This is the continuation of Chapter 7.
Lone Wolf and Cub (English Version Released in 1987) was immensely popular among North American fans of Japanese manga and also had a great influence on creators.
As I wrote in Part 1, famous comic writer and artist Frank Miller fell in love with and drew the cover for the English version of Lone Wolf and Cub. Additionally, a third-generation Japanese-American comic artist named Stan Sakai, influenced by Lone Wolf and Cub and famous Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa, began drawing and publishing a series of feature-length American comics. Stan Sakai is a popular American comic artist who has received several Eisner Awards, also known as the “Academy Awards of Comics,” for his work Usagi Yojimbo.
兎用心棒 (Usagi Yojimbo) is the title in Japanese. Usagi means “rabbit” in English and Yojimbo means something along the lines of “bodyguard.”
The title became very popular in the U.S. and the spin-off “Space Usagi” collaborated with the famous U.S. superhero series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Usagi Yojimbo are still being serialized, and a fourth-generation Japanese-American staff member of Manga Planet of course knew these works as well.
In this way, Japanese manga has had a major influence on Americans and American comics since 40 years back. So why was it Lone Wolf and Cub? To put simply, it is probably because samurai and Japanese period dramas depicted a specifically Japanese culture. Ninjas, too. The Legend of Kamui is a ninja story, and later, from the 2000s, Rurouni Kenshin became a very popular work in the U.S. based on the last samurai of the late Edo period, and Naruto became a bestseller worldwide as a ninja story.
On the other hand, why was it AKIRA? Of course, the basic premise is that the artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s overwhelming compositional and drawing skills were highly acclaimed, but I think there are other reasons as well: because it is in the Science-Fiction genre and because the setting is stateless. In a way, famous Hollywood blockbusters Blade Runner and The Matrix are of a similar world. The words “Science-Fiction” and “stateless” are key. For example Dragonball, One Piece, Attack on Titan…
Interesting things are timeless. Interesting things know no borders. This is an ironclad rule of entertainment common to the world, and among these, manga has extremely high potential and has also influenced numerous artists from around the world. Equally, many Japanese manga artists have been influenced by artists from abroad as well.
Thus, a world where artists stimulate and influence each other is an essential element of creativity, and that is why we, the readers/fans, get excited. That is why I hope this phenomenon is not crushed by commercialism and is something universal.
In the next chapter, I will consider various issues as I return to my own experiences and learnings.
About Manga Planet: Read manga, support artists
In 2012, Manga Planet started as a joint project between Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. and FANTASISTA, INC. to research and explore the ways manga is read throughout the world. Aiming to bring new manga to fans from all over the world and support artists and the industry, Manga Planet pushes for affordability and access to manga through a subscription-based service.
Readers who subscribe to Manga Planet and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. To subscribe, please go to read.mangaplanet.com and create an account.