Back then even my brain was plastic and flexible, so I could just remember a manga of this length (one-shot short) for about a year, with all compositions and lines. I absorbed them like photographic papers.I think this was very telling. When I read her bio, I didn't really notice much sign of formal drawing training. Yet she executes her drawing with such precision and flexibility. She uses dynamic perspectives to enhance drama, and those are really difficult to draw correctly.
I read an interesting episode about her childhood somewhere. When she was 7, she tagged along with her older sister to drawing lessons. One assignment she got was to draw a carp streamer, which are customarily flown in Japan to celebrate Children's Day in May. She drew the streamers over the roof, with some portion hidden behind the roof and other parts of the streamers. The teacher dismissed her work as something done under adult supervision and complained to her parents not to meddle with their daughter's assignment. She didn't believe it when she was told it was Hagio's own work, saying such young child couldn't have understood perspective. In this interview Hagio says:
When I was in elementary school, I was just following examples and copying the pictures. I tried to copy the faces from various angles. Facing right, facing left, facing front, and back, and so forth. As for the way you draw eyes, Masako Watanabe would do this, or Miyako Maki would do that—I was like such an Otaku, wasn't I?She went to a fashion design school after graduating from high school. She must have gotten some drawing lessons there as well, but she would soon leave for Tokyo to start a professional life. She must have been doing pretty well even before she got those lessons.
I think Hagio was gifted with some kind of photographic memory, and that really helped her with developing her drawing skills despite a lack of formal training.
I have received some comments to this blog to the effect that people who do discover the work of "classic" manga really appreciate the more complex draftmanship and beautiful detail of these works. One person even said that he or she finds it hard to continue reading current manga after spending a lot of time looking at vintage manga; the newer stuff seems insipid and "plastic."