So let’s continue our look at Spider-Man and Japan. Let’s look at Spider-Man J.
In 2004, Yamanaka Akira wrote Spider-Man J. I wish I could tell you more of his (or her work) but I couldn’t find any more information on the author, making me feel that this was their only work. It ran from November 2004 to May 2005 in the Japanese shōnen (series that are geared towards a male audience) magazine Comic Bom Bom. It was released in the US as two digest size graphic novels. The first was called Japanese Knights and the second called Japanese Daze. It was also printed in Spider-Man Family. In Japan it was met with a pretty positive reception. In the US however… not so much. See this was a manga (a Japanese graphic novel) and at its core is very much that. It’s formula is very different from a western comic book.
The series takes place in Japan in the year 200X (Same year as the original Mega Man.) It has Peter Parker as our titular character.
I’m sorry did I say Peter Parker? I meant Amano Sho . This is just a theory I have, but I think the names of the manga characters were changed to suite the American audience. This may be one of the reasons why it didn’t do so well in the western audience. So for the sake of my sanity I am going to introduce them by their proper names and then give their western names in parentheses. Anyway, past that tangent. How does he get his powers? Not a clue. They don’t say in any of the chapters I could find. However one little cute thing they did was give him three pets. A cat named Leo, a dog named Par (pictured above), and a bird named Don. This is a reference to the giant robot I mentioned in the last article. Anyway his major villain is a man called Lord Gokibu (Lord Beastius).
Lord Gokibu leads an organization with the goal of a) world domination and b) to have Spider-Man J join them ether willingly or forcibly. He sends many insect themed villains after Sho. Tangent: That is not a mistake on my part. In Japan the sir name comes first and the proper name comes second. However his reasons for all of this are never shown in the chapters I have read.
Anyway, As with any good Spider-Man story as well as manga, a good supporting cast exists.
In this universe Sho is actually pretty good at concealing his identity. There is only one person who knows his true identity.
This is Makoto (Detective Flynn.) This character is very much like George Stacy. Him and Sho work very closely and do what they can to help each other. He also… tends to to trip over his two feet. He has a good heart and really just wants to help people.
Now we come to the main three reasons why I do not agree with the name changes. See there are three other supporting characters that are close to Amano Sho. First are his girlfriend and his friend.
The one with the light colored bangs is his girlfriend Megumi. Yes that is a girl. She is a tomboy, and Japan tends to take its stereotypes a tad literally. The bigger guy is Densuke. He is a fan of Spider-Man J and, as another cute nod, is also a fan of Comic Bom Bom. In the US their names are changed to, get this, Mary Jane and Harold Osborn. There was also a character that was renamed to Aunt May. This is Sho’s Aunt, Amano Mami.
Needless to say she became Aunt May. Like Aunt May, she is overprotective of Sho, and treats him like her own son.
So um… you may have noticed that I didn’t mention much about how the stories were. Well see, the thing is, It structured in much the same way as a monster of the week story, having Lord Gokibu sending enemies after Sho. Don’t get me wrong, that in no way makes it bad. It just really makes it hard to describe. I mean I will say this, one of the really cool things that they do is that characters, legitimate characters, from the Western Marvel comics make appearances in the manga. For instance, here is Elektra:
Not only Elektra, but the Human Torch, the Thing, Doctor Doom, and even Blade.
Look what I’m about to say is an unpopular opinion, but I suggest reading Spider-Man J. Just don’t look at it as a story involving Peter Parker. I know what they say in the westernization of the books, but treat them as entirely different characters. It is far more enjoyable this way. There is just one thing I wish I could tell you. I have no clue, at all, what J stands for. I mean it could stand for Japan, but that is never explicitly said. I will also admit, I never finished the series. Not for lack of interest, but lack of the ability. See, all of the chapters from Japanese Knights were reprinted in the second volume of Spider-Man Family, as well as the first two chapter from Japanese Daze. However, it wasn’t carried over when the series became Amazing Spider-Man Family. From what I have read though, I want to read the rest.
Next time, I take a look at another Spider-Man Manga. This one ringing closer to the Spider-Man we are familiar with. And I promise to try and not use as many pictures… TRY.