With the influx of feeling supremely overwhelmed and mildly frustrated with newer anime and manga nowadays, I decided to track backwards and check out older franchises that have helped this medium and industry to grow so much. I’ve read a lot of nonfiction books on the history of manga, the various demographics (shōjo, shōnen, josei, and seinen), and the major influences that still have a prominent impact on contemporary Japanese media today. Because of how fascinating all of that stuff is for me, and also because I’m a huge fan of comprehending the inspirations behind the growth or establishment of a particular genre or work of art, I thought it would be neat to read some older manga this Fall season.
If Berserk has taught me anything, it is to never take an artist and their incredibly prominent presences within an industry for granted. While I may not necessary like the magical girl tag, for example, I do appreciate and respect what Sailor Moon did for the medium, especially with regards to women’s empowerment and strong young feminine presences on the manga (and anime) pages.
In an effort to check out older content, I browsed AniList’s catalogue of manga from 1990-1994 to see if anything would catch my attention. I tried to pick stuff that I either hadn’t heard of before (outside of my reference books) or that I knew would be a good complement to my specific tastes. I found five that seemed pretty interesting across the board, and I also like that they’d offer a decent amount of variety from story styles so it wouldn’t feel like I’m stalking a single genre or subgenre, if that makes sense.
Anyhoo, check out these five serials below. I have listed them in order from least interested to most interested, of which I’m sure the number one pick won’t surprise the regular Nyanlings around here. 😉 I’ve linked their respective AniList pages via their titles, so if you see something that fits your fancy, you can look up more information on it.
Blue Inferior by Kyōko Shitō (ブルー・インフェリア): A shōnen, post-apocalyptic, romance series that revolves around a world where environmental pollution has spiralled out-of-control and lead has contaminated the vast majority of the deserts, leaving tiny pockets of safe places along the shores that humans can inhabit. One day, a young girl named Marine washes up onto one of the shores that’s inhabited by people. When she’s found by a young lad named Kazuya, it quickly becomes apparent that Marine has amnesia and no memory of who she is or where she came from. The twosome start to build a sweet friendship until rumours of Marine’s origins start spreading around. Viewed with terrible suspicion, Marine is taken into custody and locked-up. The series was initially published in 1994 and has four total volumes.
I think it’s interesting to see a post-apocalyptic manga that tells the story of an environmentally devastated world from the early 90s. There was a lot of stuff popping out with respect to global warming and international environmental issues during this period that weren’t taken too seriously at the time at all, especially in Japan. So, I’m curious to see what messages this story shall try to convey.
Tokyo Babylon by CLAMP (東京 BABYLON): A shōjo, urban fantasy series that takes place during the early 1990s, following the final days of Japan’s bubble economy with money and elegance running through the streets. Beneath this decadent city, also runs vile, evil spirits. The only way to combat them is via the arts of onmyōdō (essentially the Theory of the Five Phases, which centres on elementals and pertains to yin-yang and wuxing principles) and those who practise it, also known as onmyōji. The two most powerful onmyōji are Seishirō, who lives under the guise of a veterinarian, and a teenage girl named Subaru that is the heir to a supremely ancient clan. The serial was first published in 1990 and has seven volumes.
Another series that I feel shall be telling about the times, and it’s also authored by a group that’s pretty well-known within the industry for their incredible works (xxxHOLIC, Chobits, X, and Cardcaptor Sakura). I’ll confess that I’ve never read anything by CLAMP, and out of most of the stuff they’ve done, this one sounds most interesting to me. The small volume count also makes it feel more accessible. Beyond those humdrum reasons, Tokyo Babylon is urban fantasy, which is a genre that I don’t care for in literature but one I truly seem to enjoy within otaku media, so that feels like a plus as well.
Ryū: Ron by Motoka Murakami (龍-RON-): A richly complex seinen, historical manga series that depicts the multi-layered background between Japan and China, starting from the late 1920s via a genius swordsman known as Oshikōji Ryū and his best friend, Kosuzu who’s a geisha in Gion. The full synopsis is lengthy and quite a bit more detailed, so I recommend you visit the AniList page (via the title) for more in-depth information. The manga released in 1991 and has approximately forty-two volumes.
Aside from it being a historical series involving a political portrait of the era, I’m really intrigued by the descriptions of how this series portrays the relations between Japan and China in a warm manner than the extreme rightist representations that tends to be typical of the period. I’ve also read in some reference materials that this manga offers an incredibly rich description of Japan’s colourful culture during the 1920s-30s as well and how it impacted the nations that Japan colonised such as Korea. In a nutshell, it’s all historical goodness that completely allures to the Asian history buff and Japanophile within me.
Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura (無限の住人): A seinen, jidaigeki, supernatural series about a lone warrior named Manji who’s on a quest to redeem himself of the one-hundred murders he had committed. On this journey, he comes across a young girl who’s Hell-bent on obtaining vengeance against the group of warriors that slaughtered her entire family. Sympathising with her plight, Manji agrees to help her. This originally began releasing in 1993 and has thirty volumes (or ten omnibus volumes).
Okay, so I’m cheating a little bit with this manga. I’ve read most of it quite a few times, but I have never finished it, even though it’s one of my favourite jidaigeki manga of all-time. I cannot describe the brilliance of this series and what it depicts in a handful of words, but I will say that it’s exceptional in just about every way imaginable. If you love Berserk or Ninja Scroll, then you really should read this… and I really need to reach that ending this year and see how it achieves its conclusion. Once I actually wrap it up completely, I plan on sharing a Why You Should Read This list that will go into much more detail with the explanations as to why I feel Blade of the Immortal is such a phenomenally brilliant work.
Wangan Midnight by Michiharu Kusunoki (湾岸ミッドナイト): A seinen, racing manga series about a dude named Akio Asakura who loses a race to a Porsche 911 Turbo and realises he needs to up his mechanics if he wants a chance at revenge. When he visits the junkyard for parts, Akio instead discovers a first-generation Datsun Fairlady Z (S30). He buys it and later discovers some interesting titbits about the car including that the previous owner shared a name with Akio. With his new car, Akio is ready to form a fresh rivalry with Porsche and it’s driver, Tatsuya Shima. The manga released in 1993 and has forty two volumes. (That Datsun is a nice fucking car, just sayin’.)
My only description as to why I want to read this will include five words: Initial D and Fairlady Z. (Regular Nyanlings shall definitely know what is up 😉).
What do you think of this list o’ golden manga? Have you read any of these? What are some of your favourite classic manga from either the 1980s or the 1990s?