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This paper examines the shôjo tropes in contemporary illustrations that were produced to accompany two tales by the renowned author Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933), Futago no Hoshi (Twin Stars) and Ginga Tetsudô no Yoru (Night of the Milky Way Railway). Although Kenji (as he is known) is not generally considered a shôjo author, some of his works incorporate gently transgressive shôjo themes reminiscent of, for example, Yoshiya Nobuko’s Hana Monogatari (Flower Tales) from the 1920s. I argue that the current artwork of two award-winning artists, Makino Suzuko and Azuma Itsuko, reflects and enhances Kenji’s ‘girlish’ verbal images, bringing them to the fore in their accompanying imagery for Futago and Ginga by drawing on shôjo art, manga and literature. The artists thus bring into play intertextual references that occur not only across different historical temporalities but also through relations between the author, the artist, the text(s), the protagonists and the reading/viewing audience. The analysis of their striking artwork shows how they bring Kenji’s 1920s’ works firmly into the arena of the contemporary ‘girl’, expanding the abstract consciousness of the shôjo to emerging audiences in Japan.
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This essay won the 2013 Inoue Yasushi Award for the best article or book chapter on Japanese literature published in Australia or New Zealand.
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