her first foray into manga with the series The Poe Clan (1972–76), which examined the intricacies of human life as seen through the eyes of a vampire boy and earned her the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1976.2 She has continued to weave her complex, emotional stories of the human condition—sometimes as science fiction—but always about those characters in states of trauma and/or abuse as social and cultural “outsiders.”

But Nanohana responds to a different trauma: the environmental disasters in Japan. Moto explains: [End Page 114]

The accident at Chernobyl had been nagging at me for some time. When disaster struck a Japanese nuclear power plant in 2011, I was overcome with despair. But despair does not help us move forward, so I made “Nanohana” as a way of cheering myself up. I want to think together with everyone else about Fukushima and Chernobyl, about the future of the Earth, about the future of humankind, and to keep thinking moving forward.3

In this work, Moto Hagio writes about a young girl, Naho, who is evacuated as her home is ravaged by the 2011 Fukushima disaster. But in the midst of her anxiety, she transcends her dire reality to another time and space: the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, where she encounters surprising parallels to her own life. Mary Knighton suggests that these “2011 disasters of first earthquake and tsunami, followed by the reactor meltdowns and weeks of aftershocks, continue today due to the lingering crisis at Fukushima Daiichi. These events, known as 3.11, compounded the precarity in recessionary Japan—literally displacing the ibasho (home, and sense of belonging) of hundreds of thousands in Tohoku—and deepened a quotidian experience of malaise at a crisis constantly in the news, with no end in sight.”4

Drawn with Moto’s usual beautiful, delicate, clear line style and sensitivity, Naho’s anxiety, which has propelled her into another world or dimension, becomes a meditation on our global environmental crisis and introduces a potential healing solution that, though perhaps naïve, still gestures dream-like toward a return to a respect for the land and a reexamination of our practices as well as a reconciliation in terms of our future behavior.

Matt Thorn, long a friend and translator of Moto’s work, had to respond to the peculiarities of the original Japanese dialogue as written by Moto, in that “many of the characters in this story speak in a northeastern Japanese dialect; some more thickly than others. In order to convey the sense of the difference between these characters’ speech and that of characters speaking “standard” Japanese, [he] chose to translate that speech into Scottish English. This decision was enthusiastically endorsed by Moto Hagio. To ensure authenticity, [he] enlisted the help of [his] generous friend Keaira Finlay, a native speaker of Scottish English.”5

Further, the difficult work of flipping and fitting our horizontal-based language into the Japanese vertical-based language balloons, requiring an expertise in the comics style of dialogue in both languages, as well as significant graphic design chops, was achieved by designer Rana Raeuchle, a Mechademia regular, who always manages these difficulties with great skill and expediency. [End Page 115]

Moto Hagio

moto hagio is an award-winning manga artist who made her professional debut in 1969 and remains active today. Her better-known works include The Poe Clan (1972–76), The Heart of Thomas (1974), They Were Eleven! (1975), A, A’ (1981), A Savage God Reigns (1992–2001), and Otherworld Barbara (2002–5). In 2012, she became the first woman cartoonist to receive the prestigious Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon.

Frenchy Lunning

frenchy lunning is...


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pp. 114-140
Launched on MUSE
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