Title: Gekiman (激マン) Lit: Hardcore-Man
Serialized in: Shukan Manga Goraku, 2010-present
Art and story by: Nagai Go and Dynamic Pro
Genre: Respect knuckles essay manga
What it's about:
1972 saw Japan riveted to the television in fear and revulsion. The United Red Army marched into homes with a marathon broadcast of the Asama-Sanso Incident, followed by the Lod Airport massacre in Tal Aviv. Yokoi Shoichi, a WWII holdout, returned home alive “with much embarrassment” after slinking in the jungles of Guam for nearly 20 years. And America had re-launched its mass bombings of Vietnam. If your job is to create dynamic, provocative imagery, how do you compete with the classic, chilling photograph of children running mortified from the acrid smoke of napalm death?
If you were Nagai Go, you’d start with something like this:
Why it’s awesome:
The man clawed his way up, and now that he’s at the top, he’s stretching his hand back down to help others make the climb.
The credits on the cover would lead you to believe that manga is one-man show, but in reality a successful author is more factory foreman than artist, juggling a team of talent to take care of everything from inking to backgrounds to character designs and even story development! Nagai Go has always been up front with crediting his team, Dynamic Pro, and with Gekiman he throws back the curtain to reveal each member, their artistic contribution to the big picture, and how hopelessly screwed he would be without all of them storming ahead at full steam every single day.
Nagai Go’s development as an author mirrors the evolution of the medium. Cheap gag comics got the ball rolling and paved the way for character-driven story manga, which widened the playing field, allowing experience-centric essay manga to drive in a wedge and stake their claim. Though not in a position to usurp the throne, essay manga have been gradually picking up steam by combining the timing of gag manga and the narrative techniques of story manga. Oishinbo, My Darling is a Foreigner, and A Drifting Life are all excellent examples of the variety within the genre. With Gekiman, Nagai Go admits that the greatest story he has left to tell is the facts surrounding his fiction.
Why it won’t come out in America:
I’m sure many readers of the blog are familiar with the Devilman anime, but let’s see a show of hands from those of you that have read the actual manga. And I don’t mean the nostril-augmented monstrosity, Shin-Devilman, released by Danzig and Verotix. Scanlations don’t count either. That leaves either you who sluthed out the bilingual edition (Japan only, naturally), or those that hunkered down with the original moon language. In either case, it means you were forced to jump through flaming hoops for the privilege to read a cornerstone of the medium that should be readily available!
It’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy keeping Nagai Go's works quarantined to Japan.
Bone-crunching fight scenes, snot-nosed adolescents piloting giant robots, smutty hijinks rendered innocent by their sincerity—Japan’s greatest cultural products, both domestic and international, were first manufactured by Nagai Go and Dynamic Pro, but the profits for exports went straight to his predecessors. It’s a damn shame that the West has systematically been denied the chance to know the genesis behind its favorite “original” stories.
I wonder if Iwaashi Hitoshi would blush if you pointed out Parasyte is Devilman with tree hugging instead of nuclear war. Or if Miura Kentaro would openly admit that, yes, Guts and Griffith are essentially Akira and Ryo. I’m sure Anno Hideaki would break into a cold sweat if you showed him a side-by-side comparison of The End of Evangelion and Devilman's devise final scenes.
There’s a tacit understanding that no idea is truly original, and that it doesn’t matter where you got something, but where you take it. Still, credit earned is credit due. The class of authors inspired by Devilman will be remembered for their contributions to the next generation of manga-ka, while the man who laid the foundation they built their carnival tents on will be disregarded as embarrassingly old hat within a generation. And saddest of all, the West never had a chance to pick him up before unceremoniously dropping him with the recognition he deserved.