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

Hagio Moto - Gin no sankaku

  • Original publication: SF Magazine, December 1980 - June 1982 (Hayakawa Shobō)

Gin no sankaku is, hands down, my favorite work by Hagio Moto. My first exposure to Hagio was her science fiction works, chiefly They Were 11!, and I believe she had a big influence on me growing up to become a sci-fi fan. I've since read quite a few of her other works, both sci-fi and not, and I think Gin no sankaku is... superior to all of them. Yes, even Poe no ichizoku or Toma no shinzo. I know this will probably get me hell from some of her fans, and it's not that I think her other work is bad. It's just that I think this manga is a masterpiece.

Without spoiling too much, the story of Gin no sankaku revolves around three plotlines that intertwine in complicated ways and are often told out of order:

In the distant future of our own universe, Marlee is an agent with the central government of a sprawling space empire. He is on a mission to track down the opera singer Eroccus, but when Eroccus dies in a coup d'etat, Marlee decides to visit the distant desert planet Lizarizo in search of a mysterious bard called Lagthorin, whom Eroccus spoke of. He is informed by an old man that he visited this planet four years ago as well, asking for Lagthorin, which Marlee has no recollection of doing.

When the central government presumes Marlee to have died, they decide to revive him in a clone body (Marlee 2). But a computer error transfers both Marlee's and Eroccus' memories into the clone's brain, and as a result, Marlee 2 ends up amnesiac. The bard Lagthorin visits him and tells him to go to Lizarizo.

30.000 years in the past, the people of the planet "Silver Triangle" were hunted down for their prophetic abilities and went extinct. They are said to have possessed vertical, golden-red pupils. When Marlee visits Lizarizo, a new prince is born to the local king — a baby with vertical, golden-red pupils. The baby is seen as a bad omen and the king orders it killed, but it comes back to life no matter how many times it is murdered.

Gin no sankaku was serialized not in a manga magazine but in SF Magazine, alongside prose works by the likes of Asimov and Bradbury, and Hagio seems to have felt free to cut away almost all exposition in telling her story. The result is almost lyrical -- events unfolding with no clear timeline, the story unwrapping itself in all directions of both time and space, until finally folding back in on itself as it culminates in everything changing yet staying the same.

If you've liked her recent work, Barbara ikai, you will probably enjoy the way Gin no sankaku plays with timelines and different possible lives of the characters in much the same way, though Gin no sankaku feels (to me) much more cohesive, complete, and self-contained. It's not one of the best manga I've ever read; it's one of the best pieces of fiction I've ever come across.

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