Bonten Tarō: a total artist on a slippry slope to perdition
She sported an eccentric hairstyle much like the lowbrow artist Rock'in Jellybean. Her leather micro-mini was topped off with a psychedelic tattoo-design t-shirt. The blurb proclaimed her to be "The Glamorous Half-breed with the Broad Leather Belt!" Her name was Rika. She was the heroine of a Bonten Tarō's premier 60s gekiga 'Half-breed Rika' (Konketsuji Rika, published in Shukan Myojo.) (Despite the fact that many children had been born to parents of mixed race in the immediate postwar period, the disgraceful term 'half-breed' or konkestuji was in general use in Japan right up to the eighties. Even today, the common name for a child of an interracial couple is a 'half'.)
Through the late 60s and early 70s, Rika and her gang took on their enemies in one fight scene after another - the yakuza were one, the mysterious millionaire another. The series overflowed with a kitschy B-Movie style, influenced by stuff like Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Tōei action flicks. I'm crazy about catfight gekiga - I can't get enough of this series.
Ishihara Gōjin: an artistic genius's one-and-only samurai swordfight gekiga
Imagine Norman Rockwell drawing a manga series...about a gay love affair between Abraham Lincoln and a lean-hipped, square-jawed cowboy. That's pretty much what Ishihara ("Japan's Norman Rockwell") Gōjin created with Yagyū Jūbē, published in 1967 in the mass-circulation weekly Shūkan Sankei. The president is, of course, a shogun - Tokugawa Iemitsu to be precise; and the cowboy is the samurai Yagyū Jūbē. This swashbuckling period drama is one of Ishihara's very few gekiga, and it displays in full his uniquely subtle artistic touch. The question is - how was an artist with such a polished style able to produce work at the frantic rate the weeklies demanded?
Tokunan Seiichirō: the legendary manga of a legendary artist!
Waving in the morning sun
The flag of our Brigade
We pledge our lives, all for one
We are the Shogun's blade!
Our hand against the Emperor
Yet forth we boldly go
The flower of the Shogunate-
Advance, New Chosen Men!
Takeuchi Kanko: The mystery manga artist who spawned a second Kitarō
Takeuchi Kanko had vanished into thin air a long time before. I managed to track him down by an unbelievable coincidence. It was April 28th, 1997. I was just wrapping up an interview with the manga artist Bonten Tarō. We'd been talking about all sorts of things - kami shibai (a form of storytelling ancestral to manga, with wandering artists displaying short graphic stories from handcarts), tattooing (Bonten is liberally decorated), enka ballads..."Anyway, thank you so much," I was saying, "let's call it a day."
Bonten: Actually, speaking of [Mizuki Shigeru's] Gegege no Kitarō, did you know that Takeuchi Kanko was the guy who started the series?
Incredibly Strange Manga Part 3 Outsider Style: Difference between Manga and Street Art
Suzuki Ryōsei: or, reality bites in 1978
During the seventies, I used to devour Zōkan Young Comic because Miyaya Kazuhiko and Sakaki Masaru wrote for it. While devouring, I often came across single-episode gekiga by Suzuki Ryōsei. And they were weird. I pushed them to the corner of my mind marked 'unpleasant memories' - and there they stayed.
Years later - actually, when I was researching this book - I bumped into his stuff again. I was fishing through the gekiga magazines in the National Diet Library, and suddenly there he was. An ex-editor at Zōkan Young Comic told me that right from the start, Suzuki was gunning to become An Artist. This was when he was coming out with gekiga like 'Puberty? No Thanks!' (Seishun Danki) and 'Youth Blood Cherry Street' (Seishun Chizakura Dōri).
Kaze Shinobu: your guide to beyond spacetime
A natural high
As a manga artist, Kaze Shinobu has a pretty unique approach to his trans-dimensional material. He opens up his subconscious and draws what appears to him without plan or pause. It's a kind of automatic drawing. Maybe his editors press for changes later on in the process, but fundamentally that's his method. Apparently he holes himself up in a purpose-made cardboard pyramid to give the astral juices a chance to flow. With his psychedelic color sense and oddball drawing habits, you might reasonably suspect that Kaze's creative processes are chemically assisted. But that's actually not the case. His trances are naturally induced. To reach them he lives a healthy – almost monkish – existence. He's practically a vegetarian, which is very rare indeed in today's Japan (oddly enough, given its vegetarian past).
George Akiyama: the unstoppable King of Trauma Manga
Akiyama the unstoppable
A lot about George Akiyama is shrouded in mystery and myth. Fact 1: he's a veteran manga artist who's spent the last thirty years and more at the cutting edge of the art-form, and he still shows no signs of slowing down. Fact 2: he has the true artist's gift of sensing what's coming down the line. Long before they happened, both the Aum Shinrikyo death cult and the anime Evangelion are weirdly foreshadowed in his work.
Incredibly Strange Manga Part 2 Trauma Style: Origin of the Trauma Style
Murotani Tsunezō: Trauma manga brought to you by the king of educational manga
"I don't talk about this very often, but I actually died once...Astral projection, is it? Well, I was floating in space, and all behind me it was pitch dark. It was just like being in hell." (Interview in QJ magazine #14)
After his (temporary) death, Murotani Tsunezō went on to draw a series of hellish works based on his hands-on research, the two most outstanding being 'Hell Boy' (Jigoku Kun) and 'Doll Hell' (Ningyo Jigoku). The backgrounds in 'Hell Boy' are especially striking, and they couldn't get much blacker. They really do seem to bear witness to time spent in the underworld.