KAGEMARU manga covers

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 2

kagemaru08.jpg

Mitsuteru Yokoyama is probably the second most prolific creator of crossover ninja properties next to Shirato Sanpei. Both Kagemaru of Iga and Masked Ninja Akakage expanded from their pulp roots to multiple incarnations in anime and live action film/television.

kagemaru02.jpg

I’m sure every kid in 1960’s Japan wanted to be Kagemaru – the whirlwind-summoning teen of Iga. But for me, it’s Yokoyama’s rogues gallery of villains that shows the true originality of character design. For what it’s worth, I actually dislike the unhooded Kagemaru as a design… But I do love that angular hood when he masks up!

kagemaru05.jpg

kagemaru04.jpg

kagemaru07.jpg

kagemaru10.jpg

LOTS more of these coming, stay tuned…

kagemaru03.jpg

Osamu Tezuka’s ninja

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 0

It’s ComiCon week here in SoCal, so I’ll be posting a lot of manga and comics stuff over the next few days. We’ll start things with the king – the emperor? – the ultimate genius?  Hmm, I just don’t have the art theory vocabulary to do Osamu Tezuka justice, so I won’t even try.

So here’s a cover and splash page from his 1960 manga Ore wa Sarutobi da! (I Am Sarutobi!), a re-imagining of shinobi kid’s hero Sarutobi Sasuke:

tesuka2

tezuka1

Special thanks to Eddie Mort!

Airborne combat in LEGEND OF KAMUI

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 1

With the movie pending, I’m re-reading and re-loving Shirato Sanpei‘s second run of Kamui manga. The godfather of ninja comics debuted the character in 1964, then re-imagined the property as a more grown up and severe manga in the 80’s. Kamui Gaiden was a critical and financial hit, crossed-over into anime, and inspired the live action film coming this year. Eclipse Comics made history when they published a 37 issue run in the U.S. as The Legend of Kamui: A Genuine Ninja Story – the first such importation of a Japanese title to our shores.

Here are some terrific combat panels from that run. Sanpei really had a knack for movement, and loved these leaping and tumbling attacks. Despite the amount of dynamic action, you can still ‘read’ what is happening, clearly see the techniques at work and how the killing blows are delivered. Aspiring artists have plenty to learn here:

moneyshot1.jpg

moneyshot2.jpg

moneyshot3.jpg

moneyshot4.jpg

moneyshot5.jpg

moneyshot6.jpg

moneyshot7.jpg

moneyshot8.jpg

moneyshot9.jpg

moneyshot10.jpg

The grocery list of things I love about this series is long indeed. Kamui is the archetypal skilled loner on the run, trying to leave behind his warrior life but needing those resented skills to survive constant pursuit. It’s a great structure, and over it Sanpei laid some emotionally challenging stories. You could never get too attached to a character, never too comfortable with a setting.

I also love characters with limited arsenals used in increasingly innovative ways. Kamui’s signature short sword and reverse grip technique dispatched 90% of his enemies. A few kunai or shuriken here or there, sometimes a grapple line, were pretty much it.

Eclipse released 37 issues total, starting in 1987. It was late in the ninja craze here, and rarely did the signature black suit appear on covers, so the title may have failed to find the audience it deserved. These gems can be found cheap on eBay, even in complete runs.

51axyuvez8l

The first translated story arc, an incredible parable of struggling fishermen and the inescapability of one’s destined trade, was later collected into two trade paperbacks by VIZ, with reduced art. I prefer the originals, which often had liner notes on the historical subject matter or the artist’s craft.

Visionary character design

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 4

Mining through various Japanese fan blogs brings about two things in me:

1.) I soooo wish I could read kanji…

and

2.) I find amazing scans of vintage manga covers, like the below!

I believe these are all by the godfather of ninja manga Shirato Sanpei. Absolutely awesome.

futari.jpg

ninjasenpuh_zanngetunomaki.jpg

kazenoisimaru2.jpg

okite.jpg

kdc002.jpg
Check out the line-up of ninja thugs in back - I love that bent angled hood design.

Any Japanese readers wanting to send translations of these covers, especially if an artist is listed, we’ll reward you handsomely.

Path of the Assassin, we’ll miss you…

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 0

13538

Koike and Kojima’s astounding Path of the Assassin has ended with volume 15, released last month from Dark Horse Comics. To say the abrupt ending is unsatisfying would be an understatement, have to wonder if this was cancelled in Japan prematurely back in the day. Doesn’t seem like a deliberate, or strategic, ending from either an editorial or emotional point-of-view.

I’m really going to miss this series, but one advantage to a series of graphic novels with a terminus is people tend to put their used collections up on eBay and Craigslist, so it’s a great opportunity to score it as a complete set if you don’t already own it all.

Adios Hanzo…

Read some nice volume-by-volume reviews here.

13524

1 3 4 5 6