Fist of the North Star News

Fist of the North Star is a franchise comprised of 1 movie, 5 anime series, 5 manga series
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Fist of the North Star (which I will henceforth refer to as FOTNS) is an extremely popular and influential shounen manga series that ran from 1983 to 1988 via the Japanese magazine publisher Shueisha and Shounen Jump. Due to the manga’s popularity numerous anime adaptions have been created covering different aspects of the manga. These anime titles vary in terms of episode count, chronological order and physical release date, suffice to say there have been various animated releases that began in the early 80s all the way up until the late 2000’s.

Honestly it would have been easier to just blog about a few of the more crucial titles in this franchise alone but since I have now seen 98% of the animated releases and feel they all complement each other so well I thought to myself, hell why not go all-out and give my thoughts on what I feel is one of the most compelling, enjoyable and somewot misunderstood shounen titles ever made.

Okay so here is how I’m going to dew this

To start I’ll go into the basic plotline of the franchise and after that I’ll give my thoughts on each anime release in chronological order and then I’ll wrap things up with some final thoughts and what I believe to be some helpful advice on how newcomers to the anime releases should approach each title…..well to be more specific, in what order you should watch the releases in to get the best experience as it can be somewhat confusing when you look at them overall.

The Basic Plot (Excluding Fist of the Blue Sky)

In 199X, Due to the result of a worldwide nuclear war, civilization has been ruined, millions have lost their lives and the earth itself has become a dry pitiful wasteland where the strongest men rule and the weakest fall victim to their every whim.

The protagonist Kenshiro is the rightful successor to an ancient martial art assassination style known as Hokuto Shinken. He wanders the wastelands with his fiancée Yuria (Julia in English dub) trying to help the earth recover from its pitiful state by planting seeds and helping growing villages flourish once again.

Things take a turn for the worst one day when Kenshiro and Yuria are confronted by Shin, a former friend of Ken’s and a practitioner of another deadly fighting style known as Nanto Seiken. Shin proceeds to attack Ken, abduct his fiancée and leave him for dead.

Once Ken recovers from the ordeal he begins a journey for vengeance but along the way becomes a hero to the common people by freeing them from their constant oppression of local thugs / gangs and warlords using the deadly Hokuto Shinken fighting style.

Along the way Kenshiro’s path also crosses with his own “brothers” who where also well trained in the same deadly art of Hokuto Shinken and it soon becomes clear not all of his brothers have the best of intentions and tend to use their abilities to further their own personal agenda’s

Keshiro’s destiny may ultimately prove pivotal to the future of mankind as we know it.

--END--

Alright that’s the basic premise…so now I am going to give some brief reviews on *all* the FOTNS Anime Releases in Chronolgical Order starting with…….

Fist of the North Star TV Series (1984 - 1987)

This is the original 110 episode TV series which tells the entire core storyline on Kenshiro, his brothers, Yuria and the numerous Nanto Seiken adversaries faced throughout the series run.

In all honesty the first standout thing for this show is sadly the animation…it’s pretty dull and simplistic and to most people it will be extremely unappealing…in fact I’d say the animation is pretty much identical to the Legend of The Galactic Heroes series….This can obviously be put down to the era it was created in, however where the animation falters the story excels. What starts out like a typical revenge and bad-guy-of-the-week story really draws you in over time particularly by drawing you into the emotions of the oppressed people and the sheer disregard the villains hold for the weak and helpless people…children included!

It’s a pretty merciless and unforgiving environment where the physically strongest thrive and the pitifully weak are enslaved and abused……sometimes just for amusement!

This show can really pull out two particular emotions, the first being sympathy for the oppressed / abused mass of people and the second being the rush of anger while anticipating the inevitable battles that will resolve the compelling story arcs.

This franchise has a reputation for its EXTREME VIOLENCE and to this very day this series still holds that reputation but to be honest due to the animation being outdated it now looks more comical than anything else……cough…to me anyway…. but yeah I guess viewer discretion is advised.

Next up, this series has a HUGE number of characters which are fairly well written for the most part and also do a good job of keeping you invested with the storyline…well that is until they eventually die…that’s right most of the characters in this series end up dead…….even a few of the main characters.

Being one of the first long running shounen series ever made this show made some…lets say “unconventional choices” that helped mold certain characteristics in the shounen genre and help turn it into the cash cow it is today….for example, anime executives had a hard time merchandising FOTNS since key characters would die regularly which made it extremely difficult to market..so it is pretty well known that a lot of future shows like DBZ where characters tend to come back from the dead continuously learnt this lesson from FOTNS….and to an extent I can understand why keeping characters alive is important for a franchise’s business model and merchandising…..but in saying that death also brings a sense of realism and can invoke more emotion out of the audience.

Alas, this series / franchise is notorious for killing off characters of all sizes - big and small but I can honestly say it never felt like a plot device or being overly manipulative…in fact in almost every instance it serves a purpose and makes the story that much more compelling

And lastly thoughts on the pacing and delivery of the overall story

Well it starts off pretty lacklustre and slowly builds up and draws you into a more emotional journey…personally I feel the story really gains momentum about halfway when things focus more on Kenshiro and his “brothers” - that’s when the series truly gains a more interesting level of depth and excitement that held up pretty well for me.

Overall, this original FOTNS series is a great rollercoaster ride of violence, revenge, lost love and oppression…..and even though it had its slow moments I was constantly entertained throughout the series run and can easily see why many others also hail this as an anime CLASSIC.

If you can get past the poor animation I’m sure alot people will be entertained by this series…oh and the English dub versions are solid as well even though only about 30 episodes where completed in egliash

Rating: Hall of Fame

Fist of the North Star: The Movie (1986)

This is the movie that the MAJOURITY of people have already seen when they say they have seen FOTNS and in all honesty it was my first introduction to the franchise as well.

This movie is honestly just a chopped up version of the TV series with MASSIVE PLOT ELEMENTS CUT OUT similar to AKIRA and it's manga counterpart…I mean even one of Kenshiro’s actual brothers (Toki) is not mentioned in this movie at all……but in the movies defence after watching the TV series I can understand why….all that content just cannot fit inside a feature length film

Anyhow…the movie itself is still pretty awesome all things considered and it gives you a basic idea of the setting and covers just shy of 25% of the TV series storyline.

The animation is decent looking and is much improved over the original TV series quality but overall it still comes off feeling dated by today’s standards.

This movie ultimately turns out to be a good introduction to the franchise and as it is so short it cannot resolve anything it sets up which always left me wanting more….in fact to this day I know a lot of people don’t even realise this was based off the original animated TV series / manga.

Rating: Solid B

Fist of the North Star 2 TV Series (1987)

Uh-oh…someone’s trying to milk that cash cow again

Firstly let it be known that in the western releases and to many people this is actually seen as episodes 110 – 152 of the original TV series but it was originally called FOTNS 2 and to be honest in terms of storyline I think the distinction and separation between the two series is very appropriate.

This 43 episode series deals with Kenshiro going to another island/continent to delve more into his own / his former brothers past and to be honest it’s a pretty uninteresting and lacklustre story.

After the events of the first 110 episode series everything feels finished and resolved so you actually have to ask yourself what more can they do with this series?

Well….lets see….I’d say some improved animation…some cool kills and that’s pretty much it.

All the emotional attachment and interesting characters you had in the first series has melted away and I didn’t really feel a connection to anything here…..i mean it wasn’t god awful…it was just boring and unnecessary.

The very last episode had a somewhat touching memorial for the franchise that is kinda cool but sadly, that’s probably the only memorable thing for me with this series…honestly…..unless you’re a die hard fan of the franchise I’d say there’s not much here for you to latch onto…its just a meh kinda show with nothing to add to the franchise imo

Rating: Acquired Taste

New Fist of the North Star (2003)

This 3 episode short OVA is set sometime after the completion of the original manga story.

I have to admit this release (to me) is the worst of the FOTNS releases…it has really nothing to do with Kenshiro, he just wonders into a confrontation…a boring one at that and everything that happens in these 3 episodes is not only lame but one thing in particular is actually ridiculous (Ken being held captive in a crappy prison).

It adds absolutely nothing to the universe of FOTNS and just feels like complete and utter filler.

After buying this I soon sold this on eBay without a second thought and most reviews I’ve read agree its just irrelevant fluff…..so I’d say again unless you’re a die hard fan of the franchise don’t waste your time.

Sorry to put a knife in this one but apart from having Kenshiro in the story killing opponents in shiny new animation it’s really quite lame and unimaginative…oh but the shiny new animation was very nice……yeah I did mention that right….yeah..so there’s that

Rating: Not Feeling This

Fist of the Blue Sky (2006 – 2007)

Hmm this show is just…kinda weird

Okay so in a nutshell we all know our beloved 80’s series followed the protagonist Kenshiro who is the 64th successor of Hokuto Shinken and that the original story was set in 199x after a nuclear disaster. Well this story here follows the 62nd successor of Hokuto Shinken of which the classic Ken character was named after, Kenshiro Kasumi (no relation), or as they refer to him in this show “Yan Wang”….this story is set in the 1930’s.

So right off the bat I was a bit disappointed with the fact that although this is a prequel to FOTNS the story here isn’t focused on master Ryuken but a generation before his time - so then I thought to myself hey this Kenshiro Kasumi guy must be even more interesting than Ryuken right…....right?

Strangely enough this story actually deals with some weird gangster rivalry and lost love themes…not really what I was expecting at all…..on-top of that the villains in this show are just darn right goofy…I mean so goofy it actually started to annoy me…for example…a character that wears a solid gold wig that is actually heavier than his entire body…leading him to fall down repeadidly….and believe me that's just ONE of the many zany villians in this show

The animation although decent is extremely stiff and gives you the feeling of one of those older PC / visual novel games

However to the shows credit Kenshiro Kasumi is quite an entertaining character that seems to have the most likeable traits of the classic Kenshiro we all know and love with some extra added personality to make him more interesting

Ultimatelt the whole premise and story of this series feels very left field and apart from the actual fighting I can't say this show adds much to the FOTNS universe and therefore should only be watched by diehards….again

An English dub could have made this more enjoyable to me as a sort of comedic satire to the franchise but as it is now it just feels more like an out of place addition to the franchise

Rating: Acquired Taste

****

Now this is where things get REALLY interesting…

In 2006 the original manga creator Buronson and illustrator Tetsuo Hara decided they would produce a new FOTNS project based directly on the original manga to commemorate it’s 25th year anniversary with the help of TMS Entertainment and North Stars Pictures.

This project would be a retelling and reimaging on some of the key story elements of the manga, which will include expansion of the story, modernized artwork, new characters and some minor alterations to events. This series would be a collection of new feature films and OVA’s now known as Fist of the North Star: The Legends of the True Savoir Series.

The first of these releases was

Legend of Raoh - Death for Love (2006)

This movie was the first release and is my personal favourite of the following re-imaginings. It focuses on probably what I feel is the most exciting and gut wrenching saga in the original TV series and with the new animation and soundtrack it just explodes with awesomeness and I fucking loved every minute of it. Sadly I can’t go into too much detail due to spoilers but this is basically a true FOTNS fanboys dream come to life.

Exceedingly Impressed!

Rating: First Class

Legend of Yuria (2007)

This movie takes a closer look into Yuria’s past and her journey throughout the FOTNS series. It is somewhat interesting and fills in some plot holes from the original series but overall it’s just some light hearted and welcome exposition for Yuria’s character…it’s a solid watch but nothing that special

Rating: Watchable

Legend of Raoh - Fierce Fighting (2007)

Again, like the first Raoh movie this is an excellent excerpt and re-imagining which focuses on the end of the original TV series.

Everything is on point here and again the animation looks incredible. Fans are gonna LOVE the hell out of this and I sure bloody did too

Another very impressive and welcomed movie!

Rating: First Class

Legend of Toki (2008)

Ahh Toki, what a loveable and sad character….and this was a sad yet enjoyable OVA.

I have to say Toki's character was covered pretty well in the original TV series but in this OVA it’s nice to again relive this great mans journey. There is also a really cool battle between Toki and Raoh here that was animated fantastically as well.

As for the new character that is introduced here, well……all i can say is good for you Toki lol. It’s another solid watch so it gets

Rating: Solid B

Legend of Kenshiro (2008)

This movie for me is the perfect full circle movie and answers a certain plothole that bugs many fans who have watched the 1986 movie and original TV series….

what happened to Kenshiro after he was thrown off the cliff when Shin and Jagi left him for dead…how come he changed so much when he eventually re-emerges from the depths of hell?…he felt like a different man for some reason!?!

Well I’m sure like most of us you probably just brushed it off as Kenshiro just “waking up” or that he finally just “got serious” well, this movie brings a new element in the story that nicely puts some extra character development in place for our beloved protagonist which ultimately just makes the story that much more stable and believable

it’s a welcomed surprise and yes once again it has great visuals.

Oh and let me not forget to mention at the end credits there is an awesome montage that brings the story back to the beginning of Ken’s journey which is FUCKING AWESOME!

Rating: First Class

--END--

So that’s it for The Legends of the True Savoir Series….There is however one last series that was made to commemorate another great character in FOTNS

Legends of the Dark King (2008)

This 13 episode series takes place at the same time the original TV series starts, however instead of following Kenshiro we follow his oldest brother Raoh as we get to see how he acquired his army and became the power mad tyrant we all love and hate.

The animation for this show is done by studio Satelight and looks completely different than any other FOTNS show and has more of an American comic type feel to it. It’s a pretty decent show overall that even includes some of the new characters that debuted in the Legends of the True Savoir releases.

This great thing about this show is it gradually builds up a lot of tension and excitement leading you to want to watch the original series….it stays true almost completely to the original work and just makes the franchise that much more stable by filling in more plot holes and answering more questions.

Rating: Solid B

Alright so that’s about all the anime releases I have seen, now I know I left out 3 or 4 titles like FOTNS Design Deformation & Legend of Heroes but those shows are more or less spin offs that don’t really add anything more to the franchises storyline.

Recommended Viewing Order for Newcomers

So now that I have seen all the releases I can now draw a timeline…..and while creating this timeline I just thought I could give people a heads up on how they should watch the releases…I’m not going to go into exact detail why I have placed these titles in this order here but I will say overall the story will play out in a more natural and continuous way.

In particular it’s only the Legends of the True Savoir and Legends of the dark king releases that need the most re-arrangement.

I'll explain my reason's for all this in more detail on the FOTNS DREAMcast SPECIAL

ADVISED VIEWING ORDER

1. FOTNS: The Movie (1986)

2. FOTNS TV Series (1984 – 1987)

3. FOTNS 2 TV Series (1987 – 1988) *OPTIONAL

4. Fist of the Blue Sky (2006 – 2007) *OPTIONAL

5. Legend of the Dark King (2008)

6. Legend of Raoh - Death for Love (2006)

7. Legend of Toki (2008)

8. Legend of Raoh - Fierce Fighting (2007)

9. Legend of Yuria (2007)

10. The Legend of Kenshiro (2008)

Final Thoughts

Its been my experience that a lot of people think this franchise is just about extreme violence and giant muscle bound men giving each other death strikes…and yes I admit that is a big part of the story…However I think if given a serious chance (particularly in regards to the poor animation in the original TV series) you should find an exceptionally enjoyable anime about camaraderie, friendship, despair and most of all an unexpected respect for humanitarianism and the welfare of others.

Yeah, that all sounds about as cheesy as a pair of smelly toes but that’s something most of us that have completed and enjoyed this franchise for decades can agree upon….ladies included!

Anyhow, I think that about does it for me on this long-ass blog…go forth and spread the word….but before you go…guess what….i just touched your vital point on your neck…so remember........

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THE GLORIOUS FIST OF THE NORTH STAR*

Direct download MP3: HERE
YOU WA SHOCK!

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the glorious Fist of the North Star Special

We are finally going to tackle one of Anime’s & Manga’s founding Shounen titles….something we have been looking forward to do for a long long time I might add :oP

The MANLIEST OF MANLY anime franchises is finally up on our chopping block to be discussed with by your Host ME: Donald Wunder and The Old B…….errr I can’t find Katface…..okay…then Geea…..fuck….he’s gone AWOL

So…..i’m going to have to talk about the manliest of anime with……Nu..Nuansay…a la..lady…really?

Why do the anime gods hate me so……..

Cough….i mean of course…of couse…we are going to get the very much appreciated female perspective on one of the goryiest…bloodiest….most violent shows…ever ..made……yeah……I don’t see why that wouldn’t make sense…..it’s all about equality after all…..right?

Nuansay: just hurry up and get on with it already….jeez i do have other things ta dew ya know!

Grrr......Anyhow...

ON THIS EPISODE…we go into depth on ALMOST ALL the various animated releases of FOTNS…and believe me folks there are quite a few out there.

We talk about the various fighting styles, characters, affect it had on shounen anime, other non anime and manga releases such as the video games and US live action movie (LMAO) and then we end on what we might want to see IF the franchise decided to continue somehow.

I’ve also written a supplementary FOTNS Anime BLOG which more or less goes over all the titles we discussed in this DC episode and I even include a recommended watching list for those who may be interested.

I hope ya enjoy the pressure points we be hitting on this episode…….if ya don’t then…well...guess what

BONUS LINKS

Let me throw in some links related TO stuff we may have spoken about in this podcast…and some other goodies

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR FULL 1986 ANIME MOVIE (DUBBED)

LIVE-ACTION FIST OF THE NORTH STAR 1995 US MOVIE (LMAO)

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: KEN'S RAGE GAME

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: 80’S NINTENDO GAME

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: ARCADE GAME

SUPA CLASSIC FOTNS CLIPS (sooooo many more out there)

VID1 VID2 VID3 VID4 VID5 VID6 VID7 VID8 VID9 VID10

and finally never forget much like Kenshiro……………you have the touch

Laterz

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I am, as one might say, a newcomer to this wild world of anime.  A novice.  A dumbass, if you will.  However, I am more and more dipping my toes into the tumultuous waters and liking what I've found.  By far, my most favorite series thus far is the 1980s classic Hokuto No Ken, or Fist of the North Star as its known here in Amurricuh (but of course you knew that).  I've resolved to finish the entire series, which is sure to be a hefty challenge as not only are the main series and its follow-up incredibly long, but there are a number of movies and spin-offs out there as well.  

So I've decided, as something of a marker of progress, to review the individual "sagas" or segments of this thing as I go along.  It has been quite a while since I actually finished Part I, or what I'll refer to as the "Shin saga", but now I feel genuinely ready to comment on it.  So, without further ado, here are my personal (and relatively uninformed) thoughts on Fist of the North Star episodes 1-22. 

I'll Take Back My Love 

For those unfamiliar (which I'm doubting you personally aren't), Fist of the North Star is the story of a post-apocalyptic present where, you guessed it, the Cold War actually did erupt into nuclear warfare which engulfed the world and left mankind on the brink of destruction.  Resilient beings we are, however, mankind survives and attempts to retain some form of order in this chaotic and deserted landscape.  Unfortunately, the strong, ruthless, and manipulative reign supreme while the just and gentle left to be ground underneath their studded boot-heels.  It's a grim future, to be sure, but there is hope.  A man named Kenshiro appears in the wastelands on a quest for revenge armed with the deadly assassination techniques of "hokuto shinken"  
 
And Ken doesn't take too kindly to injustice.  It also doesn't hurt that Ken's nemesis is the current big cheese of this hellish landscape, Shin, who was a fellow student and close friend of Kenshiro's until his obsession with Kenshiro's girlfriend, Yuria, drove him insane.  Now, with the aid of two small children, Bat and Lin, Kenshiro takes off towards Shin's palace in the oasis of Southern Cross, righting wrongs on his way to reclaim his lost love and punish the man who took her. 
 
From the instant this series starts, with its awesome theme song by Crystal King, the thing I can never shake is the presence this show puts forward.  It's both flashy and macho during its fight scenes, but also starkly dark, depressing, and brutal elsewhere.  Ok, fine, this show is brutal almost all the time, but when Kenshiro isn't punching people and making them explode, it's actually pretty gritty and realistic stuff.  The gangs and savages that populate this sad world in these episodes seem to comment just as much on the nature of human cruelty as they do about the dangers of organized religious sects or the evils of a selfish monarchy.  I might be reading too much into it, but I can't help but feel like Fist of the North Star is trying to make some sort of comment on the state of society as a whole.  That's something I certainly didn't expect, but it really helps flesh out a series that is relatively simple at its core. 

Character at Century's End 

And at its core are the characters.  Throughout these first 22 episodes, there's only about 5 major characters to follow.  There are certain henchmen with personalities as well as a few auxiliary characters, but overall these represent archetypes or adversaries to flesh out the world.  The story instead focuses mainly on Kenshiro and his kid side-kicks.  Kenshiro himself is the strong silent type, but he is genuinely kind and always does the right thing.  Hell, if he wasn't constantly exploding people, he'd be almost boring, but it's that juxtaposition that makes him such an interesting character.  His voice actor rarely raises his voice above a light murmur until he starts screeching and letting fly with his deadly hokuto shinken.  By his side are his constant kid companions, Bat and Lin.  Lin is the typical innocent young girl and Bat is the typical comic relief, but both are charming enough characters in their own right.  I hesitate to name Kenshiro's girlfriend Yuria as a main character, but she is seen in these episodes quite a lot.  She's kind-hearted and rarely happy, but she also does have some pretty touching interaction with a young girl during the back half of the Shin saga.  

 Lastly, the character I actually find to be the most interesting is actually the villain, Shin.  It's made known early that Shin is a bad dude, able to best Kenshiro in combat with his own assassination style, nanto seiken, and ruthless enough to use it for his own means.  There certainly is a level of the foppish, cackling baddie in Shin, especially during the first half of the "Shin Saga", but as the audience sees more of him, you start to feel like there's a lot more to him.  He's actually rather sympathetic; a man whose ambitious desire to win the heart of a woman who doesn't love him has lead him to do terrible things.  He's taken lives, he's betrayed his best friend, and all for the heart of a woman.  By the end of the "Shin Saga", I had actually felt genuinely connected to the bad guy, something I rarely find in any medium. 

Ugly Future 

Is there anything negative about Fist of the North Star?  Of course!  This is a review, right?  The animation in the opening, much like many animated series, is far better than that actually found in the episodes.  Don't get me wrong, the action sequences look great, characters are well-detailed and varied, and the gruesome displays are very brutal, but there are also a lot of flaws.  The amount of re-used  "stock" animations is a tad ridiculous.  It makes it easier to forgive when the aftermath is often so varied, exploded heads, fingers, and torsos flying everywhere, but I couldn't help but feel after seeing Ken's shirt rip off for the 22nd time that they could've maybe... animated another sequence for that.  Also, despite the under-lying depth of the story itself, the dialog ain't great.  Lines like "You don't even know.  You are already dead." are great, but often times the plot points and actions are outwardly stated.  "Subtle" is not a word to describe the script in Fist of the North Star, but perhaps that's the point. 

You are Already Reviewed 

Whatever the point of the series, MY point is that Fist of the North Star is great.  More-over, it's great for those unfamiliar with the trappings of traditional anime.  The gritty and dark story-line is both deep and grounded, and it seems more rooted in Western sensibilities.  Is that a good thing?  That's arguable, but Fist of the North Star is frankly just a really brutally fun show with some really iconic imagery that goes along with it.  Whatever you get out of the series, you should at the very least be able to get into the torso-exploding action within. 
 
I'd give the first 22 episodes of Fist of the North Star 4.5 stars out of 5.
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I am going to do two episodes today of various lengths and one episode by Friday – so by next week Monday this aspect of this ongoing series will end so it will be picked up in a later date. Therefore, the next post of the Era of the Lost and Generic (these will be parts three and four) will be on here and Cartoon Electro so that the epilogue of that series will become either episode 6 or 7 of Virtuous Queen.

Before all this, we are going to take a short trip back to the 1970’s – remember last episode that 1970’s Japan was undergoing a conversion to the right (i.e. back to a monarchy) and those that stood against them (i.e. the counter cultural folk) were fighting back. The whole world was going through massive changes and to give you aspects of the worldwide view of these, there needs to be a time line of events. (Even though the era started around 1957 – 1965/66 are the years were it got started)

1965:

January 4 - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaims his "Great Society" during his State of the Union Address.

January 26 - Anti-Hindi agitations break out in India, because of which Hindi does not get "National Language" status and remains one of the 23 official languages of India.

February 21 - Malcolm X is assassinated in Manhattan.

March 7 - Bloody Sunday: Some 200 Alabama State Troopers clash with 525 civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama.

March 9 - The second attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., stops at the bridge that was the site of Bloody Sunday, to hold a prayer service and return to Selma, in obedience to a court restraining order. White supremacists beat up white Unitarian Universalist minister James J. Reeb later that day in Selma.

March 17 - In response to the events of March 7 and 9 in Selma, Alabama, President Johnson sends a bill to Congress that forms the basis for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is passed by the Senate May 26, the House July 10, and signed into law by President Johnson Aug. 6.

May 22 - The first skateboard championship is held. In addition, several hundred Vietnam War protestors in Berkeley, CA, march to the Draft Board again to burn more cards as well as Lyndon Johnson in effigy.

August 11 - The Watts Riots begin in Los Angeles, California.

1966:

March 26 - Demonstrations are held across the United States against the Vietnam War.

March 27 - In South Vietnam, 20,000 Buddhists march in demonstrations against the policies of the military government.

March 29 - The 23rd Communist Party Conference is held in the Soviet Union; Leonid Brezhnev demands that U.S. troops leave Vietnam, and announces that Chinese-Soviet relations are not satisfying.

May 15 - Tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators again picket the White House, then rally at the Washington Monument.

May 16 - In New York City, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes his first public speech on the Vietnam War.

August 7 - Race riots occur in Lansing, Michigan.

August 16 - Vietnam War: The House Un-American Activities Committee starts investigating Americans who have aided the Viet Cong, with the intent to make these activities illegal. Anti-war demonstrators disrupt the meeting and 50 are arrested.

1967:

April 4 - Martin Luther King, Jr. denounces the Vietnam War during a religious service in New York City.

April 15 - Large demonstrations are held against the Vietnam War in New York City and San Francisco.

May 6 - Hong Kong 1967 riots: Clashes between striking workers and police kill 51 and injure 800.

July 12 - The Greek military regime strips 480 Greeks of their citizenship.

July 13 - The Newark, New Jersey race riots occur.

July 15 - The Detroit race riots occur.

July 23 - 12th Street Riot: In Detroit, Michigan, one of the worst riots in United States history begins on 12th Street in the predominantly African American inner city: 43 are killed, 342 injured and 1,400 buildings burned.

July 24 - During an official state visit to Canada, French President Charles de Gaulle declares to a crowd of over 100,000 in Montreal: Vive le Québec libre! (Long live free Quebec!). The statement, interpreted as support for Quebec independence, delights many Quebecers but angers the Canadian government and many English Canadians.

August 1 - Race riots in the United States spread to Washington, D.C..

September 17 - Jim Morrison and The Doors defy CBS censors on The Ed Sullivan Show, when Morrison sings the word "higher" from their #1 hit Light My Fire, despite having been asked not to.

September 18 - Love Is a Many Splendored Thing debuts on U.S. daytime television and is the first soap opera to deal with an interracial relationship. CBS censors find it too controversial and ask for it to be stopped, causing show creator Irna Phillips to quit.

October 8 - Guerrilla leader Che Guevara and his men are captured in Bolivia.

October 9 - Che Guevara is executed.

October 16 - Thirty-nine people, including singer-activist Joan Baez, are arrested in Oakland, California, for blocking the entrance of that city's military induction center.

October 30 - Hong Kong 1967 riots: British troops and Chinese demonstrators clash on the border of China and Hong Kong.

Vietnam War: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson holds a secret meeting with a group of the nation's most prestigious leaders ("the Wise Men") and asks them to suggest ways to unite the American people behind the war effort. They conclude that the American people should be given more optimistic reports on the progress of the war.

1968:

January 19 - At a White House conference on crime, singer and actress Eartha Kitt denounces the Vietnam War to Lady Bird Johnson while attending a "ladies' lunch".

February 8 - American civil rights movement: A civil rights protest staged at a white-only bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina is broken up by highway patrolmen; 3 college students are killed.

February 11 - Border clashes take place between Israel and Jordan.

February 13 - Civil rights disturbances occur at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

March 8 - The first student protests spark the 1968 Polish political crisis.

March 12 - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson edges out antiwar candidate Eugene J. McCarthy in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, a vote which highlights the deep divisions in the country, as well as the party, over Vietnam.

March 19–23 - Afrocentrism, Black power: Students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., signal a new era of militant student activism on college campuses in the U.S. Students stage rallies, protests and a 5-day sit-in, laying siege to the administration building, shutting down the university in protest over its ROTC program, and demanding a more Afrocentric curriculum.

March 21 - Vietnam War: In ongoing campus unrest, Howard University students protesting the Vietnam War, the ROTC program on campus and the draft, confront Gen. Lewis Hershey, then head of the U.S. Selective Service System, and as he attempts to deliver an address, shout him down with cries of "America is the Black man's battleground!"

March 22 - Daniel Cohn-Bendit ("Danny The Red") and 7 other students occupy the administrative offices of the University of Nanterre, setting in motion a chain of events that lead France to the brink of revolution in May.

March 31 - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announces he will not seek re-election.

April 4 - Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot dead at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupt in major American cities for several days afterward.

April 11 - Josef Bachmann tries to assassinate Rudi Dutschke, leader of the left-wing movement (APO) in Germany, and tries to commit suicide afterwards, failing in both, although Dutschke dies of his brain injuries 11 years later.

April 11 - German left-wing students blockade the Springer Press HQ in Berlin and many are arrested (one of them Ulrike Meinhof).

April 11 - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

April 23–30 - Vietnam War: Student protesters at Columbia University in New York City take over administration buildings and shut down the university (see main article Columbia University protests of 1968).

May - May of '68 is a symbol of the resistance of that generation. Agitations and strikes in Paris lead many youth to believe that a revolution is starting. Student and worker strikes, sometimes referred to as the French May, nearly bring down the French government.

May 17 - The Catonsville Nine enter the Selective Service offices in Catonsville, Maryland, take dozens of selective service draft records, and burn them with napalm as a protest against the Vietnam War.

June 5 - U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California by Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy dies from his injuries the next day.

October 2 - Tlatelolco massacre: A student demonstration ends in a bloodbath at La Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, Mexico, 10 days before the inauguration of the 1968 Summer Olympics.

October 5 - Police baton civil rights demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland, marking the beginning of The Troubles.

October 16 - In Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 2 black Americans competing in the Olympic 200-meter run, raise their arms in a black power salute after winning, respectively, the gold and bronze medals for 1st and 3rd place.

October 16 - Kingston, Jamaica is rocked by the Rodney Riots, provoked by the banning of Walter Rodney from the country.

1969:

April 9 - The Harvard University Administration Building is seized by close to 300 students, mostly members of the Students for a Democratic Society. Before the takeover ends, 45 will be injured and 184 arrested.

April 9 - Fermín Monasterio Pérez is killed by the ETA in Biscay, Spain, being the 4th victim in the name of Basque nationalism.

May 10 - Zip to Zap, a harbinger of the Woodstock Concert, ends with the dispersal and eviction of youth and young adults at Zap, North Dakota by the National Guard.

May 21 - Rosariazo: Civil unrest breaks out in Rosario, Argentina, following the death of a 15-year-old student.

June 18–22 - The National Convention of the Students for a Democratic Society, held in Chicago, collapses, and the Weatherman faction seizes control of the SDS National Office. Thereafter, any activity run from the National Office or bearing the name of SDS is Weatherman-controlled.

July 20 - Apollo program: The lunar module Eagle lands on the lunar surface. The world watches in awe as Neil Armstrong takes his historic first steps on the Moon.

July 24 - The Apollo 11 astronauts return from the first successful Moon landing, and are placed in biological isolation for several days, on the chance they may have brought back lunar germs. The airless lunar environment is later determined to preclude microscopic life.

August 9 - Members of a cult led by Charles Manson murder Sharon Tate, (who was 8 months pregnant), and her friends: Folgers coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring at Tate and husband Roman Polanski's home in Los Angeles, California. Steven Parent, leaving from a visit to the Polanskis' caretaker, is also killed. More than 100 stab wounds are found on the victims, except for Parent, who had been shot almost as soon as the Manson Family entered the property.

August 10 - The Manson Family kills Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, wealthy Los Angeles businesspeople.

August 15–18 - The Woodstock Festival is held in upstate New York, featuring some of the top rock musicians of the era.

December 6 - The Altamont Free Concert is held at the Altamont Speedway in northern California. Hosted by the Rolling Stones, it is an attempt at a "Woodstock West" and is best known for the uproar of violence that occurred. It is viewed by many as the "end of the sixties."

1970’s:

March 31 - Japan Airlines Flight 351, carrying 131 passengers and 7 crews from Tokyo to Fukuoka, is hijacked by Japanese Red Army members. All passengers are eventually freed.\

May 1 - Demonstrations against the trial of the New Haven Nine, Bobby Seale, and Ericka Huggins draw 12,000.

May 4 - Kent State shootings: Four students at Kent State University in Ohio are killed and 9 wounded by Ohio State National Guardsmen, at a protest against the incursion into Cambodia.

May 6 - Arms Crisis in the Republic of Ireland: Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney are dismissed as members of the Irish Government, due to accusations of their involvement in a plot to import arms for use by the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland.

August 26–30 - The Isle of Wight Festival 1970 takes place on East Afton Farm off the coast of England. Some 600,000 people attend the largest rock festival of all time. Artists include Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Chicago, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Joan Baez, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Jethro Tull.


Japanese Counterculture: The Fleshbombs Second

That was just several aspects of life that the world went through – and where Gekjia was formed. One of big stars of the style and one of Japans most famous manga artists is Miyaya Kazuhiko. As the author of Manga Zombie states:

Miyaya was especially drawn to the image of the downtrodden loser, desperately trying to make a comeback. His fictional heroes and his real-life hero were losers in the end. Just like the Japanese Empire was the loser, in the end. For Miyaya, this was an integral part of the fascination. Like Mishima, he was spellbound by the titanic violence and energy of pre-war and wartime Japan. Like his hero, he searched for some way of focusing that energy and violence on the present day, and reviving it some form - if only on the page. In different ways, both of them paid the price for their delusions. The gekiga in the title of the series Nikudan Gekiga (Fleshbomb Gekiga) is a play on words meaning 'starving to death'. This may be a pointer to Miyaya's state of mind - he believed in illusions, but he knew at the same time that they could never be real. Just like pre-war Japan.

The style he employed was more towards a very graphic and loose model of human structure. His drawings of men were wrinkled, haggard. Strong in looks but weak in the whole structure of things. He borrowed a lot from the literary works of the that time, mostly from in Toyko and Osaka; from such men as Oe Kenzaburō, Haniya Yutaka, Mishima Yukio and Tsukamoto Kunio. Along with the Rolling Stones and John Cotrane his works brought the Gekiga style to a new era.

Manga Zombie author continues…

The savior of gekiga didn't have to wait long to gather a great many disciples around him. The core of the group consisted of artists who worked as his assistants before going independent - Sakaki Masaru and Hiroki Mafuyu. Other gekiga artists like Fukushima Masami and Nakajima Norihiro (both covered elsewhere) were not so directly affected by Miyaya's style, but they were certainly conscious of his work as they drew their own material. For a time, the mags were flooded with wannabe Miyayas. And for a time, Miyaya was up there with Tezuka Osamu, the revered 'god of manga' himself.

Just a side note – Tezuka did three important works during this time that set the stage for manga and anime to come. The first was Buddha. The second being Ode to Kerhetio, and the third was MW. One Anime that did air at this time that was partly from the Gekiga style was Marvelous Melmo – which in turn created a famous trick, the panty shot that is now a part of the whole aspect of the anime realm. Its still one of the most controversial anime series in recent memory – not since Evanglion in 1996 and others in the 2000’s (which lead up to Jikan’s editing in 2008) that there has been a backlash.

Nevertheless, even love can boom in the dark world:

Miyaya's work got a lot more political between 1969 and 1970. This shift was accompanied by a love affair with a woman called Nishiyama Naoe, and this was probably one reason for the change. For Naoe was the daughter of Nishiyama Kōki, a hardline right-winger who had major backroom influence in the political world. Japanese ultra-rightist groups form an underworld of their own, with their famous black 'sound trucks' as their most visible symbol. The trucks still ply the city streets, blaring propaganda and WWII marching songs - with the police turning a blind and fairly sympathetic eye. The movement's foot soldiers are a saddish mix of dropouts, nutcases and members of various downtrodden minorities, but the top brass live comfortable, well-connected lives. Nishiyama pere was one such man, the head of a group called the Shōwa Restoration Union - the idea being that the emperor should take all political power back again. There were lots of radicals before WWII who believed in this idea, and it was sometimes hard to tell the extreme right from the extreme left among them. In the post-war period too, writers like Mishima Yukio found inspiration and food for their obsessions in radical emperor-centered fantasies. It was fairly natural that Miyaya, who was smitten with Mishima, would fall for a woman with Nishiyama Naoe's connections.

However, the path of true love doesn't always run smooth. Naoe's father was incandescent with rage when he heard of the proposed match between his daughter and Miyaya. So, the pair was forced to elope to the large industrial city of Nagoya (think Pittsburgh) in February 1971. (Miyaya covered the story in his autobiographical Like a Rolling Stone (1969) and again in 'Live and Love' (Sirene, 1978). Happily, Nishiyama Senior soon bowed to the inevitable, and wedding bells rang out a few month later. The ceremony was lavish, and the tabloids had a field day. Headlines about the "Gekiga Artist Planning Revolution" and the "Right-wing Big-wig's Daughter" confirmed Miyaya's A-list enfant terrible status.

The marriage made Miyaya a stand out artist. Even some European countercultural magazines, covered the story (it was a part of a longer range based story on Japan’s changing dynamics)

However, as all artists go through – he headed into a slump:

Miyaya kept pushing the limits of the gekiga genre through the mid-seventies. But not all of these works sold well, and gradually he made his style more purely entertaining. This was to keep Naoe and himself in the style they were now accustomed to. One of the outcomes was the series 'Wrestling Circuit: Hell Version' (Puroresu Jikoku Hen), published in 1973 in the mag Gekiga Gendai. It was scripted by Kajiwara Ikki, his writing partner since 1968. As the title suggests, this is another behind-the-scenes look at pro wrestling, based on the life story of the villain Nikkei (ethnic Japanese) wrestler Great Togo. However, Kajiwara just couldn't seem to get the main character both right, and Miyaya bowed out of the series. Although the series continued with a fresh artist called Ishiwata Shūichi, it was eventually pulled.

Miyaya's comment on the failure of the project sounds pretty thin - that he was writing "gekiga for the hard core fans, not hit comics for the masses". This was not the only damage his career suffered around this time. Another series in the mag Gekiga Sunday, which had been developed as a masterpiece, was cut. The series, 'The Geocentric Theory' (Tendōsetsu), was a hardboiled story about a politician's bodyguard versus a right-wing gang out to assassinate his boss. One part of the plot acts as a chilling prophecy of real-life things to come: the gang plans to plant nerve agent on the bullet train. Twenty years later, the religious cult Aum Shinrikyō attacked the Tokyo subway system in the same way, using the nerve gas Sarin.

There is a concept in recent years and its becoming almost a quaint observation: Artist as Prophet. This is nothing new – Edgar Allen Poe did it in his last work, George Orwell did it in 1984, William Gibson in Necromancer. That is a study that must be looked at…

But Miyaya comes up with something big:

The gekiga genre entered its golden age in the late seventies. A string of artists found a forum for their highly experimental work in the youth-oriented Zōkan Young Comic, published by Shonen Gekiga-sha. They included Hirata Hiroshi, Sakaki Masaru, Suzuki Ryosei and Ishii Takashi. They also spread the good word about current underground American artists like Frazetta and Richard Corben. These were legendary times for hard core gekiga fans, who read manga like some kind of new bible.

Needless to say, the folk at Zōkan Young Comic followed Miyaya's career with close interest, and 'Wrestling Circuit: Hell Version' made a big impression. The magazine now gave him a chance to    break out of his ongoing slump by commissioning a three-series Fleshbomb project. The result was his masterpiece, which came out as 'Fleshbomb Life: Onizō's Story' (Nikudan Jinsei Onizō Hen), 'Fleshbomb Life: Resurrected Motherfuckin' Giants Baseball Team' (Nikudan Jinsei Fukkatsu Mamauri Giants) and 'The Fleshbomb Age' (Nikudan Jidai).

Part One - Onizō's story - is a wrestling adventure, but Miyaya's take on the sport is well ahead of its time. This was an age when pro wrestling had a large, fanatical and naïve following. By contrast, Miyaya was one of the first commentators to look at wrestling as a performance art, and to accept that the games were rigged as a matter of course. In a kind of high-octane version of Fight Club, a handsome but third-rate wrestler called Yashagami Ryūzō spends his time out of the ring taking on lions in a series of fights to the death. These underground bouts finally make a superstar of him. (In his looks and career, the hero weirdly foreshadows the real-life career of the wrestler Ōnita Atsushi.)

Speaking of which – there is a book that came out about 10 months ago – that dealt with Chris Benoit and what might have lead him to do the heinous acts he did. It talks about Japan as well, and boy – it’s really, really close to what Fleshbomb Life Onizo’s Story is about(there is another Wrestling manga and it gets really close – almost to the point of maybe the artist was a insider in the wrestling industry back then- to what this book was stating in the Japan side of Chris Benoit’s career). The book is called aptly: Ring of Hell by Matthew Randazzo V – and is available on Amazon and other bookstores of note.

Continued:

Part Two takes us into the world of baseball, hence the title Mamauri Giants - a pun on the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants. The hero, Donoue, is a pitcher (oddly resembling Giant Baba) with a serious problem: he's not confident about his looks or his abilities. This causes him serious problems on the field, until Yashigami Ryūzō - the hero of Part One - takes him in hand. Thanks to Ryūzō's mind control, the wimpy Donoue turns into a ferocious, straight-down-the-line winner, a champion worshipped like a god by the fans.

Indeed, the whole story has a rater trippy, religious feel to it. Ryūzō is an ex-wrestler now able to let his pent-up inner violence really rip; Donoue, as the story progresses, reaches the point where he takes on yakuza in hand-to-hand combat to the death. But when these ultra-violent scenes are being splashed across the page, we find inserts picturing Donoue's state of mind - with the pitcher floating in space, in yoga poses. This probably means that Donoue's mind is now approaching some sort of unity with the divine. But why is he in space? And why the yoga? Maybe it was just the drugs kicking in for Donoue (and Miyaya himself).

This lead into the biggest work Miyaya ever produced:

Part Three of the 'Fleshbomb Life' series was titled 'The Fleshbomb Age' (Nikudan Jidai). It's a form of nightmare, you could say - Miyaya's apocalyptic alternative rendering of Japan's twentieth century, in all its pulverizing violence. The story features a writer called 'M', who resembles Mishima Yukio in more ways than just the initial. He doesn't just look like Mishima. He also leads a fanatical private army much like Mishima's Shield Society - a group of muscular young men bedazzled by the author, who dolled them up in outrageous Captain Scarlet/SS-style uniforms. This time round, M is the mentor figure to a washed-up boxer called Takei Suteo. Under M's guidance he makes a miracle comeback, culminating in a bout against the former World Champion.

Meanwhile, M's private army kidnaps a gaggle of the nation's best and grayest politicians and financiers, forcing them into Tokyo's Budokan arena. There, they're forced to watch the fight of the century - a loser-dies gorefest between Takei and the World Champion. But why, why? M explains that the show is all about "giving some bollocks to a society that's descended to brown-nosing the impossible". Which straightens things up immensely.

One thing does become clear when the revels begin in the ring - Takei has surpassed his mentor to the nth degree. With his back to the wall, the only thing that can save the challenger is his iron will and honed-to-perfection physique. A final last-chance punch finds the champion's jaw, and he drops KO'd to the canvas! At the very same instant, Takei's life deserts him. He's given it his all.

The 'Fleshbomb Life' series brought Miyaya a second round of commercial success, and in this final installment you can see a return to his former radical, experimental style. In terms of his career this was a disaster, and he would later end up on the ropes himself because of it.

Aspects of battle scenes, dramatic endings and so on, were taken from this particular work – into the Kinnuman Anime – Dragon Ball Z, Fist of the North Star; multitudes of other Shohen/Seinen anime and  OVA’s. Those aspects later became integrated in later American series such as Gargoyles, The 1990’s versions of the Superman and Batman animated franchises, TMNT  2k3 and so on. They also entered the Video Game world, Via Devil May Cry, Street Fighter Series, Metal Gear Solid and Xenogears.

However, Miyaya got divorced. Naoe was out of his life. He became isolated and drew more manga dealing with it. He continued to write about his past – about the love that got away. He entered more and more into depression but still kept a reality. In the end he was left out:

For good or ill, the old radicalism of the sixties - with its heavy overtones of machismo - was on the way out. New critiques like postmodernism and feminism moved center-stage. What emerged from the wreckage was the otaku cult, trapped in the endless apocalypse of the everyday. The otaku set off on a vector away from the body and from heartache, in quest of the perfect fantasy image of safety: the pubescent computer-graphic idol. Left high and dry, the gekiga mags changed course or died. Such were the eighties.

Miyaya followed his own extremist path to the end of the line. However, his narcissism led him back toward himself. In addition, now he got there, he saw something that even he could not draw. The implosion was magnificent.

That is the story of the majority of the baby boomers who were in the artistic milieu. Many of them (after the 1970’s) imploded, while others made the 80’s an interesting time to behold. By the 90’s they were gaining power and making money hand over fist. A counterculture without them was no culture at all. They stopped it at its tracks. This is what pretty much happened to most of the artistic industries in that twenty-year period. It is a sad end.

But, maybe he has a little spark left:

Still Miyaya soldiers on in some unknown location, despite his divorce and rumors of his death. He has announced that he's still working, and storing up material for future publication. When I heard that, I was overjoyed in a simple, straightforward way. Hope at last for Fleshbomb gekiga! But at the same time I wondered why Miyaya has kept going in this extremely difficult genre. What is he going to draw now that Naoe's out of the picture?

This generation needs to hear it – now more than ever.

Next Up – Hell Boy to Death Note...and Ge Ge Ge... and other ghosts of note.

Until Then, this is

NovidAnon

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Here is a new version of a series of works I like to call Reality Series - something I do over at Cartoon Electro (The first of these is Star Ocean) its based on a Idea from the TV Tabloid "The Insider" in where on a 5 day period they focus on a certain topic (not on like newspapers used to do).
One reason I created this account (or should we say WE the unmentionable of the Internet) was because there is a certain culture - call it the ECW Mutants, or what have you that fall through the cracks of the society that through out most of its history has been in the hands of those who felt humanity were nothing more than cattle - now more than ever.

The whole mass of humanity got the first taste of Anime back in the early 60's - Through shows like Astro Boy, Gigantor and what not. But the whole counter culture life style of the United States was being felt all over the world, Paris was burning in 68, so was Italy - Britain was going through the mod era as most of asia was embroiled in war.

Japan, in the mean while - was going through one of its several counter cultural and sexual revolutions. (go buy the game Yakuza and play it to the end you will see what I mean), and from 1968 to 1981 the manga and anime business went through a time of immense change.

One of the major changes was a style called Gekiga, and its effect on both sides of the industry are still being felt today, but not in the way that certain critical scholars and authors believe it should be. 

In 2007, Comic Press posted parts of a book called Manga Zombie - the book took a look at artists that were at best mishandled by the leaders of the manga world. In this ongoing series, Virtuous Queen will take a look at the book, what effect these series had on others and why i think the Gekiga style needs and should be the corner stone of Anime and Manga...

Japanese Counterculture: The Fleshbombs 


These were the dark days son. The real shit. The good shit. The shit you missed out on. 

Or, not really missed out on because they live in different ways. 

In the 1970's there was an artist by the name of Fukushima Masami, and he created several manga - one called "The Rapist Monk" the other being "Slasher Nun" and one called "Saint Muscle". According to the author of Manga Zombie about "Slasher Nun" :

The Slasher Nun started life as the heroine of a picaresque tale of derring-do, set in the stirring days of the Meiji Period. This was a clamorous age between 1868 and 1912 when feudal Japan opened itself up to western influences, good bad and indifferent. The tale is set just north of Tokyo, in the yakuza mafia underground. The heroine, Onatsu, is abandoned by her Mafioso husband, who wants to further his nefarious career. Justifiably upset, she slashes him to death and, child in tow, embarks on a pious new career of her own - as the death-dealing Slasher Nun. The resulting heady brew graced the pages of the well-known artistic magazine Manga Comic, under the title Hitokiri Ama. (This work is technically classified as a gekiga, a hardboiled genre with higher production values and artistic input per page than a typical manga.)

However, this was just the beginning. A run-off version of the manga in book form takes things a stage further. Here, the Slasher Nun sports a three-fingered claw for a right hand, and comes from a hidden community of deformed villagers. 'Slasher Nun' is already developing what we have to hail as the Masami Touch: a forceful blend of disturbing women and grotesque villains, a twinning of beauty and cruelty. In his preface to the book, Fukushima declared: "I only went into manga to make money. The manga is all. The artist doesn't matter."

This nun, is a proto version of several recent series most especially Murder Princess

He also talks about "The Rapist Monk": 

The hero is a mysterious monk called Ryusui, battling the powers that be on a personal quest to break through to true Buddhism. He is Brother Ryusui, and always surrounded by many woman. Maybe he is practicing the Diamond Sutra in the true sense of the word. Because he justifies murder if it helps turn his ideals into reality.

Part I is set in the early 1800s. In Japan this was a decadent age. It was clear that the shogun's regime was starting to crumble. The monk Ryusui walks the land from one end to another spreading poison wherever he goes, in a study of the aesthetic of evil. When corrupt officials try to crush the people's sexual drives, Ryusui chants the Sutra of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy - and sends the bad guys packing with his supernatural powers.

Part II is set in a prime nerve center of the Japanese erotic imagination - O-oku, or the shogun's harem, a strictly girls-only space (except for the shogun, of course) in the bowels of Edo Castle. Time has moved on, and the government is now in a state of ever-accelerating collapse. Ryusui makes his entry and takes the fight to the shogun's chief counselor Ii Naosuke. With the collusion of the grand harem mistress Himekoji, he kills the head counselor and seizes power behind the scenes. However, his real target is Edo Castle itself, and the shogun's court.

The plot now careers from (kind of) historically accurate to wild fantasy. Two real-life characters appear as fellow-conspirators against the shogun: Saigo Takamori, a fiery samurai radical, and Katsu Kaishū, the shogun's wily naval commander. Ryusui joins their grouping. (In western terms, this would be something along the lines of the Incredible Hulk teaming up with Jimmy Hoffa and the CIA to assassinate Kennedy.) And together, they do it! The shogunate is overthrown, and the way to a New Japan is opened. At which point Ryusui is confronted with a new enemy - a savage brain-sucking barbarian by the name of Boolliver. They fight. To the death. We last glimpse the victorious Ryusui disappearing into the flaming depths of Edo Castle...

Ryusui comes back to life for Part III, which is set in the late 1800s. Japan is now open and westernizing rapidly, which gives the hero a new set of opponents. Among them is the "Merchant of Death" Iwasaki Yataro, founder of Mitsubishi, and the real-life Scottish merchant Thomas Glover, who was on the scene in Nagasaki at the same time.

The finale sees Ryusui back in Tokyo, bent on overthrowing the government yet again. Crashing a waltz gathering of Japan's new elite at the Rokumeikan dance hall, he faces the ghost of the grand harem mistress Himekoji in the ultimate showdown...

The changeover from feudal to modern Japan was a real event, and a real revolution. The fictional character Ryusui's ultimate aim is to keep the cycle of revolution spinning until it hits anarchy. Hell opens up all around him on his journey through the story. But it doesn't feel like a tragedy - more like a heart-stopping dash through great danger to a new world. Created by some earthshaking, chaotic Power.

Sounds fun, dont it - remind you of something folks? 

To take a little aside the fleshbomb style never really went way - it was transmuted - from series like Muscle (Kininuman and Kiniuman Nisei which aired in the US as Ultimate Muscle) to Street Fighter - which used a lot of the Gekiga artistry in its very early ears, to the one manga every man should read - Berserk which is the last of the great Gekiga and that was influenced by Guin Saga, which is the Japanese version of the Conan series. The fleshbomb style is also seen in another great work called Fist of the North Star. Yall know that one. Yall should know that one. But these works were somewhat close but not as extreme (exceptions being Berserk and Fist of the North Star) to Slasher Nun, Saint Muscle or Prince Shotoku (which is very screwy because the whole work is almost a version of the Babylon story of Gigiamish) 

So, what happened to this man?

From 1978, Fukushima went into a severe slump. Even when his name appeared on magazine covers, there was no sign of his manga inside. Friends like the songwriter Nakanishi Rei held events like the Come On Fukushima! Party, but the creative juices just weren't flowing any more. He published a few works over the following years - 'Love-hate Sisters' (Aien Shimai) and 'Scorpion Nun' (Sasori Ama) - but they lacked his old power. Running in the magazine Young Comic, the series 'Isaac's Ark' (Isaku no Hakobune) was canceled in mid-series in 1980. This began a decade of silence for Fukushima, broken only in 1990 with the book 'Resurrection Crest' (Yomigaeru Monshō). Then the silence began again.

Such is fate. A Fleshbomb manga artist like Fukushima is pretty much bound for destruction. Drawing at the extremes he went to would warp anybody. But the manga scene without him has suffered a sharp, severe temperature drop. I first started searching for Fukushima in person in 1995. The night before I started I had a dream about him, covered in blood, screaming Pay me, if you want to know about me! I got as far as his ex-wife, a music teacher in Saitama (near Tokyo). She assured me that her ex-husband was on the verge of a comeback. I believed her, and the Fukushima Renaissance Cult was born at that moment. The mission: bringing back total manga, affirming the entire range of humanity, good and bad. It developed far beyond my imagination. As The Rapist Monk puts it "Extremism makes miracles".

But....

Just as I was screaming "Coooooooooome Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!" (in the 1997 edition of Manga Zombie) - whaddya know? A gaggle of publishers were thinking along the same lines. As a result, Ohta Publishing Co. brought out a reissue of 'Saint Muscle' to healthy sales. The following year, Suiseisha published my survey work Fringe Culture, which covered Fukushima Masami among others. So, interest in this artist was definitely on the rise again at this time - at least among a few offbeat sections of the media. When - gasp! - the maestro himself got in touch with Ohta Publishing, in July of 1998. Meaning I got to meet him, along with one of Ohta's editorial staff. Unfortunately, he never divulged the real reason he'd remained silent for over a decade. But he did let us know he was planning a comeback. (The interview was published in the magazine Quick Japan.)

Another Fukushima manga run by a Kodansha mag fared even worse. Comic Afternoon dropped 'Super-Citizen F' (Chō-shimin F) after a single episode. Fukushima just couldn't seem to take his chances and turn them into achievements. Why not? No doubt there are a million reasons, but the heart of the problem is that Fukushima couldn't produce anything to beat his earlier creations, like 'San Muscle' and 'The Rapist Monk'. His whole style changed after 1978 - more delicate lines, more female leads. He was trying to negate his earlier work, and if anything that was the ultimate cause of his repeated slumps afterwards. Violence and supermuscles were the whole essence of where his art was coming from.

He must have realized this himself, because 'The Rapist Monk Returns' (Nyohanbō Returns) marked a real comeback of his earlier style. The series made its abrupt appearance in Sasuperia, a porn mag not on sale in general bookstores. As the title suggests, 'The Rapist Monk Returns' follows the modern-day adventures of the resurrected hero Ryusui. The series got a lot of attention from people in the scene, but sadly the magazine itself failed to survive the year.

All is not doom and gloom in the Fukushima camp, however. The third reprint of 'San Muscle' came out at the end of 2006 to good reviews. And it seems to me that - at long last - Fukushima Masami has got a handle on what kind of work he should be drawing. As of now (2007), he's in the process of working up his next manga. I expect lots of supermuscles, lots of violence...

There are many others that followed his style - these series will take a look at time in the coming weeks and months. Until then - 

Novid Anon

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