Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Moto Hagio's Photographic Memory?

In one interview of Moto Hagio I translated earlier, she said:
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 waCarp Streamerss 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."

1 comment:

Matt said...

I talked with Hagio briefly about the carp drawing incident in my interview with her for The Comics Journal. You know, it's funny, but though I've been a hardcore Hagio fan for years, and her work literally changed my life, I've never really given much thought to her drawing skills per se. You can point to minor flaws in draftsmanship in her early work, but compared with the atrocities young so-called pros get away with today, they can hardly be called flaws. I suppose I always focused more on her page composition and the techniques she uses for expressing mood and atmosphere. I think I took her drawing skills for granted. Poe probably marks the peak of her most ostentatiously beautiful (literally Gothic) work, but I think she's better today than ever, in terms of technique and sheer skill in conveying precisely what she wants to convey. I have never read that interview you quoted from. If I had, I would have asked her in my own interview if she had some kind of photographic memory. I know she can be quite forgetful about all sorts of things, but she may be one of those people (Winsor MacCay, the creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland, was one) who can draw anything she's ever seen for more than a few seconds. I really don't know.