What Happened in Shōjo Manga in the 1970s?

10 works that sparked innovation in the genre

By Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

Moto Hagio, ”The Poe Clan”, Vol. 1 (Shogakukan, 1974) © Moto Hagio / Shogakukan

A “innovation” is said to have occurred in shōjo (girls’) manga in the 1970s. This innovation happened when talented new shōjo manga artists who debuted in the late 1960s began publishing many great works in succession.By the 1960s, shōjo manga had acquired a distinctive look characterized by gorgeous, beautiful, design-focused compositions, and themes and motifs such as romance, horror, and aspiring to go overseas, and its basis as a genre had been established with the launch of two major weekly magazines in 1963. The physical, quantitative increase in artists, works, and mediums (magazines) that accompanied the growth of Japan’s growing baby boomer generation (those born between 1947 and 1949) was also an important factor; however, the 1970s ushered in even greater changes in shōjo manga. The elements of this innovation will be introduced through ten works of manga and the artists behind them.

Machiko Satonaka, "Asunaro Zaka" Vol. 1 (Kodansha, 1977)Original Source: © Machiko Satonaka

The emergence and success of star artist Machiko Satonaka

Machiko Satonaka, Asunaro Zaka Vol. 1 (Kodansha, 15 July 1977)
At age 16, Machiko Satonaka won a major award for shōnen (boys’) and shōjo manga sponsored by Kodansha, a long-established publisher of manga. Her brilliant debut in their magazine Shōjo Friend inspired other manga artists of the same generation. She went on to create successive hit series throughout the ’70s and made occasional appearances on TV and other media. Her success as a star artist, fueled by her talent and intelligence, helped to improve the public image of shōjo manga artists. Asunaro Zaka [Cypress Hill] (1977–1980) is one of her best-known long-running historical dramas, which always follow a romance theme.

Riyoko Ikeda, "Rose of Versailles", Vol. 1 (Shueisha, 1972)Original Source: ©Ikeda Riyoko Production/SHUEISHA Inc.

The social phenomenon of ”The Rose of Versailles”

Riyoko Ikeda, The Rose of Versailles Vol. 1 (Shueisha, 30 November 1972)
Riyoko Ikeda’s The Rose of Versailles is so famous that its title is familiar to everyone in Japan even today. Looking at its entire run as a series from 1972 to 1973, it was not as successful during its first half as would be expected, considering its ongoing popularity, but it blew up in the second half as it grew more and more popular. In 1975, the series was adapted for the stage by the Takarazuka Revue and became a huge hit. This triggered a social phenomenon when it was covered in the news and broadcast over-the-air by NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, which contributed to public recognition of shōjo manga.

Suzue Miuchi, "Glass Mask "Vol. 1 (Hakusensha, 1976)Original Source: © Suzue Miuchi / Hakusensha

Suzue Miuchi:The artist behind a system for raising artists

Suzue Miuchi, Glass Mask Vol. 1 (Hakusensha, 20 April 1976)
The Betsuma Manga School, which began releasing works in 1966 in the magazine Bessatsu Margaret (Betsuma for short, published by Shueisha), was one of the most successful systems for raising new manga artists. Supported by talented newcomers from the school, Betsuma became the first shōjo manga magazine to sell one million copies in 1972, surpassing 1.5 million copies in 1973, despite the fact that it was almost entirely made up of one-shot manga. Behind its success was Suzue Miuchi, a graduate of the school who debuted in 1967. She subsequently moved to the publisher Hakusensha and helped to secure the popularity of their shōjo manga magazine Hana to Yume [Flowers and Dreams] with her big hit full-length series Glass Mask (serialized from 1976).

Ryoko Yamagishi, "Arabesque" Vol. 1 (Shueisha,1972)Original Source: © Ryoko Yamagishi

Ryoko Yamagishi and the experimental magazine "Ribon Comic"

Ryoko Yamagishi, Arabesque Vol. 1 (Shueisha, 10 April 1972)
Although it was only issued for a short time between 1969 and 1971, Ribon Comic (published by Shueisha) served as a sort of “testing site” for stories that addressed social issues and exploratory drawing styles. Through a consolidation of magazines, it was merged with the young girls’ magazine Ribon, which subsequently began publishing slightly more mature works. Arabesque (1971–75) by Ryoko Yamagishi, who debuted in Ribon Comic in 1969, was one such work. The manga was a refreshing new take on the subject of ballet, a staple in shōjo manga. Yamagishi went on to create numerous shocking and much-talked-about works, including Tennin Karakusa [Celestial Arabesque] (1979) and Hi Izuru Tokoro no Tenshi [Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun] (1980–85).

Moto Hagio, ”The Poe Clan”, Vol. 1 (Shogakukan, 1974)Original Source: © Moto Hagio / Shogakukan

The legendary manga "The Poe Clan" Vol. 1 by Moto Hagio

Moto Hagio, The Poe Clan Vol. 1 (Shogakukan, 1 June 1974)
1970 is the year that publisher Shogakukan made Shōjo Comic into a weekly publication and launched the monthly magazine Bessatsu Shōjo Comic. It started publishing The Poe Clan series quietly in 1972 as a one-off manga in Bessatsu. In 1974, Shogakukan published the first volume of The Poe Clan under its first shōjo manga imprint, Flower Comics. This standalone volume, which was created with the expectation of selling 10,000 copies per year, sold out of its initial 30,000 copies in just three days. In that moment, Shōjo Comic and Moto Hagio, who had until then been seen as an author for deeper fans, were transformed into major players in the manga world. Thus, Moto Hagio was a central figure in the shōjo manga revolution of the 1970s.

“Designer” by Yukari IchijoOriginal Source: “Ribon”, Shueisha (1974)

Cool Yukari Ichijo, cute “otome-chikku”

Yukari Ichijo, Designer Vol. 1 of 2 (Shueisha, 10 July 1976)
Yukari Ichijo was the creator of many works with a mature, elegant look and more serious content than what was typically featured in the young girls’ magazine Ribon. In Designer (1974), she took the standard “mother-daughter” theme in shōjo manga (often depicting the love between the protagonist and her mother despite their physical separation) and framed it as a drama of love and hate between a mother and daughter in their struggle over pride. She became one of the flagship artists behind Ribon as she continued to create other works in a similar vein, such as Teatime (1976) and Suna no Shiro [The Sandcastle] (1977–81). During the same period, Ribon’s popularity was also supported by “otome-chikku” (“girly”) manga and supplements that depicted ideal love stories with a cute look, such as those by A-ko Mutsu , Hideko Tachikake, and Yumiko Tabuchi. Readers could enjoy both “cool” works by Yukari Ichijo and cute otome-chikku in a single magazine.

Yasuko Aoike,"Sons of Eve" Vol. 1 (Akita Shoten, 1976)Original Source: © Yasuko Aoike (Akitashoten) 1976

Yasuko Aoike’s drastic transition into slapstick comedy

Yasuko Aoike, Eve no Musuko-tachi Vol. 1 (Akita Shoten, 30 July 1976)
Yasuko Aoike debuted in the 1964 New Year’s extended issue of Ribon (published by Shueisha at the end of 1963), then soon switched over to Kodansha. Like Machiko Satonaka, she published her works in Kodansha’s shōjo manga magazines and was known as an artist of “high school girl manga.” Eve no Musuko-tachi [Sons of Eve], published in 1976 in Akita Shoten’s Monthly Princess (first issued in 1974), was a slapstick comedy about three contemporary, handsome young men who are transported to a world where great figures from history and literature are divided by gender and set against each other. Like a mutation, this strange manga became her breakthrough work. In the same year, she also started Eroica Yori Ai wo Komete (From Eroica with Love), one of Yasuko Aoike’s most well-known series published by Akita Shoten that continues to this day.

Yumiko Oshima, "Joka e….."(Shogakukan, 1975)Original Source: -

Yumiko Oshima and the “free space” of “Shōjo Comic”

Yumiko Oshima, Joka e….. (Shogakukan, 1 September 1975)
In the first half of the 1970s, Shōjo Comic (Shogakukan) was a “free space” where artists could contribute works that they could not depict in other magazines. Originally, Yumiko Oshima was established as an artist of “emotionally moving works” in the magazine Margaret (Shueisha). Her contributions to Shōjo Comic increased up until 1972, and with each work she further polished her flair with words and delicate illustrative style as she developed into a truly one-of-a-kind manga artist. In 1973, early for an artist of her generation, she was awarded with the Japan Cartoonists’ Association Award for Excellence, a prize given to manga artists by other manga artists. Joka e….. [To Joka] (1973) was one of her works from around this time, when readers watched with bated breath as her style continued to evolve. She further surprised fans in 1978 with the publication of one of her best series, Wata no Kuni Hoshi (The Star of Cottonland). 

Keiko Takemiya, Kaze to Ki no Uta Vol. 1 (Shogakukan,1977)Original Source: © Keiko Takemiya

“Kaze to Ki no Uta”, a monumental work in the “shōnen-ai”

Keiko Takemiya, Kaze to Ki no Uta Vol. 1 (Shogakukan, 20 May 1977)
  At the core of the 1970s “revolution” in shōjo manga was the emergence of a new genre called “shōnen-ai.” This major genre revolves around fantasies of homosexual romance between men and is the origin of the BL (Boys’ Love) genre today. Shōjo manga artists born around the year Showa 24 (1949) who tried out new things in manga at the time are sometimes collectively referred to as the “Year 24 Group.” Keiko Takemiya and Moto Hagio, core members of this group, as well as many other artists considered to be members of this group, ventured into creating works of shōnen-ai and its variations. The Poe Clan (1972–) and The Heart of Thomas (1974) by Moto Hagio are well-known examples of shōnen-ai, but Keiko Takemiya’s Kaze to Ki no Uta [The Poem of Wind and Trees] (1976–84), which includes depictions of sexual love, serves as a definitive model for the genre. Despite the fact that the series reached near-completion early on, it took seven years for it to reach publication due to its sensational content.    

Toshie Kihara, "Mari and Shingo" (Hakusensha ,1979)Original Source: ©︎ Toshie Kihara

Toshie Kihara: Deep education and “girls’ tastes”

Toshie Kihara, Mari to Shingo Vol. 1 (Hakusensha, 20 August 1979)
Toshie Kihara made her debut from the Betsuma Manga School and was active in Margaret (Shueisha) until the mid-1970s. She contributed to LaLa (Hakusensha) from its inaugural issue in 1976 and supported the magazine through its early phase with the Mari to Shingo [Mari and Shingo] (1977–84) series, one of her most well-known works. In between work on this series, she created the one-off manga Ōeyama Kaden [The Legend of Mt. Ōe] (1978) published in Shōjo Comic (Shogakukan), which led into Yume no Ishibumi [The Stone Tablet of Dreams] (1984–97), another well-known series by Kihara. Kihara’s works are supported by her unyielding affirmation of “girls’ tastes,” such as flowers, stars, and tears, as well as the poetic language and composition of her scenes and pages, born out of a deep education in Eastern and Western classical literature and history.

Credits: Story

Text: Tomoko Yamada(Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library of Manga and Subcultures)
Edit: Natsuko Fukushima+Yuka Miyazaki(BIJUTSU SHUPPAN-SHA CO., LTD.)
Supervisor: Hirohito Miyamoto(Meiji University)
Written in 2020 (Last date of submission: 2020/8/10)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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