A 1950s shojo manga I bought online from a Japanese auction site, a relic of the era of kashihon, inexpensive rental libraries through which many manga books were distributed in impoverished, post-war Japan.. “Hoshizora ni uta e ba (If You Sing to the Starry Sky”) by Masai Akiyosha. Here are select pages, and my non-Japanese-reading commentary/ guesses at what’s going on. First, the cover and page one of the story.
This is page 5, bit the first page after the title page. I love that even in the 1950s, even in an unpretentious kids’ manga, we start with this lovely “setting the scene” page (aspect to aspect in McCloud-ese), with the musical notes leading us into the start of the action on the next page (remember, read right-left):
This is page 8. More beautiful landscapes, as the story proper gets underway. I can only offer a guess as to what is going on, but I’ll try: on this page we meet the protagonist, a girl (whose name maybe a Japanese reader could figure out?), watching the sunset with her friend… They head home to (I am guessing her uncle). He has some news for her:
Page 9. Our heroine has received a letter! I think the man giving it to her is her uncle… and I’m pretty sure it’s some news about her mother! (help me out, Japanese-reading friends). There’s clearly a big emotional reaction in panel 2, and some pensive-ness in panel 3. Then more of Akiyoshi’s beautiful landscape work, as the cock crows, the sun rises, and… (to be continued!) (I’m not going to post EVERY page…i’ll jump through the story via selected scenes, for those who are interested).
Page 12: the next morning, Satsuki sets off by train, on the way to the city to see her sick mother. She meets a nice man on the train — doesn’t he look nice? I think there’s something important in Satsuki’s green suitcase ….
Page 13. As the train rolls through the countryside, Satsuki returns to her seat: the Nice Man (henceforth referred to as the Bad Man) is gone! And her green suitcase is missing too!!
As you remember, Satsuki is on her way to Tokyo to see her sick mother… when the “nice man” she meets on the train steals her very important Green Suitcase!! Here, on page 20, she confronts him in the station. She pleads, he snarls.. he raises his hand — to strike poor Satsuki? But then… his raised fist grabbed …. a hero! He looks like a detective maybe, from his hat…? To be continued.
As you can see, the story is now printed in a single color. Common practice in manga — in the 50s and maybe still?– to print the opening of a story in full color, but continue in monochrome (there are a few more full color pages later on though).
Also check out the little emotion graphics — the little anger blobs (?) surrounding Bad Man’s face in panel 2. The surprise-cloud surrounding him as his fist is grabbed… and the heavenly glow around the detective (if that’s what he is) in panel 7:
Now here we are on page 21. As Satsuki explains something to the detective, the Bad Man gets away, slightly busting out of the panel border, even. They run after him. Some very exciting angles in those last three panels! Speed lines and blobby shadows. And panel 3 is interesting: that peculiar high angle, with the back of Satsuki’s head in the lower foreground, the detective’s feet in the upper background… with their word balloons in opposite corners, balancing the composition. Huh!
Page 30. Still missing her all-important-for-some-reason green suitcase, Satsuki finally reaches her sick mother. There is worry, but also happiness to be together. I have no idea what they are saying…