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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mabudachi Jingi: Short & Simple, but a Nice Start

Time for another Masami Kurumada mini manga review! Last time, I looked at Aoi Tori no Shinwa, a prologue to what would have likely been a crazy baseball title if it didn't end at only two chapters. This time, though, we're going back to the past and taking a look at a 1978 one-shot, done during the serialization of Ring ni Kakero.

While doing Ring ni Kakero for Shonen Jump Masami Kurumada also made a couple of one-shots: 1978's Mabudachi Jingi/True Friend Duty & 1979's Shiro Obi Taisho/White Belt General. During the serialization of Fuma no Kojirou, Shueisha released these two one-shots, as well as the first six chapters of Sukeban Arashi from it's initial irregular run, into one single book using the Mabudachi Jingi name. As of this post only Jingi has been scanlated, so let's take a look at this 44-page one-shot.

Kintarou Oodera, Kin for short, may not be tall, but he's easily the toughest kid in his school, and when people need him to fend off students from rival school Kamedama High he's usually ready to help out... All the more so when his best friend Sada is in trouble. One day, though, a girl called Momoko Kinoshita transfers into the school and becomes the desire of every male. Unfortunately, everyone assumes that a cute girl like Momoko already has one or two boyfriends, so when some of the guys try to pull a prank on Kin by forcing him to admit his love for Momoko, the unthinkable happens: Momoko accepts Kin's admission and the two become a couple. Momoko's hatred of violence, though, makes Kin stop fighting, which is the worst possible scenario when the leader of Kamedama's delinquents comes over looking to fight Kin, & Sada decides to take his friend's place.

Mabudachi Jingi is a simple story, but it still ends up doing a pretty good job in only 44 pages. It's main focus is the conflict between true friendship & love, with Kin having to decide which is the better choice to make: Save Sada after finding out that he's taking the beating that was meant for Kin, but lose the love of Momoko, or stay with Momoko, leaving Sada to the lions. In the end, the conflict is finished pretty easily, but it's still a conflict that can be related to and it is funny to see how easily Kin gets Momoko due to everyone else's hesitation. Out of all of the characters, Kin is the only one with any real development, since he starts off only knowing how to fight (while also being the comic relief), but after getting Momoko realizes that love might mean more to him. Sada is a simple character who only wants to pay back the debt he owes Kin for all of the times Kin saved him, even though Kin says that true friends don't have debts between them, and Momoko is your generic girly-girl. Admittedly, with so few pages to work with the characters can only be developed so much, so it's hard to complain about simplicity here. The story definitely has that old-school feel to it and follows that basic ideal of Kurumada's titles, which is that the strength of the human bond, especially between friends, is a strong force that can never be underestimated. Plus, there's a cool scene where Kin puts his wooden geta slippers on his hands and fights with them; that is always worth brownie points.

In Aoi Tori no Shinwa, Kurumada's artwork was getting pretty refined, so it's understandable that Mabudachi Jingi's artwork is little more rough, and there's barely any indications of Kurumada's use of the good-old Tezuka Star System. Sure, Kin looks like a mix of Ryuji & Ishimatsu, and one or two of the unnamed schoolkids feature some designs that Kurumada also uses for smaller-name characters, but overall these characters don't look too much like any of the usual suspects, which is a nice change of pace. Still, you can easily tell that this is an early work of Kurumada's, with little to no refinement in his drawing style seen here. Finally, there is also no real indicators of Kurumada's bishonen character designs here; it doesn't really change much in the long run, but it's still worth bringing up.

Mabudachi Jingi is a neat little one-shot by Masami Kurumada, showing off some early indications of the general themes that the man would focus on, but it doesn't offer much else. The story is pretty simple (though it works for the short length it has), the characters don't really offer anything memorable (outside of Kin's geta sandal punches), and there is absolutely no over-the-top style whatsoever. At the same time, though, it's cool to take a quick look at the early days of someone who would help revolutionize an industry. It's in a story like this where Kurumada shows his inspiration from Hiroshi Motomiya on his sleeve, and his own personal style hasn't been fully developed quite yet. One-shots like these might not offer much in terms of story or memorability but they do offer a chance to see a favorite creator of yours in a way that you normally haven't seen them. For fans of Kurumada this is worth checking out, and even if you aren't a fan of Kurumada as long as you like reading one-shots this one scratches that itch just fine.

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