In Translation - "The White Shadow" by Reiko Motoyama

Readable for the first time in 50 years, a daring wordless manga by a young shoujo artist.

In Translation - "The White Shadow" by Reiko Motoyama

Welcome to Manga March! Earlier this week I happened upon an old book fair where I snatched up a good handful of classic manga mags packed with comics either never translated or never reprinted at all. Just the coolest stuff for retro manga junkies like me. So every week this month (at the very least--I'm falling down rabbit holes that might spill over into next month) I'm going to be sharing handmade scans and translations of the stuff for all of you!

And we are kicking it off this week with "The White Shadow" (白い影) by Reiko Motoyama, published in the September 1968 issue of COM!

Okay, so "translation" might be a lie this time--this manga is totally wordless. Sue me!

Motoyama, born February 16, 1948 in the Tottori prefecture, made her name in the '70s explosion of shoujo manga. Her style is explosive and high energy, full of hot people and wacky hi-jinks, blending an obvious gekiga influence with more exaggerating gag sensibilities. But don't assume she was just in it for the jokes: her work is consistently fiercely feminist, reveling in bare-faced female sexuality and prodding at a misogynist society.

"The White Shadow" is a perfect highlight of her thematic interests and complexity. Her second published work, coming only a few months after her debut in GON and released when she was just 21, won COM's 12th monthly newcomers award, praised by its judges for two primary reasons: 1) its elegance and brevity accomplished without any dialogue or expository text and 2) its shocking ending that resists narrative expectations and refuses to explain itself.

And...yeah, that tracks! There's no comedy to be found here, no off-the-wall escapades or romantic views of youth. Instead what we get is a harsh run through a woman's life, time passing in jarring blinks of the eye and reader held at a distance, never fully let in. It's harrowing and challenging in a couple different ways, and I'm excited to share it!

So let's not waste anymore time. Here is "The White Shadow"!

ps you can also download the translation here if you'd prefer:

23.79 MB file on MEGA

Music of the Week: Oshare Quest by Lover Callots

Influenced by their stints working in jazz clubs, this debut from a short lived duo blends accessible jazz fusion with sunny shibuya-kei for a charming beach listen. Confident played with unshowy virtuosity, it’s pretty perfect stuff for letting stress fade away, even if only for a while. Frequently operates around the zone that all music should exist in: vaguely reminding me of the hub city in Sonic Adventure 1. 

Book of the Week: Last and First Idol by Gengen Kusano 

Causing a stir in the Japanese sci-fi community when it won the prestigious Seiun award due to it being a barely disguised Love Live fanfic, the lead story in this collection is unbelievable. Following a girl’s trillion year evolution into godhood as she transforms the entire universe into her image (a pop idol), it is hyper hard sci-fi filled with body horror and ironic cuteness that’s simultaneously funny and upsetting, flinging you in directions you could never imagine, pushing its concept past the breaking point like three times every page. That it ends profoundly and beautifully to boot? Incredible. Who knows how Kusano pulled this off, but god did they ever.

Movie of the Week: Pale Flower (dir. Masahiro Shinoda, 1964)

Classic noir from the Japanese new wave championed by Michael Mann, and boy can you see why. An hour and a half of slow burn of romance and desire wrapped up in nihilistic destruction as two people search for feeling in a meaningless world, chasing higher and higher gambles and stakes. Tense and shadowy and always feeling just a half step out of reality. This isn’t a movie to watch for answers or conclusions or satisfaction—you won’t get any of those—but if you want to luxuriate in one of the coolest movies there is (and I mean both in the sense that it’s icy AND rad), you can’t miss it.

Have thoughts about anything covered this week? Got a recommendation you’re dying to share? Want to tell me how handsome and cool I am? Leave a comment below!

oh, and here's an intro guide to otome