Sunday, April 8, 2007

My husband's experience with "Poe no Ichizoku"

The "Poe no Ichizoku" series began with "すきとおった銀の髪" (Translucent Silver Hair) in the March 1972 issue of Bessatsu Shojo Komikku (Extra Edition Girls Comics, a companion monthly publication to the weekly Shojo Komikku), and ended with "エディス" (Edith) in the June 1976 issue, and is made up of 15 episodes of various lengths.

For those of us who read Anne Rice ("Poe no Ichizoku" predates Rice's Vampire Chronicles), it may be hard to comprehend the impact "Poe no Ichizoku" had on contemporary Japanese readers at the time. So let me use my husband as an example.

My husband caught "Edith" while he was browsing manga magazines at his calligraphy school. He was really haunted by it - it was very obvious that he caught up with the ending of a very complex saga - but he couldn't do anything about it even if he wanted to read more. A few years later he got into an argument with an older female cousin about the merits of shojo manga vs. shonen manga (boys' manga), and she reintroduced "Poe no Ichizoku" to him (it is needless to say who won the argument). He read all four volumes in a single evening, which also added to the reading of this very moody piece - it is best read at dusk, he says. He was blown away.

Now that he got this "blood" from his cousin, he also tried to recruit more people into fandom. He says that people's reactions are typically divided into two camps - those who got similarly haunted by it, and those who just couldn't understand it (regardless of sex or age), because it went beyond the conventional confines of the manga form.

Many "Poe no Ichizoku" fans talk about a similar, very special private moment when they first encountered this work, and for the first time in shojo manga history, it counted many male readers among its avid fans.

Commercially, this work and its success opened the eyes of publishers who traditionally had a narrow idea about what their readers wanted. So shojo manga became a fertile ground for story innovation and my husband says he completely ditched shonen manga in favor of shojo manga. He thinks the impact went beyond the realm of manga. Animation series like Gundam or Evangelion, which both feature very complex narrative and detailed inner worlds, would not have been commercially possible without the success of "Poe".

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