Ky˘ko Hikawa article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 3, No. 12, November 2000
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

The best ones don't always get animated, as any manga fan can tell you. This is certainly the case for Kyoko (first o long) Hikawa's work. Though she has only published a modest twenty five collected volumes since her debut in April of 1979, Hikawa has become one of the lead authors of Hakusensha's Lala shojo manga anthology and a favorite among fans around the world.

Kanata kara (From Far Away) is Kyoko (first o long) Hikawa's most recent and most popular title. Currently at ten collected volumes, the story is about Noriko Tachiki, a high school girl who gets blasted into another world by a bomb. There, she is rescued from the strange and deadly wildlife by Izark Kia Tarji*, a mysterious, extremely handsome man who has super- human strength. Unlike most other-world stories, the heroine is not blessed with an inexplicable knowledge of the native tongue. For three books Noriko slowly learns the language as she struggles to understand the strange new world around her. This language barrier keeps Noriko from realizing that she is the "Awakening." Though no one knows what the Awakening looks like, according to legend, it will guide the world into turmoil and revive the "Demon of the Heavens," which has the power of darkness. Anyone who controls the Awakening can become ruler over all others, a force many seek to possess or destroy. Naturally, with so many people after them, the story is full of action, something at which Kyoko (first o long) Hikawa excels. Although Noriko has no martial skills, she faces a wide variety of adversity with remarkable courage and determination, while never losing her sweet, good-natured spirit.

The universal appeal of this story can be seen in the many languages it's been translated into (four so far) and the even greater number of countries from which its fans come. Many fans hope that the recent release of six drama CDs may prove to be a precursor for a TV show, video series or movie, as was the case for BASARA, Boku no Chikyu(long u) o Mamotte (Please Save My Earth), X (X/1999), and other fan favorites. Only time will tell.

Hikawa's second longest story takes us to a setting seldom visited in contemporary US comics, let alone Japanese girls manga. Known collectively as "Miriam's Heartful Western," the series consists of three different titles revolving around a spunky orphan in the old West. The first trio of books, Koya (long o) no Tenshi-domo (Angels of the Prairie), introduces us to Miriam Todd, a mouthy eight year old bounty hunter who doesn't take any guff. She meets the leading guy, Douglas Green, and his friends when she convinces them to help stop a stagecoach robbery by stealing one of their revolvers! Miriam's guardian, Grace Howard, is also alone in the world and the sole heir of her desirable ranch. Thanks to Miriam's clever persistence, Doug and his friends eventually become involved in foiling the plot to force Grace to marry the cruel and greedy Sado Harenburk.

As one might expect from a Western, there's plenty of fast-paced action. As one might expect from a girls comic, there's plenty of angst-filled romance. But at eight, Miriam's too young for that, so the next three books, Jikan o Tomete Matteite (Stop Time and Wait for Me), take the story nine years into the future. Douglas is searching for the missing Miriam. It seems Miriam has lost her memory in riding accident, but, knowing Miriam, there's more to the story than that. Once reunited, it's up to the two of them to recover Miriam's memory and unravel the mystery behind her fall. Naturally, there's plenty of old West action and intrigue along the way.

The final title, Sorenari ni Romantic (I Suppose It's Romantic), is a one-book adventure in which Miriam proves once and for all that her quick wits and level head make her a worthy partner for Douglas, who has become a professional lawman.

Like the various titles of Miriam's Heartful Western, Haru o Matsukoro (When Waiting for Spring), Pastel Kibun (Pastel Feelings) and Giniro Ehon (Silver Picture Book) center around a single pair of main characters. Named after the leading couple, the "Chizumi and Fujiomi" series covers a variety of charming tales involving cute and clumsy Chizumi Shinohara and cool and capable Ko(long o) Fujiomi. The story begins with Chizumi hearing Fujiomi is looking for her. Since Fujiomi is rumored to be a rough character, Chizumi is more than a little nervous about his seeking her out. It turns out he's only looking for her to return her hat. So much for rumors. Though Fujiomi is a bit gruff and Chizumi a bit timid, after various entertaining encounters, they eventually learn to appreciate and understand each other. Despite the fairly typical strong-guy-protects-sweet-girl scenario at the beginning of this series, the story matures, along with the leads, broadening its perspective and character base. By the end, the emphasis has turned from the established romance to focus on stories which show how we can positively affect the lives of the people around us.

Hikawa's oldest series is a pair of manga called Shiroi Mado no Mukogawa (long o) (Beyond the White Window). The lead characters are Seiko Kuraishi and Yoshito Yano. Seiko is a normal girl with a tendency for daydreaming, and Yoshito's a fairly sensitive, subdued boy. They've been close friends since grade school, and now that they're in high school, their feelings for each other become complicated. Though all of the diverse array of characters in the story seem to see it as plain as day, Seiko does not realize Yoshito would like to be more than friends. Filled with plenty of endearing flashbacks to their childhood, the two books take the reader through the ups and downs of their relationship until Seiko finally opens the window of her heart's true feelings.

Besides these titles, there is a trio of collected short stories: Hoshi no Harmony (Star Harmony), Chotto Friday (Wait, Friday), and Onna no Ko wa Yoyu! (long u) (Excessive Girls!). The stories are all fun and delightful romances set in modern times, and the couples tend to be high school students. From the amusing antics of Wait, Friday's Yayoi who, on a Friday, fell for a boy she couldn't see because she hadn't picked up her new glasses, to Star Harmony's Sugikake, an athletic clown who has no idea he reminds the girl he likes of a painful past she'd rather forget, the stories offer an enchanting variety of characters and romantic tales. Any one of these three books offers readers a taste of Hikawa's style, though most of the stories lack the action and intrigue which make her longer series so appealing.

From her very first story, Kyoko (first o long) Hikawa was destined to become a beloved shojo artist. The balance of grace, charm, romance and action in her stories makes them irresistible. As a testament of the long-lived popularity of her work, even her oldest titles are still being reprinted today. Hikawa's stories are always satisfying and make you feel good about life. They reaffirm that there is still a place in the world for kind-hearted people.

 

NOTES:
You have book 1; his full name's in there somewhere, I think. If you'd prefer a different spelling, go for it. Izark is the most widely accepted fan spelling of his first name.


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