Last December I had the opportunity to interview cartoonist Moto Hagio for The Comics Journal. When asked to, Hagio will talk about her life and career, but, unlike many celebrities who talk only about themselves, she would rather talk about her current interests. In fact, when she came to Kyoto Seika University to give a lecture several years ago, the topic she chose was the relationship between the act of reading comics and the right and left brains.
When I spoke with her last year, Hagio was still very much interested in the brain. "I'm interested in the development of language in the human race," she told me. "I'm interested in when human beings began to develop a consciousness of words." In the course of her research, she has read "The Generative Enterprise Revisited," (Noam Chomsky, et al.) "Phantoms in the Brain, (V.S. Ramachandran) and "Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief" (Andrew Newberg, et al.).
Hagio is also interested in the way the food a certain species eats can affect the development of its brain. And she is of course still interested in psychology and dysfunctional families - interests that have been reflected in most of Hagio's work over the past 36 years. All of these interests are manifested in "Otherworld Barbara," not as a potluck of discordant ideas, but as a gloriously orchestrated banquet. And the main dish is the human heart. Literally.
At the center of "Otherworld Barbara" is a teenaged girl who has been in a coma since the age of nine, when she was found with her dead parents. The mother had apparently killed the father, and then killed herself. The girl, Aoba, was found to have her dead parents' hearts in her stomach. The core mystery, of course, is why this girl ate her parents' hearts, but there are plenty of other mysteries to chew on (if you'll forgive the metaphor):
Why does the presumably imaginary dreamworld - Barbara - that Aoba now inhabits seem to affect the real world, and what is Aoba's connection to the boy, Kiriya, who she has never met and who shares her dreams of Barbara? And what does this have to do with a mysterious scientist looking for the secret to eternal youth, or, for that matter, with a long extinct race of Martians?
In the just-released fourth and final volume of "Otherworld Barbara," Hagio takes the reader on a brain-bending rollercoaster ride. The array of at first seemingly unrelated threads that Hagio cast out in the earlier volumes are woven together into a beautiful dream catcher.
Most cartoonists rely on technique and flash for their popularity, but a few rely on ideas. The former come and go, but the latter remain and continue to be read by new generations of readers. Hagio is one of the few artists of her generation who remains not only active, but deeply influential, and this is because her ideas remain interesting, and her execution of those ideas remains brilliant.
Which comics, in your opinion, rely more on "ideas" than "flash and technique"? What ideas are they?
Shukan ST: Oct. 28, 2005
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- Otherworld Barbara
- The Comics Journal
- consciousness of words
- "The Generative Enterprise Revisited"
- et al.
- "Phantoms in the Brain"
- "Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief"
- 『脳はいかにして＜神＞を見るか − 宗教体験のブレイン・サイエンス』
- dysfunctional families
- have been reflected in 〜
- are manifested in 〜
- gloriously orchestrated banquet
- apparently 〜
- core mystery
- chew on
- if you'll forgive the metaphor
- （心臓を食べるという話のときに chew on [かみしめる] などという）比ゆ的表現を使ってすみません
- presumably imaginary dreamworld
- eternal youth
- for that matter
- long extinct race
- array of at first seemingly unrelated threads
- are woven together into 〜
- dream catcher
- 夢をからめ取る網（ アメリカ先住民のお守り）