Friday, March 4, 2016

Furukotofumi comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
(The cover art is from the rabbit crossing the ocean over the backs of the sharks story.)

Furukotofumi, by Shotaro Ishinomori, Chuo Kouron Shinsha Publishing, 1999.
古事記 (Furukotofumi, literally "Records of Old Things", but traditionally translated as "Records of Ancient Matters") is the oldest written record of Japan's history. Also written as Kojiki, it dates back to 711-712 AD. According to the wiki entry, it was "composed by Oo no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the first Kami [Japanese pantheon of gods]. Along with the Nihon Shoki, the myths contained in the Kojiki are part of the inspiration behind many practices. Later, the myths were re-appropriated for Shinto practices including the misogi purification ritual."

(Ishinomori, from the front cover flap.)

(Ishinomori finds a way to incorporate himself into the manga a couple times. Notice the first appearance of the fire baby in the bottom left panel. The guy at the bottom right is supposedly Oo no Yasumaro.)

The Kojiki myths start out with the formation of the first two gods, who then create the lesser gods and then go on to make humans (specifically the Japanese people). One of the most famous stories is when the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, gets offended and locks herself away in a cave. The other gods are shocked at having to live in darkness and have a party to draw Amaterasu out of seclusion and then force her to promise to never do that again.

(Destruction of the fire baby and the creation of Japan's volcanoes.)

Ishinomori (1938-1998) was a very prolific writer, although not at the same level as Tezuka, one of his mentors. Oddly, I'm having trouble getting a full list of his works, and his interpretation of Kojiki isn't showing up in any bibliographies. The Chuo Kouron publication came out in 1999, but there's an earlier version dated 1994. The stories were initially serialized in the Japanese Manga History series. While there is some artistic license, in that the stories are framed by a fictional writer that is very laid-back and blase about his subjects, and occasionally there will be sequences with singing and dancing animals, the content of the stories themselves pretty much match up with the original Kojiki. So, if you want to know what the myths are, you can read one of the official Kojiki English translations or check the wiki entry.

(Defeat of the evil Orochi by getting them drunk.)

Ishinomori pretty much got his start as a manga artist while living in Tokiwa Sou (Tokiwa Apartment Dormitory) along with his friend Akatsuka Fujio, the Fujio Fujiko duo (A and F) and Tezuka between 1952 and 1954. None of the other artists specifically worked as Tezuka's assistants, but they did a lot of outsourcing for him to make extra money while trying to sell their own work. Ishinomori in particular copied Tezuka's character style very heavily in his earlier manga. However, while he did develop his own art style eventually, a lot of the Tezuka influence still shows up at such a late date in Furukotofumi, especially in the gags, such as with the drunk Orochi (8-headed snake) above. Otherwise, the myths are presented fairly seriously and pretty much faithfully to the original text.

I'm not going to bother summarizing the chapters here because everything can be found in the wiki entry on Kojiki. Instead, if you want an illustrated version of the myths of the creation of Japan, this manga is a good choice. The Japanese is mostly easy to read, the pacing of the stories is clean and fluid, and the artwork is good. There are a lot of comic sequences to lighten the mood, but there's also some frontal nudity and toilet humor which may offend the easily offended, so you might want to be careful about that. Overall, I recommend Furukotofumi to anyone that likes Ishinomori's more reality-based manga, and who wants to learn more about the genealogy of the Japanese pantheon.

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