Monday, 29 June 2015

Inspiration from comics... the oriental side

Well since the presentation of my comics collection seems to have been of interest, I think it's only natural I present you another part of it and specifically all the production from asia (mostly Japan and Corea).
Like in the previous article, I'll list the different titles in the order in which they appear in the shelves.

I'd like to explain that Japanese comics and animes arrived in France in the 80's (well a bit earlier but that's when they became that big). Thanks to TV channels buying them because they were cheap and to visionary publishers who understood that France (being a country of comic books) would welcome diversity, the whole genre has become as natural to people born in my generation as any other thing. Since this is also the time when I discovered miniatures, fantasy, sci-fi, Heavy metal and all that, I just cannot dissociate all those now and they all merge into what drives me now hobby wise.
The great permeability between french and japanese cultures (not apparent at first sight) has lead to changes in many fields (sports, cooking...) and comics and anime are only one of them. TV series like 'Ulysses 31', the 'mysterious cities of Gold' or 'Jayce and the wheeled warriors' are probably one of the consequences that may be the most familiar outside.
This is just a way for me to express how Japanese culture has been influencing French culture for more than 30 years even for those who're not into it as deeply as I am with Kendo, Taiso, comics or gastronomy.

Some of the comics I'm going to present here are true classics but some others are a little less well known. The description I'm making of them may often seem disturbing or not very welcoming but as much as I do love those titles, I know some of these leave no middle ground between hate and love.

Technical warning : It may come as something obvious to those who read a lot of them but more and more mangas (if not all nowadays) are published in their original sense of reading (meaning right to left). This is of course the best of things as it doesn't change the original work and avoids silly mistakes when transaltions of left/right do not match the reversed picture or when full page pictures don't get reversed and become awkward.
If the idea of reading from right to left is worrying you, know that the human brain is a wonderful adaptable thing that it will manage to learn and forget about the issue in no time making it as natural as reading from left to right.

One Piece :

The first manga you can see is One Piece, This typical shonen (mangas destined for young men) is about a boy who wants to become the greatest of pirates so you could think there's no real influence of it in my sci-fi and fantasy models... Well things aren't that easy, there's at least 3 models I can think of that have been directly influenced by that manga. 
This is probably one of the biggest hits worldwide and I have to say the creativity and humour of the author are second to none. It's almost as if the guy has thought about everything. Another thing is that the tale being spread over 74 tomes (still counting) is so well elaborated that it manages to leave misteries that only find their answers years after.  An absolutely brilliant title as far as I'm concerned.
Drawings can be quite simple or even messy at times but it's always to improve the efficiency and the level of detail is often mind blowing... (Readers are welcomed to spend time on every picture because there will always be a funny detail in a 2nd or further ground...
It's one of the rare comics that can have me in tears of laughter really. The anime adaptation is well under the quality of the paper version but a few additions are well worth it. I'd say it's quite a good title to see if the shonen genre and childish japanese humour suits you.

Gantz :

Now here's a tricky one. Gantz tells the tale of Kurono, a schoolboy who gets killed in an accident in an underground tube and wakes up downloaded in a strange room with a huge black ball which will grant him weapons and missions implying killing aliens. The manga is a Seinen (manga for adults) and depicts a lot of extreme violence, explicit sex scenes and very disturbing morale. At first, the hero is a scumbag that will try to sve his own life without caring about others but then he will learn a bit more about himself and will become a hero for humanity. His team mates can be either martial artists, J-Pop stars or even a granny and her grand-son or all sorts of characters that would normally not be heores of such stories. You can always expect things to go the worst way in this manga which leaves you with a bitter taste if you expect a happy ending to any situation. Though it is a very disturbing story, the fact it escapes the traditional rules and therefore is a surprise every page is very refreshing.
The sci-fi elements of this series (mostly the weapons and suits) are stunning with concepts you've never seen anywhere else.

It is not unusual to go from scenes like these :
to scenes like this in seconds :

The author does have a certain fascination for exagerated female breasts (which may have helped for the success) and you'll get playmates in more than suggestive poses at the end of almost every chapter. Some may fancy that, some others may find that offensive, your call.
I understand the reluctancy to read such a title after all I've said but to me it's a title well worth reading because of its incredible originality and stunning drawings often mixing real life shootings, CAD designs and traditional ink and paper drawings. It's not that often you'll get to read something that's so far from everything you've read before.

Zetman :

A very peculiar title that one too. This is another Seinen (for adults) where the hero is a monster who tries to live the life of a human. Drawings are spectacular and though it does play a lot on the superhero genre, the ideas and especially designs of all the monsters can be an excellent inspiration for monsters or technological suits and robots for any sci-fi setting.
The story is very well driven and full of surprises (though the ending scene of the last tome is shown right at the start of the first tome. A really great title if you love superheroes, monsters, art déco architecture and intricate plots, the characters are all well developped and deep and every picture is just a delight.

So what do we have next ? Well all the tomes in the shelf below have been messed by my wonderful children but that shall not stop me from describing them have no fear :

Trigun :

Excellent title that one. A post apocalyptic tale of terraformers who have landed on a remote planet and have failed in settling. The setting is a mix of classic westerns and good sci-fi elements with a lot of humour

The opening theme for the anime version is one of my favourite (that song is just so good) :

Humour is always present in this series but some tomes and chapters leave place to truly great tragedies and particularly one of the most moving scenes I've ever read in a comics :

I have to say the anime made out of the paper story is not bad at all and was done by the same studio who later did 2 of the best anime series (but that's another subject), namely Cowboy Bebop (the story of bounty hunters in space, truly a must watch) and Samourai Champloo which manages to mix medieval Japan and hip-hop (must watch too).

Pluto :

Written by Naoki Urasawa, this seinen is based on the famous Astroboy by Ozamu Tezuka and retells it in a far darker and adult way. The very good thing is it stays in the retro sci-fi vein and the depth of every character is absolutely brilliant :

comparison between original characters (in brown) and their new versions (in black)
Like many other stories by the author, the story is incredibly well built and if you like thrillers, I cannot welcome you enough to read Monster, a breath taking investigation. I won't be developping the other titles from him much as they have a lesser relevance to our subject (being inspiration for fantasy and sci-fi setting from comics) but Naoki Urasawa is one truly gifted author for sure.

Junji Ito :

If you like Horror movies, you might want to have a look at Junji Ito's work. His stories are truly terrifying like if H.P. Lovecraft was having the nightmares of Stephen King. Some of his books are collections of short stories (very much like Lovecraft's) while some develop a whole theme throughout a tome. All stories are disturbing and relate to our deepest fears with an added layer of cosmic horror.

Best titles would be 'Gyo' relating an apocalypse where fish corpses take over the world :

Or Uzumaki (spirale) which is built on whirlwinds and spirales on every level of the plot and drawings, truly a masterpiece :

If you like Lovecraft and you can stand the drawings, you can only like those titles really ! It's a bit like horror movies or metal music, you'll love it or you won't but if you fancy the genre, well this is top of the shelf stuff.

Leaving a few good titles aside (not much source material), we can go straight to some top class heavyweights :


It has to be the world's most famous manga of all times and if it's not it's definitely up in the top 3. If you somehow did manage to avoid that title all your life, well there's a good side to it : you still have one of the best comics ever written yet to read (it could be worse).
The story takes place in a near future (from an 80's point of view) with a cyberpunkish setting. You'll follow the path of Kaneda, street thug and bike gang leader trying to flee from life with the help of drugs, bike races and street fights until his path crosses that of one of the worst war weapons ever (another cathartic way for Japanese to digest the nuclear disaster they had to endure), after that, the fate of all those involved will change forever, quickly involving the whole city, country and soon the world...
Ending in a post-apocalyptic setting, this title is just flawless to me. You get everything you could expect, heroes are cool as can be and yet they remain credible and human, all characters have their strong and weak points and human nature is shown in its full extent (from worst to best).
The drawings are stunning and I would show you a whole lot of epic scenes if I was sure I wouldn't spoil anyone who has yet to discover that masterpiece.

On a personal note, though some coloured versions do exist, I'd invite people to read the Black and white original version (and get an artbook for the original coloured artwork) to fully taste that piece of comic history (I do not mean to post too many pictures of it in case you haven't read it yet).

You can barely make more iconic than Kaneda with his renowned bike and lascannon...

The meeting that will change it all...

Appleseed :

Appleseed is a funny thing because I read the first tome the very same week the exact same week as the first french White Dwarf was released.
The story takes place in a post apocalyptic world and apart from the very first chapters taking place in the ruins of the old world, most of the action takes place in a technological and political utopia.
The setting is fully cyberpunk with augmented humans, 80's fashion, cyber-cops chasing cyber-robbers and all you'd expect.
Like most of Masamune Shirow's mangas, this one is abolutely full of details on every level, political, technological and others. the guy simply can't let anything unthought... (which can be a tad confusing if you mean to read it light mindedly)

Dunan and Briareos, heroes of the series.

Olympus or a surgically clean version of Blade runner
Characters get to wear all sorts of robotic suits whose design should be familiar to Rogue trader fans and highly evocative for any real robot lover...

Ghost in the Shell :

Probably Shirow's most famous franchise which has lead to an excellent anime series (GITS : Stand alone complex, truly a must watch even if you're not a great anime fan) and films (you'll probably have to be a bit of a fan to watch those and enjoy them).
The main subject here though is the original paper series though (the one by Shirow back in the 90's, not the newer ones that are far inferior from where I stand). The setting and mood are not that far from Appleseed but the setting is not an utopia but more a development of the modern world (from an early 90's point of view) which means the cold war is still quite hot and guess what... middle east is still undergoing a tragedy...

New shelf, entirely taken my one artist and by one universe :

GUNNM (Battle Angel Alita) :

The base series started in 1990 is about a cyborg whose remnants are found in a gigantic dump by a doctor who decides to revive it. The doctor realises that that girl cyborg has lost all her memories but her combat skills, he then decides to grant her with a combat body to help her regain her lost memory...

The story takes place in a dystopia where mankind is split between poor and rich with boundaries between the 2 greater than ever (the rich being physically unreachable since living in the sky),

The first part is actually really cyberpunk with all the cyborgs and the references you'll spot in this title will be quite familiar I think :

I guess that one speaks for itself...

Can you spot that one ?
And a little trickier...
The whole story develops till tome 9 where it ends but the ending has been rewritten to accomodate a whole new series that follows and takes place in space. This series called "Last order" has ended a year ago and should be followed by the 3rd and final series taking place on Mars. The "Last Order" series develops many great ideas though the story is a bit less savoury to be honest. One of the very nice ideas is that each great planet has evolved in its own way and I am pretty sure the People of Jupiter (fully robotised) will somehow remind you of some other aliens renowned for their will to EXTERMINATE.

If you look above, you'll see GTO, a very funny manga about a street-punk/bike-ganger becoming a teacher (I love it but cannot say it's been a great inspiration for models really) and right under that you'll find Naruto, the most famous Ninja you can find now. Funny thing is that Naruto shouldn't really be a great source of inspiration for fantasy or sci-fi but guess what, it just is :

See ?

Space White swarf : Toruna Ironwind

Now look at below, I'm pretty sure you know one of those titles :

Ever heard about Dragon Ball ? Yeah me too. Well it's one of those big hits but to be honest, though the author is a true genius, the story sort of stops getting anywhere after a few tomes and only nostalgia and a few good moments will make you go till the end really. The first part though is extremely refreshing and funny and full of chinese mythology. I'm a huge fan of Akira Toryama's first series : Dr Slump which is a stupidly childish story of robot kids with ridiculous force and all sorts of alien but it has such a tongue in cheek attitude and silly humour I adore and it never fails to get me in tears (of laughter mind you)!

Parasyte :

Though it does not take place in a futuristic or fantasy setting (but right at the end of the 80's) it's a title worthy of notice as it was one of the influences for James Cameron Terminator 2. The story is about some parasitic aliens that infest humans to take control of them. The hero manages to prevent his parasite from infecting his brains and forces him to parasite his hand instead, forcing both to leave a symbiotic life for the better.

It is an extremely well written series with great psychological questions and even metaphysical question about the essence of human kind and its place on earth (without being boring as I make it sound).

The story offers some very good point of views as the alien parasites can "feel" everything his host can so he will often  give him advice (based purely on logics) about who to date, what to eat or when to go to the loo... that's the author's way of making us think about our behaviour about food, consumming in general and other things.

Two shelves with many excellent mangas about sword and samourais (I guess you know why), they are not really what you'll use for Rogue trader or Warhammer but if you want some titles :
- Vagabond : Insanely great drawings and the romanced story of Myamoto Musashi, best swordman to have ever lived according to the legend. Apart from the stunning art, the feel you get when reading this is the exact same feeling when you're holding a sword in a combat, a masterpiece no less.
- Mugen no Junin : a Ronin (samourai with no master) is cursed with imortality and tries to redeem himself by protecting a young girl looking for justice. An excellent mix of light fantasy and medieval Japan served with exquisite drawings and story.
- Hiroshi Hirata's Gekiga : if you like Japanese history and more realistic drawings, you'll like Hiroshi Hirata's art which relates in a dramatic way some legends and stories which really help get into Japanese folklore.

Now look at the one in the upper right corner and you'll see a very particular series which just happens to be my favourite of all (yes, all styles and genres mixed).

Dorohedoro :

This is not excatly what you can call mainstream here. Dorohedoro is a manga made by Q. Hayashida (a girl, which is not that frequent in this field).
The story takes place in a fantasy world Split into 3 planes :
- Hole : the world of humans,
- the world of Mages
- Hell : the world of demons.
Both worlds of humans and mages share many common points with our own with the world of mages being a bit more weird and silly.
Hole, the world of humans, not excatly the nicest place around...
The story is about Caiman a human with the head of a lizard who has lost his memory and who doesn't really care but would like to get his human head back at least.

From that point, things go in all sorts of ways but one of the many talents of the author is to never get lost in her own story and that makes it very easy to read and understand without it being ridiculously simple. the pace is always right and you do not feel gaps in the narration with fillers, you just get scenes to "breathe" with humour and informations about background but it's always well displayed.

A good selection of all the characters you can find

The tone of the manga is like its art, it's messy and dirty (on purpose) but extremely efficient, it's not a consequence of lazyness or anything, it's a style that suits the dark and messy world depicted. You can get scenes of extreme violence without ever feeling awkward or insane because all characters have their good and bad points so you do not have "good" and "bad" characters and even though all of them get severely injured at some point, they always get fixed up by magic at some point so there is no real gloominess. And that's precisely why this title is so good too : the characters are all very finely built and all their actions make sense (well sense with who they are, most of the time it doesn't make sense to a normal human being) which can lead them to being worst enemies or friends depending on the action.

The role of women in the manga is also extremely intersting as they are just exactly on the same level with men on every point (except their looks), though it doesn't prevent the author from showing the heroin with bare breast everytime she can...
The manga is also one of the funniest I've read, it's just completely silly, the exact kind of silly I can't resist really.

If you want a good sample of what it is like, you can read that bonus story at the end of tome 10 (remember to read from right to left). If you do like it , I'd suggest you buy the books instead of using scantrads (I know I do read those when I'm not patient enough but I always do buy the books out of respect for the authors and because I love reading paper above all.

Next two shelves... oh my... the next two shelves...

Berserk :

Berserk is probably one of the best fantasy manga ever created. There are many out there and good ones at that but Berserk bests them all for multiple reasons.
One of the reasons is that the story is a perfect combination of dark and sinister moments, humour, epic and dramatic scenes and always combined in the most appropriate way without looking forced or anything, everything just come naturally, it's not "trying".
The story is that of a lone mercenary hunting demon princes many times bigger than he is and far more powerful. His resolve and poor care for self protection always prevail though. After a while the story comes back to the origins of the character and his hatred for demons. The feeling at that point is very strange because you see elements of fantasy being added one by one to the story which is basically a transition between high medieval times and renaissance at the start to then become darker and stranger.

A major step in the story is reached in the story when the character finally becomes how you see him in the very first chapters and anyone who has read the series will tell you how that particular moment is something that has left a trace in every reader for its intensity and power.

Aesthetically, the very first chapters look a bit "late80's/early90's" but the style quickly stabilises and remains excellent throughout the whole series. It is very important to point that the author must have made some major studies on medieval art, weapons and armours because they just look exactly like what you would find in museums in Europe. That's a great force of this manga as it makes everything look more credible and it enhances the terror the demons inspire.

Scenes of hell and demons in general are often directly inpired by Bosch or other artists of the sort and you truly feel feel the tremendous might of the bigger ones just by looking at them.

The only bad point of this series is that it's not published fast enough for us readers as the author is extremely cautious about every detail and therefore takes huge tasks all for himself (Japanese authors most of the time have assistants to help drawing backgrounds, adding colours or filling scenes with loads of other characters)

Tsutomu Nihei :

Once again this is the whole work of an artist I'm presenting here. I'm a massive fan of everything he makes. His touch is very personal and can be recognised amongst thousands. The male hero of his series is nearly always looking the same and most of the time, the monsters and powers will be named and will look the same from one series to the other. The tone and the setting though will often change in a way that makes it a whole new experience with a familiar environment.
If you love grim darkness, H.R. Giger and Ian miller, then have a go at this author, you should find all you like here.


This is Nihei's first publisehd series and it is the story of an android dwelling in a closed environment and looking for a terminal to contact authorities. The story is a bit obsucre and only gets clearer as tomes pass by. The most intersting thing is that the environment is totally claustrophobic as the place it takes place in is a city that's never stopped to grow. The hero being alone (and not of a  talkative type) you can get tomes with almost no dialogue whatsoever (which makes the story harder to get at times) but which makes the atmosphere and ambiance all the more important.

The weapon the hero holds is extremely tiny but probably one of the most lethal ever seen and it usually leads to incredible drawings where Nihei's incredible talent for architecture can express at its max.

(The particular edition below is read from left to right as usual)

 The drawing style has evolved a lot from beginning to end but it's actually really interseting to see how the author treats parts a a certain way to switch to other means at a later point. His other series are far more stable on that aspect but in this case it is truly not a problem (to me at least).

The story sees many factions appear and though most oppose each other at some point, it is not easy (nor relevant) to try and put any on the "good" or "bad" side because there simply is no manicheism here.

Even though I consider it a pretty poor film, it seems 'I-robot' has taken its inspiration in very close sources to some of Blame's droids :

Biomega :

With the hero being a near exact copy of Blame's, Biomega is a bit "clearer" with factions being a little more segmented (meaning you get a clearer view of who's against who).
The hero is an android looking to save the humans still uncontaminated by a virus turning all living beings (and even some objects or buildings) into monsters.

Abara :

A short story in 2 tomes only with Nihei's usual concepts but this time things are a little easier with 2 sides : Black monsters (the good ones) against white monsters (the bad ones). This series really plays on speed and intensity which is rendered splendidly and in a very clever and elegant way in most action scenes.

Knights of Sidonia : 

Quite an interesting title this one as it moves a bit away from the complete grimdark universe to move to a mecha genre (understand giant japanese robots fighting giants monsters) with some humour too.
The style is fresh and light but still holds that dark vibe and weird organic shapes and monsters that make the touch of the author.

An interesting thing about this series is that most robots have ben designed with plastic kits before getting skteched on paper and you get little winks at us modellers and hobbyists from time to time in the series ;)
where the author explains how he showed plastic kitbashes to sell his idea to publishers...

Where one of the main characters goes to her local hobby shop to get some new bits for a conversion

The series develops a lot opf interesting ideas as humanity is reduced to a tiny population drifting through the galaxy in a giant space ship :

The hero (always looking as all other heroes from Nihei's) is a talented pilot with a soft heart and you get to see him reacting to all sorts of people falling in love with him from genuine girls to neutrals but with also droids and 30m tall mutant aliens...

The anime coming with this series is not bad at all if you're into that sort of thing and I hapen to quite enjoy it myself.

Now I hope I made some of you want to have a go at some of those titles or at least I hope if you do know them that you share my enthusiasm for them. Just like for the last post about occidental comics, if you ever feel like asking a question about any series presented here or some others you might have spotted, do not hesitate to shoot me a PM or a comment and I'll gladly oblige ^^.


  1. Mec this was one epic posting, my brain is bulging with manga knowledge. I'm surprised by the number of titles I haven't heard of, it looks like I need to brush up on my reading :D

    Now I have the urge to make everything into androids... EVERYTHING!

    1. Totally makes sense mec. Everything (apart from women) is better in an android/robotic form.

  2. Awesome presentation!!! I really need to get more anime and Japanese comics in my life.

    1. This is really the tip of the iceberg of what I have and not even close to a dust compared to what's out there but hey ! one has to start somewhere !
      Hope you find titles that suit you ;)

  3. Ahh, some classics there, Your Right, Akira is the greatest of the all, read all 4 hefty volumes (B&W versions of course), and it's great, also read Ghost in the Shell, another masterpiece, but to be honest, that's all I have ever read :embaressed:

    Anime wise, Stand Alone Complex, most of the Apple Seed's and Tank Police all based on Shirow's work are great watches, Also Patlabor (the films, don't really like the tv series much) is another great series for miniatures ideas.

    Steamboy and Cowboy Bepop are also both worthy watches as well.

    1. Sorry that's Steamguy J IIRC..... never watched any called Steamboy (I think).......

    2. I have to say I stayed away from animated mangas for this one but there are tremendously inspiring ones out there and Cowboy Bebop would surely be one of my favourites with Stand Alone Complex a close second. Maybe I'll get roubdto list Animation films as well since I 've opened pandora's box anyway ^^.

  4. Lots of great titles there! I have not read all that much Manga myself as I was on a huge Animé kick in college, but I have recently been working through the Gundam Origin books, and they are seriously great...

    I need to read Appleseed... off to the inter library loan system I think.

    1. I realise that animes are probably the entry door to the world of Manga but I have to say I'm more attracted to paper versions when they're the original art.
      I have a great lack in my Gundam knowledge (a bit bit like with my star trek one) which will have to be mended at some point ;)
      So many things to read still...

    2. Gundam originally was an Animé, and it introduced the idea of "Real Robots", where the mech is treated like equipment, and not like a super hero. Gundam:Origins takes the story from the Animé and then expands on it to provide more points of view, deeper characterization etc. In the US at least, they are available in hard cover aizōban, with lush watercolor art and essays at the end of each volume discussing the impact and development of Gundam.

      I got into them because I read on a blog somewhere about how they were more "real" than most military manga, and so I ordered a couple from the library. I thought "oh, well these stories are sort of derivative, and but the art is great" ... until I got deeper in and the work became more original to the manga and less directly based on the Animé. Now I am eagerly awaiting the next one to be released.

    3. You got me intrigued now... ^^'

    4. Only fair, since you have introduced me to several titles now... (and Appleseed V1 and V2 have been ordered!)

  5. J'étais persuadé d'avoir commenté ce post...

    Un post un peu particulier mais absolument impressionnant tant par sa taille que son contenu... Les manga...

    Purée, si j'avais une maison, voilà le genre de bibliothèque que je rêve de me constituer TT

    J'ai toujours été surpris de voir combien les manga pouvaient proposer de l'excellent... Comme du pire absolument dégueulasse (et pourtant je suis déjà tombé sur des trucs tordus... Mais quand je dis dégueulasse, c'est vraiment dégueulasse).

    Pour nous autres figurinistes, c’est une source d'inspi absolument inépuisable... Et OUI, GTO peut servir d'inspi : ce fut mon cas pour ma fig de Aragoto :

    Voilà voilà ^^


    1. Aha, je suis très fan d'Onizuka (j'adore ta version) et de se pérégrinations et si j'ai pu être inspiré par One piece pour faire du 40k alors à peu près tout peut servir. J'ai quand même du me limiter aux influences "évidentes" pour ne pas devenir cinglé.
      D'ailleurs je pense qu'il y a un autre post que j'avais fait qui pourrait t'inspirer :

      Merci à toi !

  6. What an awesome post. As a long-time anime fan myself I have to agree you have highlighted some awesome animes and mangas in your post above. I'm glad I have managed to influence my son to be a anime/manga fan too. But our manga and anime collection pales in comparison to yours. One thing that saddens me is how expensive anime/manga is in my country. We still try to build a collection though ... one book/DVD at a time. ^_^

    1. Well the collection has been built drop after drop really, I must have strated back in 1997 and must have bought a couple per month. Luckily enough, the prices in France are relatively affordable and the great popularity of comics in general in our country makes it easy enough to start collections.
      I haven't dealt with those mangas that have no direct relation with fantasy or sci-fi but there sure is tons of good things to be read out there !

      Thanks !


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