mō ichido, shōjo. (70s, 80s & 90s shōjo manga retrospective)

What was the otome- tique movement of 70s shōjo manga?

question from 4chan

I found the above question in the referrers of my Tokimeki Tonight fansite, and since it's been archived and I can't answer it directly (and honestly I don't know how to use 4chan anyway...), I thought I'd write a reply and hope maybe the person sees it.

One of the most prominent and famous movements in 70s shōjo manga was obviously the Year 24 Group. They introduced genres such as science fiction to shōjo manga, wrote about themes such as sex, gender, and homosexuality, and are deservedly renowned for revolutionizing shōjo manga and broadening the horizon of what shōjo manga could be about. People such as Hagio Moto, Takemiya Keiko, Yamagishi Ryoko, and Ōshima Yumiko are considered a part of the Year 24 Group.

However, many other types of shōjo manga were written in the 70s. Obviously. I mean, the Year 24 Group couldn't fill up all the pages in all the shōjo magazines, even if it sometimes seems that way when you listen to people talk about vintage shōjo manga. The Year 24 Group had their base in magazines such as shōjo Comic (known as Sho-Comi now) and Lala, both fairly recent and relatively obscure publications at the time, which were thus willing to let them write much less mainstream manga than any of the big shōjo magazines would. In fact, Hagio originally made her debut in Nakayoshi! But because she didn't feel the juggernaut magazine was willing to let her write the kind of manga she wanted to, she moved to shōjo Comic and wrote Poe no ichizoku as well as The Heart of Thomas.

What was running in the big shōjo magazines at the time, then? A lot of stuff, much of it probably forgettable and lost in the mists of time, but what hasn't been forgotten is writers such as Ikeda Riyoko, Satonaka Machiko, Yamato Waki, and Ichijō Yukari, as well as the otome-tique writers. The former group are what I'd call the "dramatic" movement of 70s shōjo manga, who wrote bombastic, plot-driven, emotionally charged epics. This was in contrast to the shōjo manga that came before them, which were more low-key and tended to focus on everyday mother/daughter relationships or girls having platonic crushes on the boy next door. These writers were massively popular, and still highly regarded today. (As a side note, I notice that when people talk about Ikeda Riyoko or writers like her, they sometimes conflate them with the Year 24 Group? I think because stuff like The Rose of Versailles and Oniisama e... are 70s shōjo manga that dealt with sex, gender, and homosexuality as well? That's a bit inaccurate.)

Then there were the otome-tique writers, who are probably the most obscure of the three big movements in 70s shōjo manga. Usually, this movement is restricted to three writers who all worked in Ribon magazine: Mutsu A-ko, Tabuchi Yumiko, and Tachikake Hideko. "Otome" is the Japanese word for "maiden" or simply a young girl, and "-tique" is the suffix "ちっく (tikku)" which just means "of or pertaining to" like -tic in English. I'm actually not sure who came up with this romanization, but I think I've been using it because I saw it somewhere a long time ago.

What these "otome-tique" writers dealt with was "cute". Cute, fashionable things that young girls enjoy. Their style is related to another thing that was massively popular in the 70s and 80s in Japan, namely "fancy goods". The remnants of the obsession Japanese girls had with "cute", "fancy" things can be seen in the products of Sanrio or San-x, which are still popular today, but back then, there was a huge boom of companies producing Sanrio-type characters and products, as well as shops selling these products exclusively, called "fancy shops". This connection is especially evident in the furoku that these artists produced for Ribon magazine, which captured the hearts of fancy goods-loving young girls all over Japan.

I've seen people argue that the otome-tique movement rose as a reaction to the psychological and philosophical explorations of the Year 24 Group, as well as to the sweeping epics of the "dramatic" shōjo manga popular at the time, but I'm not entirely sure I believe it was a conscious counter-reaction. At any rate, though, the actual manga produced by these writers was very different from manga by the other two groups. Otome-tique manga deals with the everyday emotions of regular girls. Many of their manga are set in Japan, and most feature protagonists who are regular high school or university students. These protagonists enjoy cute, fashionable things, like the "Ivy look" (Ivy League inspired fashion popular at the time; what Americans would call "preppy" today), Vesper scooters, LPs and big earphones, cute stationary, potpourri, fancy tea and vintage porcelain, homemade jam... everything girls wanted, but probably couldn't have in real life.

These manga are not about the French Revolution or star-crossed lovers or sex or PTSD, but rather about conveying atmosphere and the emotional shifts in the characters that occur in small, everyday situations. As a result, most otome-tique manga are short stories (except Tachikake, who would often throw in slightly more dramatic elements in her stories), and what you're supposed to enjoy about them is not the dramatic plots, but the art, the atmosphere, the fashion, and the small emotions.

This might sound kind of boring to people, but I'll assure you, the average shōjo manga being written today owes more to the otome-tique movement than they do to either Hagio or Ikeda. Are you a fan of that cute, down-to-earth shōjo manga about high school students and their every day lives, which runs in any of the shōjo manga magazines popular today? Otome-tique. Do you enjoy the slow-burning romantic plots woven into the card game drama of Chihayafuru? Otome-tique. Are you a fan of that Aoharu Ride anime about regular high schoolers that's become so popular? Otome-tique. And so on.

To take this back to Tokimeki Tonight, which is what sparked the question in the first place, Ikeno Koi is an interesting case. Her early art is reminiscent of Mutsu A-ko and Tabuchi Yumiko, but Ikeno has often spoken about how Hagio Moto is her favorite manga writer (and this is why Tokimeki is about vampires -- no, seriously). The early art and the way she tells her romantic plots are definitely influenced by otome-tique, like most Ribon manga is, but the fantastical and emotional elements of her manga does seem inspired by many other types of 70s shōjo manga! I think the way she has successfully mixed many different elements of popular shōjo manga is part of the reason she managed to become so popular.

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