By Kanta Ishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior SpecialistThe manga this week
Poe no Ichizoku: Haru no Yume (The clan of Poe: Dream of Spring)
By Moto Hagio (Shogakukan)
This week’s manga began as a serial in the July 2016 issue of the Gekkan Flowers monthly magazine. It was quite an event — the issue sold out as soon as it hit the shelves, and was followed by a rare reprinting. A digital version was also published for the first time in the magazine’s history. I was lucky enough to purchase a copy at a local bookstore, where a young shop clerk asked me what all the fuss was about. I said “Poe no Ichizoku” (The clan of Poe) had been revived after 40 years.
The story is set in 1944 during World War II on an island off Wales. Edgar, a boy vampire, has been around for 200 years. He meets Jewish girl Blanca, who escaped from Nazi Germany, and is attracted to her beautiful singing voice. Blanca hopes she and her little brother, whom she is looking after, can be reunited with their parents in their homeland. As Edgar joined the clan of Poe by receiving mighty King Poe’s blood, he becomes a target of Chloe, a member of the same vampire clan who lusts for his blood to rejuvenate. Blanca also meets with tragedy.
The original series had a great impact on my generation, and it is a monumental work in the female manga revolution of the 1970s, together with “Kaze to Ki no Uta” (The poem of wind and trees) by Keiko Takemiya.
I reread all of its five volumes in the recently reprinted original version, and discovered anew that Hagio is brilliant in both her lyrical drawings and her storytelling. For one thing, the story is sometimes presented not in chronological order, such as with occasional flashbacks. Mysteries are also left unsolved to leave a lingering feeling. This work greatly influenced future generations in manga, novels and films.
Hagio, now in her late 60s, has said very little about why she started again after 40 years. The drawings of Edgar and another major character, Allan, do not look the same as in the original, and I felt slightly uncomfortable about this in the beginning. This feeling gradually faded because I realized that this work was never meant to be a half-hearted side story, but to resume the main story on a full scale. This work is magnificent, full of mystery and cruelty, and vividly retains what my generation found fascinating when we were in our teens.
The title is from a song in Schubert’s “Winterreise” (Winter Journey). Blanca sings the song with tears in her eyes, with lyrics such as, “Do you laugh at the dreamer who saw flowers in the winter?” This may be a warning of our own time heading into a period of winter. I eagerly look forward to the sequel, which is scheduled to be published next year.Speech