Portland State University. Department of World Languages and Literatures
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in Japanese
World Languages and Literatures
1 online resource (vi, 62 pages)
Although traditional gender norms are reinforced by pop-culture media in Japan, some comics aimed primarily at female readers fight against those same gender norms. Shōjo manga (Japanese girls' comics) are no exception and have done so since their "revolution" in the 1970s. In the 1970s, a new wave of young female shōjo manga artists pioneered a different kind of girls' manga because they created new perspectives for their young female readers.
Ikeda Riyoko's Rose of Versailles (Berusaiyu no bara, 1972-73), set in Revolutionary-Era France, changed how Japanese women could see themselves in the 1970s. In Rose of Versailles, Ikeda created a new form of shōjo manga and her work has been one of the most significant shōjo manga of the 1970s and even today. Although both Ikeda and shōjo manga scholars argue that Rose has an influence of both the second-wave feminism movement and the Japanese women's liberation movement, it is quite possible to apply Judith Butler's performative gender theory to Rose of Versailles, even though she published it decades later. In other words, gender trouble existed in literature and other art forms long before the 1990s when Judith Butler invented the term "gender trouble." Ikeda presents something very much like it in her artistic masterpiece in the 1970s.
As Judith Butler explains that gender trouble needs to be made and repeated from existing possibilities, I too argue that this is exactly what Ikeda tried to create in Rose through the visual depictions and re-depictions her fictional character, Oscar, in the context and on every page of her shōjo manga. Through Oscar, Ikeda visually portrays new possibilities for Japanese women to understand themselves and how they could perform gender and achieve a new kind of agency in Japanese society in the 1970s. Some of the existing narrative patterns of shōjo manga, such as cross-dressing heroines and its aesthetic of sameness should be considered as already existing gender trouble in shōjo manga before Ikeda drew her Rose. Significantly, Ikeda repeats and recreates this kind of comic-book gender trouble in the context of shōjo manga by re-adapting these existing rules of the manga genre and even from girls' magazines, such as cross-dressing heroines, and the aesthetic of sameness, and even the love trap. The revolutions happening in shōjo manga--not just the historical French revolution happening in Rose--created an environment for a Japanese artist like Ikeda to imagine new possibilities--new "trouble"--for Japanese society even though she dressed them in 18th-century French clothes.
© 2022 Saki Hirozane
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Hirozane, Saki, "Japanese Gender Trouble in Revolutionary France: Ikeda Riyoko's Shōjo Manga The Rose of Versailles" (2022). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5991.