A Tradition in Plagiarism
What is plagiarism? Plagiarism is the act of claiming original authorship or incorporating material from someone else's work into your own work without crediting the original author, sometimes doing such an act unconsciously is also considered plagiarism.
When it comes to manga and plagiarism, things never end well. Sometimes manga found guilty of plagiarizing are suspended and recalled, and some authors even stop working. There are also times when people, or even an entire nation, get away with nothing. The world of manga plagiarism is full of interesting, sad, and sometimes funny tales.
Joustar vs. CLAMP et al.
China is known for its laid back copyright law, which resulted in many interesting plagiarism stories. In one case, Futabasha found themselves infringing the trademark of their own property.
Just recently, teen novels published by one of China's most popular publisher Joustar have been discovered plagiarizing CLAMP and many other Japanese and Chinese artists. Almost every single one of CLAMP's works (X, Card Captor Sakura, Tsubasa, and more) were copied, both in artwork and text. Comparisons of artworks can be found at Lost Magician's album.
Joustar is a relatively new publisher that publishes novels aimed at teens. Despite its late entry into the market, Joustar quickly became one of the most popular publisher among teens, praised by many for its high quality release.
Chinese Novelist vs. CLAMP et al.
When it comes to plagiarism in China, one cannot be more unlucky than the 23 years old Chinese novelist Guo Jingming, who was one of the most commercially successful young writer in China, and was ranked 100th on the 2004 Forbes Chinese Celebrity list.
Guo's debut work in 2003, City of Fantasy, sold over 1.5 million copies in a year, but was later criticized for copying CLAMP's RG Veda.
In May 2006, Guo's second novel, Never Flowers in Never Dream, was again found guilty, this time by the Beijing People's Supreme Court, of plagiarizing novelist Zhuang Yu's In and Out of the Circle. Afterwards, Guo received the nick name "Copy Boy." According to a news report:
However, Guo never paid the fine, refused to apologize, and instead released a third novel. Guo's third work, Rush to the Dead Summer, tells the story of a young artist who discovered that someone has been copying his work. Later in the courtroom, the protagonist's friend killed the plagiarizer to defend his friend.
It was widely believed that Rush to the Dead Summer was Guo's way of asking for forgiveness and to show his resolve to change. However, soon after Rush to the Dead Summer came out, fans again accused it of copying Ai Yazawa's Nana. In the end it was discovered that not only did Rush to the Dead Summer copy the popular shojo manga's story, characters, but even entire dialogues were lifted.
With all of his works found guilty of plagiarism, will Guo still be able to continue working as a writer?
FCC vs. Doraemon
Not to be outdone by China, the U.S. has its own plagirism stories...
Doraemon, a blue robot cat created by the late Fujiko F. Fujio, is loved by children and adults throughout the world. It is is one of the most well-known and loved manga in the world.
On the other hand, Broadband, the U.S. Federal Communications Commissions's mascot for educating children about FCC, can be found waving happily on FCC's Kidszone. A blatant rip-off? You decide (Note that in the manga, Doraemon originally had ears, but was bit off by mice before the story began).
Samurai Zombie vs. Blade of the Immortal
Samurai Zombie by Hendra Wahjudi, one of the 20 finalists in Tokyopop's 2006 Rising Stars of Manga People's Choice Award, was accused of plagiarizing Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal. Later during Tokyopop's first U.K. RSOM competition. Dojo Dynasty by Patrick Warren was also accused of plagiarizing Daniel Cross's Lore.
A Random Photo vs. Nana
Walang Utak points out in a Blackstones livejournal entry that a photo looked strikingly similar to Ai Yazawa's Nana. Hmm...
Eden no Hana vs. Slam Dunk et al.
And now we're in Japan, home of the four legendary kings of manga plagiarism. Before we get to the king, let's take a look at some other interesting cases first.
In October 2005, users on 2ch pointed out similarities between Yuki Suetsugu's Eden no Hana (Flower of Eden) and Takehiko Inoue's Slam Dunk and REAL. In no time Kodansha released their statement regarding the issue:
Suetsugu also expressed her view:
Korean TV Drama vs. Eden no Hana
In a strange turn of events, after the Korean TV Drama One Fine Day was aired on 5/31 on the Korean channel MBC, many viewers began noticing uncanny similarities between the plot of One Fine Day and Yuki Suetsugu's Eden no Hana, leading to the accusation of the show plagiarizing the plot of Eden no Hana.
According to Seoulnavi Pictures, the producer of the TV Drama, the original plan was to base the TV series on Eden no Hana, and a deal had already been sign between the Korean and Japanese companies (there were only minor edits to the plot due to the demands of the Korean television studio). But after Eden no Hana was found guilty of plagiarizing other manga and subsequently cancelled, the TV Drama could no longer base its story on Eden no Hana. Facing a crisis, the producers decided to make extensive changes to the plot of the already finished script.
Slam Dunk vs. NBA
After the Eden no Hana/Slam Dunk incident, in December 2005, the January issue of Cyzo magazine ran a report accusing Takehiko Inoue of copying NBA photographs. The news sparked huge discussions in Japanese bulletin boards, including 2ch, where close to a thousand posts were made overnight.
According to Inoue, he created Slam Dunk based on his own experience with basketball, as well as memories of NBA photos from magazines and TV.
D. Gray-man vs. Trigun, Death Note, et al
D.Gray-man is a popular shonen manga by Katsura Hoshino that is currently serialized in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump. Despite its popularity, some are claiming that Katsura Hoshino plagiarized other people's works. Below are some samples. However, it's safe to say that some of the comparison made are a little out there.
Ikki Tousen vs. Tenjo Tenge
Natsume Goushin Ryu dojo's Natsume Maya points out on MangaTranslation similarities between Yuji Shiozaki's Ikki Tousen (Battle Vixens) and Oh! Great's Tenjo Tenge, where certain scenes from Ikki Tousen seems just a bit too similar to TenTen's (not to mention both manga's story and scantily clad female characters).
666 Satan vs. Naruto
When 666 Satan first came out, it was declared as a copycat Naruto. The accusation wasn't without base, 666 Satan and Naruto both share similar plots, characters, and style. So what's so special about this particular case?
666 Satan is created by Seishi Kishimoto, the twin brother of Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto. What's more interesting, fans have noticed that both manga seem to be "heavily influenced" by Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball.
Cross Hunter vs. Dragon Ball
So everyone copies from Dragon Ball, right? Of course! A manga titled Cross Hunter began serialization in November of 2000. Many readers accused it of copying Akira Toriyama's mega-popular shonen series. In response, Cross Hunter's creator argued that it's impossible for a shonen manga like Cross Hunter to avoid sharing similarities with Dragon Ball (which was true for most shonen manga that came after Dragon Ball anyway).
As time went on, the similarities became a bit too close. As a result Cross Hunter ended in October 2001 without much fanfare. At the time many fans used the internet to spread Cross Hunter+Dragon Ball scans and videos, this was one of the first incidents where the internet played a major role in bringing justice to plagiarism cases which would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
The Four Kings of Plagiarism
When it comes to plagiarism in Japan, perhaps no manga have been able to surpass the popularity of the "Four Heavenly Kings of Plagiarism" (パクリ四天王).
The prestigious title of "The King of Plagiarism" was given by fans to four well-known series, they are: Samumrai Deeper Kyo (Later replaced by Monster Hunter), Flame of Recca, Black Cat and Rave Master.
Samurai Deeper Kyo began serialization in Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine in 1999, a time when Magazine's second golden age was coming to an end with the conclusion of popular series like Love Hina and GTO (After Shonen Jump's dominance faded in the mid-90s after series like Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho ended, Shonen Magazine managed to take Jump's throne between 1996-2001 with strong series like Love Hina and Kindaichi Case Files). Magazine editors concluded that their success was due to Magazine's appeal to different kinds of readers (Kindaichi Case Files to female readers, GTO to teens, etc.), so they tried to pull in the doujinshi audience as well by taking in Akimine Kamijyo, a former doujinshi artist. But what to draw? At the time, Rurouni Kenshin was Jump's flagship series. Since Magazine has never serialized a samurai manga before, the next step was obvious.
After the first chapter of Samurai Deeper Kyo was published, fans immediately noticed uncanny resemblances between Kyo's story and Kenshin's. The editorial department received countless letters of complaint, and Kyo became one of the Kings of Plagiarism almost instantly.
Later, after Samurai Deeper Kyo's story began heading toward the supernatural/fantasy direction, Kyo's place in the "Four Kings" was replaced by Monster Hunter, a manga that was criticized for copying settings, designs and speeches from series like Berserk, Blade of the Immortals and Monster. Due to Monster Hunter's relatively low popularity, however, it never reach the level of fame Kyo did.
Rave, on the other hand, was aimed at a young audience. Back then Magazine's main readership was between 18-22, so most people would skip Rave, and those who read the manga are too young to be able to notice.
It wasn't until Rave was animated when people took notice. Many criticized Rave for copying One Piece's art (although the author himself said he copied from GetBacker's Rando Ayamine), and for copying Dragon Ball and Final Fantasy's location and character design. Some Rave spreads in particular where also accused of plagiarizing One Piece's (One Piece vol.11 pg.116 vs. Rave vol.2 pg.84).
As for Black Cat and Flame of Recca, both manga were accused of copying elements and art from popular shonen manga like Yu Yu Hakusho, Trigun, Rurouni Kenshin, and more. An entire site was dedicated to the topic of Black Cat and plagiarism, below are some sample comparisons.
Japan, A History of Copying
If you want to know more, this site has a big list of possible plagiarism.
Last but not least, what self-respecting plagiarism article can be complete without the famous video (via Irresponsible Pictures)?