A nostalgic mood seems to have taken hold of the manga world recently, with a slew of revivals of long-dead series getting prominent billing in Japan’s top manga magazines.
Whether the trend is a sign of manga entering a more reflective middle-age or just a passing fad is unclear, but comic readers are getting the chance to revive old loves or pilfer older generations’ treasures.
"Cyborg 009: Conclusion: God's War," the final chapter of the epic sci-fi series "Cyborg 009," was launched as a monthly feature on the Club Sunday free comic website in April.
The original creator of “Cyborg 009,” Shotaro Ishinomori, died in 1998, but actor and playwright Jo Onodera used clues in notebooks, manuscripts and memos by Ishinomori as the basis for the novel on which the new series is based.
That novel will be published in autumn this year, and Ishinomori's former assistant, Masato Hayase, is in charge of the illustrations for the manga adaption. The story follows a band of nine soldiers who are turned into cyborgs.
Ishinomori had struggled to depict the final battle of the "009" series in the "Tenshi" (Angel) and "Kamigami tono Tatakai" (Battle against the Gods) story arcs, but he couldn't keep the story under control and had to opt for an abrupt conclusion.
Onodera said he quickly found out why when he revisited the series. "(Ishinomori) made little headway, and neither did I. He left words like 'hand-in-hand combat' and 'make it entertaining' in his memos. I made the story go back to basics and unfold with lots of action," he said.
The use of space in Hayase's illustrations is similar to Ishinomori's style, and the new series has also tried to retain the approach to character design of Ishinomori’s original work, with the main characters all seeming to be battling with fate and burdened with a dark past or special agony.
"I wrote the story with a keen awareness that they are humans before they are heroes of justice," Onodera said.
Meanwhile, the swashbuckling manga series "Rurouni Kenshin" resumed its serialization in Shueisha Inc.'s Jump Square monthly comic magazine in May under the title of "Rurouni Kenshin: Kinema-ban" (Rurouni Kenshin: cinema version).
The story follows Kenshin, a legendary assassin during the transition from feudal Japan to the Meiji Era (1868-1912). After the modern government is established, Kenshin swears not to kill again and searches for atonement.
"The same characters are featured, but the plot of the story has been modified, including the way Kenshin meets Kaoru (a female fencer)," Shuhei Hosono, a Shueisha editor in charge of the series, said. "It is a rare approach, like a sort of a parallel world created by the author himself."
Creator Nobuhiro Watsuki thought he gave everything he had for the original series that ran in Shueisha's Shonen Jump weekly comic magazine from 1994 to 1999 but decided to revisit it after taking part in the production of a live-action feature film adaptation, which will be released this summer. He said meetings over the development of the movie’s screenplay help stir up fresh ideas for the story.
Although his more recent work has used a harder-edged drawing style, Watsuki said he tried to the softer approach he used in the original series, even cutting the width and length of his pen to force himself back into old habits. Kenshin himself is still the kind-hearted character that marked him out from so many manga protagonists in the original, and the pacifistic themes remain at center stage.
"Master Keaton: Remaster," which takes place 20 years after the original "Master Keaton" ended, is another example of the reboot trend. The sequel, illustrated by Naoki Urasawa and based on story ideas provided by Takashi Nagasaki, started running on an irregular basis in Shogakukan Inc.'s Big Comic Original biweekly magazine in March.
Shogakukan's Gessan magazine also got in on the act in June with “Mix,” a sequel to the high school baseball comic "Touch" by Mitsuru Adachi.
The original "Touch" told the story of twin brothers who aspired to fulfill a dream of going to the National High School Baseball Championship held at Koshien Stadium.
Set 26 years later, the first episode of "Mix" took place at the same school the twins attended but features different characters. Readers will have to wait to see how the old will intertwine with the new.
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