A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

Created by: Moto Hagio

ISBN: 1606993771 (Amazon)

Pages: 288

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

Sometimes, the value of a book is found less in its quality or enjoyability than it is in the book’s place and purpose in history. It’s kind of like Dickens. Nobody reads Dickens because they value his writing style, storytelling chops, or the way he wallows in base sentimentalism, right? Dickens is engaging but solely for our examination of his place in the unfurling history of The Novel. Even if we find him uninspired and hackneyed today, there was a time when (and I know this is tough for contemporary readers to imagine) Dickens was an important development in moving the novel from its antecedents to its current place as the bastion of interesting narrative thought. We look back on Dickens with a kind of patronizing fondness: he’s certainly not amazing by current standards, but he (in his way) helped us get where we are today. So good for him, the quaint little chap.

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio

This is how I had to approach A Drunken Dream, a life’s-work-spanning anthology featuring short fiction by Moto Hagio. Really, it’s the only path by which to take in the work and come away thinking in any way fondly of it. With few exceptions, the stories feel trite, stilted, and amateurish. The kinds of things that high-schoolers write when they think they’re being edgy. I sort of forgive Hagio for it because for all I know, these stories were fresh and extraordinary in the culture from which she wrote. At the same time, these stories on the whole (despite their ostensible historic significance) are a bit of a chore to read.

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio

Probably the best story of the anthology, “Iguana Girl,” is still only debatably good enough to merit a collection in terms of straight-up, worthwhile reading material. More likely, this collection is not meant to appeal to casual readers who simply wish to enjoy or be challenged by a story well-told. Instead, Drunken Dream seems meant to appeal to academics and critics and those who care about how the female contribution to the Japanese comics scene has developed and been shaped. In its own way, “Iguana Girl” may function as some sort of proto-Murakami (before he hit his Wind-Up Bird Chronicle stage) and its exploration of persons within person may deserve some attention. Another story, “Hanshin Half-God,” may be analyzed in terms of identiation of either the author’s self, the female self within a particular cultural environment, or maybe both. In any case, these and all the included stories function better as touchstones for critical thought than they do for fulfilling reading experiences (much the same as the manner with which we might approach John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill”).

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio

There is little to impress about the work in either art or writing save for the fact that it is different from whatever else was produced alongside it. Probably. My knowledge of the development of the Japanese comics scene is spotty and so I’m only presuming Hagio’s work was developmental based on scattered articles I read prior to reading the collection. Perhaps a better understanding of the era would have lent a better appreciation for Hagio’s accomplishments. As it is, divorced so thoroughly from that historical point as I am, I can only approach the work from a particular perspective. And from that perspective, I would say that if two-thirds of the included stories were as enjoyable as “Iguana Girl,” I’d give the book a rating of OK. As it is though? Lo siento. On the upside, I did compare Moto Hagio with Dickens. So there’s that.


Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

3 Stars = Good
2 Stars = Ok
1 Star = Bad

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