Friday, September 12, 2008

Fuichin-san - A follow-up

First, it looks like the Helen McCarthy article on the making of the "Fuichin-san" anime has gotten lost. The link I included just goes to a website hijacking page, implying that the original domain name might have gone up for grabs and someone else snatched it.

Second, I decided to register my copy of NJStar, which is a really powerful wordprocessor for using Nihongo under Windows, and has real-time kanji look-up. I then used this to translate the Toshiko Ueda biography information on the Ekura Animal site. This led me to doing a google search on her, and I still couldn't find much, even in Japanese. So, I ended up writing my first wiki entry yesterday. I've never done anything on wiki before, but it looks like there's a 4-day waiting period between registering an account, and being able to make a wiki entry public. Anyway, there's almost nothing written about Ueda-san and Fuichin-san, and I want to try to change that by writing up her bio and bibliography.

Third, turns out that Ueda-san wrote 5 different long-running manga titles, including 1 that ran for 11 years, and another for over 20 years (she was still working on this last title even after she turned 80). She also won a Shogakukan award for best children's manga, and a "distinguished service" award from the Japan Cartoonists Association. I wish I knew about her earlier, because she died just this year, in March, at age 90.

Ueda-san lived in Harbin, Manchuria from 40 days after she was born in 1917, to around the time she graduated from elementary school. She returned to Japan, fell in love with manga, and apprenticed under a popular shojo artist for a few years. Then, she returned to Harbin, where she worked in the office of the Manchuria Railroad before switching jobs as a writer for the Harbin daily newspaper. After this, WWII broke out, and when it ended, Ueda-san was interned for 1 year before being repatriated to Japan. During the internment period, she drew manga to cheer up everyone. After returning to Japan, she started drawing professionally, with her first story getting published in 1957 at age 40.

The Fuichin-san manga only ran 5 years. It's placed in Harbin, and is a call-back to the time that Ueda-san lived there as a child. While "Fuichin-san" didn't run anywhere near as long as two of her other manga, it's the one that she is now best known for. Her manga has become collector's items. I did a check on, and there's maybe only one copy available of any given volume of her manga, and the asking prices are between $75 and $80 each.

Ueda-san is one of the people that helped shape the face of Shojo Manga as we know it today, but she's virtually unknown outside of Japan (and even in Japan, people under 40 don't know her). For this reason, I'm trying to write up the wiki entry, and to make her a little more visible to western audiences.

More of the Fuichin-san artwork can be found here:
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3


steve13 said...

Ueda-san's artwork (just from the examples that link from your article, which I admit are all I've seen of her work),remind me slightly of the style of Herge the well known Belgian illustrator and writer of the "Tintin" series of books. Which is interesting as Herge wrote his books during the 1920s and 30s, and it is not totally impossible that they may well have been available in Manchuria or Japan at that time. Allowing a new mangaka to possibly obtain valuable source material on drawing coloured 2D characters. Of course I am purely speculating here and everything I've said cannot be proved one way or the other. But it would be pleasant to think that the development of comic art may have had worldwide rather that just localised sources of inspiration.

TSOTE said...

Well, it is a good observation. Looking at Ueda's original art, I'm not sure how much of it was influenced by Herge. I can certainly see the similarities between Herge and the updated designs from Ekura Animal. On the other hand, someone else commented on how the Ekura Animal designs reminded them of Popeye and Olive Oyl.

Early Japanese artists were known to copy western styles as jumping off points for their own designs. At least one studio had flipped a coin between copying an early French Studio, or copying Disney, and Disney won. Which is why so many of the older anime characters resemble Disney's stuff. So, it's highly likely that Ueda-san could have seen Herge's works and copied from them, but unless we can put the pictures side by side for comparison, this is just speculation, as you say.