Discovering what manga titles will make their way into American store shelves feels like a lottery, where random circumstance is more of a determining factor than anything else.
As much as we’d like to believe Japan’s greatest offerings will eventually make their way to North American shores, the breadth and width of their comics selection, and the relatively small demand for it here, means we’re always doomed to fall short.
That doesn’t stop us from declaring our enthusiasm into the Internet void, of course! Today I want to talk about Ken Ishikawa, an artist who began his career as Go Nagai’s right hand man, and later developed his own very striking style.
As I said, Ken Ishikawa cut his teeth at Dynamic Pro, Go Nagai’s production company, where anime/manga/toy megahits have sprung forth since 1969 (an appropriate year considering the sexed up high school gag manga Harenchi Gakuen was Nagai’s first major success). Nagai cites Ken Ishikawa in an autobiographical comic as one of the guys who helped him dream up the various monsters Kabuto Koji would face in the Mazinger Z television series from 1972 to 1974.
It was just one of the many roles Ishikawa would quietly fulfill in Nagai’s shadow. When Go Nagai thought up the concept of a robot controlled by three different pilots who’d combine their vehicles into multiple forms, Ken Ishikawa was given the opportunity to write and draw the manga for it. This project, named Getter Robo, would go on to become Ishikawa’s most well-known creation.
It went far beyond your standard seventies robot manga with a loosely-related television tie-in. Ken Ishikawa expanded upon the Getter Robo universe in manga form for the remainder of his adult life, up until his unexpected death in 2006.
I didn’t truly appreciate or even recognize Ken Ishikawa until shortly before his death. There have been multiple anime adaptations of the Getter Robo manga since the nineties, but in my mind that Go Nagai co-creation credit blazed more brightly than anything else I knew about their genesis.
It was around the time of the most recent Getter Robo anime, New Getter Robo (2004), that my eyes began to open to the fact that not only had Ken Ishikawa written and drawn the original manga, but he had sheparded its development into a form more suited for modern audiences. Even more, his unique appetite for telling violent action stories extended to an immense catalog of other titles.
I began to get acquainted with Ken Ishikawa, the mangaka.