Shotaro Ishinomori, like Go Nagai, is an innovative mangaka largely absent from the North American conversation about manga. My use of the word “conversation” is intentionally charitable, as it’s become more clear since the time I began tracking this conversation that it’s dominated by manga publishers. A particular title is hugely brilliant and breathtaking only once it’s being sold to us in omnibus format. And this view shapes critical response, without fail. I’ve read too many appraisals of Tezuka books that boil down “so this was okay at parts, thrilling at others, and it’s really important I read this work because I vaguely understand it’s of historical importance.” And things like that.
Qualified, independent-minded perspectives do exist but are scarce. You have to get out of the manga ‘sphere and into the wider world of comic scholarship for that kind of stuff. You also have to buy books–a topic worthy of its own discussion. I might be able to point you in the right direction but don’t expect much of this highfalutin insight to come out of my mouth. What little I know has mostly been gleaned by compulsively scouring the Internet for information from people much smarter than me, sometimes whose words are awkwardly translated by computer algorithms.
On to the point of this post. Comixology has reached an agreement with Ishinomori’s production company and it now has digital distribution rights to all the manga the man ever produced in his hugely productive life. No lie: by some accounts he’s responsible for more comics than Osamu Tezuka.
Aside from twitter jabber I didn’t express much when the news first broke. The details were sketchy and I was skeptical. Though Comixology has the rights to distribute all of his work, which is previously unheard of in manga licensing as far as I know, there’s no guarantee of how far they’ll get and how good of a job they’ll do. I didn’t want to go on this blog and bust my nut with anticipation because the execution could end up being way more pedestrian than the possibilities.
But after reading some of Kikaider that changed. (Kikaider is not to be confused with Kikaider Code 02, published by CMX Manga. Written and drawn by someone else. Awesome covers, but everything else about it is forgettable).
Reading the original Kikaider burned away the fog in my memory. It ignited my hotblooded passion for manga. It reminded me I’ve tremendously enjoyed the work of Shotaro Ishinomori over the years, and I look forward to reading more of his manga in the future. This was a man who not only loved the medium, but passionately sought to change the way “manga” was spelled to better communicate his respect for how diverse it had become.
Screw caution, I’m going to write about this announcement with full enthusiasm. Someone has to. If you didn’t know, now you do. Shotaro Ishinomori comics on Comixology. That shit is hot.