Monday, September 19, 2016

Jump Ryuu - #18, Osamu Akimoto

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Jump Ryu vol. 18 - Osamu Akimoto

Well, this is just about it. I'm starting to write up the comments on this volume at 1 AM, Sept. 19th. In a few hours, Weekly Shonen Jump magazine will hit the shelves and the last chapter of the Kochi Kame manga will be out. This is going to be followed with the simultaneous release of volume 200 of the collected manga (although typically the book won't make it to Kyushu until 3 days after the Tokyo release). And then, Kochi Kame will have ended a pretty-much unbroken 40-year run. Sigh.

(Box panel showing the art page and the blue sheet.)

Back in the 1990's, when I was first getting interested in manga, a friend of mine, who owned a bookstore in Minnesota, had picked up a bunch of old volumes of Kochi Kame. At the time, I was more interested in stuff like Dragonball and Ranma 1/2, and the art in Kochi didn't appeal to me (that, and I couldn't read the Japanese dialog). Later, though, when I started researching the history of manga, I got volume 1. To me, it felt like Akimoto was ripping off Akira Toriyama's Dr. Slump. There were a lot of slapstick gags that were alike, and some of the character designs were kind of similar. Of course, Slump didn't come out until 1980 and Kochi started in 1976, so it was the other way around. That didn't matter; at the time, Kochi Kame still didn't gel with me. Then, about 8-10 years ago, I bought a copy of Shonen Jump, and the story in Kochi that issue was about roasting coffee. Since I was roasting my own coffee too, it really hit home. By that point, the character designs had evolved a lot, and were much easier for me to relate to. From that time, I'd developed a soft spot for the "modern" Kochi, because it really is my go-to manga for learning about ANY new trend in Japan, be it manga writing, making plastic models, or drinking specialty coffees. So, yes, I am going to buy both tomorrow's Shonen Jump, and volume #200, and I'm not going to give my impressions of them here.

(Alternate DVD wrapper.)

Ok, Jump Ryuu.
Because I wrote up issue #17 just a few days ago, I'm not that compelled to spell out the contents of this magazine this time. We do get a good overview of Osamu's manga bibliography, with his debut in 1976 (the year after I graduated from high school) in Young Jump with Kochi Kame, and his other manga (lots of one-shots, plus the series Mr. Clice.) Osamu's work studio is a huge contrast to that of the other artists I've seen - big, clean and with a large room that looks like a lobby with a mannequin wearing a uniform from the manga, and a sofa that can seat over 20 people. We do get a lot of sample art, and commentary about how different panels work if you're a student of the art form. The blue page section focuses on shading lines, and the art school pages talk about digital coloring, shading, and inking sound effects. The magazine ends with the 2 pages of editor commentary, and the advertisement for volume 19, for the artist and writer on Death Note and Bakuman.

(Road to Jump page, with picture of Akimoto.)

For the extras, we get the drawing of Ryou, the blue page (with the Captain accusing Ryou of doing something stupid again), and the extra DVD jacket page (which is beautiful, again). Overall, the best part of the magazine is that there are several photos of Akimoto, making it easier to associate the artist with the manga.

(Regular DVD case and wrapper.)

Ok, now, the DVD. The first chapter has Akimoto drawing the art page. He's been doing Ryou for so many years, he can do this pose in his sleep. Akimoto starts with pencil, roughs the pose, then comes back in with a pen to ink the outlines, and he uses actual paints and brushes for the color work. The second chapter is a tour of Akimoto's studio, with the huge couch in the lobby, various awards he's won over the years, and a life-size statue of Reiko. The studio itself is big and airy, and he has a time clock system for keeping track of the hours his assistants work. We get to see Akimoto as he's talking, which is good, but he really doesn't say anything special to his readers for sticking around with him for so long. The last chapter is on how to ink sound effects.

(Examples of Akimoto's artwork, featuring various famous locations around Tokyo.)

Summary: Magazine-wise, there's not that much really earth-shattering. A few pictures of Akimoto and his studio, and then a lot of examples of the Kochi Kame manga (the good point here is that the editors compare the original character designs to the later ones to show how they changed over time). I do like the alternative DVD cover a lot. The art page with Ryou feels kind of generic, but the blue page is good. For the DVD, the best part is watching Akimoto taking a blank sheet of paper and working all the way up to the finished art page. Recommended if you want to know how to draw manga.

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