[personal profile] snarp
The old-school sci-fi manga was way more ambitious, wasn't it?

In the future, earth is unlivable due to environmental devastation, and a harsh, unified human society exists in space, dedicated entirely and obsessively to restoring the earth. Children are raised by professional parents on colonies specially designated for the purpose of child-rearing, and given frequent psychological testing until their fourteenth birthdays. If they pass the final test, they are sent on to a special school, never to see their parents again, with portions of their memories removed and their minds deadened. If they fail, they are killed.

Some children are born as Mu, physically frail but having psychic powers; much of the psychological testing exists to weed them out. Jomy Marcus Shin has made it to his fourteenth birthday without either realizing he is a Mu or being detected. But when he tells his mother he isn't ready to leave her, she is frightened, and turns him in as a possible deviant. He is rescued by a group of rebel Mu whose leader, Soldier Blue, is dying and has chosen Jomy to succeed him. The other Mu aren't sure about this, and neither is Jomy, but none of them are quite capable of disobeying Soldier.

Several years later, another boy, Keith Anyan, is the star pupil of Mother Computer Eliza, who monitors all teenagers carefully, bringing them to maturity with psychological coercion and brainwashing. (I'm sure that this idea had absolutely no effect on the first Battle Angel Alita series.) When Keith realizes that he has lost all memory of his childhood, his classmates complacently shake their heads - only more proof of his perfection. Keith finds himself having doubts, and wonders why Eliza hasn't simply erased them.

This manga goes several levels deeper with its premise than I think a modern shoujo manga would, but it's also extremely pulpy. Takemiya has a tendency to transition somewhat abruptly from a careful explanation of something to a scene of intense melodrama. There'll be a couple of pages talking about psychological testing, and then someone's shouting Jomy's name as he rockets off into space because he's having a painful epiphany about humanity. It kind of reminds me of Marion Zimmer Bradley.

It's like Bradley, too, in that much of the conflict comes from domestic sources and is associated with birth and motherhood. Jomy's mother and Mother Computer Eliza are both threats to their sons, of course, but (spoilers for volume 2) children themselves are also sources of danger. Jomy's sort-of-godchild, a little boy named Tony who calls him "Grandpa," is the first natural-born human child in hundreds of years, born due to Jomy's insistence that the Mu begin reproducing in the natural way. Jomy, as are a lot of people in this society, is devoted to the ideal of motherhood. Tony, however, is a monster who feels no regret when his actions lead to his mother's death - she failed to live up to his ideals. For this and other reasons, I am placing a bet with myself that Keith ends up destroying Eliza.

Where this manga is unlike Bradley is this - the women don't have much agency. Physis, a blind and deaf albino tarot-card reading Mu (I'm sure that this idea had absolutely no effect on X.) who is the most prominent female character, spends a lot of her time crying, calling out Jomy or Soldier's name, or being wise. Mostly crying. She doesn't make decisions, and when Jomy or one of the other characters speaks to her, it's because they've sought her out, not because she's gone to them. And though she is admired by the other Mu, she's rarely consulted when they make major decisions. You stay on your pedestal and look otherworldly and sorrowful, woman.

Date: 2011-01-26 07:56 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jinian
the most prominent female character, spends a lot of her time crying, calling out Jomy or Soldier's name, or being wise.

I'm sure this idea had absolutely no effect on the American He-Man cartoon!

Date: 2011-01-26 03:28 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
couldn't agree more

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