[The Umpteen Millionaire Club, our series which puts forth book club discussion questions for Fantagraphics titles, turns its attention to The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio. The Comics Journal interns Tom Graham, Nomi Kane and Jack McKean put together this set of questions. – Ed.]
The Heart of Thomas is a manga by Moto Hagio about students in a German boarding school for boys. The boys deal with tragic death, romantic love amongst each other and have more lighthearted concerns about popularity, rumors and cliques.
How does the story address gender conventions or stereotypes?
How do the characters deal with complex emotions that they seem too young to handle, such as unrequited love, intense guilt and/or feeling culpable?
How does the story portray dealing with loss?
Discuss the use of Christian imagery and how it impacts your reading of the story.
Is there abuse going on in this story? If so, how do you respond to the way it's portrayed?
What visual devices does the cartoonist use to indicate narrative techniques such as foreshadowing, symbolism, flashback, etc.?
Discuss Hagio's choice to set the story in Germany. How might it be important (or not?).
The Heart of Thomas was originally published in 1974 and based on a 1964 French movie, which in turn was based on the 1943 semi-autobiographical French novel Les amitiés particulières. How might you read it differently given its historical context? Does this impact your reading of the story?
How do the characters' relationships with their parents figure into the broader story and their personalities and desires?
Does this book have a message? If so, what might its message be?