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Hotaro Ishinomori

Monday 28th January 2013

Matt Kamen argues the case for Shotaro Ishinomori

Hotaro IshinomoriThere are two creators who have had a truly indelible impact on Japanese media. One is Osamu Tezuka, the “God of Manga”, a title earned for having essentially invented the modern art of Japanese comics in the aftermath of World War II. The second is Shotaro Ishinomori, Tezuka’s one-time protégé, whose own influence on the medium would earn him recognition as the “King of Manga”.

Born in 1938 in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, Shotaro Onodera – his early pen name ‘Ishimori’ was an editor’s error in 1959, and was changed again in 1986 – began pitching ideas to manga publishers from as young as 12. His first published work came at age 16, illustrations for the fable ‘The Tale of the Hare with Fox’s Tail’, which lead to his debut manga ‘Second-Class Angel’. Onodera’s work drew the attention of Tezuka, who took him on as a studio assistant, chiefly working on Astro Boy.

It proved a close collaboration, with the younger man’s style becoming comparable to his teacher’s. In 1964, Ishimori debuted what would become his first breakout success, Cyborg 009. An action series centred on nine humans who were transformed into superpowered cybernetic organisms by the evil Black Ghost organisation, it boasted an international cast and dealt with heavy material, from racism to civil rights. The enduring popularity of the series has lead to three television and four film adaptations over the past five decades (most recently the 2012 CGI movie Re: 009-Cyborg, directed by Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’s Kenji Kamiyama).

The series also marked the beginning of what would become Ishimori’s main creative focus – superheroes. Where Tezuka was Japan’s answer to Walt Disney, Ishimori was more like Stan Lee, both blessed with a talent for creating seemingly countless heroes that resonated with audiences. And, like Stan Lee explaining the origins of the early Marvel pantheon with some variation on radiation, Ishimori’s creations often shared similar roots of being ‘kaizou ningen’, or ‘transformed humans’ – cyborgs.

1966’s Rainbow Sentai Robin followed, starring another group of enhanced heroes defending Earth from aliens, the animated series becoming one of the earliest super-teams to be adapted for Japanese TV. Although Ishimori’s works were already phenomenally popular by this point, it was a meeting with Toei Creative Producer Toru Hirayama that would lead to the creation of arguably his greatest creative legacy.

Hotaro IshinomoriHirayama was on the hunt for a new tokusatsu (live action special effects dramas) to replace the recently concluded Giant Robo. After meeting with Ishimori and hashing out ideas, a hero provisionally named CrossFire was developed and production was about to begin on a TV show – until Ishimori changed his mind. Wanting to create something darker and more mature, at last minute he pushed for an adaptation of his horror-themed anti-hero Skull Man. Considered too dark and cerebral for a child audience, the look and origins of this character were modified, giving rise to the original Kamen Rider.

Premiering in April 1971, Ishimori’s latest cyborg hero fought the terrorist organisation Shocker. Takeshi Hongo – played by stuntman Hiroshi Fujioka – was to have been the latest unwilling recruit to the group’s personal army, having been kidnapped and painfully augmented but escaping before being finally brainwashed. Choosing to use his new abilities to fight against his former captors, Hongo’s crusade saw him fight a parade of monsters as he sought the downfall of Shocker. The series was a massive success, running a whopping 98 episodes and even surviving a change in lead actors from episodes 14-52 after Fujioka suffered an injury during recording.

In the wake of Kamen Rider came Android Kikaider (1972), Inazuman and Robot Detective (both 1973), Akumaizer 3 and Secret Task Force GoRanger (1975) amongst others, all created with Ishimori’s involvement, some based on his manga works, others original television creations. Both Kamen Rider and the Super Sentai series – of which GoRanger was the first – persist to this day, reinvented each year with new concepts and ideas. Both have been adapted for the west, with Super Sentai in particular enjoying considerable success under the Power Rangers moniker.

This month marks two anniversaries for the legendary creator – 25th January is the 75th anniversary of Ishinomori’s birth; 28th January the 15th of his death. A host of his original manga series are available from digital comic store comixology.com, including his original Skull Man one-shot, Kamen Rider, Inazuman and Cyborg 009. Take a look and see for yourself why the great creator’s influence is still felt in Japanese pop culture today.


Akira (the Collector\'s Edition) Triple Play Edition (incl. Blu-ray, Dvd, Digital Copy)

was £29.99
Iconic and game-changing, Akira is the definitive anime masterpiece! Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark cyberpunk classic obliterated the boundaries of Japanese animation and forced the world to look into the future. Akira’s arrival shattered traditional thinking, creating space for movies like The Matrix to be dreamed into brutal reality.

Neo-Tokyo, 2019. The city is being rebuilt post World War III when two high school drop outs, Kaneda and Tetsuo stumble across a secret government project to develop a new weapon - telekinetic humans. After Tetsuo is captured by the military and experimented on, he gains psychic abilities and learns about the existence of the project's most powerful subject, Akira. Both dangerous and destructive, Kaneda must take it upon himself to stop both Tetsuo and Akira before things get out of control and the city is destroyed once again. 
AKIRA The Collector’s Edition features both the original 1988 Streamline English dub and the 2001

Pioneer/Animaze English dub!



Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.

Akira's Ancestors

Andrew Osmond on the unexpected forerunners of Neo-Tokyo
In Akira’s opening moments, a sphere of white light appears from nowhere in the centre of Tokyo, and swells to obliterate the city. Many Western critics saw the image as a symbol of the Bomb, like the earlier Japanese pop-culture icon, Godzilla. But the designer apocalypse could be taken as Akira’s own mission statement – to be a new kind of entertainment, blowing away its peers and reshaping the cinema landscape.

The Impact of Akira

Andrew Osmond reviews the reviews from 20 years ago.
On its explosive arrival in the West, Akira crossed the Pacific to catch the generation that grew up on the films of Spielberg and Lucas; it was also the generation that read adult superhero strips such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Akira, though, offered the shock-and-awe widescreen violence akin to that of enfant terrible live-action director, Paul Verhoeven. For example, both Akira and Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) have a gory money-shot scene in their early minutes, in which a luckless bit-part player is graphically torn apart by a hail of bullets. Unsurprisingly, such imagery excited reviewers.

Akira 25th Anniversary Screenings

Your chance to see it in the cinema in the UK
Neo-Tokyo is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E. Katsuhiro Otomo’s debut animated feature AKIRA had its Japanese premiere on 16th July 1988. We are very proud to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of what is undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated animated movies of all time. Voted by Empire readers as one of the top 100 best films ever and cited by everyone from James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Daft Punk and Kanye West as a massive influence on their work, AKIRA kick-started the anime business all over the world, opening the doors for everything from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke.

The Art of Akira

Joe Peacock tracks down the original images from the anime classic
Watching Akira for the first time provokes a universal reaction of awe. And justifiably so: there’s often an overwhelming sense among audiences that this animated film is unlike any other they’ve ever seen. Casual viewers won’t be able to put their finger on it; they just know that Akira is visually striking. Art and illustration aficionados appreciate the intricacy of individual scenes, sometimes pausing the film to appreciate the detail in a particular frame.

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.


Giovanni's Island

Jonathan Clements on this season’s classy anime feature
Ever willing to poke around in the interstices of history for children’s stories of the war, the Japanese animation industry alights here on the true story of Hiroshi Tokuno, on whose life story this film is partly based.

Naruto Music: tacica

Tom Smith on Naruto’s newest song.
Japanese duo Tacica won’t be winning the Manga UK Blog award for most original song title anytime soon, mostly because no such award exists. But if it did, they still wouldn’t win. Especially not with the title of their hit single and Naruto Shippuden opener, Newsong.
December’s here and it’s time to start thinking about gifts and stocking fillers for your nearest and dearest, or maybe just what to put on your own Christmas list!

Fairy Tail Music: Idoling!!!

Tom Smith on the music to part nine
Even without the tie-in with anime, Idoling!!! had had a strong presence on television. After all, the group were created by a bunch of media moguls from Fuji TV. They figured out that by appealing to two of Japan’s more dedicated entertainment fangroups, idol fans and TV junkies, that they could be on to a winner.

Bleach Music: Vivid

Tom Smith on the band behind the 14th opening
Together they formed Vivid, the visual kei band responsible for “Blue”, the 14th opening to Bleach, and a band which stopped all activity last month, disappearing just weeks before their track would appear in the latest UK release of Bleach.
Animatsu Entertainment is proud to announce that the highly anticipated live-action feature Attack on Titan: Part 1 will be released in UK cinemas from 1st December.

Tales of Vesperia Cosplay: Yuri Lowell

Paul Jacques finds an Imperial Knight at the Birmingham Comic Con
Melissa Joy dresses as Yuri Lowell, the Imperial Knight from Tales of Vesperia. Justice!

Fairy Tail Music: Jamil

Tom Smith on Fairy Tail’s 8th Opening Theme
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a fair chance that the idea of visiting Japan has crossed your mind a few times. American-born Jamil Abbas Kazmi had a similar thought, though he wanted to take it one step further by establishing a career out there.
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