Mitsukazu Mihara’s Early Works
“Science Fiction is a metaphor. What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be it’s use of new metaphors, drawn from great dominant’s of our contemporary life – science, all the sciences, and technology, and the relativistic and historical outlook among them” - Ursula LeGuin
Mitsukazu Mihara’s works are often mislabeled as horror, due to her stark black-heavy page compositions, her Gothic Lolita styled characters, and her undeniably morbid plots. But her best works, including her seminal manga, “Doll” (briefly mentioned in my last post), and it’s precursor, “I. C. in a Sunflower”, are both excellent examples of science fiction. Science fiction is defined by its postulations about near future or far future societies by taking current science or technology to its ultimate extreme end. In both “Doll” and “I. C. in a Sunflower” Mihara takes our current society’s obsession with A.I. and human-shaped automatons to it’s logical conclusion, creating her “dolls” – meticulously coiffed and clothed mechanical servants to mankind.
By now you may be saying to yourself “This reminds me an awful lot of “Chobits” by CLAMP, what with all the ravishingly hot subservient robo-boys and girls! “. To some extent you would be correct. Like CLAMP, Mihara uses her ethereal robots as mannequins to show off her fashion design skills, decking them out in frothy, over-the-top Gothic Lolita ensembles that would make CLAMP characters seethe with envy. (Not coincidentally, Mihara was also the first and one of the most well known cover artists of “Gothic and Lolita Bible”, the premier gothic, punk, and Lolita fashion publication in Japan.)
As well as predating “Chobits” Mihara’s work transcends the idealized misogyny of Chobits (more on that later! ), instead, it focuses on more universal human issues such as the nature of the soul, whether traits are learned or inherent, and the consequences of objects being given human form.
There’s not much information about Mitsukazu Mihara in English. Her Wikipedia article is largely devoid of personal information. However, I did have the opportunity to meet her at Otakon many years ago. The room was mostly filled with girls dressed head-to-toe in Lolita clothes, waiting to meet one of their sub-culture’s notables and when Mihara arrived, there was excited murmuring all around.
For one of the great icons of Lolita fashion she was dressed very conservatively, in jeans and a blouse. Everyone asked her questions about her feelings on Lolita fashion and her illustrations for “Gothic and Lolita Bible”. She was very reserved and modest, like many Japanese, but she also had about her a quiet strength and a deep intelligence. When I asked her about some of the deeper themes in her work, she had a little trouble answering (most likely due to a minor mix-up with the translator), but eventually she said that her work was often about issues like abuse and misogyny, which she said where under-represented in Japanese culture.
Later, I got her to sign my art books and was extremely happy.