Sunday, December 20, 2009

The History of Manga, Part 8

(Tokyo Puck cover, 1905, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)

It's important to note here that some of the illustrators listed by Gekkan Bijutsu didn't explore manga or panel strips to much of an extent, if at all; Katsudi, Takeo Takei and Yumeji Takehisa being the main exceptions. But, the influence of the cover artists and story illustrators on the rest of the magazines is pretty inescapable, since many of these people made it into editorial positions at some point. Further, with the ending of WW II and the appearance of Tezuka's "Shin Takarajima", shojo magazines proceeded to be the main monthly stage for manga as we currently know it, for about a decade.

(Tokyo Puck inside page, 1905, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)

Granted, panel art didn't just appear in shojo magazines. Newspapers had western-style comic strip sections, and many of the artists also illustrated the serialized novels running in the papers. But, the important point here is that these early artists tended to come from different backgrounds, such as avant-garde art circles, postcard printing, fashion and newspaper editorials. They then go through a convergence that takes them either through shojo magazines on to children's book publishing, or to editorial strips, and this convergence set the tone and pace for the manga leading up to 1947. I admit that I may be off the mark here, so feel free to correct me if necessary.

(Rakuten comic, from the wiki article, used for review purposes only. Compare the character designs to Winsor McCay's "Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend" series, which started in 1904.)

Switching paths, we backtrack to the turn of the Twentieth Century, and the advent of Rakuten Kitazawa (1876-1955). Born Yasuji Kitazawa, he took on "Rakuten" as a pen name. From the wiki page, "he studied western-style painting under Ohno Yukihiko and Nihonga under Inoue Shunzui"; in 1895 he started working for the English language magazine Box of Curios and learned how to draw western cartoons from Australian Frank Arthur Nankivell. (Frank would later go to America to work at Puck magazine).

(Frank Nankivell picture from Puck magazine. From the wiki article, used for review purposes only.)

In 1899, Rakuten started working at the daily newspaper Jiji Shimpo, founded by Yukichi Fukuzawa, in the Sunday comics section Jiji Manga. He started up Tokyo Puck in 1905, a satirical full-color magazine, and Rakuten Puck in 1912. He returned to Jiji Shimpo in 1915 and then finally retired in 1932. While Rakuten popularized the word "manga", according to the wiki entry his predecessor at Jiji Shimpo, Ippyo Imaizumi is probably the one to first start using it "in the narrower sense of 'caricature'". Most sources credit Rakuten for using "manga" in the 'caricature' sense, moving it way from its original reference to ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

(Ippeo Okamoto picture from, used for review purposes only.)

Tezuka is reported to have claimed Rakuten and Ippei Okamoto (岡本一平) (1886-1948) as his two main influences. Ippei, according to the page, worked as a political cartoonist for Asahi Shimbun starting in 1912. He also produced comics for various magazines, starting with "Kuma o Tazunete". In 1921, he went globetrotting and when he returned to Japan he introduced American comics like "Mutt and Jeff" and "Bringing up Father" to Japanese audiences through the Asahi Shimbun. He produced his own artwork as well, including caricatures and advertising illustrations. He also wrote at least one novel.

The problem with treating Rakuten and Okamoto as "manga artists" (in the way I'm approaching it) is that for the most part they were either doing political cartoons, or Japanized versions of western strips. "Localized" yonkoma and panel strips as what we expect to see as "modern manga" (post-Tezuka) appear more with Katsudi and Suiho Tagawa ("Norakuro") in towards the late 1920's.


Michel said...

According to Frederik L. Schodt's "Manga! Manga!" the 6-panel Rakuten manga you showed here is from 1902, predating McCay's newspaper comic strips. Rakuten was, however, very aware of contemporary American newspaper comics, but this strip also shows strong resemblance with certain drawings from the "Hokusai Manga" series.

So it's fair to say, I believe, that instead of taking manga away from ukiyo-e toward Western comic strip, Rakuten uesd the best of both worlds for his work which makes him the missing link (or at least one very important one) between Edo art and modern manga.

There are also yonkoma manga by Rakuten (one is printed in "Manga! Manga!"). They don't use word balloons, but the form and the typical forth panel pointe is already there.

TSOTE said...

Hi Michel, thanks for adding this information here. Actually, Rakuten and McCay were probably contemporaries and released works at about the same time. According to the wiki entries, Rakuten started at Jiji Shimpo from 1899, and started contributing to the Jiji Manga comics page from 1902. McCay started working as an artist for Kohl and Middleton's Vine Street Dime Museum in 1891, but it wasn't until 1903 that his "first major strip, "Tales of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle" ran in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

I agree with you that Rakuten was a "bridge factor" between Edo/Meiji style wood block prints and western comics. As mentioned above, he was trained in both styles, and he continued practicing nihonga after he retired from newspaper strips.

You're right, he did do some yonkoma as part of his Tokyo Puck magazine, among others. I have more of his works at The question is how much of an effect he had on the Shojo magazine artists appearing in the 1920's, and how much they had on him.