An essay about the work of Hirohiko Araki and his fans.

The poster for “The Hiraizumi Declaration on the Tohoku Restoration” became a popular point of mention on the internet. Hirohiko Araki drew the illustration for the poster.

Iwate Prefecture announced “The Hiraizumi Declaration on the Tohoku Restoration” on July 3rd. Iwate Prefecture in the Tohoku (northeast) region of Japan, there was a large amount of damage from the March 11th Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Hiraizumi, a city in Iwate Prefecture, has had several cultural heritage sites inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in June. This declaration was announced to not only commemorate these sites, it was also to inspire a sence of resolve and revival from the disaster. Then, Iwate officials requested Hirohiko Araki to draw an illustration for the occasion.

I heard that the governor of Iwate is a big fan of Hirohiko Araki’s work, “Jojo’s Bizare Adventure” and he requested work from Araki. Although Araki is not from Iwate, he is from Miyagi prefecture, where they also suffered serious damage from the earthquake and tsunami.

It’s not the first time that Araki was commissioned by an unexpected party. In 2007, one of Araki’s illustration decorated the cover of an American science journal “Cell.” “Cell” is one of the most authoritative journals in the world on biology. It is said that “It is highly likely you will win the Noble prize if your thesis appears in this journal three times.” This journal is especially serious among science journals, and the cover is usually a microphotograph of a cell etc. It is a rare and unprecedented case that an illustration by a manga author appears on the cover of such a journal. Why did such a thing happen? There is an article about this incident on this fan site. http://kajipon.sakura.ne.jp/art/jojo-cell.html 「祝!米科学誌『Cell』表紙を荒木先生が飾る!」 (Congratulations! Mr. Araki graces the cover of the science journal “Cell” !)

In fact, the top thesis of this journal was written by a Japanese research team. And the team leader, Professor Sutou and the other members on the research team were big fans of Jojo. So they asked Araki to draw the cover.

According to Yahoo news, they discovered a certain protein cell that concerns nerve transfer. It is expected that this discovery will lead to the elucidation of the cure for a cranial nerve disease (It’s probably too difficult for me to explain and translate properly.) This protein cell was named “Scrapper.” Araki’s illustration character-izes this “Scrapper” and expresses the work of the cell.

I think that this news tells of the peculiarity of his work in “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” and the fans of the manga. “Jojo’s…”  was not always the No. 1 manga in the Weekly Shonen Jump. There were more popular manga like “Dragon Ball” or “One Piece” in the Weekly Shonen Jump and these manga has much bigger audience and their appeal spans all age groups. “Jojo’s…” is not a commonly likable manga compared to them. However, this manga has deep and dedicated fans. It’s the reason why the manga has been the second longest manga series in the Weekly Shonen Jump. Often people become fans of Jojo in their teens, and they remain fans of Jojo even when they became adult. Then, some of them commission Araki’s work for various situation. I wrote about how Araki participated in the “Bande Dessinee Project,” Musee du Louvre in France before. At that time, I heard that the reason why Araki invited to join project was because the curator of an art museum in Japan, who was a project adviser, was a Jojo fan. Of course, that shouldn’t be the only reason. He can always be relied on to produce high quality work, so they felt comfortable commissioning Araki for such an important project

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A memorial for Sato Shio (part four)

ワン・ゼロ (1) (小学館文庫)
ワン・ゼロ (1) (小学館文庫)
クチコミを見る

Thus Yutaka got transported into the game.
And he knew that he had to escape from the labyrinths as the blue point “C” = “blue monkey,” with the Minotaur who has the same face asMino.

I became Shio Sato’s fan when I read these pages.
I felt like my brain was grabbed and drawn into Sato Shio’s labyrinths.

 I will write the end of the story.
(Spoiler alert!  However, if you have no intention to read this manga in Japanese, I think that it’s no problem to read my spoiler because considering the situation, there is little possibility that this manga will be translated into English. )

Minowas Mogami Kiyora, who was the genius youth disappeared in the first story, “On This Poor World.”
This game was a self-hypnosis program which Mino/Kiyora made for himself.
He programmed it, in order to regain his memory. He designed this game in which the player goes into the depths of his memory and is hypnotized by the effect of the picture and the sound, so the player has a dream that he is in the game while playing it.
Minotaur, who was shut up in the labyrinth, was Kiyora himself who was isolated from the world. It was the purpose of this game to help the Minotaur get out from the labyrinth and to regain his lost self.

However, it didn’t work.
Minohad played this game repeatedly and he sometimes won and sometimes lost. Whatever the results were, he was not able to regain his memory.
Minodid not assume at all that someone else besides but him would play this game, and it was a total accident that Yutaka found it and played it.
WhenMinonoticed it, Yutaka already got hypnotized by the game andMinowent into hypnosis following Yutaka.
They shared the same dream. 

In the end of the story,Minoregained his memory after finishing the game.
However, it was not by winning the game. This is the interesting/important thing about this story.
What brought the result was a certain decision which Yutaka made in the game.
Yutaka noticed that Minotaur didn’t want to escape and was afraid in fact. And he decided not to escape but to die with the Minotaur in the collapsing labyrinth.
Mino/Kiyora recollected it like this:

“Although deceiving myself by myself is easy, it has a limit. I hated the Minotaur in myself.”

The reason that he disappeared in the first story, was that he discovered the secret of his birth. He went into extreme self denial and it caused amnesia/loss of memory.
Unless his strong self-hatred and self-denial were healed, he couldn’t regain his memory even through winning the game.
He himself did not want to win the game because he was afraid to regain his painful memories.
What he needed truly was someone could understand him and allow his existence.
Yutaka didn’t deny the Minotaur. He didn’t force him to come outside but instead nestled up to him in the collapsing labyrinth.
This decision of Yutaka’s cured the crack of Kiyora’s heart and Kiyora was then released from his self-denial and was able to regain his memory.
I think that this story is a very wonderful human psychological drama. 

In addition, I suspected that the blue monkeys in this story were not only the “The Blue Monkeys of Crete” but also the “Three Wise Monkeys” in Nikko Toshogu.

※The three wise monkeys (Japanese: 三猿, san’en or sanzaru, or 三匹の猿, sanbiki no saru, literally “three monkeys”) are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.

The source that popularized this pictorial maxim is a 17th century carving over a door of the famous Toshogu shrine inNikko,Japan. The carvings at Toshogu Shrine were carved by Hidari Jingoro.

While the original “Three wise monkeys” do not hear, speak or see evil, the three monkeys in this story do. I thought that it was interesting. 

It’s really a shame that there is no possibility that this manga will be translated to English.So I’m planning to try to translate his manga.

Finally, I will add a little trivial thing about Sato Shio.
Sato is from Tome-shi inMiyagiPrefecture, the same as Otomo Katsuhiro, who is the author of “Akira,” and they graduated from the same high school. (Sato is two years older.) 
Also, Shotaro Ishinomori, who was a great manga author, who created “Cyborg 009 “ series and the “Kamen Rider” series, was also from the same high school.

What kind of education is taught at this school? I was very interested.


A memorial for Sato Shio (part three)

now preparing

(continued to the part four)


A memorial for Sato Shio (part two)

夢みる惑星 (1) (小学館文庫)
夢みる惑星 (1) (小学館文庫)
クチコミを見る
“The Blue Monkey Chronicle” is the second story in a series consisting of three short stories.
The first story, “On This Poor World” is about the disappearance of a genius youth named Mogami Kiyora.
Mogami Kiyora, who was the oldest son in Mogami family, was regarded as a child prodigy since he was an infant, but he disappeared suddenly when he was eighteen.
His brother, Mogami Yasura admired him, and traveled to Crete Island where Kiyora left his last footmarks. This is the outline of the story.

The person who was carrying out the monologue at the beginning was the main character in “The Blue Monkey Chronicle” named Hasumi Yutaka.
He was recruited by a major company, but quit the company after two years because it was wearing on his nerves.
Then, he programmed a computer game for fun to relax his ragged nerves. The game sold very well, he became a popular game designer and earned a lot of money unexpectedly, but his misanthropy only kept increasing.
He shut himself up in a cottage in the suburbs and decided to only communicate with troublesome human society only through the line of a computer. (on the network.)
“It was in the summer of last year when I moved to Japan on the pretext of a  change of air. Although it looked to an outside observer to be a homecoming loaded with honors, in fact it was nothing but running into an easy life with less rivals.” (I like this dialog. It’s expresses well that this character is in a nihilistic mental state.)
Like this, at the beginning two pages, the main character Hasumi Yutaka’s profile was explained briefly.
 Yutaka encountered a mysterious youth in the ruins of the Knossos royal palace in Crete three months ago.
The young person called himself “Mino” from the Minotour.
Except for his name, he had lost all of his memory and didn’t have any belongings that proved his identity.
Yutaka took him back to Japan with him and they began to live together.
What he was surprised at was Mino’s intelligence.
He finished some games Yutaka gave him, in the blink of an eye and mastered the method of programming and completed the debugging, although Yutaka hadn’t taught him how to doit.
Also, recently Yutaka had begun to see some strange shadows around Mino. Mino said, “They are the blue monkeys.”
“The Blue Monkey” is the name of several pictures of monkeys painted in the palace of Knossos.
(This picture is from this site; http://www.historywiz.com/galleries/bluemonkeys.html
Its name came from the blue paint used to paint the monkeys.
Blue monkeys didn’t actually exist.
Yutaka thought that Mino seemed to have a strange concern for these fictitious monkeys.
One day, he noticed that Mino converted his game “The Hidden Treasure in the Pyramid” into a completely different game. He began to play the game. It was a terribly complicated and difficult game.
While playing, he found himself transported into the game.
It’s now a common story that people get transported into video games.
However, it was new those days and Sato Shio’s description/depiction is so peculiar and supremly excellent that it evokes a feeling of novelty even now.
Since it is difficult to explain the depiction in words, I’ll reprint the several pages from the manga.

(continued to the part three)


A memorial for Sato Shio (part one)

天界の城 (ハヤカワ文庫 JA (664))
天界の城 (ハヤカワ文庫 JA (664))
クチコミを見る

April 4th was the first anniversary of the death of Sato Shio who was my favorite manga author.
One year ago, when I heard the tragic news that she passed away, I was so shocked that I couldn’t say a word.
It was the first time I had been so shocked since Arkady Strugatsky, who was the big brother of The Brothers Strugatsky died.
Don’t you have some favorite artists、musicians or writer whom you wish to see once? Even if it’s only to say, “I’m a fan of you.” Those artists for me were the writers Arkady Strugatsky, Ursula Kroeber Le Guin , musician Joe Jackson, and manga author Sato Shio.
Although she had not been publishing new work recently, (except some collection books), I thought that I could read her new work by waiting patiently because she was always not prolific.
I would never have thought that she had been fighting against disease.
I read many comments regarding the news of her death on blogs and twitter.
It seemed that there were many people who felt the same as me.
I can’t explain it well, but…she was special somehow.
Her works were certainly not the kind of manga everyone would like, but of the kind that get cult-like popularity among a small audience.
The first time I read her manga was 1983, when I was still a school kid. The manga was a short story titled “The Blue Monkey Chronicle” which was carried by a girl’s manga magazine called “Grapefruit.” 
The story starts with a monologue like this.
“I went to America with my family when I was 12 years old because of my father’s job transfer and fafully encountered a computer. I’m the same age as Bill Gates who started Microsoft, but since I was not very interested in microcomputers, I was not able to be a billionaire in youth like him.
However, I think that my passion for computers in general and my devotion to them starting in high school and going through graduate school was comparable with him.”
If this monologue was written recently, it might be ordinary.
Computers have spread through ordinary homes and many people in Japan know the name of the chairman of Microsoft.
However, I think in 1983, there was no other Japanese manga writer who could write a dialogue like this.
In one of her stories, which was serialized in another girl’s manga magazine “Petit Flower”, titled “One Zero”, there is a dialogue like this:
“These days, besides e-mail, advertising by mail is uncommon.”
It was 1984 that this dialog was written.
I don’t know how developed the Internet and e-mails were in Japan at that time, but as long as information on the Internet is correct, Keio University, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Tokyo University were connected via computer network  in 1984. This was the origin of the Internet in Japan.
I couldn’t help but be surprised at her farsighted intelligence.
Well, it was not new that the computer appeared in Japanese manga those days.
However, those computers always were fantastical and imaginative omnipotent machines like a dream or nightmare. I think those computers were not based on any realistic predictions of how computers would develop and relate to society,.
I won’t say that Sato Shio’s stories are always correct scientifically. Reading it strictly in a scientific way, I can find one or more contradictory points in “The Blue Monkey Chronicle” too.
However, her skillful storytelling does not let readers notice these discrepancies. And in fact, this story is a fantasy story rather than a science fiction one. The scientific contradictory point does not spoil the essence of the story. (continued to part two)


A essay about Otomo’s work, “Freedom” and “Akira” part four

Akira Volume 5
Akira Volume 5
クチコミを見る
Although the extent of change was less than that of the other characters, Kaneda also changed in the movie. Even though Kaneda’s scene was only slightly defferent, it caused a big difference in the impression for the audience.
I felt that Kaneda changed too fast. He pulled his gun on Tetsuo too quickly.
He went to the trouble to rescue Tetsuo in the laboratory like as his protector, and next time they met, Kaneda fired a laser beam at Tetsuo without hesitation.
It was somehow weird that the gap between his protective feelings and his murderous intent was overly wide.
In the manga, he hesitated. He held the gun, but he couldn’t fire, Yamagata was killed by Tetsuo before his eyes and then he finally fired.
It was the same in the movie that he had murderous intent after Yamagata was killed. However, the audiences impression of Kaneda is different whether an episode like the above is shown or not.
Also, I read that Kaneda in the manga didn’t want to kill Tetsuo. Kaneda was saying he would kill Tetsuo and he seemed to imagine himself having the intension to kill. But, I think certainly what he wanted to do in fact was to hit Tetsuo, grab him by the collar and shout “What happened to you Tetsuo? /Why are you doing this? ”(どうしちまったんだ鉄雄オ!)
Also, I want to say one more thing about Tetsuo.
Both in the manga and in the anime, Tetsuo call Kaneda for help when he was metamorphosising.
In the movie, didn’t you think that it was really wishful thinking to call for help just after getting aggresive and behaving so outrageously? I thought so.
This is also another example of the impression for the audience being quite different although the event was basically the same.
During this same scene in the manga, my heart was touched when Tetsuo called out for Kaneda,. Just while Tetsuo’s personality was blown away by his own power, a piece of his identity, which remained at the end, called out for Kaneda.
Showing the “dere” after staying “tsun” during five and a half volumes, I definitely regard this as the ultimate “tsundere!”

In the above, I described my dissatisfaction with the movie and the difference from the manga.
I’m sure you could understand that I love Akira and that’s the reason why I am so critical of the movie.
I like this manga so much. All of the elements of this manga are attractive.
The story, pictures, dialogue, gadgets, and especially characters are superb.
Not to mention the main characters like Kaneda and Tetsuo. Every suppoting character, like the colonel, lady Miyako, Kei, Kaori, Kai and Joker, are real and full of human-attraction.
Akira’s story is grand.
It is an exciting Si-fi story in which psychic power, the government, army, the collapse of Neo-Tokyo and evolution of human beings develop to the limit of the screen and the page.
On this grand stage, however, the core of the story is a drama of Kaneda and Tetsuo.
It’s an ultimate human drama in an extreme situation.
(end)


A essay about Otomo’s work, “Freedom” and “Akira” part three

Akira Volume 2
Akira Volume 2
クチコミを見る
May I say the most unsatisfying point in movie?
It’s that Tetsuo didn’t look cool. As a Tetsuo fan, I couldn’t forgive this.
(Sorry to fans of the movie version of Tetsuo. You say that Tetsuo was cute and lovely. Probably you are tolerant and broad minded person. I’m not mature enough to approve of this a childish foolishness.)
Tetsuo in the movie was simplified so that it might be easy for the audience to understand. I can summarize the story about him in one sentence. “A weakling got psychic power suddenly, became elated, went berserk and brought on his own downfall in the end.” Such a character is not interesting because he is too stereotypical and simplified.
Tetsuo in the manga is a more complicated character, who has a vicious and dark attractiveness.
He is not the runt of the biker group, as he was in the movie. In the first volume, Kaneda said, “he is the scrum half in our biker gang” (In the English version, this dialogue was “He is the one of the best riders”) It shows that he was in an important position of the gang. He is not a typical “weakling.” His emotion toward Kaneda doesn’t seem merely an inferiority complex against the strong which the weak possess, but a sense of rivalry on even terms, mixed with pride and attachment. His emotion toward Kaneda was not blatant but expressed restrainedly. It was much more impressive than the movie.
This is moe! (Mr. Otomo, may I interpret that in the end of the fourth volume, the reason why Kaneda appeared was that Tetsuo called him? )
(I wrote before that many important things were explained in the manga, but not everything was explained with dialogue. Some events unfolded without dialogue and the readers had to interpret the story from the development of the events. “Kaneda’s appearance” was one such episode. What was shown in the story was that Tetsuo called Kaneda’s name for reasons unclear to the readers. At the same time Kaneda’s phantom appeared and when Tetsuo’s power was aroused, Kaneda (who seemed as if he had been dead) appeared with the buildings that were absorbed in the collapse of Tokyo.
I think at least it’s certain that Tetsuo’s power caused Kaneda’s appearance, but I’m not sure whether Tetsuo did it consciously or not. There is room for some interpretation by the readers.)

Then, in the movie, Akira had been dead and become a dissection specimen before the beginning of the story. Although I understand that this couldn’t be avoided. If Akira was revived during the last 20 minutes of the story, the movie could not have finished in two hours.
However, I was disappointed.
I like Akira.
I especially liked the scenes of Akira with Tetsuo. They were very impressive. I think the most beautiful scene was the one in which Tetsuo came to Akira in the ruins of Tokyo in the 3rd volume.
Akira’s personality had been blown away by his own power, he was always expressionless, but he showed a little human-like reaction only to Tetsuo. I liked the scenes that depicted communication between only two people like that so much
(To tell the truth, I can’t tell what was between Tetsuo and Akira even in the manga. This is also another episode which was not explained with words. It doesn’t seem to be a friendship, but they seem to understand each other somehow and it seems that there was a strange sense of solidarity.
Since there were little words during the scenes with them, the picture in those scenes are very powerful and beautiful as if Otomo devoted all his drawing power and skill to the pictures. I think that this is the reason why I liked the scenes of Akira with Tetsuo.)

(Continued to part four)