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Friday, August 7, 2015

Twelve "Nekketsu Manga" That Deserve TV Anime Adaptations (by MAPPA) Part 1

While at Otakon a couple of weeks ago, one of the panels I went to was the MAPPA panel, featuring Masao Maruyama & Yasuaki Iwase. MAPPA is an animation studio founded by Maruyama, who's been in the anime industry since the "beginning" with Mushi Pro & co-founded Madhouse with Osamu Dezaki, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, & Rintaro, and Maruyama himself has appeared at so many Otakons as a guest that he's considered honorary staff. In past years, Maruyama's personal panels have usually been barren in terms of attendance, so seeing this year's panel be so packed that I was lucky just to get in is very cool. Anyway, when it got to the Q&A portion I had two questions in mind, both relating to the presently airing TV anime adaptation of Kazuhiro Fujita's iconic manga Ushio & Tora (which is an awesomely fun show, so check it out). Since Maruyama had already answered my first question while previously promoting the show (it was about why exactly this manga was chosen for adaptation, and the answer was because Maruyama was a fan of it), my question to him was if MAPPA had any plans of continuing to adapt older manga, or if Ushio & Tora was a special exception.

Maruyama's answer was, to condense it, "I'd like to continue adapting nekketsu manga into TV anime. I love nekketsu manga."

Because you need an explosion whenever you hear or see that word.

The word "nekketsu" is Japanese for words like zeal, fervor, or ardor, i.e. intense or passionate enthusiasm for something. The main translation people tend to give "nekketsu", however, is a much more literal one: Hot-blood. This term is commonly used to describe characters or even a story in general which is prone to feature lots of passionate feelings (usually shared through intense screaming), impactful battles, or an over-the-top nature that permeates the entire being of the work, among other ways to describe it. "Nekketsu" is most often seen in genres like action (especially shonen action), mecha, & even sports, though it is utilized is all sorts of genres to some extent. Some titles, like G Gundam, GaoGaiGar, Kinnikuman, or JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, are partially defined by their sheer hot-bloodedness. Since I'm also fan of "nekketsu" in general, I've come up with a list of twelve manga that have never been adapted into TV anime before that I feel definitely deserve it. Some of them I personally adore, others I'm familiar enough with to feel that they're worth including, & the remainder are ones that I'm don't know much of, but upon investigation feel that they are worthy as well for various reasons. To keep with the concept of why Ushio & Tora was chosen for adapting into a TV anime, I'm sticking with older manga that has never been done as anime on TV; some were given OVAs or anime movies, but not TV. I'll also be playing both sides of the argument by showing reasons why adapting these titles would make sense now as well as what could possibly hold them back. A few of them will also feature some personal wishes of mine, just for the hell of it.

While I'm technically considering all of these title for adaptation by MAPPA specifically, I'd be fine with nearly any anime studio taking them on, should any of them actually come to pass. I'm also going in chronological order, so let's start off with something from the 70s... And something that became oddly topical for me recently.


Astro Kyudan/Astro Baseball Team (アストロ球団 a.k.a. Team Astro), 1972-1976
I had this list of manga planned out about a week ago, so I am not including this manga because I just talked about how the 2005 J-Drama/tokusatsu adaptation is no longer streaming legally via DramaFever, using it to remind people of the fault with streaming. Still, that very revelation I came across recently makes this inclusion all the more fitting. Written by Shiro Tozaki & drawn by the late Norihiro Nakajima, Astro Kyudan is a supremely over-the-top & insane baseball manga from Shonen Jump's days in the 70s that likely could not be reproduced today. It told the story of a group of "Astro Supermen", who manager J. Shuro wants to gather into a team that can not only take on Japan's best baseball teams but also America's major league, in order to fulfill the dream of Eiji Sawamura, Japan's equivalent to Cy Young.

If titles like Fist of the North Star, Dragon Ball, & Saint Seiya built & furnished the house of how fighting manga should be told, and the likes of Ring ni Kakero & Kinnikuman wrote the blueprint & set up the frame that the house was built around, then Astro Kyudan dug the plot & laid the foundation that all of those other titles worked off of. Yes, the story goes so absurdly ridiculous that sometimes you wonder if the characters are even getting ready to play baseball, and that very absurdity eventually resulted in its cancellation, but Astro Kyudan utilized a lot of the basic plot points, tropes, & ideologies that would become commonplace in shonen action; it just handled them in ways that would turn your hair white. If it was such a successful manga for Jump back in the day, and its the precursor of what we all consider "shonen battle manga", then why was it never adapted into anime before?

The only drawings made for the "phantom anime" adaptation by Group TAC.

Well, it almost did become an anime at one point. This would not be revealed to the Japanese public until Ohta Publishing's 1999 book Astro Kyudan Memorial, which is a retrospective on the manga, but in 1992 anime studio Group TAC (Night on the Galactic Railroad, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie) had plans to make a TV anime based on the manga. While the plans did include updating the setting to have it take place in the 90s rather than the 70s, among other such changes, the "steel cel prototype" included in Ohta's book showed that the anime would have looked accurate to the manga on a visual stance. Sadly, a lack of baseball anime at the time (the last one was 1989-1990's Miracle Giants Domu-kun) resulted in no television stations wanting to help produce it, and the shrinking OVA market removed releasing it straight to home video from consideration. In the end, all that remains of these anime plans are housed within Ohta's book, especially since Group TAC filed for bankruptcy in September 2010 & liquidated all of its assets.

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
In comparison to the market of the early 90s, baseball anime has had an actual market in Japan for the past ten years. Manga & light novels like Big Windup!, One Outs, Taisho Baseball Girls, Cross Game, & Moshidora have all been made within that time, not to mention the entirety of Takuya Mitsuda's Major being adapted to TV from 2004 to 2010. Even though Astro Kyudan's execution is completely different from any of those previously mentioned titles, that may actually work in its favor, as it would make it a very different type of baseball anime for people to see. Also, if you want a (super) small taste of how the manga's look would adapt into anime, alongside the 2005 live-action adaptation, TV Asahi had Production I.G. make a short half-animation using the Astro Supermen to act as the intro for the station's baseball coverage, and that intro would be refitted as the OP for the J-Drama/toku itself.

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
Let's face facts here, because it's an obvious problem: Astro Kyudan is OLD. While this year is the 10th Anniversary of the live-action adaptation, next year will the 40th Anniversary of the manga's end. I'm considering the earliest for any of these titles to potentially debut as TV anime as sometime in 2016, so by then Astro Kyudan will be 44 years old. I've looked into what the longest span between manga debut & TV anime debut has been, and until last year the record was 40 years with 2007's GR -Giant Robo- & 2008's Golgo 13. Those were both broken last year by Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro, as the original manga (Notari Matsutaro) was about 41 when it finally became a TV anime. It's kind of a miracle that Astro Kyudan was even made into live-action when it did, so to expect it to be made into a TV anime now is downright insanity... Like Astro Supermen levels of insanity.

The other real problem, though, is a simpler one. Airing right now is what is presently the real challenge of adapting Astro Kyudan into a TV anime, which is Ace of Diamond. Based on Yuji Terashima's manga that runs in Weekly Shonen Magazine, the Madhouse/Production I.G. anime adaptation debuted in October 2013 & was so successful that it was extended from its original 52 episodes to 75 before transitioning into a Second Season series that's still airing right now. It also doesn't help that Ace's main character, Eijun Sawamura, is obviously named after Eiji Sawamura, the man who inspired J. Shuro to form his team of Astro Supermen. While the age of the manga is certainly a factor, it's the competition it would be facing from Ace of Diamond that hurts Astro Kyudan's chances at being made into a TV anime the most.

-Personal Wish-
If a TV anime was to be made, however, I only have one request: Bring back Atsushi Imaruoka to voice lead character Kyuichi Uno. While he's most well know right now as the voice of Stroheim from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, one of Imaruoka's earliest performances was as Kyuichi in the PlayStation 2 game based on Astro Kyudan. Simply put, Imaruoka put out a performance that completely matched the level of insanity that the manga is made up of. Need proof? Check out this bit of voice work from the beginning of the game (8:21-8:50, specifically). Seriously, I want to hear Imaruoka voice Kyuichi more.

Also, if I'm going to bring up silly wishes, let's just go all out & get Hideaki Anno to direct the show. Yes, the creator of Evangelion is indeed a big fan of this manga from when he was young, so I'm sure this would be a project he would put his heart & soul into.


Kotaro Makaritoru!/Kotaro, Go Unchallenged! (コータローまかりとおる!), 1982-2004
Oddly enough, from what I can tell, Weekly Shonen Magazine isn't exactly a ripe place to look for when making a list like this. That's not to say that the magazine is a stranger to "nekketsu manga", because it's had its fair share of them, but usually its most iconic action titles wind up being made into TV anime very quickly. GetBackers, Samurai Deeper Kyo, Ashita no Joe, Hajime no IppoFairy Tail, Rave, Air Gear... All have already been made into TV anime. That makes it all the more curious that one of the magazine's longest titles has never been put to TV. The sole serialization from Tatsuya Hiruta, he also did a one-shot in 1984, this manga stars Kotaro Shindo, a high school karate expert who's family lineage goes back to the age of ninja. While he has a strong sense of justice, however, Kotaro also intensely lacks any common sense or even inhibitions, making him a total horndog. Aside from fighting strong opponents, Kotaro's other loves are his long hair, his collection of panties that he's stolen from girls, & his childhood friend (& member of the school's "Decency League") Mayumi Watase.

From what I could find out about this series, it started off more as a comical title, featuring lots of slapstick & toilet humor, but as it went on it became more focused on fighting & went more towards seriousness (though Kotaro always remained intensely perverted). After 59 volumes, Hiruta "ended" his series before quickly making a sequel, Shin Kotaro Makaritoru! Judo-hen, in 1995, which had Kotaro being put up against a completely new type of martial art (judo, obviously), and he had to learn it in order to compete. After another 27 volumes of that series, Hiruta ended that manga & debuted another sequel, Kotaro Makaritoru! L, in 2001, which seemed to have Kotaro go up against actual ninja (at least, from what I can read up on it); it was also meant to be a way to attract newcomers. In 2002, Hiruta moved the franchise over to Magazine Special, but tragedy struck in 2004. Hiruta went to the hospital & has apparently been too sick to continue the story ever since, essentially leaving Kotaro's tale unfinished after 94 volumes. Technically, the manga is still considered to be on hiatus, but I doubt Hiruta will ever return to it. Still, while the manga did receive a live-action movie in 1984 & won the Kodansha Manga Award for shonen in 1986, it never saw any sort of anime adaptation, let alone a TV series. Maybe that should finally change...

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
While it isn't a name here in North America, the fact that this manga ran for so long, & was only stopped because of the author becoming ill, easily proves that this is an iconic manga from Shonen Magazine. In fact, until L's move to Magainze Special in 2002, this was the longest-running (overall) series in the magazine's history; after the move, that title went to Hajime no Ippo. Kotaro's status as an iconic manga series is also proven by the fact that Kotaro himself was a playable character in the 2009 crossover PSP fighting game Sunday vs. Magazine: Shukketsu! Choujo Daikessen, alongside other Magazine manga leads like Negi Springfield (Negima!), Ban Mido (GetBackers), Akira Fudo (Devilman), Joe Yabuki (Ashita no Joe), & Joe Shimamura/009 (Cyborg 009). Even if the manga isn't running anymore, and even if it would be a near-impossibility to actually adapt the entire manga, a TV anime adaptation would be the perfect way to celebrate this series & introduce it to people who are not familiar with it before (especially with the advent of simulcasting).

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
Relevancy. That's the biggest thing that's keeping Kotaro Makaritoru! from ever seeing a TV anime now. Though age is certainly a factor, though a manga being in it's 30s has never really stopped TV anime from happening before, it's the fact that the manga is no longer running that's hurting it, especially since it was such a long-runner. With no new content in over 10 years, there's the possibility that, even among fans of Shonen Magazine in Japan, this title may be leaving the minds of readers in terms of being topical. There was the crossover game, as well as a pachinko game in 2007 (which is likely the only time the manga has ever seen any sort of anime portrayal), but not much else beyond that. It also doesn't help that Tatsuya Hiruta isn't doing manga at all right now. Even though Ushio & Tora hasn't seen any new content since it ended, minus a short story as part of the Heroes Comeback book that was made to help raise money for the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake recovery efforts, Kazuhiro Fujita is at least still doing manga (& is even overseeing the scripts for the TV anime of U&T), keeping him in the industry as an active name. While it would be cool to see some portion of this iconic action series from Shonen Magazine, it's best chances for a recent adaptation have probably gone by already.


Honou no Tenkousei/Blazing Transfer Student (炎の転校生), 1983-1985
Moeyo/Hoero Pen series (燃えよ/吼えろペン), 1991/2001-2008
When it comes to "nekketsu", there's is probably only one mangaka out there who not only lives it, but likely literally bleeds blood that can set anything on fire: Kazuhiko Shimamoto. A fan of old-school nekketsu mangaka like Go Nagai, Shotaro Ishinomori, & Masami Kurumada, Shimamoto went to the Osaka University of Arts during the early 80s, becoming friends with fellow students Hideaki Anno, Hiroyuki Yamaga, & Takami Akai, a.k.a. the founders of Gainax. After sending in a manga one-shot named Hissatsu no Tenkousei, Shimamoto made his proper debut in the industry with Shonen Sunday title Blazing Transfer Student. Both a loving homage to the creators he loved & a parodic jab at everything he loved, BTS told the tale of Noboru Takizawa, who would go to various schools as a transfer student & take out any & all wrongdoers that he would come across. Though only running for two years & lasting 12 volumes, Shimamoto's debut title is still likely his most iconic, even receiving an infamous "O(riginal) L(aserdisc) A(nimation)" by Gainax in 1991, which finally saw a re-release last year via Blu-Ray. Takizawa himself is also an iconic Sunday hero, being included as a playable character in Sunday vs. Magazine.

Still, much like the man himself, I couldn't hold back & only include one manga from him, so I'm doubling up here. Another iconic series of Shimamoto is his "Pen Series", which detail the trials & tribulations of (totally not Shimamoto himself) mangaka Moyuru Honou, a man so hot-bloodedly dangerous that he wears a sports head protector for his & everyone's safety. In 1991 there was the single volume Moeyo/Burning Pen, but in 2001 the stories would continue with Hoero/Shouting Pen in Monthly Sunday GX. In 2005, after 13 volumes of that, Shimamoto made a sequel, Shin Hoero Pen, which would run until 2008 for another 11 volumes. Technically, though, that's not all, because in 2007 Shimamoto debuted Aoi Honou/Blue Blazes, which details Honou's time as a student at the Osaka University of the Arts; the manga is presently at 13 volumes & still running. In fact, last year there was a live-action TV series based on Blue Blazes that became a bit of an instant cult-classic, due to its stringent dedication to being as accurate to Shimamoto's psychotically crazy style as humanly possible, not to mention the behind-the-scenes stories that are housed within.

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
For Blazing Transfer Student, it's the iconic status that it has within the history of Shonen Sunday. Not just that, but Kazuhiko Shimamoto is a very successful person in the industry. He was chosen personally by Shotaro Ishinomori to do a new take on Skull Man right before Ishinomori's death, and though the final product has a mixed reaction the fact that Shimamoto was chosen to do it still makes it worth checking out. His baseball manga Gyakkyou/Adversity Nine was even adapted into a live-action movie. Then there's also Shimamoto's involvement in titles like G Gundam (original character designs), Anime Tenchou, & Rival Schools (he designed Hayato Nekketsu). If there's a Shimamoto manga to make into a TV anime, it's BTS. Still, there's a good reason to choose something from the Pen series, as well. Just recently was the anime Shirobako, which showcased how the anime industry works & featured many people from the actual industry (though names were changed to protect the innocent), and airing right now is Seiyu's Life, which is based on the 4-koma manga written by Masumi Asano (BlackRose in .hack, Risa in Hayate the Combat Butler) & showcases the lives of voice actors. Before those, as well, was Bakuman., which was revealed some of the inner workings of Shonen Jump (again, with name changes). With anime about the industry being a popular subject, Shimamoto's Pen series is a perfect option to go with, especially since it's over-the-top, hot-blooded style would make it noticeably different from the others.

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
Even though Kazuhiko Shimamoto is such a renowned mangaka, he's oddly never had any of his manga made into a TV anime. For someone who's been in the industry for about 32 years, and has made tons of manga (some of which have seen adaptations of various sorts), that's pretty shocking. Maybe it's his extreme style, maybe it's his absurd levels of hot-bloodedness, or maybe he's just said "No" to offers, but it is something to consider when thinking about this, and it's definitely not a positive. Also, and this applies specifically to the Pen series, while anime about the industry may be a marketable right now, there is the potential of market over-saturation. Shirobako is a massive hit right now, even after ending, & Seiyu's Life is airing right now. Depending on if either one was to get a second series later on, adding in a Moeyo or Hoero Pen series might be too much for anime fans.


Tenchi wo Kurau/Devouring Heaven & Earth (天地を喰らう), 1983-1984
If you want "nekketsu" at some of its most old-school, then look no further than the works of Hiroshi Motomiya. Ever since his major debut in 1968 with Otoko Ippiki Gaki Daisho/The Ideal Boy's Gang Leader, Motomiya has been all about boys growing up into men, men being manly at all points in life, & living life to your fullest by being hot-blooded. This is the man who brought on future stars like Yoshihiro Takahashi, Masami Kurumada, Tetsuya Saruwatari, & Tatsuya Egawa as assistants at various points, and his artist collective Moto Kikaku will forever be remembered by video game fans as the co-creator of Capcom's Strider franchise. In fact, Motomiya is still drawing manga to this very day, though his audience is obviously adults now instead of the younger generation. While his big debut did see a TV anime not long after it debuted back in 1969, there is one other series of his from his Shonen Jump days that could believably be made into a TV anime still, and that's Tenchi wo Kurau.

One of the last manga Motomiya did for Shonen Jump, this was his take on the classic Chinese era of the Three Kingdoms. It focused specifically on the perspective of Liu Bei, who in this version met a giant heavenly being that gave him the power to unite the land before he later met & made an oath of brotherhood with Guan Yu & Zhang Fei. Again, I have to go off of hearsay & research here, but apparently Motomiya's manga was very well written & executed, giving many characters a lot of depth & detail, and naturally the story was likely very hot-blooded when it came to fighting. Unfortuantely, as I brought up in my Otoko Zaka review earlier this year, Tenchi wo Kurau debuted in Jump right when its "Golden Age" was about the begin, as only about three months after its debut came the debut of Fist of the North Star. Also, Motomiya was very much an old hat creator at that time, having been with the magazine for 15 years already by then, so there's a chance that readers were getting tired of Motomiya; he would move to Super Jump in 1987. Therefore, the manga only ran for seven volumes, but at the very least it's short length would make it easier to adapt completely into anime.

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
The Japanese populace loves the "Sangoku" era of history, with only their own "Sengoku"/Warring States era beating it. That's why there are so many products out there that involve the Sangoku theme. Whether it's gender bending everyone for all sorts of reasons (like Koihime Musou or Dragon Sister!), reincarnating them as modern-day high schoolers (Ikki Tousen), turning a couple of them into little children (Yawaraka Sangokushi Tsukisase!! Ryofuko-chan), transporting modern-day people into the era (Ryurouden), or even turning them super-deformed mechs (SD Gundam Sangokuden Brave Battle Warriors), Japan loves this era & its various characters. One thing that's rare, though, is anime that tries to be accurate to the actual era (or at least the novel that's usually what's adapted from). There is Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Romance of the Three Kingdoms from the 90s, which shows the perspective of all three sides to some extent, but more recent versions include Koutetsu Sangokushi (which focuses on the perspective of Wu) & Souten Kouro (which is from the perspective of Cao Cao & his Wei). Having an anime focused more on Liu Bei's side would be cool to see now, and Tenchi wo Kurau does have a fanbase outside of the manga. Even though the manga didn't last long, Capcom had a nice little series of games based on the manga, two of which were on the Famicom (the first even coming over here on the NES as Destiny of an Emperor), and one on the Super Famicom, but the most iconic are the two arcade beat-em-ups, known outside of Japan as Dynasty Wars & Warriors of Fate. The second in particular is generally looked at as not only one of Capcom's best beat-em-ups of the time but also a classic of the genre in general.

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
One big hurdle to get past is a psychological one: There hasn't been any sort of anime based on a Hiroshi Motomiya manga since 2001's Salaryman Kintaro TV series. During the 80s & 90s, many OVAs were made based on his work (Kouha Ginjiro, Ore no Sora: Keiji-hen, Gin no Otoko), but Motomiya has only inspired two TV anime in his career, and they were made 33 years apart from each other. Also, neither TV anime were notable for their animation (Gaki Daisho was made by the network, essentially, while Kintaro was done by a studio normally known for assistance work), so there may not be much of an appeal to see a Motomiya manga be adapted into TV anime now, let alone with a notable budget behind it; he may be too niche nowadays. Also, & this may be the bigger hurdle, the Three Kingdoms era may just be played out right now for anime. The same can be said of the Warring States era, too, but when something is utilized too often during a period of time, the people just get tired of it. If happened to mecha somewhat after the 80s, it happened to Gundam specifically in the mid-90s, and it happened to an extent with "moe" in the late-00s. While Tenchi wo Kurau may be a beloved manga from Motomiya, and it spawned some beloved video games, its content may just be too tired & play out in anime right now.
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As you can see, I'm ending this part at only four entries. I'll admit that I might have a habit of "talking" way, way too much, but even I have limits. This part of the list alone may be longer than my longest review in terms of "How many times do I have push the "Page Down" key to reach the bottom?", so I've decided to stretch this out from my usual two parts to three (the answer is "9", by the way). It's all because I'm trying to look at both the "for" & "against" for each title, admittedly, but that's what happens when you really get into writing/typing about something you're into... You start to ramble... Like I'm doing right now.
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Check back next week for Part 2, where I finish up the 80s with four more hot-blooded manga of the past, one of which is still running to this day!

2 comments:

  1. I should mention that the first volume Devouring of Heaven and Earth in English is available for purchase on Renta: http://en-renta.papy.co.jp/renta/sc/frm/item/58978/

    From what I've read in the preview pages, Liu Bei seems to be a bit more of a rapscallion in this one.

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    1. Naturally, I'd say. It can't be a Motomiya title without having a rebellious main character.

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