Virtuous Queen: Episode Two - The Gekiga Style (Ongoing series)

Topic started by NovidAnon on Feb. 4, 2009. Last post by NovidAnon 5 years, 7 months ago.
Post by NovidAnon (82 posts) See mini bio Level 6
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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