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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Twelve "Nekketsu Manga" That Deserve TV Anime Adaptations (by MAPPA) Part 3

The 90s was a time of change for both anime & manga, especially when it came to "nekketsu manga". Compared to some of the leads of the 80s, the hot-blooded leads of the 90s were visually different. Some would consider this a loosening of the "manly" style that partially defined the 80s, but the spirits & blood inside these characters were just as burning as those that came before them. In fact, Ushio & Tora (which inspired the creation of this list) was a completely 90s production, so let's finish up this list by examining three titles of this decade (plus one from the very start of the new millennium) & see if they have any possibility of ever being given the TV anime treatment... But first I need that ever-so-powerful explosion.

Yeah, I'm lazy about making variations of this image... So sue me. Anyway, starting off this final third is the beginning of a franchise that's still seeing new entries to this very day, and it shows that it doesn't matter what kind of person you were growing up, because there's always the chance you can grow up to become a truly inspirational, & "great", person.

Shonan Junai Gumi!/The Shonan Pure Love Gang! (湘南純愛組!), 1990-1996
Tohru Fujisawa has made a good number of different manga series in his career, but there's one that overshadows the rest, bar none, and that's 1997-2002's Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO for short). Detailing the career of Eikichi Onizuka, a completely non-traditional Japanese school teacher, the manga became a notable hit for TokyoPop, and the 1999-2000 TV anime adaptation is still considered a classic of its time, both subbed & dubbed. It also received two different J-Drama adaptations, one from 1998 that became one of the highest-rated shows in Japanese TV history (in terms of viewership) & spawned a drama special & theatrical movie (the last of which actually came over here via Media Blasters) & one from 2012 that's also considered very good, as well as a Taiwanese/Japanese co-production from last year; the 2012 & 2014 shows are actually over at CrunchyRoll. It also had a midquel manga via 2009-2011's GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, and running right now is sequel manga GTO: Paradise Lost, which began last year. Still, before the man became "great", Onizuka was roughing it up with his best friend Ryuji Danma as a couple of high school yankii/delinquents!

Released in North America as GTO: The Early Years, Shonan Junai Gumi! was how Japan got introduced to the future teacher. Here, Onizuka & Ryuji comprised the duo known as Oni-Baku, feared bike riders who only dream of becoming men by finally getting laid. Naturally, their personas don't exactly inspire women to fawn over them, so they try to be more upstanding citizens, but are very prone to reverting back to their delinquent attitudes. Much like Kotaro Makaritoru!, SJG started off as a gag manga, but eventually became more & more serious as it went on, keeping the gag tendencies for certain moments. Still, having never read any of the original manga nor seen the 1994-1997 OVA adaptation, I am somewhat familiar with GTO via the '98 J-Drama, so I can vouch that Onizuka is still hot-blooded enough to fit in with the motley crew that I've already assembled here. Since GTO is such a popular & returning franchise for Fujisawa, maybe it's time to re-introduce Onizuka's original story for new audiences with a TV anime of SJG.

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
As I just mentioned, the biggest thing going for a TV adaptation of Shonen Junai Gumi! is the fact that it's part of the Great Teacher Onizuka timeline. While it's technically not defined this way, since this manga came first, a SJG TV anime could have some really cool appeal as a "prequel" to GTO. While I'm sure the new manga entries work okay for newcomers, people would still be curious about seeing how everything truly started, and that's what this manga does. This counts double for 14 Days in Shonen fans, as this is meant to be a return to that original series in some ways. There's also a chance to test the waters, so the speak, & see if there still is an audience for this original series, as the OVAs have seemingly never seen a DVD release; they are only available on VHS. This also looks to be the case for the 1995-1997 live-action movie series, too. Much like B・B Burning Blood, there's a chance for another company to give the OVAs another go, and if those look to do okay then a TV anime would seem like a no-brainer.

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
With all of the being said, though, there is a problem when one title completely overshadows everything else: It makes the rest less appealing. This applies even more so when the overshadowing is done by the sequel to another series, as it makes the original title nigh-forgotten. Even though 14 Days in Shonan was about Onizuka returning to the setting of his original series, it was still a different Onizuka compared to who he was back in the day. While SJG introduced Onizuka to fans, it was GTO that made him into the iconic character that he is now, and there just may not be any real appeal in seeing his "early years". I know that SJG just wasn't an appealing product over here, as TokyoPop couldn't get it to sell anywhere near as well as GTO, & while Vertical did finish up where TokyoPop left off at, it sold so poorly that the company is hesitant to ever do another license rescue (Gundam the Origin was an gamble that worked out amazingly, but that's likely an exception). Also, as I mentioned with Rokudenashi BLUES, the yankii genre just doesn't seem to have any real chance at ever being showcased via TV anime again. While GTO's looming shadow is the major factor, the very genre SJG is in may be the finishing blow.

Tetsunabe no Jan!/Iron Wok Jan! (鉄鍋のジャン!), 1995-2000
When it comes to the big name shonen manga magazines out there, you can eventually tell the different between the kinds of titles each of them run. For example, Dragon Ball could only have worked in Shonen Jump, Hajime no Ippo would be very different if it ran in Shonen Sunday, & Rumiko Takahashi's shonen manga style wouldn't be the same if she worked with Shonen Magazine. After those three magazines, though, you have the one that's always nipping at their heels: Akita Shoten's Weekly Shonen Champion. It's nigh impossible to truly define a "style" to this magazine, but one thing that it's notorious for is having a wide range of titles in its history. This was the home to classic manga like Babel II, Cutie Honey, & Black Jack, and it's the present home of titles like Yowamushi Pedal, Squid Girl, Actually, I am... (a.k.a. My Monster Secret), & Saint Seiya: Next Dimension; it's also home to baseball manga Dokaben, one of the longest-running manga of all time. What blows your mind, however, is when you find out that this was also the home of titles like Apocalypse Zero, Baron Gong Battle, The Abashiri Family, Osamu Tezuka's Alabaster, Eiken, & Grappler Baki (which is still running), all of which featured either hyper-mega-violence, extreme sexuality, or dark storytelling (or a mix of all three) that really makes you wonder what exactly is considered "too far/much" for shonen manga. Therefore, when you think of a cooking manga that came from the pages of Shonen Champion, you know it's going to be insane in a way that no other magazine can deliver.

Shinji Saijyo's Iron Wok Jan! details the various cooking battles that Jan Akiyama & his fellow Chinese cuisine chefs compete in, and there truly isn't a cooking title out there quite like it. One of the more notable aspects is the fact that Jan himself is essentially an cooking anti-hero, believing that cooking is nothing more than for the sake of showing how superior he is to everyone else, caring next to nothing about things like friendship (though he he does show it through his own ways), & even having a "Ke Ke Ke Ke... Ka Ka Ka Ka Ka!" laugh that wouldn't sound out of place for a psychotic villain. Another major aspect is the focus on hardcore Chinese cooking, which utilizes all sorts of animals & the like. For example, one of the most memorable challenges near the end is to make a dish out of ostrich, & the chefs have to kill the birds themselves. Unfortunately for Jan, ostriches can sense murderous intent, something Jan has in spades, which makes their blood flow spike, bursting their capillaries & ruining the meat; Jan has to find out how to calmly kill his ostrich before even thinking about cooking it. Yeah, this is Iron Chef-style cooking, which obviously inspired the manga, but taken to an extreme that could only have been seen in Shonen Champion magazine. Oh, yeah, & the female characters have busts that eventually grow to torpedo size, yet never get in the way of the cooking. ComicsOne/DrMaster released all 27 volumes over here, and whenever I bought a new volume when one came out, I always wished for a TV anime adaptation. There was a 10-volume sequel, Iron Wok Jan! R: The Summit Operations, from 2006-2008, so it's not like this title was solely from the 90s, either.

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
Cooking anime has always existed in some form or another for a while, and it's covered a nice range of styles when it comes to competition. Mister Ajikko was the first notable one, Chuuka Ichiban/Cooking Master Boy used a period piece execution, Yakitate!! Japan went for outrageous gags & comedy, & Toriko mixed it with shonen-styled action. With such a variety of styles used, an Iron Wok Jan! TV anime would make sense, because the use of outrageous (to plebian eaters like me) Chinese cooking alone would make it different enough from others like it, but then you add in nigh-villain-esque lead Jan, & the crazed fanservice from the female characters, and you get a very, very different type of cooking anime. Every character & cooking match has the intensity ratcheted up to 11, & a proper adapting of Saijyo's wild artwork would give a TV anime adaptation excellent potential for all sorts of visual splendor as well. If you want some examples of how the manga looks visually, just check out Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga article about the manga, as he chose some great images. If Otoko Zaka is my #1 most-wanted pick out of this entire list, then Iron Wok Jan! is easily #2.

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
Similar to the very beginning of this list, when I mentioned that Astro Kyudan would have to compete with Ace of Diamond, an Iron Wok Jan! TV anime would have some strong competition from a recent cooking anime: Food Wars. While the presently-airing TV anime adaptation of Yuto Tsukuda & Shun Saeki's Jump cooking manga will eventually end, it's been getting a solid fanbase & there could always be the chance of a second season when the manga gets further ahead. With Food Wars being drawn by a man who has done hentai before (something that's generally covered up officially), it's obvious that fanservice is a strong point for that title, & all Jan! has to fight with that are the torpedo-sized busts of its females. In that regard, a Jan! anime would have to rely on it's wild Chinese cooking focus, and that might just be too niche compared to Food Wars' general cooking use, where any type of cuisine is fair game. Also, it should be pointed out that Jan! R didn't really last all that long, showing that there may not even be as much nostalgia out there for the original manga as thought when Shinji Saijyo returned to it; this is nothing more than speculation however (but, really, isn't this entire list just that?). Finally, Shonen Champion has never been the bastion of adaptation material like Shonen Jump, Sunday, & Magazine generally are; there are big successes, but they aren't seemingly guaranteed.

-Personal Wish-
A casting wish here, but from when I first read this manga to this very moment, there is only one voice actor that pops in my head when it comes to Jan Akiyama: Nobuyuki Hiyama. The legendarily hot-blooded seiyuu himself has been known to do demonic & villainous roles before, so I just think that he'd be a perfect fit for a maniacal cooking prodigy like Jan.

Full Ahead! Coco (フルアヘッド!ココ), 1997-2002
In mid-1997, a manga debuted that used the ever-popular visage of pirates & became a successful manga for the magazine it ran in. That manga, of course, was Eiichiro Oda's One Piece for Shonen Jump, but a few months before that title debuted was the debut of another pirate manga, this one in Shonen Champion. I'm talking about Full Ahead! Coco by Hideyuki Yonehara, which told the adventure of young Coco, a boy who dreams of being a pirate. Similar to how Monkey D. Luffy was inspired to take up the pirate life by his mentor, "Red Hair" Shanks, Coco was inspired by the pirate who has no port to call his own, "Crazy" Barts. It is kind of crazy how two pirate manga debuted so close to each other & had some close similarities, but what I just mentioned is really the extent of that. When Barts visits the port that Coco lives in, he winds up inviting the boy to be a part of his crew for his own reasons, and though Coco doesn't have a special power like Luffy's rubberman body, the fact that it's a Shonen Champion manga means that it makes up for that by being outright crazed in execution, nonetheless.

Sadly, I've only read about a volume or so of Full Ahead! Coco, and that was years ago, but I do remember it having a manic & crazed style to it that really makes it feel like it could have only been run in Shonen Champion; fan translations have been continuing for it, though. Instead of relying on crazy superpowers, Coco looked like it was going to rely more on more varied methods of handling things like fighting. That being said, there was still a flair for the outrageous, but it was a different type of wild, like Barts being a nigh-unstoppable force of destruction if wielding two swords, complaining that two swords messes with his sense of balance. Again, as much as something like that sounds vaguely similar to Roronoa Zoro from One Piece, I must stress that Coco did debut first, with Barts showing his two-swords skills in the first chapter. Also, while it may not have the notoriety of some of Shonen Champions other iconic works, lasting for 29 volumes is never anything to sneeze at or generally ignore, especially since this specific magazine rarely has super-long runners. If you remove Baki & Dokaben from consideration, as they both comprise multiple series to total their long runs, the oldest (single series) titles still running in the magazine are Tetsuhiro Hirakawa's Clover (a high school fighting manga) & Masahiro Anbe's Squid Girl, which both debuted in 2007. Therefore, Full Ahead! Coco was likely a giant hit during its run.

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
You know what's another way to prove that Full Ahead! Coco was a successful title for its time? The fact that it's gotten a sequel recently. After ten years of doing other manga, most notably Dämons (a spin-off of Osamu Tezuka's Tetsu no Senritsu), Hideyuki Yonehara came back to his world of pirates in 2012 with Sunset Rose in Bessatsu Shonen Champion (home of Magical Girl Apocalypse), which takes place eight years after Coco & stars a brand new cast; it's presently at 10 volumes. There was also a recent 19-volume re-release of Coco from 2013-2014 (complete with the spines making an image, which is always sweet). Taking both of those factors together, there may be enough present nostalgia for the original manga to make a TV anime adaptation worth taking a chance on. As for potential competition from the juggernaut that is One Piece, I'd argue that the market for a Full Ahead! Coco TV anime would be just different enough from it's fellow pirate yarn. One Piece is outright mainstream TV in Japan, putting it almost in the same category as the likes of Doraemon, Chibi Maruko-chan, & Sazae-san. Coco, in comparison, would be aimed at nostalgic fans of the original manga as well as attracting new audiences to both the recent re-release & Sunset Rose's serialization. I think the ocean's more than big enough for two TV anime about pirates right now, is all I'm saying.

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
Shonen Champion is a tough magazine to identify with when you're looking to list "iconic" manga, honestly. Sure, there are the obvious choices, like Black Jack, Baki, & Dokaben, and there some more recent titles that will likely go down as iconic, like Squid Girl & Yowamushi Pedal, but then you get to other titles. For example, would a manga like Eiken be eligible to be considered an iconic Shonen Champion manga? It did run for a respectable 24 volumes & is definitely (in)famous enough to be known by many, but would it be "right" to put it alongside the other titles mentioned? What I'm trying to get at it is that, compared to its more well known & stringent competition, Weekly Shonen Champion might be a bit looser with its leash when it comes to ending manga early. It's obvious that Akita Shoten isn't really expecting it to ever truly reach the level of success as something like Jump tends to see, so the publisher likely allows a bit more leniency when it comes to putting the axe to titles. Therefore, it's hard to see if a manga like Full Ahead! Coco (or even Iron Wok Jan!) are truly worthy of being considered icons of the magazine's history; a notable lack of any sort of crossover product doesn't help, either. Personally, I want to believe that titles like Jan! or Coco may be worthy of that label, if only because of their length (in comparison to how long most Champion titles run) & quality; the fact that both series received sequels helps their cases, too. I just can't vouch for that label on a general level, and that's really what may be holding back a Coco TV anime; is it really a title that's worthy of the attention all these years later?

Togari (トガリ), 2000-2002
Yoshinori Natsume really never seemed like someone who really should have worked on shonen manga. His works tend to edge more on the darker side of things & deal with the evils of humanity, like how 2004-2006's Kurozakuro was about a boy who starts slowly turning into a being that wants to eat humans; naturally, it eventually got cancelled. The same fate actually happened to Natsume's debut series, Togari. It focused on Tobei, a deviant who has been tortured in Hell for the past 300 years due to his careless nature & sinful actions during his time alive. Even after all this time, however, Tobei wishes to be free, so he's given one last shot at redemption. Armed with the demonic sword Togari, Tobei is dropped off in modern-day Japan & told that he has 108 days to kill 108 "sins" called toga. If he succeeds he'll be given a second chance at life, but should he fail he will remain in Hell for all eternity.While the concept itself doesn't sound terribly dark, Natsume's delivery always kept this manga feeling different from the usual Shonen Sunday action manga.

One way Natsume kept Togari different was in just how evil the people who were possessed by toga really were. These weren't simply violent & "evil" people, but rather they could have some pretty uncomfortable & dark personalities, usually amplified by the toga that controlled them. Another interesting twist was how the story tackled the idea of Tobei's redemption. The idea was that, by killing the 108 toga, Tobei would learn to become a better person, and as the story went on that did indeed happen; him being taken in by a loving family also helped with that. That being said, the Togari itself was a weapon made in Hell, so by becoming a better person Tobei started running the risk of being consumed by the sword, because it's powered by negative emotions like anger & hatred. This made the story very interesting, because Natsume had to balance the general upbeat nature of your usual shonen action title with the darker & somber nature of the concept of the story itself. Sadly, the fact that this manga went with such an "off the beaten path" execution resulted in its cancellation after only eight volumes, with Tobei's mission left unfinished. Still, Togari is remembered fondly for just how well Natsume managed to balance the light & the dark, and Viz even brought it over here a few years back; it's well worth the read. Also, Natsume eventually got the chance to return to his debut work in 2009 with Togari Shiro in Media Factory's Comic Flapper magazine. Luckily, the short length of the manga would result in the story being adaptable within 24-26 episodes, which makes a TV anime a believable possibility.

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
Togari, though a cancelled work, definitely put Yoshinori Natsume on the map, as it wound up getting him noticed around the world. He even got to make an officially-licensed original story for DC's iconic "Dark Knight" with 2008's Batman: Dark Mask, which is also pretty good. Without a doubt, Togari is Natsume's most iconic work, and a TV anime adaptation would not only likely satiate fans of the manga but also help introduce it to people who maybe missed it the first time around, or missed Media Factory's re-release of it during the serialization of the sequel. The fact that a sequel was even made is also encouraging, as it means that there is an fanbase out there to appeal to, which works in favor of going forward with a TV anime adaptation. Finally, the manga's mix of dark undertones with hot-blooded action gives it a strong appeal for newcomers who might look at most shonen action titles with some sort of hesitation, if only because it would feel noticeably different.

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
As good as Togari is, and as much as it's gone on to be the iconic work of Yoshirnori Natsume, it was still canceled relatively early... Twice. At least, that's what I'm guessing. While a sequel did come out in the form of Togari Shiro, it ended in 2011 & only totaled three volumes. There is the chance that Natsume didn't plan for the sequel to run long & he merely wanted to give his debut work a proper ending, but do consider that the original manga ended with around 53 days left for Tobei to kill roughly 48 sins. While Natsume could technically finish the story in that amount of time, especially since multiple sins could fuse together to become a stronger toga, either Natsume planned on simply going into fighting overdrive or he was forced to end via cancellation again, which would suck. I can't tell since only three chapters of Shiro were fan translated & Viz never brought it over. With the possibility that the manga was canceled twice, there may only be a niche audience for Togari, which in the end would only make a TV anime all the less plausible. For this title, though, it is a bit of question mark, at least for those of us outside of Japan who don't know exactly how Togari Shiro ends.
And now, as a kind of "honorable mention," here's a manga that's less than 10 years old yet, from the cult fandom its assembled, seems to adhere to the very spirit of "nekketsu" that these prior 12 manga all utilized.

Kongoh Bancho/Diamond Gang Leader (金剛番長), 2007-2010
Nakaba Suzuki seems like an up-and-coming big name in manga with his super-popular title The Seven Deadly Sins, which had a TV anime adaptation recently (but was sadly not simulcasted), but the fact of the matter is that Suzuki has been doing manga for a good while & had seen some success already (just not to the level of what he has right now). In fact, none of his titles yet have reached the length of his debut manga, 1998-2002's Rising Impact, a golf manga that ran in Shonen Jump for 17 volumes (though Sins is essentially at that length now; Volume 17 just hasn't come out yet). After that, Suzuki's MMA fighting manga Ultra Red (4 volumes) failed in Jump, followed by a minor hit with ice skating manga Blizzard Axel (11 volumes) in Shonen Sunday. After that, though, came the title that gained Suzuki a small international following before he moved over to Shonen Magazine & became even bigger, Kongoh Bancho.

Starring tough-as-nails badass Akira Kongoh, the manga followed our lead as he aimed to take down the mysterious 23 District Project, where the strongest bancho from all 23 prefectures of Japan take each other on to see who is the toughest of them all. After defeating one of the entrants, though, Akira becomes to eponymous "Kongoh Bancho". Having never read any of the manga yet, the plot sounds almost like a manga version of Spike's absurdly hilarious Kenka Bancho video game series, which is also about trying to be the roughest-toughest bancho in all of Japan. From what I've heard of Suzuki's manga, though, Spike's game series seems like the more level-headed version... And that's a series where banchos can shoot laser beams from their eyes in order to tell their opponents that they mean business! For example, Kongoh himself can lift up cars with one arm and can beat an opponent so badly that he knocks him through entire buildings before he's finished... And this is all in the first chapter, apparently!

Whereas Akira Miyashita's Sakigake!! Otokojuku was a veiled parody of macho, hot-blooded "MAN-ga" by showcasing all sorts of absurdity so seriously that it's funny, Suzuki's Kongoh Bancho seems to be a complete embracing of anything & everything that made "MAN-ga" so awesome back in the day. Various banchos are blatant stereotypes, & are even named after said stereotypes sometimes, and the absurdity apparently ramps up to "you have to see it to believe it" levels, but the fanbase behind it indicates that it was done with nothing but love for the craziness the genre can entail. While 12 volumes isn't exactly a long-runner in shonen manga, plenty of titles shorter than that have been made into anime, so maybe it's time to give Kongoh Bancho credit where it's due.

-What's Working For a TV Anime Adaptation?-
The biggest thing working in favor of a Kongoh Bancho TV anime is the fact that Suzuki's immediate follow-up, The Seven Deadly Sins, was popular enough to be given a TV anime recently. While it did never get simulcasted over here, & the rumors of Netflix picking it up (ala Knights of Sidonia) look to be false, it did still gain somewhat of an audience internationally through fansubs & I've heard it did very well in Japan. There's a very good chance that another anime series will be made eventually, but until then a Kongoh Bancho anime would make a perfect next choice for adaptation. The fact that it's less than 10 years old means that it's still recent enough to be appealing in that regard. Sure, the bancho-focused storyline puts it into yankii territory to some extent, but I'd say that Kongoh is more on the level of Otokojuku than it is on the level of Rokudenashi BLUES, so it has a better chance at being made into a TV anime than others of its semi-ilk; the over-the-top nature also helps in that regard.

-What's Working Against a TV Anime Adaptation?-
Sadly, the thing that's probably going to keep a Kongoh Bancho TV anime from happening is more of an advertising issue than an audience issue. While Suzuki made this manga before doing Sins, the fact is that he did Kongoh for Shogakukan, while Sins is being made for Kodansha. Though the two companies are on friendly terms due to their shared shonen magazine debuts, resulting in many crossovers, they are still rivals in the industry. While it theoretically sounds smart for Shogakukan to give the go to produce a Kongoh Bancho anime to ride off of Suzuki's present popularity with Seven Deadly Sins, the fact that Suzuki now works with Kodansha might make that harder to happen than we as fans might normally think; we just don't fully understand all of the intricacies of the industry. I seriously can't think of an instance where a popular manga by someone was given an anime adaptation, and then a previous manga from the same person that ran in a rival publisher's magazine was given an anime adaptation to ride off of the previous show's momentum. That'd be like Shueisha trying to make a Saint Seiya anime in the 90s after Kadokawa Shoten gave B't X an anime adaptation; Toei didn't return to Seiya until Kurumada mended his relationship with Shueisha, after all. Of course, this all depends on just how well the Sins anime did for Kodansha, but the fact of the matter is that as long as Sins is running, there may never be a Kongoh Bancho anime.
We made it! We finally made it!! That was twelve different "nekketsu manga" from the (relatively) distant past, plus one recent honorable mention, that really deserve to be given TV anime now, should MAPPA's Ushio & Tora TV anime be deemed a success. While all of them were shonen manga, admittedly, there was still a nice variety of genres (sports, fantasy, yankii, cooking, pirates, historical, comedy, etc.) & all of them cannot be argued about whether or not they represent the idea of "hot-blood". Will any of them ever be made into TV anime? Who knows, but I've said my peace & I stand by this list. If you have any hot-blooded titles you'd like to see be made into TV anime, then by all means share them in the comments, but right now I think I need a drink of water... A large drink of water.

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