Communicating Emotions: How Commercial Manga for Women Approaches 3.11
Hagio Moto’s manga series Nanohana was one of the first attempts in female-oriented mainstream manga to depict the 3.11 tragedy and its aftermath. However, it appears to lack in overt social critique, providing instead a highly emotional story about overcoming hardship and maturing. Via a close-reading of Nanohana this article analyzes the modus operandi of social critique in popular manga highlighting the visual conventions of female manga genres and thereby going beyond the plotlines, which have been at the center of critical attention so far. The article contrasts the initial one-shot “Nanohana,” which directly addresses 3.11, with the subsequent three one-shots that anthropomorphize nuclear elements. Leaning on Thomas LaMarre’s theory of plastic and structural lines, Nanohana is analyzed in regard to signification and affect by correlating the manga’s varying line work with issues of gender, especially the dynamics of the gaze, as theoretically developed by Oshiyama, Nagaike, Ōgi and Ishida. Respectively, the visualization of popular gender stereotypes in shōjo and josei manga comes to the fore. Special attention is paid to how visual gender constructs help the reader to differentiate between “self” and “other” on the levels of signification and affect, and how the resulting identification and dissociation aid in approaching the traumatic nuclear accident.