Mommy, the White Girl Is Scaring Me!

Margaret, May 17, 1970

Margaret, May 17, 1970

So a couple of nights ago, I inelegantly dumped a bunch of images from the May 17, 1970 issue of Margaret, with nothing more than the comments I had appended to each image.Today I’ll try to be a tad more systematic.

Tarô Okamotos Tower of the Sun

Tarô Okamoto's "Tower of the Sun"

This issue was published during the 1970 World Expo held in Osaka, symbolized by Tarô Okamoto‘s “Tower of the White Turd Sun,” which is an enduring monument to the timeless ability of big-name “artists” to foist just about anything onto clueless politicians and bureaucrats. I’ve seen this thing several times up close (it’s in the same compound as the International Institute for Children’s Literature), and it doesn’t look any better close-up than it does in photographs. The Expo was held just six years after the Tokyo Olympics, and Japan was still in major “international mode,” as this issue of Margaret suggests.

Margaret was a weekly magazine at the time, and was one of the two top-selling girls’ magazine at the time, the other being Kodansha’s Weekly Shôjo Friend. At the beginning of the 1960s, less than 50% of the content of girls’ magazines consisted of manga. The rest was illustrated fiction, articles, photos of movie stars, etc. Friend, founded in 1963, was the first girls’ weekly. (Until then, girls’ magazines had all been monthly or quarterly.) But by the time this issue of Margaret hit the stands, manga were accounting for about 90% of the content, and serialized fiction–once the mainstay of girls’ magazines–had all but vanished.

Horrible! Yoshie-sans Life Snuffed Out In Blast

"Horrible! Yoshie-san's Life Snuffed Out In Blast"

So keeping in mind that the assumed age of the readers was roughly ten to 15 years old, let’s see what else this issue contained. Ah. This is…jarring. Sandwiched in among the manga, an article about a 6th-grade girl who died in a gas explosion in Osaka that took 77 lives and left some 270 injured. I’m guessing girls back then went in for heart-breaking true stories, as well as wacky romantic comedies.

Sad Curry Rice

"Sad Curry Rice"

I know this is nothing to laugh about, but you have to wonder what the editor was thinking when he decided to highlight the phrase “SAD CURRY RICE” in this article. Is the curry rice itself sad? Does it make others sad? Or were the people who ate it sad for reasons totally unrelated to the curry rice? I’m guessing it’s the last.

Right after the tragic death piece, we have a report from the Expo. World Expo! You know what that means: ridiculously optimistic predictions about future technology!

In 1980, a computer will design your wedding dress!

In 1980, a computer will design your wedding dress!

In 1980, a computer will design your wedding dress, and a linear motor car traveling 500 kilometers per hour will speed you from Tokyo to Shikoku in three hours! Undersea cities, fully automated kitchens…you know the routine: that never-changing world of the future that is always on the horizon, but never quite arrives. At least there’s nothing about personal jet-packs.

Margarets Sense Test

Margaret's "Sense Test"

And here’s another non-manga piece: a “sense” test. Yes, the folks at Margaret test your taste in clothes, your sense of humor, your sense of style, and your social savvy. And if you score less than 50 points…

YOU ARE A FAILURE.

As if pubescent and adolescent girls don’t have enough to be insecure about.

Spot the errors!

Spot the errors!

Spot the errors! This is some kind of timeless, universal “game” editors of children’s periodicals around the world have fallen back on for lack of anything more interesting to publish since the invention of the printing press. But let’s reassure ourselves that the hours of our childhood we spent on this game helped hone our perceptual skills.

Im Embarrassed By My Retarded Older Sister!

"I'm Embarrassed By My Retarded Older Sister!"

“I’m Embarrassed By My Retarded Older Sister!” Ouch! A reader bares her politically incorrect, adolescent soul, and asks for advice. (And, yes, the Japanese word used in this piece is now considered as offensive as “retarded” is in English today.)

Scary teacher delivers lecture

Scary teacher delivers lecture

Well, what kind of advice was she expecting? This frightening scold of a school teacher kindly but firmly tells the distressed reader that she should take good care of her older sister, and trust that true friends will be impressed by her selflessness and kindness. Sounds good, but we’re talking junior high school here, Ma’am–a veritable clearinghouse of small and not-so-small cruelties.

Soviet dancer meets American shoe manufacturer

Soviet dancer meets American shoe manufacturer

Mercifully, we’re back to manga now. “No Commercials!”, by Kiyoko Nakamori, is a bizarre romantic comedy about a Soviet gymnast and a mid-level manager of an American shoe-manufacturer. Setting aside the fact that all the signs are in Japanese, even though the story is set in America, the artist, and no doubt the readers as well, seem unclear on the concept of “Cold War.”

Im Saving Money!

"I'm Saving Money!"

“I’m Saving Money!” This early work by the fairly popular Yohko Tadatsu reads like a mid-teen version of an old Harvey comic book. It’s about a girl obsessed with saving money. Give it a title like “Little Greeda” and you’d have something that wouldn’t look out of place on the spinner rack with “Little Dot” and “Richie Rich“.

Deliver the Smash!

"Deliver the Smash!"

The next manga, “Deliver the Smash!”, is a bald-faced attempt to cash in on the popularity of the still-famous tennis manga Aim for the Ace! Presumably the attempt failed, since I’ve never heard of this one, and the artist’s name doesn’t ring a bell, either.

The Class Rings In Love

"The Class Ring's In Love"

And then we have one from Yoshiko Nishitani. Nishitani, though overshadowed today by others of her generaton and the “Fabulous Forty-Niners,” more or less single-handedly invented the school campus romance that remains the mainstay of shôjo manga today. But this is not one of her more memorable works. “The Class Ring’s In Love,” and I don’t even know what that means. The otherwise brilliant Nishitani sets a story in an American high school, and does no research beyond maybe watching a couple of Gidget movies and maybe a few episodes of The Patty Duke Show. Nevermind that (once again) all the signs are in Japanese: couldn’t she even come up with some plausible English names? Boys named “Beth” and “Pluno”? A girl named “Bepita”?

Interior pages from Class Rings In Love

Interior pages from "Class Ring's In Love"

On the first page of this episode, “Pluno” declares that he’s going to destroy Peggy’s relationship with “Beth” and make her fall in love with him instead. He then cheerfully abducts her and drives straight to where he knows “Beth” and “Bepita” are, to make “Beth” think Peggy is cheating on him. Needless to say, “Bepita”–who has her eyes on “Beth”–put “Pluno” up to this. Maybe Peggy’s life would be less complicated if she just moved to a school where the kids have less embarrassing names.

An Upset Victory of Love

"An Upset Victory of Love"

Last and probably least, we have “An Upset Victory of Love.” If you think the title’s surreal, you’ll be even more puzzled by a “shôjo manga” all about boys’ baseball, with a love story awkwardly stapled on. Was Margaret trying to compete with Weekly Shônen Magazine‘s hugely popular baseball manga, Star of the Giants?

Flower Mate dolls

"Flower Mate" dolls

That’s it for editorial content (not counting several items I skipped), but as with old American comic books, half the fun is in the advertisements. Here’s an ad on the inside back cover for a series of dolls that apparently never really took off, featuring a timely new outfit for “Scarlett”: A World Expo Escort Guide’s uniform.

Akira: Is he, or isnt he?

Akira: Is he, or isn't he?

(Trivia: I personally know a Japanese woman, now pushing 60, who was an escort guide at the 1970 Expo.) Why they didn’t put the uniform on one of the three dolls with Japanese names is a mystery.

But the big mystery is the sole “boy doll,” Akira. I think I am not being unfair when I suggest that Akira is, well, gay.

Charmy make-it-yourself jewelry! From exotic West Germany!

"Charmy" make-it-yourself jewelry! From exotic West Germany!

Now what’s this on the back cover? Ooh, a groovy make-your-own-jewelry kit from West Germany, “Charmy!”

The darling little Japanese model

The darling little Japanese model

And here’s the adorable Japanese girl modeling “Charmy” for us. Awww, isn’t she the cutest thing? If she’s not “Charmy,” I don’t know what is.

“Oh, you have Charmy, too! How wonderful!” says the girl’s new (presumably West German) friend. And what does her new friend look like?

BFF! Until she smothers you to death in your sleep with your own pillow!!

BFF! Until she smothers you to death in your sleep with your own pillow!!

….
Whoa! Couldn’t they find a Caucasian girl without anger issues? Was this girl turned down for the role of Veruca Salt in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because she was deemed too mean looking? The expression of contempt on her face gives sinister meaning to her exclamation of “Oh, you have Charmy, too! How wonderful!” But you have to admire the Japanese girl for bravely disguising her terror of her “new friend.”

All right. I admit it. The whole reason I created this Margaret post and the last one was to have an excuse to show this advertisement.

  1. Katherine Farmar’s avatar

    This is hilarious and fascinating. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Jonathan Clements’s avatar

    A wonderful thing to see.

  3. Valéria Fernandes’s avatar

    I did not know you had a blog. Now I’ll visit it regularly. Nice analysis.

  4. martina’s avatar

    I’ve just discovered you have a blog. I loved all of the entries, but this is absolutely my favorite so far!
    Thank you for all the interesting posts and pictures (and for the Katsuji Matsumoto article, as well *___*).

  5. Kinlyu’s avatar

    Great overview! And nice to see that some things – kind of – never change.

  6. Eric Henwood-Greer’s avatar

    I’m slow to your log, and it seems you haven’t written too much lately, but I hope that changes. Posts like this are wonderful to me…

    One quibble–Aim for the Ace started in Margaret in 1972, so I don’t think Deliver the Smash could be inspired by it particularly if this was from 1970

  7. Matt’s avatar

    Wow. You’re right, Eric. Now I’m wondering if there was some other hit tennis manga before Aim for the Ace that I’m forgetting about. Who knows? Maybe this now-obscure title was the pioneer in the field?

    Yes, I’m afraid I experienced blog fatigue, in no small part because of problems with my gallery software and the time and effort of scanning and placing images. Hopefully someday soon I’ll get back to blogging again. Since this post, I’ve acquired a huge number of great old magazines that I’m itching to share.

  8. FetaftedoCarf’s avatar

    Hi, your article is really invaluable for me. I will keep an eye on your blog. Please do update.

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