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Monday, October 27, 2014

Ultima Japanese Manga

I was one of those kids who was early into the concept of playing video games at home - sometime in the late 70s and early 1980s.

While I do recall playing such text adventure video games like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it was really when video came into vogue that video games became 'real'.

While my favorite game from the early days was the Seven Cities of Cibola - a large floppy diskette game where one had to go and placate or eliminate the new world natives in order to garner as much gold et al as possible - I think in today's terms it would be considered politically incorrect - it was when the RPG (role-playing game) adventure games started coming out that I was super hooked.

Although relatively late to the imaginative and highly complex game of Dungeons & Dragons back in 1979, my nerdiness was complete when I was able to play video games of a similar ilk… I finished my first one in 20 hours… but was in seventh heaven - where the dead natives go - when I first encountered Lord British and the world of Ultima.That's a screen shot of the first game above from 1980, though admittedly, I only joined the party in 1983 with Ultima III, which was when the games really got good.

Let's just say it was Dungeons and Dragons in a video game, and let's just say it was terribly fun and let's just say I never studied at school anymore… I won't say because of it, because I was, as a youngster simply a lazy little basturd. That spelling is correct.

Along with living in my parent's basement, watching reruns of Star Trek, playing D&D and later AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons), I was a rock and roll/punk rock record-purchasing demon who also bought virtually every single comic book published in the 1980s, and have every single video game system made at that time, as well as a hi-tech computer with modem and tablet et al… I was wired to the future in ways you can't imagine.

I dreamed of electronic sheep and read about Johnny Mnemonic before Blade Runner and er, Johnny Mnemonic became films about Utopian dystopia.

Johnny Mnemonic, which featured many scenes shot in Toronto and Montreal, was premiered in Japan on April 15, 1995 before anywhere else in the world.

So.. I'm just saying that I was incredibly tapped in to the future back in the 1980s, and it was obvious why I was still a virgin.

Come the 1990s and so come I.

Nowadays, I don't even have a cellphone (they can track you, you know - just kidding, I don't care about that… I just don't have a need for a cell phone. Call me at work or at home).

Conversely, no longer being a techno geek, I can get laid anytime I like. I just don't want to, he says as his nose grows longer.

But back to Ultima. I played maybe five or six versions of the computer video game, with each successive game becoming longer and harder (that's what she said) and replete with better graphics and gameplay (that's what I say).

As mentioned, I also collect comic books - I'm stuck at around 35,000 not being able to continue the now expensive hobby these past two years, but imagine if I knew that there were actually comic books published regarding the Ultima video game storyline?! If there was porn involved back in 1988, I would have been all over it, which could ruin the pages, but you know what I mean.

Here's the kicker, though. It wasn't just a comic book form of Ultima… it was a manga version of Ultima - Japanese comic books … which you pretty much figured out if you see the pictures around this blog.

Circa 1988-89 when Pony Canyon/FCI was publishing Japanese editions of the Ultima video games, Japanese book publisher JICC released four full-length manga series loosely inspired by the games' stories - basically Ultima III and Ultima IV. (Anybody familiar with Japanese comics will understand what 'loosely' means in this context).

In addition to these, Ultima also appeared in short stories and comics in a variety of different Japanese magazines due to the wild popularity of Japanese-flavored western fantasy in Japan in the late 80's and early 90's, a popularity that was largely inspired by Ultima and Wizardry.

The comic book/manga versions are presented below - just covers, unfortunately:  

JICC No. 1: Ultima: The Terror of Exodus
 (ウルティマ ~ エクソダスの恐怖 ); When the dark god of evil, Exodus, arises once more in the realm of Sosaria, it resurrects the evil magicians Mondain and Minax and with their aide threatens to plunge the land into eternal darkness.
It's up to the four chosen "Dragon Warriors" of prophecy to defeat it: Genji, a futuristic space explorer; Aida, a peaceful, animal-loving cleric; Lennon, a paranoid and often disgruntled bard who seems a lot like John Lennon; and Bigelow, a mechanized robot with a capacity for human emotion.
Created by artist Tanaka Seiji (surname first), it was published on Ausust 15, 1988 and sold for ¥880 (now about US $8.13) and provides a loosely retelling of the events contained within the video game Ultima III.

JICC No. 2: Ultima: Quest of the Avatar (ウルティマ ~ クエスト オブ アバタール);

A young paladin, Deane goes on a quest to discover what has become of his older brother, the druid Shiva, who embarked on the quest of the Avatar some years ago.
Along the way he meets a variety of new friends and eventually comes to learn the truth about who he is and what he is fated to become.
Created by artist Tanaka Yuko (surname first), it was published on August 29, 1988 for ¥900 (~ now about US $8.32) , retelling the events of the video game Ultima IV.

JICC No. 3: Ultima: The Fall of Magincia
 (ウルティマ ~ マジンシアの滅亡); Britannia's seas are being ravaged by monsters under the command of the sorcerer Vitor, head of Magincia's merchants.
The young pirate captain Susadora and his gang - accompanied by Rani Sentri, captain of Britannia's special forces - are commanded by Lord British to find arms strong enough to stop Vitor, as well as discover a mysterious truth about Susadora himself.
Created by artist Watanabe Hiroyuki (surname first), it was published on December 15, 1990 selling for ¥980 (now about US $9.05).

JICC No. 4: Ultima: The Maze of Schwarzschild
 (ウルテイマ ~ シュワルツシルドの迷宮);  Aida and Lennon have resurfaced in Genji's outer-space "homeworld," under new identities as caretakers of a space station. But so have Mondain and Minax - as scientists who have discovered the remnants of Exodus trapped within an asteroid and seek a way to unseal the dark god.
The hero Genji is shown on the front cover, with Aida, Lennon and Bigelow on the back.
Created by Tanaka Seiji (surname first), it was published on November 15, 1991 and sold for ¥980 (now about US $9.05).

The art in all of these manga is of the typical Japanese style art - see:
.. and the stories are less than stellar - certainly not up to par as to what the video games were...

Still, a part of me wishes he had seen this back in his sacrificial virgin days and that he could have read it. Now... if you can find one, just know that there is an APP for translating Japanese language via a quick scan, into English and perhaps a few other languages. 

Andrew Joseph

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