Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Manga Review: Aho-Shiki

(Kunio, circa 1953.)

The quest to track down all of the people that were listed in the Heroes of Tokiwa
exhibit book brings us next to Kunio Nagatani, definitely one of the more etchi artists in the group, and one of the least appreciated in English. From simply being a visitor at Tokiwa Mansion, Kunio went on to work for Fujio Akatsuka ("Tensai Bakabon") at Fujio Pro. While there, he created a number of manga under his own name, published through Fujio Pro, including "Aho-Shiki" ("Stupid Style"), "Baka-Shiki" ("Stupid-Style") and "Manuke-Shiki" ("Stupid-Style"). Baka-Shiki ran in COM magazine in 1969, and was originally a parody of Tsuge Yoshiharu's "Negi-Shiki" ("Screw-Style"). The subsequent stories went on to parody a number of other titles, including "Man from U.N.C.L.E.", "James Bond" and "Time Tunnel".

Aho-Shiki, by Kunio Nagatani and Fujio Pro, Grade: A
I need to start out by saying that Kunio is in desperate need of a girlfriend. Nearly every one of the short stories in this collection involves strange sex, bodily functions and toilet humor. Akatuska's "Tensai Bakabon" characters make frequent appearances throughout the book, as does Kunio himself. The first 6 or 7 stories begin with some kind of reference to "tunnels" (time tunnels, physical tunnels, worm holes, internal organs), with one character or another finding themselves transported to some other setting. People travel through time, space and storylines.

(The reference to Yoshiharu Tsuge is pretty blatant. But, notice Shotaro Ishinomori in the beret in the 4th panel. This story is a direct parody of the "Neji-Shiki" short story.)

There's no real connecting theme between the stories, but the targets of the parodies are often the works of his fellow artists, and many of them make cameo appearances. In fact, "Aho-Shiki" is a veritable "who's who" of the manga industry in the late 1960's. People that I found (there may some that I overlooked) include:

George Akiyama (as himself)
Mitsutoshi Furuya (as himself)
Leiji Matsumoto (as Oidon no Otoko)
Fujiko Fujio (with a parody of Obake no Q-tarou)
Fujiko A Fujio (with a parody of Smiling Salesman)
Fujio Akatsuka (as himself)
Shigeru Mizuki (with a character drawn in his style)
Yoshiharu Tsuge (as himself)
Yuu Takita (as himself)
Go Nagai (as himself pre-Devilman)
Osamu Tezuka (as an artist trying to teach children to draw manga)
Shotaro Ishinomori (as a nameless background character)
Norakuro (one of the manga drawn by a child taught by Tezuka)

Typical stories include a fighter pilot that crash lands on an island, and asks Yoshiharu for some sample artwork; a man that has strange sexual fantasies that he can't enact in real life; a Gogol 13 character up against a seasoned professional writer (proving that the pen is mightier than the sword); and, a mash-up of "The Prisoner" TV series featuring Bond, Napoleon Solo and Agent LSD 25.

(In the bottom panel, seated, from left to right - Kunio himself, Leiji Matsumoto, Go Nagai and Yuu Takita.)

The artwork is very clean, while the backgrounds are usually kept simple. Characters do change proportions and facial shape (when switching portrait to profile views) but it's intentional and done for specific effects. The designs are usually cartoony, but Kunio can really draw well if he needs to. The jokes tend to be very silly, and show an obvious influence from Akatsuka.

(Kunio, circa 1972)

Summary: If you like MAD magazine, Heavy Metal and a little bit of Hustler thrown into the mix, you'll love "Aho-Shiki". 'nuff said. Good stuff.

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