Interiority Through Layering

Hagio Moto employs a complex set of expressive layering and feathery artwork in her 1984 shojo manga “Angel Mimic.”

In order to explore the depths of human emotion, Hagio Moto employs a complex set of expressive layering and airy images throughout her work. Rather than presenting her narrative in a linear manner, she repeatedly interjects soft and flowery illustrations much like sketches in a girl’s diary. These abstract compositions effectively create splashes of wandering emotion in order to achieve a greater sense of realism in her characters. Furthermore, the delicate way in which each moment is penned suggests a lingering timelessness through which the reader is able to learn and grow with each character. Thus, through abstract softness, layering, and surrealism, Moto sets the focus on the heart of her characters, thereby affording her readers a strong connection to them as they set out on a path toward self-discovery.

In her vignette “Angel Mimic,” Moto frequently employs feathery artwork which spills across the page in order to express her character’s emotions in a way that words simply cannot. Each time her protagonist Arisugawa turns her own focus inward, she is presented outside the confines of a panel frame in wispy, pensive strokes. On page 135, for example, Arisugawa’s softly glittering eyes stare dreamily into the distance as she ponders her actions, her hair textured with tiny fragile flowers. Because the image is lightly sketched and presented without borders, it both provides a soft transition into the following scene and allows her reflections to permeate the entire page. Her floating rumination, “What’s wrong with me anyway?” lingers until the page’s final panel, over which her day-dreamy visage is again superimposed. In this final, delicately penned image of her effortless smile, the reader finds a sense of closure for Arisugawa’s previous worries.

Similarly, on page 149, Arisugawa’s moment of surprise serves as the backdrop for overlaid panels of an argument. Once again, her face is presented in feathery strokes and without the confines of a panel frame in order to submerge reader’s consciousness in the realm of her thoughts and emotions. As her worried face and symbolic drop of sweat permeate the scene, the importance comes to be placed on the argument’s emotional impact rather than on the contents of her conversation. With the insertion of this pictorial poetry, Moto thus allows the reader a reprieve from the superficiality of the “real” world to explore the depths of the human sentiment. Moreover, had Moto not interrupted the progression of the narrative with this layer of emotionality, the reader would merely be left with a superficial understanding of the characters.

As the reader slowly follows Arisugawa’s progression toward healing and acceptance, each moment of interiority is given both weight and a sense of closure through interweaved panels of feathery abstraction. The culmination of Arisugawa’s emotional healing is then bathed in white space with flowers spilling across the page for a sense of ethereality, freedom, and personal enlightenment as her floating thoughts ellipsis into a new beginning. Through such diary-like abstract compositions and whimsical graphics, Moto thus impresses upon her readers that life itself is not linear, but rather brief and meandering. It is a series of unfinished thoughts, failures, and moments of self-discovery.

Works Cited

Hagio, Moto, and Matt Thorn. Moto Hagio’s a Drunken Dream and Other Stories. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2010. Print.

© 2016 Devon Lois Duncan. All rights reserved.


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