Welcome back to the Land of the Rising Spider. Sorry for the long wait on this one. Can’t say I have any other excuse other then lazyness. Anyway last time we talked about Spider-Man J, a manga adaptation of the web head. This time we are going to look at the another manga. Spider-Man: the Manga… What an original name.
Spider-Man: the Manga started in January 1970 and continued until September 1971. It was initially written by Ono Kosai, but he left the series after the completion of the sixth story. It was then written by Hirai Kazumasa. Art was done by Ikegami Ryoichi for the entire series.
The series is about Komori Yuu, an non-athletic, bookwormish high school student. During an experiment involving radiation, a spider is irradiated, and bites him granting him the strength, speed, and agility of a spider. He also receives the ability to cling to walls, and a precognitive sense that allows him to tell when he is in immediate danger.
Sound familiar? So the character’s origin brings about two points for me.
- I love that they worked the official origin into Yuu’s character. I mean, yes there are some changes done. In the classic origin, Peter is attending an exhibition on radioactivity when the spider is irradiated. Here, Yuu (a high school student) is performing experiments to prepare for an up coming test. That brings me to my second point.
- I am not familiar with the Japanese school system, so I have to ask. Is it common for Japanese high schools to do keep radioactive material around for their student to mess around with? I mean knowing Japan’s then history with radiation, I would think they would be more cautious about letting people screw with it.
Anyway, in the start of the series Yuu (much like our hero in Spider-Man J) encounters Japanese counterparts to Parker’s rogues gallery. These include:
- Electro – a cyborg bank robber who becomes Yuu’s first enemy. He is encountered while Yuu is helping a friend look for her lost brother. (If you figure out the ending, give yourself a cookie.)
- The Lizard – A humanoid reptile who seems to have a grudge against a pharmaceutical company. Or is it something else?
- The Kangaroo – An Australian pro wrestler with kicks so strong he can bend the steel structure of a high rise.
- Mysterio – A man who claims to be the representation of the anger of the people of Tokyo due to the actions of an imposter Spider-Man.
So with these manga interpretations of classic Spider-Man’s rogues, you would imagine cool new redesigns, right? Well, sadly, no. They literally look exactly the same as their western counterparts. A chance at something really cool wasted.
However, besides these, he encountered his own problems. This included being accused of attempted rape, dealing with a Vietnam Vet who’s PTSD led him to hijack a plane, A boy who Yuu accidently empowers with a blood transfusion, and a woman who kills without trying. Of course he had his own supporting cast. There was Rumi, a childhood pen pal that came to him in an attempt to find her brother. Also, he lived with his Aunt Mie (pronounced May) who took him in after his parents disappeared and Yuu was placed into protective custody (which I think they meant child services).
Despite being Spider-Man, Yuu actually rarely wore the suit. When he did, it was sometimes at the most random of times. In a way though that’s okay, as it was very much a series about Yuu learning when it was okay to use his powers, and his fear that he would be consumed by the fact that he had the ability to do anything and nothing could be done to stop him. He couldn’t even be shot as it seems he was bullet proof.
So… here comes one of the reasons it took me so long to do this. Is it a good series? Well the concepts are there for it to be good. Yuu fighting with his own id is interesting. However, this series has so many strikes against it that I can say no. No its not.
- The translation had almost no liberties taken to clear up sentences, making dialogue clunky. At one point, one speech bubble just said “Chat Chat.” Hell, look at this newspaper from the third issue.
- The art started in a way that I found acceptable, but in the end it just got bad. It looked like it was just dark pencils, and no inking. When there was inking, it was so heavy, it felt like it was absorbing the light from around me.
- The series was never completely translated. Eight out of the thirteen story arcs were translated. That led to thirty issues of complete stories. Then issue 31 came out starting a new story, but the series was canceled, and that story was never finished.
- It was really REALLY dark. People died left and right. I know this was done to show one’s battle with their id. Between the deaths, attempted rape, and prostitution though, this series felt unneededly heavy. I marathon read all of the issues and I regret that choice.
Look, I’m not going to say don’t read it. I would say that if you do read it, read up to issue 21. That was the six arcs that Ono wrote, and its after that that a quality shift between the two writers takes place. I feel the same way about this series that I do about Martha Jones in Doctor Who. It had the greatest potential, and in the end became the greatest waste.
Well next time we take a look at the final part in the Land of the Raising Spider. I do have to make a confession though. The next part does not come from Japan, but is based on the style. Until next time.