Good news for fans of classic manga: Fantagraphics announced plans yesterday to publish Moto Hagio's Heart of Thomas (Thomas no Shinz? /??????) in a hardcover omnibus edition that collects all three volumes of the Japanese original.
First published in 1974, Heart of Thomas was one of the first boys-love manga, and it had a strong influence on the genre in the years that followed, but beyond its historical importance, Heart of Thomas is a manga that packs a strong emotional punch. When I interviewed Thorn for Publishers Weekly a few years ago, he described reading Heart of Thomas as "a life-changing experience." “The biggest shock to me was that it made me cry," he said. "I mean really cry. I had never imagined that a comic could do that.”
Hagio was one of the first manga creators to be translated into English, but her books They Were Eleven and A' A" have been out of print for years. Last year, Fantagraphics published a collection of her short stories, A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, which was also translated by Thorn.
Heart of Thomas is a tale of unrequited love between teenage boys, set in an all-boys boarding school in Germany. It begins with the suicide of Thomas, who leaves a note for Juli, the boy he loved but who did not return his affections. In a 2004 interview with Thorn, Hagio said
The theme is ... hmm ... "When does a person learn love? When does one awake to love?" Something like that. [Laughs.] So the whole crazy premise — a boy leaving a letter and dying right at the start of the story — is something I could only have come up with when I was so young. [Laughter.]
Hagio, who has been writing and drawing manga since 1969, is a member of the "Year 24 Group," the first wave of female shoujo manga creators. (Most of the members of the group were born in 1949, Year 24 of the Sh?wa period by Japanese reckoning.) Before the advent of the Year 24 Group, which also includes Riyoko Ikeda (The Rose of Versailles) and Keiko Takemiya (To Terra), most shoujo manga was written and drawn by men, so these creators ushered in a new sensibility that led directly to the shoujo manga that is so popular in Japan and around the world today.