20 April 2019

The Distant Dawn

Illuminati-Manga and I bring you something that we planned a long time ago but only finally got around to: A Distant Dawn by Hoshino Yukinobu. If you've been following me for a while, you'll know that I've done a few other stuff by Hoshino before (Stardust Memories, Sea of Fallen Beasts, Legend of Giants) and clearly have a soft spot for him. The same applies for Illuminati-Manga, who's done some more Hoshino manga. But this collection of short stories is particularly special because it contains his debut oneshot (The Steel Queen) as well as the oneshot The Distant Dawn, which won the Tezuka Award all the way back in 1975 and helped launch his mangaka career. In fact, half of this nearly 500 page-long collection is dedicated to his earliest works in the late 70s! So if you like Hoshino Yukinobu at all, I'd highly urge you to read this to get a better understanding of his development.

Swallowing the Earth (Tezuka, 1968)
For me, the thing I found most interesting is the art and it seems to reinforce the point I made a long time ago in my long essay on Tomorrow's Joe. In that essay, I talked about how simply characterizing Chiba Tetsuya's art in Tomorrow's Joe as "outdated" is not only wrong, but that it glosses over a lot of important developments in manga art from the late 60s and on. I argued this by calling attention to how even as Tezuka wanted to emulate (or should I say lead?) the more sophisticated art and storytelling that was developing in the late 60s, he made a conscious choice to stick with his more simple character designs that were rooted from the 50s and early 60s. The same can apply to Ishinomori as well.
Lightning Strike (Hoshino, 1975)
Although Hoshino made his debut in 1975, this stylistic gap can still be seen from the contrast in his character designs and his more realistic objects/backgrounds as can be seen from the above two pages.
The Distant Dawn (Hoshino, 1975)
But already from his award-winning oneshot, The Distant Dawn, you can quite clearly see a desire to break out of this artistic convention that "manga for kids and teens should have visually simple designs." The central character of this story stands out visually from how much more detailed his face is compared to the rest of the characters.
A Call from Afar (Hoshino, 1978)
And indeed, he seems to have consciously made a choice fairly quickly in his career to fully commit to the side of realism as can be seen by A Call from Afar, which he drew just 3 years since his debut. Not only is the art in this radically different from that of Lightning Strike or The Steel Queen, but this would essentially be the "modern Hoshino style" that he still draws in today after some minor adjustments. The main point I'm trying to make here is just how much manga art style in the 60s and 70s were defined by how mangaka thought they ought to draw, rather than how well they could actually draw. This might be an obvious point for some, but I've seen a fair number of people criticize or wonder why 60s and 70s manga look "bad" or why mangaka "couldn't really draw" back then. There are hacks then as there are hacks now, of course, but really, artistic style is typically a conscious reflection of the culture and times an artist works in.

Linear vs Isometric Perspective
A somewhat related point is how Westerners often deride pre-renaissance European art, or art in other cultures for lacking "perspective." Such comments not only miss that linear perspective is simply one perspective that artists can adopt, but also that there are often both material factors and immaterial reasons why one perspective can be chosen over another. Neither art nor history can be understood in teleological, linear terms. For a good book on this topic, I recommend Oblique Drawing: A History of Anti-Perspective.
In any case, enjoy the manga and feel free to tell me what stories you liked and why. I personally quite liked A Call from Afar, Emperor of Winter, and Alice. Make sure to read the afterword as well if you're interested in how Hoshino came to mix history and sci-fi.

Oh, and please do go over to Illuminati-Manga and say thanks to them as well if you liked this release, since none of this would have been possible if not for GGpX scanning and typesetting this manga.

The Distant Dawn:   Mega


  1. Thanks for the surprise treat and the education!

  2. Big thanks for this very interesting post.

  3. hi, was wondering what happened to historie loved that manga and I love ad astra too, but I dont know why u stopped translating historie.

    1. Historie is just on break so we're still fully caught up with Japan. Iwaaki takes breaks periodically when he prepares to release a new Historie tankoban. If you don't know, this is needed because he goes back to redo much of the art for the tankoban release, and he works mostly alone without assistants.

  4. I often feel the other way around, I see mainstream manga from the 90's and forward, and feel that artists can't really draw anymore…

    I'm possibly an old geezer, though...

  5. The Legend of Giants link in this post is wrong. I was still able to find it on your site but I thought you should know.