Here in North America, Jiro Taniguchi has a reputation for drawing mostly waify, contemplative stories. Even his more action-oriented fare like Quest for the Missing Girl and Benkei in New York has a pervasive serenity to it.
Part of the reason lies in Jiro’s Franco-Beligan influence. His pages are intentionally stilled compared to the more dynamic angles and panel layouts of most manga. But another reason is that Jiro’s thoughtfulness overpowers the other elements of his comics. His studied hand is the most communicated thing: before plot, character and action.
There’s another side to Jiro which I’d like to take a moment to discuss with you: the one in which he lovingly renders men punching one another in the face.
Jiro Taniguchi’s Garouden is based upon the same series of martial arts novels that Ryoichi Ikegami’s Garouden manga is based on, but it came out nearly a decade earlier, in 1989. Both manga give the writer of the original book series an author credit, though his degree of involvement and the accuracy of each of these adaptations is unclear to me.
For whatever reason, Jiro’s Garouden adaptation ended after a single volume. It’s a real shame, because to see the material executed with his sensibilities creates an even greater degree of realism than Itagaki’s version.
Yes, it’s still a tale of brawny dudes beating the crap out of each other, but it’s also carefully choreographed. The fighting manages to be both bloody entertaining and downright diagrammatical, as Tanguichi clinically lays out every pin, strike and lock comprising the street brawl adventures of Tanba Bunshichi, a lone wolf always reaching for the next plateau of fighting ability.
While not being MMA-related per se, it’s also worth noting that Jiro worked on over nine hundred pages of boxing manga over the course of two different series. The manga, titled Knuckle Wars and Blue Fighter, also came out of the eighties.
Both series were collaborations with famed manga writer Garon Tsuchiya, a guy most notable for his work on the Oldboy manga, though I also respect him for having written for so many talented artists in the course of his career, including Ryoichi Ikegami and Akio Tanaka.
Tanguichi’s work on these boxing comics is fantastic. I’d love to be able to read them in English, however unlikely that is to ever happen. I imagine their roundabout relation to the upcoming Oldboy remake isn’t going to move them higher on Ponent Mon or any other manga publisher’s priority list.
There may be related work by Tanguichi I’ve failed to mention in this blog post; after all, these are the ramblings of a person who doesn’t know a lick of Japanese. But I hope to have perhaps compounded your knowledge of Jiro Tanguichi and MMA manga in one fell swoop. I can’t say enough about Tanguichi’s versatility as an artist. As much as I would love to have seen him continue the Garouden series into perpetuity, he succeeds at so many different types of story it’s hard to complain.