Nijūyonengumi is an informal group of female comic authors whose contribution to shōjo manga in 1970s revolutionized the whole genre from both storytelling and visual viewpoint. The name (Year 24 Group) is derived from the year of birth of the authors, as many of them were born around 1949, ie. the 24th year of Shōwa era (1926-1989), and for the same reason they are sometimes called “Forty-niners” among Western scholars and fans.
As the group was informal and only labelled retrospectively by critics, its members’ list often varies; among most included authors are Moto Hagio (*1949), Keiko Takemiya (*1950), Yumiko Ōshima (*1947), Ryōko Yamagishi (*1947), Riyoko Ikeda (*1947), Yasuko Aoike (*1948) and Toshie Kihara (*1948). As avid manga readers and fans of such popular authors like Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), Shōtarō Ishinomori (1938-1998) or Hideko Mizuno (*1939), they all debuted in fairly young age (mostly in late 1960s) with short romantic stories, and by 1970s moved to longer and more sophisticated works, often published in shōjo magazines aimed at older girls, such as Margaret, Princess, Flowers & Dreams, LaLa or Petite Flower. Their manga was notable not only for innovative art work (creative panel layout, omitting speech bubble to induce inner monologue, etc.), but also for pioneering new genres such as sci-fi, fantasy and horror, and introducing girls’ comics to controversial topics such as sexuality, gender issues, teenage pregnancy, eating disorders, etc. Among notable works are, for example, Hagio’s vampire romance The Poe Clan (Pō no ichizoku, 1972-1976), Ikeda’s historical gender-bending romance Rose of Versailles (Berusaiyu no bara, 1972-1973) or Ōshima’s philosophical story dealing with the issues of love, abandonment and self-identification The Star of Cottonland (Wata no kunihoshi, 1978-1987).
Several members of Nijūyonengumi are also responsible for asserting the controversial theme of homosexual romance in shōjo manga, thus creating new genres known as shōnen-ai (“boy love”) and yuri (lit. “lily”). The former originated with Hagio and Takemiya, who created several stories centred on both romantic and sexual relationships between young male students in European boarding schools in the 19th century – for example, The Heart of Thomas (Tōma no shinzō, 1974) and The Song of the Wind and Trees (Kaze to ki no uta, 1976-1984). Similarly, Kihara published Mari and Shingo (Mari to Shingo, 1977-1984) set in Meiji era Japan. Homoerotic overtones are also significant in Yamagishi’s popular manga Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun (Hiizuru tokoro no tenshi, 1980-1984) and Aoike’s From Eroica with Love (Eroika yori ai o komete, 1976-present), although their respective genres are historical fantasy and spy comedy. As for the origin of the stories focusing on romance between two girls, Yamagishi and Ikeda were the first to author stories as The Two Girls of the White Room (Shiroi heya no futari, 1971) or Dear Brother (Oniisame e, 1975), where the forbidden (and irreversibly tragic) love blossomed between girl students.
The work of Nijūyonengumi influenced many shōjo manga authors of the next generation; among so-called “Posuto Nijūyonengumi” (Post-24 Group) were for example Yukiko Kai (1954-1980) or Yasuko Sakata (*1953).
— Anna Krivankova
See also: Rijoko Ikeda, josei manga, shōjo manga, Osamu Tezuka
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