If you follow the Illustrator’s Lounge on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen us mention the latest exhibition being held at the House of Illustration, Shojo Manga: The World of Japanese Girls’ Comics. Shojo is manga aimed at a teenage female readership (shojo literally means “young woman”). Shojo Manga will be the first major exhibition of the genre in the UK. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to look at one of the pioneers of shojo and a highlight of the exhibition, Keiko Takemiya.
Takemiya was born in 1950 in Tokushima, Japan. She began drawing manga while still in middle-school, though kept it secret from her parents. At 17-years-old, she submitted “Kokonotsu no yujo” (Nine Friendships) to Mushi Pro’s COM magazine and received a Newcomer Award. One year later, in 1968, she made her debuted in Margaret magazine with the award-winning story “Ringo no tsumi” (Apple’s Sin).
When she was only 26 years old, Takemiya began one of best known, and highly praised, series, “Kaze to Kino Uta” (The Poem of Wind and Trees). The story addresses sensitive issues of racism, homophobia, pedophilia, sexual abuse and drug abuse. Unsurprisingly, Takemiya had to fight her publisher to print the story, taking them nine years to agree. The story was eventually published by Shogakukan from 1976 to 1984 without censoring of any of the controversial sexual themes. In 1979, Kaze to Kino Uta was awarded the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award. The story proved to be a ground-breaking moment, opening the door to sexual expression in Japanese manga. The BBC have called Takemiya “The godmother of manga sex in Japan”
Between 1977 and 1980 Takemiya work on “Toward the Terra.” Another very successful series that won a Seiun Award and was later adapted into an anime movie in 1980, produced by Toei Animation and directed by Hideo Onchi. It was also adapted into an animated TV series in 2007, co-animated by Minamimachi Bugyosho and Tokyo Kids.
Takemiya was a key member of The Year 24 Group (aka The Fabulous Forty-Niners). Named so because the artists were born in Showa 24 (1949). It was a group of female authors in the early 1970s who helped change and shape shojo manga.
Since 2000, she has taught at the Kyoto Seika University, and is currently the dean of the manga faculty.
Takemiya is one of the early successful crossover women artists, creating both shojo and shonen manga. She remains as one of the most influential figures in Japanese girls’ manga. With multiple accolades, her most impressive came in 2014, where she was awarded the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan for her contributions to Manga.