Destroy all Mangaka: when Godzilla met the titans of manga

November 3 is a significant anniversary for fans of Japanese science fiction and fantasy media: it’s the birthday of both Osamu Tezuka, the God of Manga, and Godzilla, King of the Monsters. The history of Godzilla is intertwined with the history of manga, but not often discussed in the west… which is why stuff like this winds up seeming really weird from a gaijin fan perspective:

Okay, that still might be sort of weird no matter what. But keep in mind, Godzilla stories had been popping up in manga form since 1954. In fact, by the mid-1950s, Godzilla already had an extensive roster of rival monsters (like Anguirus) who only exist in manga form:

50s godzilla manga monsters 250s godzilla manga monsters 1 Those images are from a manga by Shigeru Sugiura, who wikipedia tells me was an influence on Fujio Akatsuka (Himitsu Akko-chan), Isao Takahata (Pom Poko), Yasutaka Tsutsui (The Girl Who Leapt through Time), and Hayao Miyazaki.

This got me thinking: we make a big deal about the many famous, influential writers and artists who have contributed to Godzilla comics in the English-speaking world, superstars like Doug Moench, Herb Trimpe, Alan Moore, Mike Mignola, Geof Darrow, Randy Stradley, Art Adams, Eric Powell, John Layman,  James Stokoe, Cullen Bunn, etc. Deservedly so. But what if one were to take a cross-section of Japanese comics icons? Tezuka himself never worked on anything Godzilla that I know of (though he did a King Kong manga), but what about some of his major artistic descendants?

akira toriyama godzilla

Akira Toriyama (Dragonball)

clamp duklyon 5

CLAMP (X, Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle)

naoki urasawa godzilla

Naoki Urasawa (20th Century Boys, Monster)

shotaro ishinomori godzilla

The King of Manga: Shotaro Ishinomori (Kamen Rider, Cyborg 009)

shigeru mizuki godzilla

Shigeru Mizuki (Gegege no Kitaro)

leiji matsumoto godzilla

Leiji Matsumoto (Galaxy Express 999, Star Blazers)

These illustrations are cool, but there’s a difference between a single drawing and a full story. Who all worked on actual Godzilla manga stories, you ask? Well, pretty much every movie had a manga adaptation at some point, and a few of those had big names (or future big names) attached:

  • Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen is a seminal work of manga, often assigned as school reading. But before his opus about growing up in post-bombing Hiroshima, Nakazawa did a story about an explosion with decidedly less dire consequences: the manga adaptation of Son of Godzilla.

keiji nakazawa godzilla

  • Most of the Heisei Godzilla manga adaptations were done by Takayuki Sakai (giving them nice continuity), but not the first two. The Return of Godzilla manga (confusingly printed multiple times in English as either Godzilla or Terror of Godzilla) is unremarkable, but the Godzilla vs. Biollante adaptation, titled Godzilla 1990, was done by Toshiki Hirano, the creator of Vampire Princess Miyu and Iczer 1, character designer for Megazone 23, and director of numerous anime including Dangaioh, Zeorymer, Devilman Lady, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Apocalypse Zero… let’s just say he knows a thing or two about giant monster action. (Iczer 1 also makes a cameo during the omake art in the back of the book!) This manga boasts a pretty different Biollante design, making me wonder whether Hirano wasn’t privy to the monster’s look or if he just decided to do things differently.

Godzilla 1990 1990 Biollante

  • While Gunhed isn’t technically a Godzilla movie, the film’s script was initially conceived of as one before it was turned into a giant robot flick. Because of this, I think it’s fair game to mention that the Gunhed manga adaptation was done by Kia Asamiya, the mangaka of Silient Mobius, Steam Detectives, Nadesico, and more. Also, it’s one of the few Toho movie-to-manga adaptations that’s available in English. (We’ll get back to Asamiya in a moment…)

gunhed kia asamiya

There have also been a bunch of completely original stories not based on any of the films, which I find even more interesting. A few significant mangaka who’ve worked on these include:

  • Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura is loaded with allusions to Toho movies, particularly in the anime version (probably thanks to director Mamoru Oshii), but earlier this year she published It Could Happen Some Day, a two-page omake about her experience with the movies in the Big Comic Original Godzilla special. Since it’s short and fairly simple (also out of print and most likely never going to be translated in any official capacity), I took the liberty of doing a rough scanslation.
    *The usual translation ethics apply: if for some reason this gets translated officially, stop distributing this version and buy the official release (I’d suggest buying the Japanese release as well, but I don’t believe it’s available any more). Oh, and to mirror the Japanese layout, page 1 is on the right.

Rumiko Takahashi Godzilla story 02 Rumiko Takahashi Godzilla story 01

  • Moving along, Getter Robo co-creator Ken Ishikawa wrote a short story called Godzilla vs. Chief Yamada, a comedy where a salaryman battles against the monster. It seems like the human characters in this might be preexisting from other Ishikawa work, but I’m not certain.

Ken Ishikawa godzilla

  • Shinobu Kaze might not be a household name, but he holds the distinction of being the very first manga artist to have work published in English. He also wrote Warning from G, one of the most infamously insane Godzilla short stories ever published. It begins with a martial artist leaving his wife to go take on Godzilla head-on, since he knows some sort of super killing technique. Much later, as the wife is visiting the guy’s grave with her infant son, and the baby starts talking, revealing that it is the reincarnation of Godzilla out for revenge. The kaiju-possessed kid attacks the woman, sending her on an adventure through the afterlife. Needless to say, it’s pretty wild.

warning from g shinobu kaze gkara cap

  • In addition to creating Moldiver, Hyper Dolls, and Marika Seven, Shinpei Itoh has written a few Godzilla stories.  Examples include The Tokyo Godzilla Group, spoofing the various bureaucratic round-table anti-kaiju strategy meetings that populate the franchise, and Battle of the Blitz, which I mentioned when talking about the Big Comic Original anthology. I’m quite fond of the light tone and clean art in his work.

bigcomicoriginal Godzilla 199   shinpei itoh godzilla dan

  • Hitoshi Yoshioka is the creator of a few Japanese sci-fi franchises, most notably Irresponsible Captain Tylor. His Godzilla manga, Day of the G, features a naval battle between Godzilla and the American military, apparently for the first time.

day of g yoshioka

  • Daijiro Morohoshi’s works have been adapted into movies like The Wall Man and Hiruko the Goblin, and his Yokai Hunter series has been cited as one of the inspirations for Evangelion. He recently published a short story titled The Boy who Saw Godzilla, about a boy who claims to see Godzilla whenever disasters occur. Is it some sort of weird ESP manifestation, or an over-active imagination, or is Godzilla really there?

daijiro morohoshi godzilla

  • Nozomu Tamaki is best known for Dance in the Vampire Bund and other fan-service heavy content, but he’s also known to dabble in superhero/robot content. Together with Kenichi Matsuzaki, he drew a manga story titled Godzilla: Nightmare Option, which sees Godzilla battling a dragon creature named Gandora. It ends with Godzilla turning extra disfigured, a precursor to the Super Godzilla/Burning Godzilla/Mega Mutated Godzilla trope that frequently occurred  in the mid-90s. Actually, by the end, he sort of resembles the Millennium Godzilla design.

gandora nightmare option godzilla

  • Katsuhiro Otomo is a powerhouse in both anime and manga, responsible for Short Peace, Steamboy, Roujin Z, and the film that defined anime for a generation: Akira. But way before all that, he worked as an illustrator for a short Godzilla story serialized in Starlog, titled A Space Godzilla (way before the 1994 film, bear in mind). Written by House director Nobuhiko Obayashi, the story is an unending cavalcade of WTF, from the page 1 death of Godzilla by diabetes, to the reveal that Godzilla’s actually a pregnant alien, to a voyage through space and a battle against a race of sphinx monsters. If you avoid the Hanna Barbera Godzilla cartoon as being too far from the original, this isn’t for you, but if you’re intrigued by a Toho-authorized Godzilla story with Godzilla spaceships and flamethrower breasts, well…

[MaserScans]A_Space_Godzilla_10  space godzi preview

Like Nobuhiko Obayashi, not all of the famous folks who worked on Godzilla manga are necessarily famous for making manga; there are definitely a handful worth mentioning for their involvements elsewhere in the entertainment industry. A few examples include:

  • You may know Shinji Nishikawa from his work at Toho in the 1990s and 2000s, on the special effects and art departments of GransazerTokyo SOS and Final Wars (or maybe as the creator of the 90s anime series YAT Anshin Luxury Space Tours). However, he got started way back in the early 1980s, with a series of comedic Godzilla doujinshi called Godzilla Legend under the pen name MASH. After his work with Toho, when he also did a Gransazer manga, he made a somewhat autobiographical comic called Godzilla Kyou Jidai (Godzilla Enthusiast Epoch) dealing with the production of the films. Coming full circle, this year he released another MASH doujinshi called Legendary Godzilla Legend.

mash godzilla legend godzilla kyou jidai

  • Akio Jissouji, director on some awesome Ultraman and Ultraseven episodes, as well as for the Ultra Q movie, wrote a very Ultra Q-ish short story called Chisana Godzilla (which I would translate to “Little Godzilla”, but then it would get confusing with the later character by that name). The plot is full of twists, but it’s basically about a cameraman who gets romantically involved with a mysterious woman… and… well, she’s an alien using Godzilla for nefarious purposes. That’s not the twist ending, though.
    Also: it’s got the best sex-in-outer-space scene this side of Bye Bye Jupiter.

jissoji little godzilla page

  • Daiji Kazumine, creator of Spectreman and National Kid, wrote Godzilla’s Resumed Earth Defense Battle, a story about Godzilla battling Gigan and King Ghidorah at the south pole. Also, Mothra’s there.

daiji kazumine godzilla

  • Minoru Kawasaki has directed a number of comedic kaiju films, including Monster X Strikes Back and Earth Defense Widow. Together with Kia Asamiya, he wrote a short manga story called Godzilla^2, where Godzilla rampages until he’s pacified by a pop idol. The following year, Asamiya did a short called Godzilla^2 2, which plays like a serious battle between Godzilla and King Ghidorah, only they’re portrayed as plush dolls.

kia asamiya godzilla 2 2

  • Hurricane Ryu is a suit actor, known for playing Battra, King Ghidorah, and Godzilla Junior; he was even on the shortlist of possible actors to take over for the Godzilla role when Satsuma retired. He’s also an accomplished mangaka, having put out works like the 1-volume 1994 Gamera manga. These specialties collide beautifully in the two Godzilla stories from him that I’ve read. The first is a collaboration between Hurricane and Minoru Kawasaki, titled Kaijuu Baka Ichidai (a play on the Sonny Chiba movie Karate Baka Ichidai AKA Karate for Life), about a hot-blooded up-and-coming suit actor training to be the very best through mentorship/rivalry of the crusty old suit-acting great Mr. Uejima (a pastiche of Haruo Nakajima).

kaijubakaichidai page This story is hilarious, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Hurricane’s other story, Kaiju Senshi Godzilla. Full of anthropoid Toho monsters, that short cranks things to eleven and breaks off the dial, as Godzilla is a medieval sword-wielding warrior who also uses a jetpack to go fight human spaceships. Plus, Jet Jaguar goes full Kamen Rider, plowing through buildings on a giant motorcycle. As a result of these shenanigans, this is one of the most frequently posted examples of Godzilla manga, and definitely belongs in any countdown of weirdest things in the franchise.

kaijusenshi2 kaijusenshi1

That concludes this talk about Godzilla manga and the celebrities who’ve made them. This is a subject that I don’t think has been particularly documented in English before, so I’m sure that there are examples that I’ve missed or mistakes in the translations. If you notice something wrong, or know of a great famous mangaka that I completely overlooked, please, by all means, leave a comment; it’s exciting to discover this stuff!

Also, keep in mind, this is just the manga from famous authors; there’s a lot of other cool stuff from folks that we’ve probably never heard of…

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12 Responses to Destroy all Mangaka: when Godzilla met the titans of manga

  1. I love this article! It would be even better if you sourced where each comic was published, though. I know a lot of these were published in The Godzilla Comic and the recent Big Comic anthology. Are some of them from The Godzilla Comic Strikes Back as well, or other sources?

    Another good one to include would be Kaiju Raban, which is a spin-off of Godzilla–by Shigeru Mizuki no less, the creator of Gegege no Kitaro!! Here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.co.jp/%E6%80%AA%E7%8D%A3%E3%83%A9%E3%83%90%E3%83%B3-%E6%B0%B4%E6%9C%A8-%E3%81%97%E3%81%92%E3%82%8B/dp/4778031237/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422202416&sr=8-1&keywords=%E6%80%AA%E7%8D%A3%E3%83%A9%E3%83%90%E3%83%B3

    • kevnder says:

      Cool, I’d heard of Kaiju Raban before but didn’t realize the explicit Godzilla connection. Thanks for pointing it out!

      As for sources:

      Great Rampaging Godzilla – The Godzilla 1954-1958 Manga Collection
      Son of Godzilla – I think this was a Shonen Magazine title when it was run in the 1968, but I don’t know which reprints, if any, it’s collected in.
      Godzilla 1990 – Its own book
      Gunhed – Its own book (available in English from Viz)
      It Could Happen Some Day – Big Comics Original special
      Godzilla vs. Chief Yamada – The Godzilla Comic
      Warning from G – The Godzilla Comic
      The Tokyo Godzilla Group – Big Comics Original special
      Day of the G – Gigantis the Fire Comic
      The Boy who Saw Godzilla – Big Comics Original special
      Godzilla: Nightmare Operation – The Godzilla Comic
      A Space Godzilla – Starlog #4,6
      Shinji Nishikawa’s stuff – all their own books
      Little Godzilla – The Godzilla Comic
      Godzilla’s Resumed Earth Defense Battle – The Godzilla Comic
      Godzilla^2 & Godzilla^2 2 – The Godzilla Comic and Gigantis the Fire Comic
      Kaiju for Life – Gigantis the Fire Comic
      Monster Warrior Godzilla – The Godzilla Comic

  2. I was thinking about your post again: The Leiji Matsumoto image was for a 1980 rerelease of Godzilla vs. the Thing in Japan, right? I have Sean Linkenback’s “The Art of Japanese Monsters,” and they include another Leiji Matsumoto poster from that same 1980 rerelease!

    Also, for what it’s worth, Shigeru Sugiura didn’t just do Ooabare Gojira with Gyottosu, Zottosu, etc–he also did a silly adaptation of the original Gojira, published in 1955. They were both recently republished in the Gojira Manga Collection 1954-58. If you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s totally worth it! Interestingly, in the English book In Godzilla’s Footsteps, there is an essay discussing how Shigeru Sugiura was influenced by the pro wrestling craze at the time, and how his manga references that pro-wrestling craze.

    • kevnder says:

      Yep, that’s the poster! I didn’t notice it in my copy of Linkenback’s book, do you have one of the deluxe editions?

      I haven’t picked up either of Tsutsui’s books yet; guess I should rectify that!

      The Godzilla 54-58 manga collection is great. I sort of wish they’d included Jiro Kuwata’s Rodan adaptation as well, since that’s a little hard to come by now, but the anthology’s pretty thick as it is, not to mention that Rodan itself isn’t a “Godzilla” movie. But it’s worth the price of the book for the Sugiura stuff alone.

      • As for the Linkenback book, no–I have the softcover. Look through it again–there is a pic!

        The Tsutsui books are interesting. I enjoyed the first one, though I know some kaiju authors look on Tsutsui’s work with some distaste because he kind of looks down his nose at the Godzilla journalistic books published over here. The academic one is much dryer in tone, but there are some interesting factoids there.

        Do you have the Rodan manga? I imagine a lot of those old comics are quite difficult to come by these days.

      • kevnder says:

        The Rodan manga was included in Bamboo Comics Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla manga anthology for the 1993 movie. I don’t have a copy myself (yet), but it looks like it’s still fairly available.

  3. I got a copy of the Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla manga anthology from Bamboo Comics, and it doesn’t have the Rodan MANGA per se… it’s the illustrated Rodan story instead. Basically the same sort of thing as the Godzilla illustrated story starting out the recent Godzilla 1954-58 collection. I don’t know if you have the Godzilla vs. Mothra comic collection also from Bamboo, but they included the original Mothra manga there.

    I didn’t realize until I bought them, but there are also additional adaptations of the Heisei Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla movies, both done by Tetsuya Kawaishi. The style of the art is very different from the Takayuki Sakai adaptations, and Kawaishi also makes a lot of changes to the stories (different changes than the ones Sakai does, I would think).

    Did you give up on making a post about A Space Godzilla? I remember you were working on one a while back.

    • kevnder says:

      Huh, good to know; I guess the source I saw on the Rodan manga was wrong, but I’m still keen on tracking that and the Mothra one down!

      As for A Space Godzilla: I’ve got a draft, but it’s been tricky getting someone with proper Japanese skills to proofread it for me. There’s so much misinformation out there about this one that I figure if I do a full post on it, I better do it right.

  4. aaltomies says:

    To add trivia to Hariken Ryu history; he made his comic debut in Comic Lemon People Issue #1, February 1982 with a short one-shot called Mad City 16 Beat. This comic would contain core elements that would appear in his next work that would get later collected and published by World Comics, Gekisatsu! Uchuuken /撃殺!宇宙拳. This being a sexploitation magazine, the series had of erotica dropped to it in form of lolicon as per the magazine’s culture, but didn’t really draw too much attention to it. The comic was to get an animation adaptation in 1983, but for whatever it never realised itself. A record containing some of the tracks and audio drama was released, containing some concept images and such, but that’s the only thing we ever got outside promotional ads in Lemon People itself. Uchuuken was well known for its frantic and referential humour, e.g. it has a whole chapter dedicated for the main character, kung-fu girl Liyen Yun, beating up all science fiction monster and mecha up to that point in a powered armour. Hariken also had Godzilla and King Ghidorah piloting mecha, namely Mecha-Godzilla and Mechani-Kong.

    The comic has fallen into obscurity much like most Comic Lemon People serials, but is very fondly remembered by fans and still has a very small but strong cult following.
    Kaiju Senshi Godzilla stems a lot of its visuals and style from Gekisatsu! Uchuuken’s stories and style, albeit in more refined form. Before Kaiju Senshi Godzilla, he had written and illustrated a series called Pretty Executor, which is remembered by some hardcore 1980’s otakus as an example how to take a previous series and give it a new vibe.

    Earlier in his life during the 1970’s he would often appear in conventions in cosplay. He would keep cosplaying later in his life, mainly from different tokusatsu series and the like, thou last photo of himself on his unupdated blog is of him posing as Rocky Balboa.
    You can find blogs at http://blog.goo.ne.jp/ryuanddoll and http://blog.goo.ne.jp/ryuanddoll_2007

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