04 April 2014

Review: Four Shōjo Stories by Keiko Nishi, Moto Hagio, and Shio Sato

Comic hardcover, 263 pages
Published 1996 (contents: 1975-90)
Borrowed from the library
Read March 2014
Four Shōjo Stories

Story & Art: Keiko Nishi, Moto Hagio, Shio Sato
Translation: Matt Thorn
Touch-Up Art & Lettering: Mary Kelleher

My erratic journey through Moto Hagio's oeuvre continues with this volume, which collects her "They Were Eleven" alongside three stories by two other writer/artists. "They Were Eleven" was my favorite story in the book (also the longest), a science fiction story about ten potential recruits for Space University being put on an abandoned spaceship together-- they have to make it for fifty days without hitting the panic button (or any deaths). Most are human, but not all, and even some of the humans aren't what you'd expect. It's a great story: good conflict, good twists, good characters, great artwork (there's a seemingly simple page of the cadets floating over to their spaceship in spacesuits that's just gorgeous). I like tales of groups of disparate personalities having to overcome great odds, and this is a good one.

Keiko Nishi contributes two stories: "Promise" and "Since You've Been Gone." The former is kinda saccharine, but almost gets away with it in its deft portrayal of human isolation. The second is also a little saccharine, but less so, but also less engaging; there's a couple too many clichés, I think.

The other story, I also quite enjoyed: Shio Sato's "The Changeling" reminds me of Ursula Le Guin's Ekumen in some ways, with a lone explorer checking out a planet seeded by humans in the distant past. There are some great ideas here, about violence, about emotion, about racism. Saying it's not as good as "They Were Eleven" is damning with faint praise, as it's really good. I was struck by the protagonist being female-- because it was almost incidental. I don't think it would have been in the hands of another writer/artist.

The only thing to not like about this volume is the cover: "JAPANESE COMICS FROM A UNIQUELY FEMALE PERSPECTIVE" and "It's Not Just Girls' Stuff Anymore" would have each been horrible tag lines on their own, but together they don't even make sense.

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