Sunday, March 21, 2010


(This post is part of a series I've tagged as early manga days, chronicling rare/weird gems from the beginning of manga's now 30+ year history of publication in English)

After everyone's great work on the early manga (in English) chronology, I'm stoked to dig deeper on some specific titles. Concurrent to creating that list, I've been digging around on ebay and at used book shops in the bay area for physical copies of some of these gems. Now that we have the list, I'm gonna dig in and highlight some scans and ephemera from these "artifacts" (haha) from the early publishing history of manga in English.

This post is to highlight the awesome covers and design of one of Viz's first three flagship titles, Mai the Psychic Girl by Kazuya Kudo and Ryoichi Ikegami. I remember loving this title when it was first collected in the early 90s, and the series held up really well when I re-read it last year. Like much of the manga selected to be published in the first wave, Mai is a boys manga with heavy science fiction & action elements.

You gotta love that front cover copy, haha:
"She is pretty. She is psychic. She is japanese"

In a nutshell, a dastardly and shadowy organization called the "Wisdom Alliance" (so good) is hellbent on taking over the world, and enrolling a squad of telekinetic children to help them destroy their enemies. The book follows the eponymous Mai (who is a 14 year old psychic girl) as she is hunted by the Wisdom Alliance and includes children having massive psychic battles, some 80s crime noir and international intrigue. Pretty badass stuff. Add to this the fact that it's all illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami (Strain, Crying Freeman, Sanctuary, etc!) and you have a pretty solid (albeit, stylistically dated) and fun science fiction/action series.

In the front inside cover of Mai the Psychic Girl #1, the editors included a message to readers of these first Viz comics books from 1987. This same note was included in the inside Front Cover of Area 88 #1 and Legend of Kamui #1 as well:
[Click for bigger version]

Here are the covers to a few of the first issues, along with the crazy back cover images- I'm not sure whose idea it was to do these floursecent/psychedelic color treatments, but I am loving them. The covers are entirely made up of colorized version of internal panels, along with goofy summary copy and blocks and lines; Each back cover (for the first 15 issues or so) includes a radical panel from the inside of the book.

[Click each for the large versions]

Next up in this series of posts, I'm going to reproduce three essays that were published in the back of the floppy issues of Mai The Psychic Girl, called "The Manga Story". These were written in 1986-1987 by the manga/Japan experts of the day, including stuff by Fred Patten, Frederik Schodt, and James D. Hudnall. These are fascinating essays on their own, and are all the more interesting for their predictions about the future of manga in English, nearly 25 years later.


Yukiko Forever! said...

Mai looks like an old school Yu Yu Hakusho (which is a compliment). You mentioned a collection somewhere at the beginning I think. Any idea where I could find that online? This looks great, like I said looks like an old school Yu Yu Hakusho and that's probably my favorite Toonami anime.

Ryan S said...

You can get all the floppy issues for just $25 bucks on Ebay!

or you can track down the slightly pricier "Mai The Psychic Girl: Perfect Collecton" trade paperbacks, often they have copies at used book shops and comic shops. or you can go on ebay for those too:
Or you

Yukiko Forever! said...

I'd also would like to be the first to add that "stylistically dated" is a big big plus in my book. This looks really an 80s manga and I don't know if this is too bold of a statement but Japanese media may never be or maybe has never been better than it was in the 1980s.

Yukiko Forever! said...

Thanks for the links. I'm trying to save money for a tentative trip to Japan with my school's language department so I can't get them yet, but at least I know where to look now. :D

Anonymous said...

Whoa, I got the Perfect Collection from my library just a couple weeks ago.
"A Young Girl's Psychic Power Defies The Sinister Plans of the Wisdom Alliance"? That's awesome, reminds me vaguely of the old Kikaida TV series. Probably the usage of the word "sinister".

Thanks for posting these.

Mr Alchemy said...

Awesome! I still have all of these plus the 3 ‘perfect collection’ books. Ryoichi Ikegami is such a pimp of an artist. Mai, along with Samurai Crusader helped turn me into the dedicated fan of manga that I am today.

Sorry for bringing such late additions to your ‘early manga days’ list, but I believe there’s a couple of titles which you may have overlooked.

1) Manga: Comic Strip Books From Japan. A book from a 1991 which accompanied an exhibition held at The Pomeroy Purdy Gallery in London, showcasing a number of artists including Osamu Tezuka, Keiko Takemiya, Suehiro Maruo, Mitsuhiko Yoshida, Kazuichi Hanawa, and Higirina Kouya. The book has a beautiful selection of unflipped translated pages from each artist, showcasing their work, along with notes and informative artist profiles in the back. There’s a good introduction by the curator, Adam Lowe, plus 2 brilliant essays; ‘In the Age of Comics as Air’ by Paul Gravett (who we all know for his book Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics), and ‘Art for the Masses – Manga on Television’ by Helen McCarthy (Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation, The Anime Encyclopedia, etc.).

But the crowning Jewel of the book has to be the 2 complete short stories (which are the reason why I believe this book belongs in your list). ‘The Tantrum’ (Kannomushi) by Kazuichi Hanawa (Mercy Flesh, Doing Time, In The Deep Forest), a surreal 10 page dream story about an out of control little boy from his book ‘Red Sky’ (Akai Yuru). ‘The First Visitor’ (Hagimeteno Houmonsha) by Mitsuhiko Yoshida (someone you profiled during your AX Research Project over on Electric Ant Zine blog), another surreal dream theatre piece about a young girl having her first period during the night, an 8 page short piece from his book ‘Paper Theatre’ (Yumegeshiki: A Vision of Dreams).

It can be found for quite cheap on Amazon. I believe this is simply due to not many people being aware of it, so there isn’t much of a demand.

2) Memories by Katsuhiro Otomo from 1992 published by Epic Comics. I only possess No.1, and therefore am unaware if any more issues exist in the series. The first one is the complete 30 page manga which the short anime Magnetic Rose (my favourite short animation ever in the history of the world, watch it!) was based, colourized for an American audience, much in the same way Marvel/Epic Comics coloured their original run of Akira.


Sorry if you have either of these in your list already. I don’t remember seeing them, so though I would just bring them to your attention.

jimpac said...

I'm looking forward to reading those essays you mention. I've only got the Titan Books graphic novels, which only include an extract from an interview with Ryoichi Ikegami, in the first volume, and none of the essays.

Also, another title, which I know you're aware of, that seems to be missing from the early manga days chronology is Panorama of Hell, which was first published in 1989.

Ryan S said...

@Yukiko: Oh cool, good luck saving up for that trip! I was lucky back in high school and got to go on a scholarship to Japan, which was one of the luckiest awesome-est thing that happened for me during my teens.

Ikegami (& Tetsuo Hara) are quintessentially 1980s manga aesthetic to me. I'll always love that look-- hope you can track Mai down at your library or used somewhere.

@doktorzetsubou: Oh nice, have fun reading that thing! It's a bit sexist and ridiculous, but I love it. Enjoy :)

@Mr. Alchemy: Oh nice, this was definitely one of those formative books for me too.

I will add those books to the post! I loved the Memories collection, I didn't realize it was published as individual issues originally. I'll go start digging around about them :) I know nothing about the Manga: Comic Strip Books From Japan, but that is super fascinating!

Thanks for sharing all of these!

Ryan S said...

@jimpac: Cool! I'm gonna post the first of the 3 essays later tonight.

Was Panorama of Hell published in 1989? I thought it was published in 1993 by Blast. I need to dig up my copy tonight and double-check :)

Mr Alchemy said...

Here we go Ryan, the exact same release I'm talking about:

When you say you love the Memories collection, do you mean to say there is an anthology book that also came out, or that you love the anime collection? Because I am unaware of any other book releases.

Ryan S said...

@Mr. ALchemy: Oh interesting! I had never seen that before! I will add it to the list. The collection I'm talking about was published in the UK I believe:

It looks like it includes all the stuff in that single issue + more :)

Mr Alchemy said...

Thank you for reminding me about this! I have actually seen that somewhere before, years and years ago, but didn't have the money to buy it. Guess I'll finally be reading it now.

Azraelito said...

I never like Mai. Perhaps because I enjoyed more Pineapple Army of Kudo. The only thing I know is, that the manga of Nobunaga Oda that is written by Kudo and drawn by Ikegami, is far better than Mai. The art of Mai is incredible, but the story is blearghhh. I think Kudo is a great writer and Pineapple Army with Urasawa and Nobunaga Oda with Ikegami are his greatest hits. Perhaps I dont like Mai, because I started reading Strain and Sanctuary that are the finest works of Ikegami. I really loved all the things that Buronson did with Ikegami. Perhaps a lot of hope was in my mind when I first read Mai and I was such in dissapoinment perhaps because I hope an interesting story like the ones that Buronson writes for Ikegami.

Did anyone read the latest Lady Snowblood stories of Koike and Ikegami?

Saludos from argentina!

As always my english sucks and it is a pleasure of reading!

Unknown said...

What I remember I saw this years ago somewhere...and I missed this because I was told this is not as good as it looks like. I was told this have something to do with New Age based tales with story resembling fairy tales for childs to 5 years of age. And now I missed this again...
Could this be read somewhere online?

Ryan S said...

@Azraelito Ah yeah, I can totally understand why folks might not like Mai. The story is pretty preposterous and the action is sorta retarded. And yet, because I first read it when I was like 12, I will always have a soft spot for it in my heart :)

I agree, Strain and Ikegami's worth with Bronson is way better. The funny thing (probably says something about me) is that I didn't really like Strain when it was serialized in Pulp; I always thought it was too macho or something. Only when I read it a little later in collected form could I appreciate it...

Regardless, you have to admit that these covers (especially issue #4 are really amazing).

zytroop said...

I have a really hard time appreciation Ikegami's art but I did enjoy Mai. Probably more because of how campy it is and how fantastic the Perfect Collection looks than the story.

I really like these posts.

zytroop said...

Evan said...

I'm getting nostalgia of digging through the odds & ends long boxes at various Michigan comic stores, trying to piece the story together (which I eventually rectified by buying the collections). I always liked the graphic design of the Eclipse releases.

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