SF Stories by & for Women article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 3, No. 9, August 2000
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
Despite the availability of publications like Animerica Extra, there are still fans who seem to think "shojo" stories are nothing more than magical girls and high school romances. Considering most anime in the U.S. has been brought over by men and aimed at a male audience, this is, sadly, not too surprising. But the term "shojo" ceased to be limited to one or two genres decades ago, when the first female artists broke into the field in the late 1960s. Those pioneers brought with them all the diversity that occurs in readers of any gender. One of them, Moto Hagio, boldly entered the classically male domain of science fiction, beginning the proud tradition of sci-fi manga for women.
Moto Hagio, considered by many the innovator of shonen-ai (boys love) manga, used the vastness of space to tell several of her many famous stories. One of the earliest and best sci-fi manga by a woman is 11nin Iru! (They Were Eleven, the first story can be found in the VIZ graphic novel Four Shojo Stories). A team of ten students trying to enter prestigious Galactic University is thrust into a thrilling situation. Stuck on a ship adrift in space, their final exam involves plenty of science, courage, trust, ingenuity and understanding. Amidst many perils, Hagio uses the six different races in the story to explore not only new ideas about culture, but sexuality as well. She plays the androgynous card (again) in A, A'. This anthology revolves around genetically engineered, low-emotion beings called "Unicorns." The stories, besides being compelling, also incorporate the ideas of terra-forming, colonizing the solar system, cloning as a means of reducing the risks of space exploration, and many other sci-fi concepts.
In 1977, Keiko Takemiya not only wrote sci-fi, but she did it in a guys publication, Manga Shonen. One of her most famous works, Terra e (Toward the Terra) explores many different sci-fi themes. Civilization has abandoned an over-polluted Earth in hopes it will heal in their absence. Society is controlled and regulated in an inhuman manner which strips people of independent thought and love. At 14, kids are tested; only the elite have a chance to go to Earth. Those with psychic powers are killed. Some psychics, the Mu, escape or are rescued. It is a world in which humanity is divided against itself. Although the leader of the Mu would prefer to avoid conflict, eventually he must fulfill his destiny and return to Earth, a planet he has never known.
Following in the tradition of these two pioneers is Katsumi Michihara, who's probably best known in the U.S. as the artist for the grand space epic Ginga Eiyu (long u) Densetsu (Legend of the Galactic Heroes), published by Shonen Captain Comics Special. With WINGS COMICS, she has already published seven intrigue- and action-filled volumes about her own creation, Joker, the sophisticated, sex-changing super spy of the future. Aside from these two exceptional series, Michihara has also penned a number of short story anthologies set in space. With a remarkable range from high drama to slipstick, Michihara is probably the primary female sci-fi artist in manga these days.
Set in a harsh, post apocalyptic Earth, Natsumi Itsuki's OZ follows bionics genius Felicia Epstein in her search for her only brother. With a few allusions to The Wizard of OZ, our heroine sets off on a daring journey with a pair of seasoned soldiers and a deadly robot created by her brother to guide the group. Naturally, given the setting and characters, futuristic technology abounds! Published in Jets from 1990-1992, this four-volume story inspired a two-part video series and a dedicated cult following.
In CLAMP's X (X/1999), the heroes are trying to prevent the apocalypse (we hope!). With a diverse collection of characters and abilities, it's not surprising to find some use of science. Satsuki Yatoji's power to meld with her colossal computer allows her access to electronic data worldwide, an ability any fan of Cyber punk should appreciate. Genetic engineering has been used in X's Tojo Pharmaceuticals create the soulless, genderless Nataku and analyze the first "Sacred Sword." Now at fourteen volumes, X is still being published in Asuka. Of course, you can follow the story in English right here in Animerica Extra.
On the lighter side, Kaim Tachibana's charming series Tokumu Sentai Shinesman (The Special Duty Combat Unit: Shinesman) does an interesting take on sentai (super hero team stories like Power Rangers). Published by NORA Comics, the stories are more character driven than your typical kids sentai shows tend to be. This series at once reaffirms and pokes fun at the genre, often playing off stereotypes. Shinesman may not be hard science fiction, but it has super techno-powered battle armor, alien villains and a number of other sci-fi themes going for it.
Any article about female manga artists and science fiction would be remiss not to mention Rumiko Takahashi. A long time sci-fi fan, Takahashi's first big comedy hit, Urusei Yatsura (Lum*Urusei Yatsura) is full of wonderful, wacky aliens from outer space. And let us not forget Super Gal, the short story of a super strong, super poor, super funny fortune hunter.
Although it's not as popular in the U.S. as it is all over Asia, Saki Hiwatari's amazing drama Boku no Chikyu (long u) o Mamotte (Please Save My Earth), is another excellent example of a female manga artist incorporating science fiction into her story to explore sensitive topics and new ideas about humanity. Besides the obvious sci-fi connection --the main characters are the reincarnations of space explorers who observed Earth from the moon-- Please Save My Earth also shines the spotlight on evolution and the environment.
Science fiction allows creators to explore possibilities which could not exist in a normal setting, so it's understandable many women have incorporated sci-fi into their manga. These women have used science fiction for a wide variety of creative purposes; with it they have explored a diverse array of scientific and social themes. No matter your personal preferences, there's bound to be a story or two to suit you, so give one of these a try and celebrate the diversity of female manga artists.
I had to edit this out for space. If, by some odd chance you have room for it, the Shinohara part goes after Michihara's. I plan to do an In Depth about Facade eventually, so I figured I'd survive cutting it before others. Also, this one alone has not been animated. If you'd prefer to cut something else and use this, instead, go for it. Oh, and if you have room, there's a video sidebar at the bottom.
Udo Shinohara, another WINGS COMICS artist, has written a number of science fiction stories for her series, Facade. Currently at seven volumes, Facade follows the mysterious, metamorphing title character who shares his body with five different, inhuman beings. Beyond his control, Facade is teleported from place to place and time to time. The very first story takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, and Facade visits the future again in volume five. One of Shinohara's shortest and most powerful stories is about the Russian dog Kudryavka (A.K.A. Laika), the first living being sent into space by Earth. Ashes, a separate pair of short stories stuck onto the end of the first volume of Facade, is a charming little sci-fi adventure worth checking out all by itself.
They Were Eleven, movie released 11/1/86
Toward the Terra, movie released 4/26/80
Legend of the Galactic Heroes, movies released 2/6/88 ~ 12/18/93, videos released 3/25/88 ~
Joker, Marginal City, video released 4/21/92
OZ, videos released 8/28/92, 9/25/92
X, video released ‘93, movie released 8/3/96
The Special Duty Combat Unit: Shinesman, videos released 2/21/96, 3/21/96*
Lum*Urusei Yatsura, TV series aired 10/14/81 - 3/19/86, movies released from 2/11/83 ~ 8/18/91, videos 9/12/87 ~ 6/21/91*
Please Save My Earth, videos released 12/17/93 ~ 11/25/94*
*most or all commercially available in English (Please, check to see if others are available!)