I can not tell you how happy I am to have so many classic manga titles in print now across the genres, especially shojo! Fantagraphics has released Moto Hagio’s The Poe Clan, which was originally released in the 1970s, and translated into English for the very first time. With longtime translator Rachel Thorn credited with translation duties, this English edition was brought to life with others including editor Kristy Valenti and book designer Justin Allan-Spencer. Hagio, who is a pioneer of the shōjo/shōnen-ai genres, is also a part of the Year 24 Group, one of the groups of women who contributed greatly to the development of the many subgenres in shōjo manga. The Poe Clan Volume 1 is one of Hagio’s early works as Fantagraphics notes a manga classic where “vampirism and adolescence converge.”
The Poe Clan focuses on two young siblings Edgar and Marybelle, brother and sister in a world where time doesn’t touch them the same way it does others. Initiated into a clan too young, they are forever young and now belong to a race of “vampirnellas” that feeds on the energy of the living. Their kind lives for centuries in a village of roses where time and geography have very little meaning. This first volume of Moto Hagio’s work follows these immortal adolescents and the lives of the mortal people they touch. At nearly five hundred pages, this tale is brightened by childhood innocence and the pursuit of love and darkened by many tragedies.
Readers will appreciate an intricate story with a revolving cast of characters connecting these young adults, who are doomed to never grow old, with several other characters they meet in their travels. Hagio connects several big themes into this work: defining youth, the facets of humanity, and ruminating on the purpose of adulthood in a world where children believe everything sours once they’re old. Mix in characters across the board who want to be loved, want family, want safety, and want to be spared from the sting of loneliness, and it proves to be a manga that feels and reads profoundly relevant in today’s time. The Poe Clan is an extraordinary piece of manga history and is a superb example of some of the finest storytelling we’re privileged to read, now translated outside its native country of Japan.
This incredible tome features such painstakingly gorgeous artwork that distinctly belongs to manga of yesteryear. Most notably, the black and white illustrations are played up and dramatized by the European-influenced look of the character’s design and locations as in other works of Hagio like Heart of Thomas. The pages I loved best were the ones of older characters who recall meeting the immortal children and recounting how their paths crossed as children. Edgar, the protective older brother of the pair, adapts faster and more skillfully to “playing human” and the chapters showing his development through the decades are darker in tone. Both in narrative and artwork, these chapters present some of the most chilling pages in the volume that play up the psychological edge Hagio is known to bring to her work.
While I loved that the narrative spans generations, the pacing fell off in later chapters. I would reread back to make sure I was following the same characters and this proved to be frustrating as I did not quite immediately grasp the time skips when the siblings moved from place to place for different periods. Edgar’s chapters do get a bit darker, some parts of his story are, unfortunately, difficult to follow but were easier on a reread.
Even with these missteps, what impresses me the most is the range of Hagio and this early work of hers. The Poe Clan has terrifying pieces in its story, as well as it includes several heartbreaking pieces. There are as many hopeful scenes as there are scenes that filled my heart with joy. There are layers to the narrative here that pulled at my heart and left me in awe as someone who always wanted to read more of Moto Hagio.
If you’re looking to get into more vintage manga, see where the roots of shōjo manga originated from, or want to introduce newer manga readers to the illustrious master of her craft such as Moto Hagio—a “founding mother” of modern shōjo manga—The Poe Clan is a worth a read. The concluding second volume will be released this Fall, so now is certainly a perfect time to jump in and start reading. While not my favorite of Hagio’s work, it is only a taste of her illustrious career— only a piece of the many genres she found herself working with that helped inspire and influence future generations of mangaka.
The Poe Clan Volume 1 is available wherever books are sold. Volume Two goes on sale September 20, 2022.
The Poe Clan Volume 1
If you’re looking to get into more vintage manga, see where the roots of shōjo manga originated from, or want to introduce newer manga readers to the illustrious master of her craft such as Moto Hagio—a “founding mother” of modern shōjo manga—The Poe Clan is a worth a read.