Sunday, November 8, 2009

Review: Kyofu Shimbun

In researching the members of Tezuka's Tokiwa Mansion period, I decided to get one book from each person I could track down. In some cases, all I could find for specific artists was just one book. Since I was in the Mandarake used manga shop at the time, I was limited to whatever someone else had to sell back into circulation. I know that I could go to or one of the auction sites, but all I want is a representative work from the Tokiwa artists, not a complete collection of what each of them had published.

Jirou Tsunoda was a regular visitor to Tokiwa, rather than actually living there. He's not documented well on the English version of wikipedia, but there is a lot of information on him in the Japanese page. He's got 30+ titles listed to his credit, and a number of them have been animated or turned into live action movies. His works cover a wide range of genres, including children's gag manga, karate and the like. However, his later manga tended more towards mysteries and horror. The primary example of this is "Kyofu Shimbun" (Terror Newspaper), which was the basis for the 2004 Japanese movie "Yogen" ("Premonition").

Kyofu Shimbun, by Jirou Tsunoda: Grade B+
"Kyofu Shimbun" is a horror "mystery" series that first ran from 1973 to 1976 in Shonen Champion magazine (Kyofu Shimbun II ran from 1990 to 1993) for 29 stories and each story is about 60-70 pages. The artwork is fairly crude, and the characters' faces change proportion when going from full frontal to profile view. Often the body proportions also change, with the character going from tall and thin to short and stocky. There's a tendency to have pivotal characters in a scene overreact in horror to even the simplest explanations. So, from this point, Jirou has a few flaws. Since he had a staff of assistants working for him, I'd assume that some of the problems came from letting the assistants work unsupervised on the less important panels. On the other hand, a lot of the stiffness in the poses and actions is due to the age of the series. Manga drawn 30 years ago is definitely going to look dated now.

But, the "mystery" element isn't based on the artwork. Jirou had seen a UFO at one point, causing him to become a leading researcher on unexplained phenomenon. And that's what "Kyofu Shimbun" is all about. Rei Kigata is a 14-year-old school student that only believes in what he can experience directly and what science can explain. One day, he gets into an argument with some fellow students that claim to have seen a ghost. That night, loud footsteps are heard outside his window and a newspaper literally *flies* into the room to settle neatly on his bed. The front page announces this to be the Kyofu Shimbun, and the lead story indicates that one of his teachers is going to get killed. The next day, Rei takes the paper to school to warn his teacher only to discover that everyone else sees the title as "every night news". Immediately afterwards, the teacher gets hit by a speeding car and dies. Later, when Rei tries to ask other teachers for help, the poltergeist in his room threatens to kill anyone else that gets involved. To complicate matters, every time Rei reads the paper, his life is shortened by 100 days.

In the first volume, the stories include poltergeists, vampires, UFOs, doppelgangers and mummies. In all cases, they're heavily documented and accompanied by references to past news accounts. Some of the phenomena can be explained scientifically but most can't. This was scary stuff to young Japanese students in the 70's, and can still be effective even today. But, western audiences may be more skeptical (maybe not by much, though). I don't think these stories have been licensed for the U.S., and I haven't seen fan scans for it yet. I like the stories because they're fun, and the artwork's not all that bad. But if you can't read Japanese, it's going to have less of an affect on you. You can still watch the Premonition DVD, though.

Summary: A newspaper that arrives in the night and can predict various accidents and murders also causes you to lose 100 days off your lifespan every time you read it. Recommended for anyone that liked the Ring movies and can read Japanese.

Kyofu Shimbun has even been turned into a Pachislaw (kind of like a pachinko) machine.

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