So originally, this piece was gonna be a group review of a ton of comic suggestions given by other members of Story Arc. I read a ton of comics and manga, but when it came time to actually write about it, well, my angle didn’t work. It became another unworkable idea to add to the draft folder. Well, except that all the manga I read was damn good. It’d be such a waste to just forget about it. It was a total mixed selection, ranging from old 60’s manga to more recent stuff, but the older manga especially impressed me. Now, I might have written a review for here of an 80s comedy manga, but most of what I actually read is pretty new – it’s at least on this side of the millennium. But I still do like the old stuff, and I really think it’s worth reading.
Like all art, manga builds on the older stuff that came out before it – every new series is standing on the shoulders of giants that came before it. For example, Berserk, widely considered one of the best manga period, would not be what it is today without groundbreaking classics like 80’s Shonen Fist Of The North Star and (most importantly for Berserk) 70’s Shoujo series Rose Of Versailles. Sports series owe so much to the early breakthroughs like Star Of The Giants and Tomorrow’s Joe. Which brings me to two manga that are seemingly much farther apart than they really are; Fullmetal Alchemist and Kinnikuman.
The Fullmetal Alchemist manga is, in all honesty, probably one of the best action manga of its kind. Perfectly melding drama, action, and comedy, it evolves from a short kinda adventure manga into a sprawling tale of resisting a fascist conspiracy. On the other hand, Kinnikuman is a gag manga from the 70’s and 80’s about Kinnikuman, the hero that Japan calls on to fight kaiju when Ultraman and co. are on break. The author of Fullmetal Alchemist, Hiromu Arakawa, cites Kinnikuman as one of her greatest influences. On the face of it, it seems like you can’t find any real connection between the two – Fullmetal, to put it simply, is a totally different game than Kinnikuman.
And yet, when I was reading Kinnikuman off of Story Arc Streamer Nick’s recommendation, I was surprised to find a lot of links between the two – especially in the kind of humor that the two share. It gave me more appreciation for FMA, in a sense, seeing how it called back to such an older manga. And this is ultimately why I recommend reading old manga so much – it gives you better appreciation for what it influences and inspires, and how people working later riff on those works.
By far, out of all the older manga I read, the one that I could trace the most influences too was by far Getter Robo. This is one of those works that has become part of the basic DNA of manga storytelling, in spite of how, well, 70s it is – I mean, one of the main characters is a member of a student protest group of the kind that were everywhere in Japan during the 60s and 70s. And this is something that I liked about it just as much as seeing the original versions of now classic tropes like the Gainax Pose – how raw and unrefined it feels compared to later works that also run with it’s ideas. It has this frantic, extra energy that affects everything it does. It is a fascinating read for that exact reason, even as you’ve already seen the ideas that it presents in many other works. For example, one of the key concepts of Getter Robo is that the heroes of the manga aren’t people who you would ordinarily call heroes – they are terrorists, people obsessed with fighting, generally kinda driven outcasts.
So is that it? You should read old manga because of its influence over modern works? Well, It’s also all very good in its own right. The storytelling and paneling in these works are often just as on point as modern works, if not more so. I’ve been reading a lot of gag manga lately, and yet Kinnikuman has jumped to the top of the list. These older works are just good. So that’s my plea: do yourself a favor and read old manga. Or comics – I’ve been slowly reading old Black Panther issues and those are great. Old comics just in general have this charm that I find that more recent comics tend to lack. I can’t really describe it, but its maybe that they aren’t something that just came out, with Fandoms and Stands and all the trappings that modern works have. The pace of the world is increasingly focused on only the new, the latest, the best – I’m guilty of this myself, as I’ve been focusing a lot on more recent works. Go against the flow. You Really Should Read More Old Manga.
And if you want to read something new? You’re an oldhead who’s been burned out on all the old gems? Well, I did also read a bit of Girls Last Tour, which is excellent as well. Following a pair of girls who wander through this post apocalyptic wasteland, its a fun, light, read, while also being very melancholic. Great stuff.
But this article is about old manga!
Don’t read that! read Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei instead!
If you want more about old manga, reviewed the manga Blazing Transfer Student a bit back. If you want to read more Story Arc, Skeith just started a series on Musou Clones, and Victiny asks you to give Tokyo Mirage Sessions A Chance. Finally, as always, be sure to follow us on Twitter and join the Discord (invite is on the twitter). And I mean, if you read this far, feel free to follow and or direct criticism to me on twitter @theDiiKay
Once again almost forgot to do this.