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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 18

AKIRA. Written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo. published by Epic Comics ( a division of Marvel Comics) in a monthly format in colourised version, with a total of 38 issues, from August\October 1988 to  1995 . The manga was originally published between 1984 and 1989 by Kodansha Ltd. & MASH ROOM Co. Ltd.

A first to recognise the market in the readership of High School and College students, Otomo's AKIRA taped in to a arts and entertainment well informed audience hankering for something new that they could relate to. At the heart of this is Otomo's storytelling and artwork, no CUTE teenage school girls in uniform are to be found, with some critics saying that the female characters are even ugly! 

Visually rich (and lucky for us in the West colourised with love and care) and a gripping narrative AKIRA should not need an introduction.
Like a binary star the two protagonists Kaneda Shotaro and Tetsuo Shima two friends in a juvenile biker gang get mixed-up in secret Government experiments, political & military power struggles, religious and anti-government groups all set in the year 2030 in Neo-Tokyo, and they even have time for the societal pressures of relationships, school and the odd scrap with rival biker gangs, and like all teenagers feel alienated and disillusioned with modern society and the adults who run things.

In this lush back drop of a CyberPunk like world in the year 2002 where scientists have nurtured and enhanced children's psychic abilities (because they can!) to catastrophic magnitude in one or two cases of their test group, and by 2030 the decay had set in to this utopian city no more a scientists dream of a better tomorrow! Like “10 degrees of separation” all the supporting characters are in some way intertwined and have their own story arc and considerable time in the limelight too.

This Manga is one that we all should have on our shelf at home, and for some it was their first introduction to a much wider World of this Japanese phenomenon of comic-books.

[Note: Quoting Archie Goodwin - Otomo personally chose Steve Oliff as colourist (America had the most advanced computer colouring system at that time) for the English translated manga and furnished him with colour guides each step of the way. Studio MASH ROOM Co. Ltd. Also adjusted the artwork for the western comic-book format.]

[Note: When the first volume was released in Japan in September 1984 the print run shot up from an estimated 30,000 to nearly 300,000 and became a best seller. The cover had the author’s name in English as well as the title, a bold break with Japanese manga tradition.]

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 17

Crying Freeman. Written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami . Viz Comics published in a monthly format broken down in to 5 parts with a total of 46 issues, from October 1989 to September 1993 . The manga was originally published between 1985 and 1989 by Shoakukan inc.
A potter by trade Freeman was snatched off the street in Japan by the Chinese Triad (Mafia) called the "108 Dragons" and subjected to drugs, acupuncture and hypnosis to bend his will to serve as an assassin and their puppet, from then on he's only release of emotion is that he sheds tears after he kills each of his targets.

To denote his affiliation to the "108 Dragons" his body is extensively covered in a single tattoo of an Oriental Dragon (in a style similar to the Japanese Yakuza).

As you read the story of the underworld, it unfolds that Freeman is embroiled in, you see how he becomes an  individual who loves and not just a puppet assassin who leaves no witnesses.  

With the label “For mature readers only” you would be forgiven to think that the nudity and violence is only for titillation but with story written by Koike who brought us “Lone Wolf and Cub” and Ikegami who's artwork was first introduced to us from "Mai, the Psychic Girl" we find the adult themes delt with in a such superior maner then bulk of western comic-books in dealing with how the charcters interact, and in thier relayshionships that are turly human.

Crying Freeman sets the standard not only for the gangster genre, but for comic-books speaking to a mature audience.

[Note: Crying Freeman Part One #1-8 (Oct1989 - May1990); Part Two #1-9 (1990 – 1991); Part Three #1-10 (1991- 1992); Part Four #1-8 (Mar 1992- Oct 1992); Part Five #1-11 (Nov 1992- Sep 1993).]

[Note: From my own collection issues that I've found start at Part 2 issue #1 onwards. The 8 issues of Part One that are printed in B&W elude me!]

[Note: Crying freeman: Part four issues #1-3 were printed in colour from March 92 to May 92, then issues #4-8 were printed in Blank 'n' White spanning June 92 to October 92. Originally Part four was to be printed in Colour to run 7 issues from March 92 to September 92.]

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 16

Appleseed. Written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. Eclipse Comics with Studio Proteus published 19 issues in a bi-monthly format spanning the 4 original books, from September 1988 to August 1991 . Cover art for the monthly issues for book 2 was Art Adams and book 3 was done by American illustrator Adam Warren.
The manga was originally published between 1985 and 1989 by Seishinsha.

[Note: As at the time of this post I am unable to find My own issues of Appleseed Book 3 #1, #2, #3 (August, September, October 1989) Published by Eclipse, in which I believe the 'Letters page' had printed American Anime\Manga Fan Club addresses. Thus started my journey in to Fandom, but as you can see I did import the original Manga at that time.]
 [Note: now have Appleseed Book 3 #2 read on.]

Shirow's artwork just blew me away, the attention to detail in the city-scape, the futuristic designs of vehicles, cyborgs, and power-armour were so fresh in the 1980's, and add to this the storyline of newcomers to the utopian city-state of Olympus, Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires who join the city's law enforcement’s ESWAT (Extra Special Weapons And Tactics) division. 

What follows is the relationship between Deunan and Briareos as they rely on each other as they take on the political underworld and powerful criminals of this veneer of a utopia where over 50% of the population is bio-engineered! 
You can just see how this Japanese Cyberpunk manga became award-winning!

[Note: Volume titles are - Book 1. Prometheus Challenge, Book 2. Prometheus Unbound, Book 3. Scales of Prometheus, Book 4. Prometheus Balance.]

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 15

Cyber 7. Written and illustrated by Shuho Itahashi. Eclipse Comics with Studio Proteus published 17 issues in a monthly format from March 1989 to Autumn 1990 spanning the 2 original books.
The manga was originally published by Hakusensha in the mid to late 80's.

Our young protagonist Tatsuki finds a photograph that shows a group of organic androids helping people after a vehicle accident, this he then sells to a tabloid newspaper, making it public knowledge 14 years after the accident and exposing their secret existence, and putting himself and those now teenagers and the scientist in great danger!

The secret of the 7 organic androids is that they are self-aware and make their own choices, and need a convincing discussion before undertaking any new obligation, and up until now have been kept a secret.

The threat to all, is a 7 foot tall anthropomorphic Rabbit who's technology is way-ahead of this Earth's time, not to mention his organisation's foot soldiers!

[Note: The artwork has a distinctive European feel to it, but the story is one truly from a Japanese prospective.]

[Note: I only have a smattering of the comic-books, so it is difficult to do it justice.]

[Note: For many weeks now I have been ranking my brain with the notion that “Cyber 7” is not translated from the original Japanese title..... but I as yet can not find any proof of this!!]

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 14

The Legend of Kamui. Written and illustrated by Sanpei Shirato (by Akame Productions). Eclipse Comics with Viz Comics published 37 issues in a Biweekly format from May 1987 to November 1988, spanning 13 chapters taken from the original books published by Shogakukan Inc. that ran from 1982 to 1987. - English Translation by Toren Smith & Satori Fuji.

Rivalling “Lone Wolf and Cub” for the historical manga crown, for its scope and scale of storytelling, and art style (new to a Western reader) “The Legend of Kamui” is a powerful story that draws the reader in to the outlaw world of the underclass removed from the restrictions of the Bushido code, where a young man's desire for revenge threatens to overtake pursuit for freedom from the Ninja clans, and live as a free-man.

Kamui introduces himself as a “Nukenin” (a runaway shinobi) who can never return to his village now that he has left, he is alone. Encountering many souls on his journey, many of these regarding him as a renegade ninja thus fights to the death ensue.
The historical richness of this era, adding to this the explications of fighting styles and weapons used bring the myth and legends of the Ninja to a harsh reality for the mature reader.

[Note: Two stories were printed “The Island Of Sugaru” who's 6 chapters ran from issue 1 to issue 13, and “The Sword Wind” story who's 7 chapters ran from issue 14 to issue 37.]

[Note: In 1990 when Viz Comics had the rights to print (dairy format) “The Island Of Sugaru”, volume one had chapters 1 to 4, and with a 2 page introduction by American Manga aficionado Frederik Schodt, and it also had a 2 page Glossary at the back.]

[Note: Quoting the American scholar 'Hart Larrabee' “the Manga of Shirato Sanpei, they are what distinguishes literature from the simple story”.]