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Goin’ Japanesque!

“Mars” Forerunner of Action Manga: Old Manga Strongly Influences Japan’s Manga Industry

The manga we are introducing this time is “Mars”, which was published in the latter half of the 1970’s. This work was created nearly 40 years ago, and we doubt it is published in other countries. This story “Mars” is an important piece in the history of shonen manga (manga for boys) in Japan, as it influenced many writers that came after.

 

Synopsis

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Photo by blogs.yahoo.co.jp

In the ocean near Japan, eruptions of undersea volcanoes produced a new island and it was named as “Akinoshima Shinto”.

On a barren island that was just produced, a boy who has lost all his memory is found.

He is in a condition where he is not able to speak even a word; however, he recovers thanks to the people’s care. Gradually it becomes apparent that the boy’s physical abilities and intelligence is different from what normal people have.

This boy’s name is Mars, and he is actually an android left by extraterrestrial beings. The aliens had visited Earth in the distant past and left the androids in order to keep surveillance of humanity on Earth.

Then six more “Watchers” appear in front of Mars who have kept surveillance of Earth for the same purpose as his.

The Watchers propose to eliminate humanity on Earth by using Mars’ robot “Gaia”, deeming humanity as harmful existence.

But Mars refuses and instead he determines to fight against the 6 Watchers and their robots known as the “Six Holy Bodies”.

 

Characters

1. Mars

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Mars is the main character of this story.

He appears to be a boy, but he is an android built by aliens.

The island created by volcanic eruptions woke him up earlier than it had been intended, and he has forgotten his original mission to give the last judgment to humanity.

He fights against the opposing Watchers, using his guardian robot “Gaia”.

2. The Watchers

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Like Mars, they are also androids that were built by aliens.

Six of them are “Uranus”, “Milo”, “Shin”, “Uraeus”, “Ra”, and the driver of the third holy body who is not named in the story. Each of their appearance is different.

As Mars has his Gaia, each of them has one guarding robot and these robots are indestructible by any existing weapons on Earth.

The aliens who are said be their masters do not appear at all in the work.

 

Analysis

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The author and illustrator of this story is Mitsuteru Yokoyama, whose representative works include “Tetsujin 28-go (Iron Man #28)”.

“Tetsujin 28-go” is very popular in Japan even today and a TV commercial film was recently produced using a live-action version of Tetsujin 28-go, and a life-size statue was erected in Kobe.

Additionally, Mitsuteru Yokoyama illustrated “Three Kingdoms”, the classic literature on Chinese history in manga, and this work is included in almost all the Japanese libraries’ collections.

Manga created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama can be considered as something that everyone in Japan has seen at least once, even though people may not know the author’s name.

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Mitsuteru Yokoyama has pursued realism in his style and often incorporated current social situations into his work.

In this work “Mars”, robots in the story have destructive powers equivalent to nuclear bombs. The story strongly reflects the international situation of the time, the US-Soviet Cold War, and even Japan’s Self-Defense Forces appear in the latter part of the story.

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This work “Mars” contains many elements of settings and storylines that can be considered as the archetype of today’s shonen manga.

The main character “Mars” is one of the enemies but becomes a protector of Earth responding to dedicated actions of umanity. This setting is the same for “Son Goku”, the main character of “Dragon Ball”.

There is a scenario in which all the enemies face Mars at the beginning but later the battle occurs by one-on-one duels.

There is also a storyline in which enemies gradually get stronger and the main character is forced to struggle each time.

These are archetypal story patterns employed in Japan’s shonen manga today.

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When I read this story, I was still in my early teens.

I found this book in my friend’s house.

This storyline and setting were so shocking that I still remember the last scene I saw then.

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Mars was adapted for anime as many as three times and “Six God Combination Godmars”, “Mars”, and “Shinseikiden Mars (Legend of God Century Mars) were produced.

I followed TV broadcast of “Six God Combination Godmars”, but unfortunately I have not seen the two other anime.

This “Six God Combination Godmars” was a brand new story, inheriting only a part of the original story.

However, this piece became immensely popular among anime fans then.

Their enthusiasm was such that some fans arranged for real funeral services each time popular characters of manga died in the story.

Thus “Mars” has had a strongly impact on the manga world in Japan in many ways.

Related Articles:
Mobile Suit Gundam THE ORIGIN: “Cool Japan” All Started Here

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Berial the Demon

About the author

It has been over 40 years of reading manga in the deep world of manga. Japan’s manga has an endlessly wide variety of genres. I will be recommending special manga for you to read from such infinite amount of works.

View all articles by Berial the Demon
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