RAIJIN COMICS discontinued publication with issue #46 [July, 2004]. Its numerous feature pages opened doors to Japanese culture and history, adding to my enjoyment of the magazine. However, in the last several months of Raijin's existence, those pages evinced a noticeable dip in quality and became extremely self-referential. Indeed, some transformed into comics strips which "starred" Raijin editors and artists...almost as if they were designed to boost the morale of the title's staff. By the last couple issues, aside for the reviews of manga which had not yet been exported to the United States, I found myself skimming and even skipping over entirely the "extras" I had once enjoyed greatly.
The manga itself - naturally - was always RAIJIN COMICS' main attraction. Let's continue/complete our final looks at the series which were still running when the title ended its run.
Cavalier samurai Maedi Keiji is based on a historical figure, though I suspect the manga isn't an entirely factual recounting of his life and times. Hara Tetsuo is the artist of the series with story credited to Ryo Keiichiro and Aso Mio listed as scriptwriter. It's a winning combination; throughout KEIJI's run in RAIJIN, the series balanced action, drama, humor, political suspense, and even romance. The violence rarely seemed gratuitous, not often the case in samurai comics.
When the series began, Keiji was bound to the Maedi Clan by way of his adoptive father. It was a perilous situation for there were those in the Clan who feared the brash warrior might someday challenge their power. Keiji's prowess and wits kept him from harm and, after the death of his father, he manipulated events so that he could leave the Clan without causing himself or his master any loss of face.
The final RAIJIN episodes had Keiji newly arrived in the city of Kyoto, making new enemies and friends with equal grace. I would love to read the further adventures of this throughly likeable and always surprising hero.
I'm not sure there was a need for a second medieval adventure in RAIJIN, but I was definitely intrigued by some of the elements writer Shibata Renzaburo and artist Yanagawa Yoshihiro were playing with. Their title hero is a blue-eyed swordsman of mixed heritage in 18th century Japan, a time when the practice of Christianity was punishable by death.
Kyoshiro harbors a hatred of Christianity, but has been hired to protect the favorite consort of the next shogun from the deadly consequences of her secret faith. Other forces seek to manipulate the consort and other worshipers to increase their own wealth and power. Trust is a fragile thing in such circumstances.
It wouldn't be a sure thing, but, if another publisher picked up NEMURI KYOSHIRO, they might me able to get me to shell out some bucks for the further adventures of the sullen swordsman.
GUARDIAN ANGEL GETTEN
I lost all interest in Sakurano Minene's GUARDIAN ANGEL GETTEN about midway through its RAIJIN run. Never a blindingly original concept - lonely teenager gets his own lovely guardian angel via a gift from his wandering father - the series didn't seem willing to explore any character or relationship sufficiently. It kept adding new characters and guardian angels. Traditionally, a "relationship manga" does tend to take its time moving its players forward, but this series was too hesitant for my taste.
Without a good story behind it, GETTEN's art really started to annoy me. All those enormous eyes, feminine boys, open spaces and sparse backgrounds; they were sucking the testosterone right out of me. Even the pervert guardian angel, the one that wanted to do the nasty with the manga's underage hero, wasn't doing anything for me. There's never a samurai around when you really need one.
I'm not gonna miss GUARDIAN ANGEL GETTEN.
BOW WOW WATA
Umekawa Kazumi's BOW WOW WATA grew on me. I didn't care for the first few episodes of this series about a young man who learns a) he can communicate with animals after they bite him, and b) his father the veterinarian is also some kind of dog-god in human form. I have never been a pet person.
Darned if the series and its "heroes" - Yashiro Tasuke, rash-but-well-meaning student, and Wata, the wise, grizzled old dog who has taken a liking to him - did win me over. Maybe it was the pup with the Jekyll/Hyde personality. Maybe it was the shape-shifting forest creature who swore revenge on all humans for the deaths of his family. Maybe it was the former show dog torn between owners past and present. Maybe it was all of them. The end result: BOW WOW WATA became one of my RAIJIN favorites.
Any publisher who got the rights on BOW WOW WATA could count on my being a steady customer, especially since RAIJIN COMICS never finished the heartbreaking story about the show dog.
THE CLIMBERS SAGA
From time to time, RAIJIN COMICS would omit one of its regular series and run an installment of THE CLIMBERS SAGA by writer/artist Murakami Motoka. These were anthology-type stories about mountain climbers and, for the most part, had no connection to one another. I really liked the very first one - about a young man who braves a mountain so that he can find work as a guide and help support his family - but, after that one, I came to believe the main thrust of these stories was...
These mountain climbers are flipping crazy!
These mountain climbers are suicidal!
This is where I confess that there are some entertainments I consider too dangerous for rational human beings. Besides mountain climbing, these insane pursuits would include NASCAR racing, eating blowfish, and having sex with Ann Coulter.
Okay, if I weren't married, I might consider the later if only for the potential merriment of, in the throes of passion, assuming one could work up any passion whilst entwined with that most vile of creatures, screaming out the name "Hilary!"
Digression. I'm not much for fantasizing about politicians or those related to them...though I did once have that dream about the Bush twins telling their daddy they were leaving the family to live on a commune with Dennis Kucinich. Still, I am considering asking Barbara Boxer for a pin-up poster.
Back to those crazy mountain climbers.
Murakami is a talented writer and artist, but his stories came off as a paean to irresponsible risk with no corresponding benefit to anyone. Heck, in a later story, he even killed off the hero of the one story of this series that I liked.
I don't need or want to read any further installments of THE CLIMBERS SAGA.
RAIJIN COMICS had its ups and down, but I did enjoy the title from start to finish. If its publishers were able to retool it and bring back, and as long as it still featured some of the series I liked, I'd buy it.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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