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

Edit made to later editions of They Were Eleven

1976 bunko editions of <i>November Gymnasium</i> and <i>They Were Eleven</i>

When I was writing my post about the gender identity of Frol from They Were Eleven, I downloaded the official ebook edition of the series to get clear images to use as examples in my post. The ebook edition is based on a 1994 bunko edition from Shogakukan, while the edition I've always read is a much older bunko edition from 1976, published only a year after the series' first run in Betsusatsu Shojo Comic. And I happened to notice a small, yet fairly drastic difference between the two editions.

This surprised me, because I had never heard of Hagio being in the habit of editing her manga after publication. She did re-writes to some The Clan of Poe chapters before the first tankōbon release, but it wasn't my impression that Hagio was an obsessive editor the way Tezuka Osamu or Fujiko F Fujio are well-documented as being (they would often fix things in every new edition, and fans have been making extensive research into these edits).

At the very beginning of They Were Eleven, there is a scene of all the characters taking off their space helmet to reveal their faces to the others in the group as well as to the readers. When Frol removes his helmet, the others are visibly surprised to see a woman. In the 1994 edition, the exchange following Frol's reveal goes like this:

1994 edition

Chaco exclaims "A woman!" while Amazon explains their confusion by adding, "But we're a man team." Reacting to this, Tada explains that women are also "man" — i.e. that their team is a "man team" in the sense of humanoid, not male, so the confusion is only caused by the other members having a semantic misunderstanding.

This was not how the scene played out in the 1976 edition, published nearly 20 years before:

1976 edition

As in the 1994 edition, Chaco shows his surprise and exclaims "A woman!", but Amazon's question that explains their surprise is entirely different. He says, "There's a woman on the final exam?" That implies exactly what you think it implies, because Tada's reply in this edition is "Well, why shouldn't women be in the final test if they're good enough?" We are finding ourselves in a future alien world in which women are not expected to be clever enough to get to the final exam to enter space university.

Historical context: In 1975, a mere 12.7% of Japanese women entered a four-year university, compared to 41% of all Japanese men. Even then, this was a marked growth compared to five years before (when Hagio was college age), when only 6.5% of Japanese women entered university. As for women aspiring to become space pilots, the first Japanese woman in space was astronaut Mukai Chiaki, who was onboard NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia in 1994. She remains one of only two Japanese women in space.

So it's no surprise at all to me that Hagio, in 1974, would have written this scene. It reminded me of an interview with Yamagishi Ryōko in Ballet manga — eien naru utsukushisa, in which she admits that while writing Arabesque (1971-1975), she bought into the social norms and gender roles of the time which dictated that men should lead and that it was only natural for them to look down on women, and that this is reflected in the hero of the series. She found these social norms stifling, but was convinced that this was because of her own shortcomings. Hagio has talked of similar issues, of how she grew up with social norms that raised girls to become auxiliary to men rather than their own people. In my mind, it's only natural that the female manga artists of the 70s would have internalized these norms they grew up with and let them reflect in their work, but I find it striking that they managed to create such amazing works anyway, and have since move past their indoctrination. I think this means a lot.

As a personal aside, I do prefer it when older works are untouched in cases like this. How else are we going to see the past for what it was and learn from it? The collected works of the likes of Tezuka Osamu and Fujiko F Fujio contain explicit disclaimers in each volume explaining how different the times were when the works were first published, and that's the approach I personally prefer. But I understand why Hagio chose to do it this way; They Were Eleven is, after all, science fiction set far into humanity's future, and the misogyny does take me out of the story every time I read it, not because it's unexpected for the 1970s, but because it's unexpected for people thousands of years into the future.