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Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Golden Age of Jump Part 1: Too Many Classics to Count

By the end of 1983, Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump was doing pretty damn well, all things considered. Following the end of Ring ni Kakero in 1981, readership was over 3 million & maybe even nearing 4 million. Series like Kochikame, Kinnikuman, High School! Kimengumi, & Captain Tsubasa were still nowhere near their ends (especially the first one) & bringing in readers, while the likes of Dr. Slump, Cobra, Cat's Eye, & Fuma no Kojirou weren't far from their respective ends (within a year, at most), with readers no doubt curious about what would come next from the authors of those works. What I now call the Bronze Age was one of establishment, a period of time that was all about laying the groundwork, & setting standards for what would follow. Now that all of that had been done from 1968-1983, it was time to move forward.

After roughly 15 years of life, already outliving predecessor Shonen Book, Jump was ready to take everything to the next level. I'm sure that, little did the editors, executives, & manga creators at Shueisha know, the next 13(-ish) years would be the absolute apex of success for the magazine, eventually reaching a reader base of about 6.5 million, completely destroying the competition when it came to sales. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however, because the first half of what be later called the "Golden Age of Jump", 1983-1990, would only reach a 5 million readership (yeah, "only"). Alongside the super-long-runners that carried over into this age, what were the titles that started this mammoth-sized rise to sheer dominance? Well, the one that's generally considered the first "Golden Age" Jump manga was more proof that first impressions aren't always accurate, because, much like Masami Kurumada, the man who drew this epic had a failed start at first.

Tetsuo Hara, a former assistant to Yoshihiro Takahashi, made his serialized debut with 1982-1983's Tetsu no/Iron Don Quixote, a motorcross manga that only lasted 10 chapters. Following that bomb he was paired together with Doberman Deka's writer Buronson, who had not seen another real success following the end of that manga. Together, after an idea from editor Nobuhiko Horie (possibly the most famous [& infamous] editor in Jump history) & two one-shot versions made before Buronson's involvement, the two debuted Hokuto no Ken/Fist of the North Star in late 1983. Taking inspiration from the Mad Max movie series, Bruce Lee, & even acupuncture, the manga told the journey of Kenshiro, the successor of the assassination art known as Hokuto Shinken, as he treks across a post-apocalyptic world, protecting the weak & innocent from any & all evil, even when it comes from his own adoptive family & martial artists from rival school Nanto Seiken. While the concept alone would certainly be enough to make it last some time in Jump, it was Buronson & Hara's use of what came before it in terms of action manga (Ring ni Kakero & Cobra, for example), and putting in into a world that was both realistic/believable as well as pretty damn violent. Hokuto Shinken wasn't a simple martial art that incapacitated foes, but rather utilized pressure points to have enemies' bodies do all sorts of harsh things to itself, most famous of them all being spontaneous explosion (usually of the head variety). Nanto Seiken, in comparison, would usually be about slicing up the opposition into pieces in some way or another (outward destruction instead of insides bursting). Being the title that introduced the Golden Age, Fist of the North Star was a gigantic hit, running for five years before ending in mid-1988 after 27 volumes. A year after the manga's debut came a TV anime from Toei that ran from 1984-1988 for 152 episodes (across two series), as well as a hyper-violent anime movie in 1986 (so violent that a 100% uncensored version has never been truly, completely remastered). These anime productions also gave voice actor Akira Kamiya an iconic role as Kenshiro (after already having voiced Kinnikuman). Since the manga's end, there have been too many spin-offs, side stories, & parodies to count, and from 2001-2010 Tetsuo Hara would make a prequel manga, Souten no Ken/Fist of the Blue Sky, which told the pre-apocalyptic ordeals of Kenshiro Kasumi, the grandfather (by adoption) of the original manga's lead. Truly, this is one of the most iconic action manga ever, let alone within the annals of Jump.

Back in Part 2 of the Bronze Age, I mentioned that Yoshihiro Takahashi's debut work, 1976-1980's Akutare Giants, may have been his longer Jump manga, but is now essentially non-existent compared to a later work. Said work would be Ginga -Nagareboshi Gin-/Silver Fang -Shooting Star Gin-, which debuted at the tail end of 1983. Taking inspiration from tales of domesticated dogs that wind up having to live in the wild, the manga followed Gin, an akita bear hunting dog that helps his family & friends, both human & canine, in their battles against a sleuth of bears lead by the deadly "Red Helmet" (named because of a big red spot on his head). Similar to Fist of the North Star's use of a post-apocalyptic world, Takahashi could have easily relied on the fact that his shonen manga starred dogs, but instead he mixed in the popular action manga style. As Gin would become stronger, he would eventually learn how to deliver a move called the Zetsu Tenrou Battouga/Absolute Fang of the Heavenly Wolf, which had Gin spin around rapidly in the air, allowing him to shred foes in his wake. The manga would end in early 1987 after 18 volumes, receiving a 21-episode TV anime adaptation (from Toei again) in 1986. Said anime would become insanely popular in Nordic countries, interestingly enough. Takahashi would make a few spin-offs to Gin as the years went on before making an actual sequel, Ginga Legend Weed, which starred Gin's son Weed. The sequel would run from 1999-2009, lasting 60 volumes(!), before receiving its own sequel, Ginga Legend Weed: Orion, from 2009-2014; it starred Gin's grandson, Orion. Presently, Takahashi is looking to finally end his canine epic with Ginga ~The Last Wars~, which started in mid-2015.

While the concept of shonen manga about romance had always existed prior to 1984, they tended to err on the comical side more than being actually about legit romance. That changed early that year with Kimagure/Capricious Orange☆Road, the debut serialization of Izumi Matsumoto. Focusing on a love triangle between new-in-town Kyosuke Kasuga & best friends Madoka Ayukawa (a female delinquent) and Hikaru Hiyama, the manga was more or less a straight-forward romantic manga, with some comedy for balance as well as the fact that every member of the Kasuga family had some sort of psychic ability that they had to keep secret from everyone else. Matsumoto was also an artist who had a good sense of visual style, giving the series a look & vibe that mixed well for the decade it was published in, and in the end Kimagure OrangeRoad wound up becoming more or less the blueprint for how "shonen romance" manga would be done. It would end in late 1987 after 18 volumes, but would live on longer via anime. Following a 1985 pilot film (produced alongside the Kochikame pilot), there would be a 48-episode TV anime from 1987-1988 made by Studio Pierrot (same studio as said pilot), followed by a movie & OVAs from 1988-1991, before seeing its last anime production, a movie that took place years later, in late 1996.

Fist of the North Star may have been the manga that started the Golden Age & is now generally thought of as the manga that took traditional shonen action away from sports, but what came at the very end of 1984 codified everything, making many younger fans think that it even introduced a lot of the traditions, concepts, & tropes that define shonen action manga. Taking only a three month hiatus following the end of Dr. Slump, Akira Toriyama returned in full force with Dragon Ball, a manga that certainly does not need any sort of introduction whatsoever. For those who may be under some sort of amnesia, though, the manga detailed the life of Son Goku, a monkey-tailed martial artist, as he went from spunky little boy to adult protector of the world, with the seven eponymous Dragon Balls, which when gathered can grant any wish, being important items at various points. Seriously, there is nothing I can say that hasn't been said about this manga, whether it's the transition it made from Jackie Chan-inspired comedic action to energy blast-shooting action epic as it ran, the fact that it gave Masako Nozawa her most iconic role in Son Goku (one that she plays to this very day with next to no change in voice, even though she's presently 79 years old[!!]), or the reality that it was so successful that Toriyama didn't have to ever draw another manga ever afterwards (he still did, obviously, but only whenever he felt like it, & only short manga). While Kochikame broke the 40-volume mark in mid-1986, it was Dragon Ball's 42-volume run that ended in mid-1995 that tends to get the actual attention in terms of sheer length (again, Kochikame is more or less an outlier in these instances). In fact, Jump lost half of a million readers solely because this manga finished; that said, it wasn't the biggest loss Jump ever suffered, but let me not get ahead of myself. Finally, Dragon Ball became the second Jump manga to be given a full-color final chapter, nearly 14 years after Ring ni Kakero, putting it into a truly exclusive club.

In terms of anime, Dragon Ball is one of Toei's tent pole titles, having received a TV anime that ran from 1986-1996 for 444 episodes (across two series, the second of which coined the "Dragon Ball Z" name everyone now uses), followed by a 64-episode TV anime sequel, Dragon Ball GT, that was completely anime-original (& not canon to the manga at all) that ran from 1996-1997. That's not even counting the 17 movies made from 1986-1996, four TV specials (counting the GT special from 1997 & the 2013 crossover with One Piece & Toriko), the 1993 OVA (& its 2010 re-imagining), & two educational shorts from 1988. In fact, combining with the Dr. Slump TV anime (both the 80s & 90s shows), there was an anime based on an Akira Toriyama manga on Japanese television from April 1981 to September 1999, or nearly 18.5 years! An entire generation of Japanese people were essentially raised on Akira Toriyama's poop jokes & power-up-focused, over-the-top fighting. Of course, I won't forget to mention the slew of recent Dragon Ball anime, which includes a re-cut & remastered TV airing of the DBZ episodes from 2009-2011 & 2014-2015, called Dragon Ball (Z) Kai, two brand new (& canon to the original story) movies in 2013 & 2015, & now a presently-airing midquel TV anime called Dragon Ball Super that started this past July & is also canon to the original manga timeline. It also inspired a big-budget Hollywood live-action movie in 2009, but let's forget that ever happened. Regardless, the simple fact that this is the first entry that required two large paragraphs is proof that, though there have been manga that have since surpassed it in length (once again, Kochikame is an outlier), there is possibly no manga that defines Weekly Shonen Jump more than Dragon Ball. It's finale did not signify the end of the Golden Age, as I implied above, but we'll get to that next time...

The next long-runner was another follow-up, and would end up becoming an icon in its own right. Only a few months following the end of Cat's♥Eye, Tsukasa Hojo would return in early 1985 with City Hunter, which detailed the various jobs of Ryo Saeba, a detective/sweeper (i.e. hired hitman) who helps keep Tokyo clean of crime. Mixing together Hojo's penchant for stylish characters, sexy women (who are constantly hit upon by the lecherous & easy to please Saeba), tough action, & silly comedy, the manga was another hit in an age that would be inundated with them. In fact, the "mokkori" humor that Shape Up Ran introduced to Jump would be utilized in City Hunter to an even larger effect, becoming the series that the term is generally associated with. Also, Ryo's significant other, Kaori Makimura, may be the character that popularized the modern concept of using "hammerspace" in anime & manga, as she would constantly whack Ryo with a giant "100 ton" hammer for his "mokkori" antics. It would eventually end at the very end of 1991, after 35 volumes, but would also see an extended life via anime. Sunrise would debut a TV anime in 1987 & feature Akira Kamiya as the lead once again, giving him his third iconic Jump anime role; in fact, Kamiya has admitted that Ryo Saeba is his all-time favorite role. The anime would run until 1991, across four series, for a total of 140 episodes, and various TV specials, OVAs, & a movie would keep the series in the minds of Japanese viewers until 1999. There was also a 1993 Hong Kong film based loosely on the manga, starring Jackie Chan as Ryo, but is now known more for a scene where Ryo hallucinates that he & his enemy are Street Fighter II characters; I couldn't make this up if I tried. There was also an in-name-only K-Drama in 2011. Tsukasa Hojo would debut a "parallel universe" sequel called Angel Heart in 2001, which had Ryo "adopt" a Chinese assassin who receives Kaori's heart following her death, and that is not only still running via a "2nd Season" but also saw its own TV anime adaption from 2005-2006.

It took nearly two years for Jump to see its next hit gag manga, but one would debut a week after City Hunter's debut with Tsuide ni Tonchinkan/Then to Absurdity by Koichi Endo. Originally focusing on the thieving actions of the group known as Kaito Tonchinkan, led by the ridiculous-looking Nukesaku Aida (seriously, look at that face with the big eyes & giant buck teeth!), the slapstick gag manga eventually switched over to more character-based comedy, with the thieving eventually being completed dropped. Sadly, I can't quite find out much more about this manga other than that basic info, likely due to how absurdly it took itself in general, i.e. there likely isn't really a "plot" to speak of. Whatever Endo did while making the manga, it did reach a notable audience, as the series ran until mid-1989 for 18 volumes, making it a definitive Jump series of the second half of the 80s. It also received a TV anime adaptation by Studio Comet from 1987-1988 that ran for 43 episodes, all but the first featuring two stories; it was partially notable for airing right after High School! Kimengumi's anime, creating a gag anime hour. Also, the penultimate episode was not aired due to Emperor Showa becoming ill, which was likely major news at the time, making it an unaired episode. Nukesaku himself has kind of become such an easily identifiable character in general (truly, that face will never leave your mind), but sadly the series he hails from seems to be a fair bit tougher to find some basic info on; it's either go full-bore into the series, or know little.

Half-way into 1985 came another comedy manga, but this one was a parody that took itself extremely seriously. Sakigake!! Otokojuku/Charge Ahead!! Men's School by Akira Miyashita, a former assistant of Yoshihiro Takahashi's, focused around the students of the titular "Men's School", where delinquents that other schools couldn't handle would learn to become ideal Japanese citizens. The way to graduate, though, is by being able to even survive the school's dangerous & possibly deadly traps, insanely old-school teachers, & other highly anachronistic methods that haven't been used in school since medieval times. The manga specifically followed the class lead by Momotaro Tsurugi, a sword-wielding badass, and it's easy to see what Miyashita was poking fun at. Fist of the North Star was barely only two years old, yet here was a manga that was having fun at the whole "MAN-ga" concept, with only the toughest of the manly men being actually true to their looks; the rest were really just pansies. It also poked fun at action manga in general, like by having every single way someone fought being some sort of ancient martial art, even if it involved something as ridiculous as riding a unicycle. Still, Otokojuku took itself just seriously enough to still be enjoyed in an unironic sense, and that was a big factor that lead to Miyashita being able to make the manga until mid-1991 after 34 volumes, outlasting & outrunning Fist by a notable margin. Toei would also adapt it to TV as a 34-episode series (plus one movie) in 1988. Miyashita wouldn't wait long to follow up his biggest hit, creating semi-sequel Sora Yori Takaku/Higher Than the Sky for Weekly Playboy from 1995-2002. A proper sequel would debut in the form of Akatsuki!! Otokojuku - Seinen yo, Taishi o Idake/Daybreak!! Men's School - Young Men, Embrace the Sweet Death, which starred the children of the original manga & ran in Super Jump from 2001-2010 for 25 volumes. Among other spin-offs & even a prequel about Otokojuku's head principal, Miyashita is presently doing another sequel, Goku!! Otokojuku/Extreme!! Men's School, which debuted in early 2014.

After bombing hard with his fourth serialized manga, 1984's Otoko Zaka, Masami Kurumada decided that, instead of making manga the would please himself on a deeply personal level, he would make a manga that he knew the readers would enjoy. The end result was Saint Seiya, which debuted in the very first issue of 1986 & detailed the battles fought by the Saints, the constellation-inspired armored personal guard of Greek goddess Athena. Specifically, it was about five young Bronze Saints, the lowest rank of all, lead by Seiya, who donned the Pegasus Cloth. For good proof that Kurumada aimed directly for the mainstream, he decided to start the entire thing off with a tournament arc, because those are always popular, and while that did give the manga a bit of a rough & undefined start, it quickly found its course & became Kurumada's most successful manga of all time. Reutilizing a number of concepts, themes, & even a few names and terms from Ring ni Kakero & Fuma no Kojirou, Saint Seiya took Kurumada's old-school influenced, over-the-top action & refined it even more, creating a style that was just as much of an institution of shonen action that Dragon Ball was slowly becoming at that point. In fact, Akira Toriyama may have been encouraged by his editors to follow Kurumada's example, as Goku's battles wouldn't become what they are now so well remembered for until at least the end of the 80s. While Kurumada had grand plans for Saint Seiya, he was forced to put an end to it after its third story arc finished at the end of 1990, totaling 28 volumes. His follow-up manga, 1992's Silent Knight Sho, debuted with the intent of creating another Seiya, or at least his editors were hoping for that. Instead, it got canceled after 2 volumes, & Masami Kurumada decided to pack his bags & leave Shonen Jump after being with the magazine for 18 years. In fact, Kurumada's name wouldn't be on a "Jump Comics" labeled manga tankouban until 2014, when his return to Otoko Zaka would simply continue off of the original run, similar to how Kinnikuman's new volumes continue off of the original series' volume count. As for Saint Seiya, a TV anime from Toei would debut in late 1986 (not even a full year into the manga's run) & last until 1989 for 114 episodes & four movies. Ever since 2003, though, Toei has been producing a new Seiya anime, whether via TV, OVA, movie, or ONA, every single year, minus 2009-2011 (which was filled in by TMS' anime adaptation of spin-off manga The Lost Canvas), and Kurumada would eventually continue the original manga where it left off at in 2006 with Saint Seiya Next Dimension, running in Akita Shoten's Weekly Shonen Champion, which he is still making on an irregular basis.

Though baseball manga was a big part of Jump's Bronze Age, the magazine had not had a long-running example of that genre ever since Susume!! Pirates ended in 1980. The drought would end in late 1986 with probably the most obscure Golden Age manga I'll be covering in this part. With a title that actually beats out Kochikame's full title when written in romanji (but only by a couple of characters), Kenritsu Umisora Koko Yakyuu Buin Yamashita Taro-kun/Prefectural Umisora High School Baseball Club Member Taro Yamashita by Koji Koseki probably has one of the most self-explanatory names in the history of manga. Detailing the trials of Taro Yamashita, considered the worst high school baseball player with the biggest dreams, the manga seemed to be a relatively simple & traditional baseball manga, especially compared to what was running in Shonen Jump. Remember, when this title debuted the magazine was still running Kinnikuman & Captain Tsubasa, which were both on the more fantastical side of the spectrum. Another interesting bit of trivia about this manga was that Kosaki never actually showed the team's manager or base coach &, aside from the lead, no one is ever referred to by a first name; last names only here. If anything, by this time in Jump's history the idea of a simple sports story in the vein of something like Play Ball was likely an appeal all in & of itself, because Yamashita Taro-kun ended up running until mid-1990 & lasting 21 volumes. Oddly enough, though, the manga never saw any sort of notable anime adaptation, let alone on TV; in this entire "Part 1", this is the only manga to have not received a multi-episode TV anime or OVA series, even if only via a spin-off or sequel. That said, a 30-minute anime pilot was made in 1988 for the Jump Anime Carnival made by Shin-Ei Animation, but nothing else came about from that. Koji Koseki wouldn't forget about his downtrodden lead, though, as he would return in a couple of Shinchosha-published series. First was 2001-2004's Kabushikigaisha Oyamada Shuppan Kari Henshu Buin Yamashita Taro-kun/Oyamada Publishing Provisional Editor Taro Yamashita, where Taro seemed to be the editor of a baseball manga like his own, & 2004-2006's Yamashita Taro-kun -Umi to Sora no Monogatari-/Taro Yamashita -A Story of the Sea & Sky-.

Finally, as a neat bit of final trivia, this series by Koji Koseki was supposedly the manga that "most affected" the then-upcoming work of a man that most manga fans now know of. Hey, this is from the next manga creator's own mouth, so I won't doubt it.

1987 started off on an extremely strong note with the debut of one of Jump's longest franchises ever. After a couple of failed prospects, including the now-cult favorite Baoh the Visitor, Hirohiko Araki forever defined his career with his third serialization, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Starting off as a European-influenced, horror-themed take on the manly kind of shonen action that Fist of the North Star & Otokojuku were succeeding with, Araki eventually switched over to a manly take on Indiana Jones, followed by an international road trip... And then a action mystery taking place in a single Japanese town, which was followed up by a tale of mafioso. Indeed, JoJo was not simply a singular story, but rather a series of various "Parts", each of which starred a member of the Joestar lineage, starting with Part 1's Jonathan. This allowed Araki to truly experiment & try out different styles & ideas, as well as tell very different stories, while having them all still feel familiar enough by taking place in the same world & timeline as the others; & all of them were truly "bizarre". Had this manga debuted in another age of Jump, this probably would have been the A-number-1 title in the magazine, but with such a strong line-up alongside it, JoJo instead kind of became like Kochikame, i.e. it became a true tent pole for the magazine. While it was occasionally super popular at times, especially with Part 3, the manga seemed to survive by simply being a traditional part of the magazine, which may actually be a sign of bigger success than simply being the #1 title; the "new hotness" may be popular, but JoJo was always there to give fans something different. While there would be OVAs made for Part 3 from 1993-1994 & 2000-2002, followed by a poorly-received anime movie adaptation of Part 1 in 2007, there wouldn't be a TV anime adaptation until 2012. Said TV anime is now a giant hit, with Parts 1-3 all being adapted, & a Part 4 adaptation debuting this coming Spring. Technically, Araki put an "end" to JoJo in mid-1999, after 63 total volumes by finishing Part 5 (making it kind of another outlier, similar to Kochikame), but would quickly return as a way to welcome newcomers, and we'll get to that much later...

Half way into 1987 saw the debut of another absurd gag manga, though this one had more of an actual plot behind it, at least one that can be properly described compared to Tsuide ni Tonchinkan. The debut manga of Tadashi Satou, a former assistant to both Kontaro & Motoei Shinzawa, Moeru! Onii-san/Burning Older Brother! followed Kenichi Kokuho, a young man who, as a baby, was lost by his parents during a picnic & was washed down a river before being found by Cha Genmai, a hermit who dwelled in the mountains & taught Kenichi martial arts. After turning a super-muscular 15, Kenichi found out about his real parents & decides to head back home, even though he knew nothing of the civilized world. Along with his wolf companion named Flipper, Kenichi rejoins his real family, creating nothing but mayhem in the process. A gag manga where anything could seem to happen, not even the covers were safe from wildly different art styles, Moeru! Onii-san debuted just a few weeks before High School! Kimengumi came to an end, becoming the perfect replacement in terms of zany gag manga, resulting in a serialized run that came to an end in mid-1991, lasting 19 volumes, & a TV anime anime from Studio Pierrot in 1988 that ran for 24 episodes, plus a two-episode OVA sequel in 1989. Sadly, said anime has never been given a DVD release, outside of the first episode being included in a 2012 series of DVDs that featured the first episodes of various Jump anime; Moeru! Onii-san's first episode was part of the final, comedy-themed DVD.

While Go Nagai introduced sexuality & dirtiness to shonen manga back in 1968, it would take another 20 years for someone to truly take it to its absolute limit. Said person was Kazushi Hagiwara, a former assistant to Izumi Matsumoto, via his early 1988 manga Bastard!! -Ankoku no Hakaishin/Destructive God of Darkness-. The story took place in a post-apocalyptic Earth that was destroyed in seven days by a god-like being, which then brought about a world of high-fantasy. Following Dark Schneider, a nigh-immortal wizard who tried taking over the world once before being sealed away in a boy named Lucien Renlen, Hagiwara seemingly decided to see just how far he could go in a shonen manga magazine when it came to sexuality & violence. While Tetsuo Hara was drawing bodies exploding into bloody bits, Kazushi Hagiwara was drawing even more gore than what came before. By making "D.S." into an unabashed, sexualizing womanizer, he also went as far as he could in terms of showcasing sex scenes. Women would be stripped down to barely anything, felt up by the lead in extremely sensual ways, & it was often heavily insinuated that some sort of intercourse did indeed happen. Not surprisingly, this kind of content wasn't going to fly in a serialized magazine for young boys that came out every single week... But instead of canceling the manga, Shueisha instead did something different with Bastard!!. Likely due to it appealing to readers' carnal instincts, as well as those who enjoy fourth wall-breaking humor, Hagiwara was allowed to continue the manga on a quarterly basis in 1989, with new chapters appearing in every seasonal special issue well into the mid-90s. A six-episode OVA adaptation did come out from 1992-1993, but we'll return to Bastard!! in the next age, as there would be a notable change in how it came out during that time.

One week after Bastard!!'s debut, the creator of Shape Up Ran would return with what would become his most iconic work. Masaya Tokuhiro's Jungle no Ouja/Jungle King Tar-chan started off as a gag manga based around a caricature of Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic man of the jungle, Tarzan, though here he was simply referred to as "Tar-chan" (copyright, natch). In this version of the story, Tar-chan was just as perverted & lazy as he was muscular, & his wife Jane had gotten content with her new life & became a short & stout woman; she could still kick her husband's butt when needed, though. Also, Tar-chan technically lived in a savanna, not a jungle... Semantics, right? Like his prior hit, Tokuhiro would still rely on dirty humor, like having Tar-chan glide in the air like a flying squirrel by stretching his scrotum. Eventually, though, Tokuhiro would add in more action elements & give Tar-chan various allies who could be just as odd as the lead could be. Likely to mark the change in style, Tokuhiro technically ended Tar-chan in mid-1990, after seven volumes, before re-debuting a continuation, Shin/New Jungle King Tar-chan, the following week. This follow-up would run until mid-1995 for another 20 volumes, & would be the main basis behind a TV anime adaptation from Group TAC that ran for 50 episodes from 1993-1994. One final note about Tar-chan is that Masaya Tokuhiro took on a young assistant named Eiichiro Oda during part of the second manga's run, and when Oda finally decided to break out on his own he was heavily inspired by his time with Tokuhiro... But that's for another age.

Dragon Ball's 42-volume run was something to make note of, but it wasn't the only Golden Age manga to hit that number (again, I'm treating Kochikame & JoJo as outliers here). The man who matched Akira Toriyama, yet is never given any real credit for doing so, was Masanori Morita & his debut manga, mid-1988's Rokudenashi/Good-for-Nothing Blues. Though he was an assistant for Tetsuo Hara during Fist of the North Star's run, Morita didn't make a fantastical action manga for his debut. Instead, he created a yankii/delinquent manga, a genre that Jump wasn't really known for in the past. Starring Taison Maeda, a high school student who dreams of becoming a world-champion boxer (but doesn't know the first thing about boxing), Rokudenashi Blues may have sounded like a sports manga, but it was actually more about Taison constantly getting into trouble & fights with other delinquents, even when he didn't want to. Considering the sheer length of the manga, which ended in early 1997 after 42 volumes, the focus likely did change over to actual boxing eventually, but what Morita did with his debut work was give Shonen Jump an iconic yankii manga, one that is still celebrated to this day. But while there were live-action movies in 1996 & 1998, as well as a J-Drama adaptation in 2011, anime more or less eluded the series. Toei did make a pair of anime movies in 1992 & 1993, but Rokudenashi Blues has never been adapted to animated television, and today it is the longest Jump manga to have never been given a TV anime. Sadly, while the yankii genre has success in manga, it's been next to non-existent for anime that's made for TV; OVAs & movies have been common, but existing TV yankii anime numbers very low. Who knows, maybe that can change in time for the manga's 30th Anniversary in 2018, because matching Jump's Golden Child in terms of length, while running alongside it no less, is something that shouldn't be forgotten.

While Tatsuya Egawa technically made his manga debut with 1984-1988's Be Free! in Morning magazine, he wouldn't start establishing a legacy until the very end of 1988 when he debuted Magical Taruruuto-kun in the pages of Jump. Detailing the life of Honmaru Edojou, a downtrodden loser who accidentally summons a young magical being named Taruruuto (the son of a demon), the manga was somewhat similar in essence to Doraemon or even Dokonjo Gaeru, i.e. the lead would get into some sort of silly trouble & would try to find a solution by way of his new buddy's various abilities. In this case, Taruruuto had various magical items & spells at his command, such as the Miecchin/Dirty Viewer, magic goggles that let the user see through clothes, or Hormonga, a soft drink that let someone change gender. Yeah, it's obvious that there was a bit of a dirtiness to Taruruuto-kun, but that almost never stopped a series from succeeding; in fact, it usually helped. Egawa would continue to draw the manga until finishing it up in late 1992 after 21 volumes, & Toei made an anime adaptation that ran on TV from 1990-1992 for 87 episodes, as well as a trio of movies. Tatsuya Egawa would then become world renown shortly afterwards via his next (non-Jump) manga, Golden Boy (specifically by way of its OVA adaptation), but Magical Taruruuto-kun wouldn't be completely forgotten. In fact, Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake recently debuted a drive by LL for a "VR Manga" sequel to Taruruuto-kun, featuring help from Egawa.

It would take nearly an entire year for the next truly notable Jump manga to come about, and the end result was an interesting bit of cross-promotion. Working with Enix's Yuji Horii, the duo of Riku Sanjo & Koji Inada (a student of Masakazu Katsura) debuted Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken/Dai's Big Adventure at the very end of 1989. Instead of being based on any specific entry in the iconic RPG series, though, the manga was an original story that was heavily inspired by Dragon Quest & utilized various monsters, magic spells, items & weapons, as well as the overall style & thematics of Horii's creation. Following a young boy named Dai as he aimed to avenge the death of his master Avan by the Demon King Hadlar, Dai no Daibouken wasn't simply Dragon Quest in style, but also looks. Obviously inspired by Akira Toriyama, Koji Inada's general art style was a near-perfect imitation to Toriyama's general look, though there was still enough different to not be a blatant copy. Though Enix would debut its own manga magazine line in 1991 with Monthly Shonen GanGan, which featured its own various Dragon Quest manga, it didn't affect Dai no Daibouken's run in any way whatsoever. Running until the very end of 1996 after 37 volumes, Jump's Dragon Quest manga went on to become on its all-time best sellers, with roughly 40 million copies sold, and today is generally looked at as one of the best adventure manga one can read. Also similar to Toriyama's works, Toei would produce a TV anime that ran for 46 episodes from 1991-1992, as well as a trio of short anime movies during that time. Sadly, Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken's anime has never seen any sort of DVD release, remastered or otherwise, with the TV series being exclusive to VHS & the movies at least having been given LD releases; it didn't even see inclusion in the same first episode DVD series that Moeru! Onii-san got into. The fact that both Shueisha & (now) Square-Enix, now rivals in manga publishing, were both involved in this series may be the big culprit, but hopefully one day that can be rectified.

Following the end of Wingman in mid-1985, Masakazu Katsura tried to put his focus on another superhero manga, but 1985-1986's Choukidouin/Super Mobile Troop Vander, which featured a boy & girl pair who transform into a single superhero (with the girl becoming the boy's armor... yeah), went nowhere pretty fast, ending after two volumes. Following that, Katsura put superheroes on the side, making a quartet of Zetman one-shots, nearly a decade before rebooting it in 2002, while putting his main focus on his debut work's other genre, romantic comedy. The end result was late 1989's Den'ei Shoujo, known better as Video Girl Ai (triple get it?), which would become Katsura's first international success. The manga focused on hapless romantic Yota Moteuchi, who decided to rent a video from a mysterious video store after finding out that the girl of his dreams was dating another guy. Unbeknownst to Yota, the tape he rented was a "Video Girl", where the starring girl would come out of the TV to give the viewer pleasure. Since his VCR was malfunctioning, though, the girl he rented, Ai Amano, wound up becoming a smaller-chested tomboy that now feels human emotion & falls in love with Yota. A silly concept, no doubt (not to mention pretty outdated now due to the use of VHS, VCRs, & video rental stores), but one that really captured an audience both in Japan & abroad, even more so when it was adapted into a six-episode OVA series in 1992. The manga would run until mid-1992 (via a seasonal special issue), with the last two volumes changing focus to friends Hiromu & Toshiki, who wind up with a video girl named Len. Katsura would follow up Video Girl Ai with 1993-1994's romantic comedy DNA², which itself would receive a TV & OVA adaptation from 1994-1995, as well as the on-again/off-again female superhero manga Shadow Lady until 1996, but wouldn't receive another real long-runner until after the end of the Golden Age.

Speaking of failed follow-ups after a debut hit, the same fate befell Tetsuo Hara after ending Fist of the North Star in mid-1988. Following the end of 1988-1989 sci-fi adventure manga Cyber Blue after four volumes, Hara would hit real pay dirt in early 1990. Adapted from Ryu Keiichiro's novel Ichi-Mu-An Furyuuki/One Dream Estate, The Wind Flow Record, Hana no Keiji -Kumo no Kanata ni-/Keiji of the Flowers -Beyond the Clouds- was a fictionalized account of the life of Keiji Maeda, one of the most iconic names of Japan's Sengoku/Warring States period. The historical Maeda was known to be a bit of an odd person at times, and Hara's depiction may be one of the earliest examples of taking that quirk & making it his main appeal. In comparison to even Kenshiro, Hana no Keiji's lead was highly eccentric & sarcastic to others, but was also a grand warrior who could plan his way out of nearly any situation, with his eccentricities almost masking how dangerous he could be to his foes. Mixing together historical events & people with Hara's trademark manly art style, Hana no Keiji wound up becoming a more than moderate hit for Jump, lasting 18 volumes before ending in mid-1993 & selling over 17 million copies. Hara would stick to adapting Ryu Keiichiro novels for most of the rest of his days with Jump, as well as his own homage to Otoko Ippiki Gaki Daisho with 1995's Takeki Ryusei, but none of them would be anywhere near as successful of Keiji or Fist, & Hara would leave Jump in 2000 after roughly 18 years (same as Masami Kurumada & even Hiroshi Motomiya). Since then, Hara gave Fist of the Blue Sky's Kenshiro Kasumi the sarcastic attitude as an homage to his take on Keiji Maeda, while spin-offs of Hara's second hit are still being made to this day, focusing specifically on the friendship between Keiji & Kanetsugu Naoe. It's those spin-offs that eventually resulted in the 2013 anime Gifu Dodo!!/Grand Righteousness!! Kanetsugu & Keiji, which ran for 25 episodes.

The rest of 1990 would stick to the generally established catalog that now existed (Dragon Ball, JoJo, Saint Seiya, Otokojuku, City Hunter, Kochikame, Rokudenashi Blues, etc.), but in the last 10 weeks of the year came a trio of titles that would help set into motion the second half of Jump's Golden Age, one by being infamous & the other two by being certifiable classics... But that's for next time.
In the first half of the Golden Age of Jump alone, we saw the debut of so many titles that are now considered classics. Tetsuo Hara & Buronson brought shonen action out of the sports genre completely, giving Ring ni Kakero's blueprint enough of a revision to make it truly iconic. Akira Toriyama, even if doing so begrudgingly, followed that lead & created the series that is now looked at the icon of shonen fighting manga. Izumi Matsumoto showcased that shonen manga could actually put the focus more on romance than ridiculous comedy, & Masakazu Kastura carried that torch into the 90s. We also saw a wide variety of lead characters, from warriors of the Greek gods to delinquents with dreams of world renown to city sweepers to even dogs. There's an extremely good reason why this period of Jump's history is the only one to be given an official title, and the first half of it is already more than enough to prove it. Still, there's a more than worthy second half to be examined, so come back to see what the 90s brought to Shonen Jump.


  1. According to the Japanese Wikipedia, he JoJo Part 1 movie was shelved due to a fallout between Shueisha and Studio APPP (the same studio that produced JoJo Part 3 OVA) after the controversy surrounding the use of the Quran in the Part 3 OVA. Not sure how true this is though.

    1. The JoJo: Phantom Blood movie did see a theatrical release in Japan, and it was ravaged by both critics & fans who saw it. The "fallout" has been attributed to Hirohiko Araki being so displeased with the movie that he forbade it from even seeing a home video release (which he technically has the right to do, in Japan, seeing as it is based on his work). The use of the Quran in Part 3's OVAs had no effect on the Part 1 movie, whatsoever. Shueisha may have used it as an excuse to explain the lack of a home video release for the movie, though.

    2. I see that explanation pop up a lot in English websites, but never in a Japanese one, not even in the Japanese Wikipedia. Any source for that?