OLD SCHOOL/NEW SCHOOL
It's old school/new school time again on Manga Island, just as school lets out across the country and on the Island itself (my wife just graduated with her Masters and so we have time to catch up on things that have washed ashore on all parts of Manga Island!). One of my favorite books from the days when ComicsOne was still around, "Wild 7" called to me again this week as well as new horror manga in the form of newly released translations from the "Ju-On" series.
"Wild 7" for me has always been old school manga and anime at its crazy best. I was first exposed to the series through the OAV (Original Video Animation) series in the 90s, and was very happy when the now defunct ComicsOne took a chance translating the manga from the late 60s/early 70s. "Wild 7" is steeped in over the top violence and adventure that fueled many comics of the era, such as "Golgo 13" and the more violent action scenes in "Speed Racer" (Mach Go Go Go). In fact, the live action adaptation was so violent, it was taken off the air due to protests from the Japanese PTA, despite being fairly successful ratings-wise. The manga continued for 48 volumes in Japan, and spawned the aforementioned OAV series, as well as two live action series (one in the 1970s, and another in 2002). It is another classic example of adult shonen/seinen action
The theme of "Wild 7" is one that never gets old in manga and anime. A team of skilled outlaws striking out against criminals when the government is powerless to stop rampant crime has been done many times. However, a team of motorcyclists with sidecar missiles, bikes that can go in reverse, teamed up with a director working secretly from inside the bureaucracy, now that is Manga! The "Wild 7" team is a diverse collection of ruffians, including a hip young delinquent leader (guaranteed to pull in the older teen guy crowd of the era), a hippy anti-occupation militant, a baseball player who was nabbed for breach of contract (?), a former yakuza boss, a knife throwing ex-circus performer, a former chef and drug manufacturer, and rounding out the team is an explosives expert charged with weapons manufacturing. Their boss, Kusanami, is a maverick, fed up with a system that allows criminals to go free too easily, and so he enlists the team to do whatever it takes to take down mobsters and other criminals who blatantly flaunt the fact they are above the law. Whether they are taking out bank robbers, mob bosses with skyscraper fortresses or biker gangs dressed s knights (complete with jousting lance sidecars!) the Wild 7 team does so with more than enough explosions and bloodshed. It makes me wonder what teens who grew up on Wild 7 must have thought if they say the antithesis to this violent drama, the similar, but squeaky clean "A-Team."
The art in Wild 7 is probably one of the reasons that the book is a hard sell in today's manga market of slick new anime styled characters. It is also another reason why, as an old school fan, I am drawn to it. Mikiya Mochizuki's style is firmly rooted the 60s and 70s manga aesthetic of fast paced, often rubber looking characters who bend and twist depending on how extreme the action is in each panel. Even vehicles are somewhat malleable in Mochizuki's world, a trait often seen in other books by such legendary manga-ka as Tezuka and Monkey Punch. The panels in "Wild 7" tend to be a bit busy, but there is almost always action on every page. Mochizuki's action sequences are the driving force behind the manga, and there are some great pieces in the first volume alone! On their motorcycles or off, the Wild 7 team is a force to be reckoned with, and page after page delivers criminal busting, smash-em up action.
"Wild 7" is technically out of print, but is available all over the internet, and in discount book stores and some local comic shops with decent manga sections. It's great action adventure for those who want gritty vigilante action. While the lines aren't as stock and polished as "Sin City," fans of those books, the Dirty Dozen, and other works in this genre should get a kick out of the seven volumes that were produced before ComicsOne went under. Although the books are flipped from their original right to left reading style, and some of the names are changed from the original (their leader, Hiba remains the same, while the character Hebopi is renamed "Hippy Tom"), overall the presentation is solid and crisp. For action comics fans, it's well worth putting in your comics library, or at the very least picking up and reading for the sheer motorcycle vigilante craziness contained within.
On the new school front, we have the ever popular "Ju-On" series handled by Dark Horse Comics. Although some of the Asian Horror furor has died down in Hollywood, the manga releases are still going strong for this franchise and others. There seem to be a lot of new horror titles coming out recently, although many of them lack the slick polished creepiness of the "Ju-On" (The Grudge) series.
Both "Ju-On: Video Side" and "Ju-On 2" are adapted from the original stories by Takashi Shimizu, by Miki Rinno and Meimu respectively. While the art styles and flavor of each story differ, they both retain the creepy unrelenting feel of the "Ju-On" legacy complete with creepy kids, black cats, and blood drenched twists and turns.
"Ju-On: Video Side" is a tale that takes place not long after the events of the first "Ju-On" movie. A new family has moved into the house, even though they know that the price may be too good to be true. When the real estate agent (and family friend) that sold them the house meets a grisly fate, the grudge the house has against the living begins anew.
Following the "Ju-On" tradition, there are plenty of flashbacks and events happening simultaneously, with actions that overlap and reveal more and more of the story as the book progresses. It's gruesome and creepy, but not as stark and cold as the "Ju-On 2" manga. "Ju-On 2" build on the "Video Side" story and mentions the events in that book, but with a new slant. In "Ju-On 2"the protagonist is a horror movie queen, who takes the job of appearing in a made for television special about the cursed house. The fact that she is in the early stages of pregnancy heightens the creepy kid/ scary mom factor even more, especially in the parts of the book that deal with her childhood. Like the other "Ju-On" stories, one of the most horrific twists is that the ghosts aren't just complacent with attacking people who are in the house, but they can lash out against anyone who has had some connection with the cursed domicile, even friends and acquaintances of the residents or visitors. This sets the series apart from other haunted house sagas, and adds an air of dread not seen in other entries to the genre. Knowing that creepy kid and his mom can show up anywhere sets an ominous tone, where the next victim is only a chance meeting away.
Miki Rinno's "Ju-on: Video Side" is fairly typical in style, but sports some truly gruesome sequences. Always with a flair for originality, one such sequence involves a gang of domestic cats (led by the revenge filled black cat that finally gets an attack in) that is not for the squeamish. The aftermath of this attack is even more grisly than the event itself. Meimu's "Ju-On 2" is more realistic and starker in its representation of the "Ju-on" world. The mom and kid ghosts are even more affected and gruesome, and the stark realism and expanded story telling sequences follow more closely to the original movie in my opinion, with a twist that I hadn't quite expected. This, along with the mirroring themes of horror and the mother daughter theme, led to me prefer "Ju-On 2" to "Ju-On:Video Side." But if you are looking for summer chills to beat the heat, both are worthy of your time.
The summer looks like it will be hot here on Manga Island, especially on the manga release front, so come back regularly for doses of old school, new school, and manga and manga influenced books from all over. I plan on heating things up as well with more interviews from creators and the companies that have given us our manga fix for many years. I am gearing up to give make this summer as monster sized as possible! Also, if you are visiting A-Kon, in Dallas June 9th through 11th, I hope to see you there and talk manga and anime (and of course Psy-Comm) with anyone who wants to join in. It should be a blast!
Rating: Older Teen/Mature (Extremely Violent and Brutal)
"Ju-On: Video Side""Ju-On 2"
Volumes 1 of 1 (each)
Rating: Mature (Grisly Violence, and lots of it!)
Tony Salvaggio has been a fan of anime and manga from an early age. He has been an animator in the video games industry and is currently co-writing an original graphic novel for Tokyopop, PSY-COMM Volume 1 is out RIGHT NOW!!. He regularly hosts anime and Japanese related shows in Austin and his passion for all things anime and manga related is only excelled by his quest to become King of the Monsters.