- Manga Shōnen:Katō Ken'ichi and the Manga Boys
Manga Shōnen . . . what sweet-sounding words. Let's say it again. Manga Shōnen. I feel my chest tighten, such nostalgia arises. Manga Shōnen was my youth's first love . . . My first love, where have you gone?—Tatsumi Yoshihiro, "Manga Shōnen wo aisu" (I miss Manga Shōnen)
So pined Tatsumi Yoshihiro in 1981, twenty-six years after the legendary magazine had folded, on the occasion of the first serious retrospective of its legacy: Terada Hiroo's A History of "Manga Shōnen."1 It was where he and his elder brother Sakurai Shōichi had competed against one another to get published in the monthly reader-submissions contest, Sakurai winning first in March 1949, then Tatsumi in July, then pooling their resources and appearing side by side in 1950 as leaders of the Children's Manga Association (Kodomo Manga Kenkyūkai), their own amateur comics club, purportedly postwar Japan's first.2
Sakurai wrote, also in 1981, on the same occasion, "How we got to know, willy-nilly, the ABC's of making manga was through Gakudōsha's 1948-founded Manga Shōnen. The great children's manga artists from both the prewar and [End Page 173] the postwar congregated there, testing their skills one against another. It was a dazzling spectacle, but at the same time it was the source of information on the world of manga, the textbook, the gateway."3
Among the prewar guard of Manga Shōnen were Shimada Keizō, author Adventurous Dankichi (1933-39, Bōken Dankichi), Tagawa Suihō, author of Norakuro (1931-41), and Haga Masao, the preeminent author of animal comics and picture books during the late 1930s and wartime '40s. On the postwar side was, above anyone else, Tezuka Osamu. It was in Manga Shōnen that his first large-scale magazine serial was published, Jungle Emperor (1950-54, Janguru taitei), about the white lion prince who learns the language and ways of the humans, and then returns to Africa to lead the animal kingdom. It was there that the first chapters of Phoenix (1954-55, Hi no tori) appeared. It was also home to his Manga Classroom (1952-54, Manga kyōshitsu), a how-to tutorial more inspirational than practical, designed to lend authority and not a little star glamour to the magazine's reader submissions pages.
"When I hear the name Manga Shōnen," recalled Ishinomori Shōtarō, the Guinness-recognized world's most prolific cartoonist, "I immediately think of the color red. That's red as in postbox red. How many times did I stick a letter or a postcard in praying for it to be accepted? The very first hurdle I had to cross was that mouth of the postbox."4 The idea of reader submissions was not original, existing in newspapers and magazines since before the war, but Manga Shōnen carried it out on an unprecedented scale. Out of that crucible emerged not just Ishinomori and Tatsumi but many of the top sellers and innovators of postwar manga, including Abiko Motō and Fujimoto Hiroshi of the Fujiko Fujio duo and the king of gag manga Akatsuka Fujio. Submitting there were also boys who ended up famous in other fields, including graphic designers Yokoo Tadanori and Tanaami Keiichi, painter Tateishi Tiger, photographer Shinoyama Kishin, and novelists Komatsu Sakyō and Tsutsui Yasutaka. It was the place where aspiring creators from across Japan first saw their names in print, spurring many of them to better their skills to compete against their peers.
Manga Shōnen also inspired a few amateur comics clubs. In addition to Tatsumi and Sakurai's in Osaka, there was also Ishinomori's East Japan Manga Research Association (Higashi Nihon Manga Kenkyūkai) in Miyagi. Like [End Page 174] the Fujiko Fujio duo in Toyama, each had their own coterie magazines, hand-drawn and single-copy, passed from member to member, sometimes across thousands of miles, and in some cases eventually on to pros and publishers in Tokyo. In many cases, it was these dōjinshi that brought their organizers their fi rst professional commissions, and that opened...