Virtuous Queen Episode Three: The Gekiga Style (Ongoing Series)

Topic started by NovidAnon on Feb. 18, 2009. Last post by NovidAnon 5 years, 7 months ago.
Post by NovidAnon (82 posts) See mini bio Level 6

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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