The Poe Clan Vol. 1 review – return of a classic shojo

Moto Hagio is undeniably one of the founders of the shojo manga genre and is a hugely important figure in the history of the manga industry. Naturally, it’s always a treat when one of her works gets the English language treatment and this month marks the release of one of her most popular series originally published in 1972. The Poe Clan: a race of undead that feeds on the energy of the living, whiling away the centuries in a village of roses where time and geography have no meaning. Circumstances lead to a brother and sister, Edgar and Marybelle, being initiated into the clan too young, and therefore doomed to live out eternity forever on the brink of adulthood, until a wooden stake or a silver bullet should cut them down.

This past Summer, Hagio’s art from The Poe Clan was displayed as part of The British Museum’s Manga マンガ exhibition as one of the key series in the shojo manga genre and earliest examples of BL. Reading this first deluxe hardcover volume, it’s clear to see why. It’s immediately noticeable with the larger format how influential Hagio’s artwork has been on multiple generations of artists. Anyone who has read relatively recent shojo series such as Fruits Basket and Vampire Knight will see elements of her style, particularly in the delicate lines and the eyes.

It’s also an early example in the genre of extra care going into clothing and character designs. All the characters standout in these regards, but Edgar and Marybelle – along with their family – are particularly noticeable. Gender fluidity is fairly common in modern manga’s character designs, but Hagio is a pioneer of this approach with Edgar being an early example of an androgynous male protagonist. There are even examples of early foundations of the BL/yaoi genre with the relationship between Allan Twilight and Edgar being suitably ambiguous. You could argue that the two leads are a precursor for the shiny depiction of vampires that became popular in YA novels in recent years, or at the very least that Hagio was ahead of her time.

Hagio is heavily influenced by American science fiction, with Issac Asimov, Arthur C Clark and Ray Bradbury being particular favourites. It’s little wonder then that her storytelling goes against the grain of typical manga and vampire tales at the time. The relationship between the three main characters is unconventional compared to what was seen in the classics and the structure is similar to the approach Anne Rice took with her work (particularly Interview With A Vampire) once again showing how ahead of the curb Hagio was.

This is a seminal series in the history of manga and this deluxe edition is a worthy showcase of Moto Hagio’s work. Without a doubt a must buy for any serious manga fan!

The Poe Clan Volume 1 is out 19 September from Fantagraphics

9781683962083 – H/B – £39.99

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