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Friday, December 13, 2013

One Of The Earliest Japanese Manga - 1927

The above book may not be the earliest manga from Japan - but check out the 1927 hardcover book called Karutobi Karusuke by writer/artist Miyao Shigeo. It looks pretty much like any Japanese kiddie manga book from 2013!

Seriously... the art looks like many features you might see today. I'm not talking about the slick techno-demoinc ninja stuff... but comics... for kids. You know... stuff you used to be able to read before Batman became all Dark and gritty and the world looks at a midget Canuck wielding adamantium claws... you know he must be killing people... and call them superheroes.

Where's Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge? Cancelled and apparently unprofitable... dooming the comic book industry because aside from movies not fit for little kids because of the violence, kids aren't interested in forking over $3.99 for a comic book. Okay... rant over.

Hell's Bells, the manga above from 1927 while cartoony is also kind of violent... but I bet it's a goofy type of violence... you can see the smiling geisha waving her samurai sword as she takes on three savages with pre-made holes in their body - perhaps from being born already disemboweled. Who know... well... maybe you, if you have $3,250 and feel like purchasing it from the folks at Rulon-Miller Books.

By the way... that smiling geisha? It's actually a smiling samurai warrior... I was fooled by the white-face make-up and the bright red lips that look like lipstick... but apparently THAT is the comic look of the heror of the manga.

Here's what their catalogue has to say about this manga offering:   

First edition, 8vo, pp. [4], 212, [16]; illustrated throughout and printed in green, blue, and orange; pictorial paper-covered boards; remains of original glassine, publisher's pictorial box; box slightly soiled and with one short split, else generally fine.Shigeo Miyao (1902-1983) was primarily known as a manga artist creating humorous children's manga such as Kushisuke Manyuki ("The Adventures of Dango Kushisuke") during the Taisho period. He was born in Tokyo and studied manga with Okamoto Ippei (1886-1948), generally considered the godfather of manga. He was one of the first artists to use the word manga (literally, "funny pictures") close to its current sense. "Miyao had the distinction of being one of the first professional artists to specialize in children's comics." In 1922, he began serializing a 6-panel Manga Taro [Comics Taro] in a daily newspaper which the following year was put into book form "just in time for most copies to be destroyed in the 1923 earthquake.
In the present book he writes of the adventures of the samurai super-hero, Karutobi Karusuke. (See Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, 1986, p. 48-49.)

There is surprisingly very little information available on the Karutobi Karusuke manga or the creator. A quick perusal via a Google search brought up four pages - but each was an exact copy of the material I found under the Rulon-Miller listing... so I'm unsure who actually wrote it first. It has also been translated (the write-up of the book and creator) into a wide assortment of different languages... 

Anyhow... is this the oldest manga? It depends.

A manga in Japan was originally a comic illustration, so even a single panel could be construed as a manga.

Apparently, if we follow these rules, Kanagaki Robun and Kawanabe Kyosai created the first manga magazine in 1874 called Eshinbun Nipponchi... and perhaps because it lacked the artistic flair of the popular ukiyo-e art, it's simplistic art caused it to fail after a mere three issues.

Another go at creating a manga comic book was the magazine Kisho Shimbun in 1875, which was reportedly inspired by Eshinbun Nipponchi. Other early manga were Marumaru Chinbun in 1877, and Garakuta Chinpo in 1879.

So... I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the above manga book wasn't the earliest manga from Japan, but was probably one of the earliest collections of Japanese comedic manga work... And... it is nearly 85 years old.

Aside from it coming from a country (Japan) that was embroiled in a world war, numerous earthquakes and such, a common book of manga is a rare item. Heck... I have three miniature Life magazines from 1911, 1912 and 1913 (CGC's at 4.5, 7.0 and 7.0)... but these are small books featuring singular non-related comic panels from different artists... it's hardly a comic book by today's standards, but the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide lists them anyways. I'm probably the only owner of all three of these books in the world, and perhaps the only owner of one or two of these.

I also own a pair of Japanese comic books from around 1870s... done in the ukiyo-e style, aside from the color covers, they are black and white drawings with The Story of Genji written around them... written in a a flowing script of kanji that not even most Japanese of today were able to read them!

I wonder how many of these Japanese Karutobi Karusuke manga books are out there now? Could this be a rare one... and by that I mean less than 10 copies?

I would love to hear from any Japanese manga collectors who could tell me what the rarest Japanese manga books are - and why.... and if this particular book is worth the $3250 being asked for it.

Andrew Joseph       

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