Thursday, February 18, 2021

1983 Original Dokuzetsu Momohei Tsuyoi Ka Yowai Ka!? manga art by Kimura Tomoe

On our trip to Japan, I tried to track down ephemera relevant to my childhood experiences with their cultural exports with little success. Aside from a few recent manga collections, the only Golgo 13 item I came back with was a tiny figurine similar to a large Heroclix, but with a suction cup in its back. The only English on the item is "ucc Good Coffee Smile" so I'm guessing-- mug decoration? Aside from that, I finally found a small Gatchaman color print at a legit old school comic shop. There were newsstands with manga all over, and we hit several Mandarake, including the multistory one in Tokyo with an elevator. Still, those were mostly filled with 21st century artifacts, and don't get me started on the malls filled with One Piece/Dragonball/Attack on Titan items. No, we only ever found one really dense & dusty popcult tchotchke dumping ground (it was a claustrophobia-inducing number not quite wide enough for any one fat American walk through) and a single true, terribly humid Android's Dungeon deal. That's where my partner finally found a set of water-damaged Candy Candy volumes, and pretty much the only place with original manga art.

So much of the Japanese otaku scene feels prefabricated-- the type of stuff offered every month in the Previews catalog, just flea markets full of stuff you'll see at every domestic con. I've never been big on anime, so my tastes are either for nostalgia for Super Nintendo video games and afternoon cartoons, or just stuff that strikes me as cool. Japan runs on yen, so I had a finite amount of physical currency to last our entire trip. I didn't want to go begging to my girlfriend for toy money, so I was very frugal with my purchases. I mostly bought stuff that I only saw in a particular region to take back as souvenirs for the folks back home. That's why I passed on a ¥3500 Dawn of the Dead movie program, which caused me a bit of non-buyers remorse. Anyway, this one shop had a lot of wicked stuff, including the original art of complete stories in slipcases, like one of those Artifact Editions of the actual artifacts rather than reproductions. Those cost tens of thousands of yen, and in retrospect it would have been totally worth it, but I was still being very conservative. I was also afraid that they might be proofs or something, so I only bought one to take back to the hotel. It was clearly on inspection the original boards, and so we went back for one more, but I should have splurged. It's not like I'm going back to Japan... probably ever, in all honesty. It was a very expensive and fairly arduous trip, and my partner didn't have the best time.
The two pieces I bought were ¥8000 each, so roughly $150. Both were by the same artist, who was unsurprisingly unfamiliar to me. Knowing that I'd never get anywhere with the kanji on the bag, I asked the shopkeeper to tell me what he could about the pieces. He spoke almost no English, which is still a million times better than my Japanese, so I just jotted down a few cryptic notes on his Dumbo Post-Its. "Published in Young Jump. 1984. Poisonous Tongue. Momohira. Strong or weak. Tomoi. Kimura." While searching for some specific missing items and reorganizing in general to take advantage of all the power outages here in Texas, I came across the Post-It again and figured I better take advantage of the reunion before I misplace it again. With a bit of online research, the artist appears to be 木村知夫, or Kimura Tomoe (when the names aren't flipped due conflicting Eastern/Western conventions.) The strip seems to be Dokuzetsu Momohei Tsuyoi Ka Yowai Ka!? (毒舌桃平 強いか弱いか!? 全7巻セット), a shōnen manga (targeting teenage boys.) It's about a young couple willing to die in poverty rather than be separated, and ran from 1983-84, producing a seven volume collection. The writer, Kazuo Koike (小池 一夫), studied under Golgo 13's Takao Saito and is best known for Crying Freeman, both in my limited manga wheelhouse.

Tones are my kink, but the other thing that drew me to these specific pieces was the sensuality. Cheesecake and beefcake are common enough, but the delicate intimacy and tasteful nudity here are uncommon in my experience with comics. You have beautiful male and female forms in vulnerable and romantic situations where the sexuality of the characters isn't compromised. But again, the zip tone usage is extensive and exquisite. These are scans of reduced photocopies, so a lot is lost in translation. On the first piece, the top two inches are solid black, Then the wavy tones are adhered, running to either edge of the page so that but for the scotch tape texture on your fingers, it's tough to spot it. The tone is cut around the central figures, who then have horizontal tones hand cut round their forms and the white areas of the eyes and mouths.

My understanding is that the second piece was made either for a wall poster or some form of promotional work. This one also has two tones, dot pattern for the water and horizontal lines for figure shading. The cross-stitched sky appears to have been exhaustively created by hand, based on the asymmetry and the physical texture on the page. The Japanese boards are much thinner then western counterparts, so enormous delicacy must have been required. The artist also relies heavily on liquid paper for the sea foam and highlights on the figures. Don't miss the ornate back tattoo on the female, which though covered by the horizontal zip, appears to have been custom drawn dot by dot. There's a large "81" written on the back, and some yellowing/browning from actual tape. This was used to apply a tracing paper overlay with kanji suggesting a first chapter with a circled Arabic "1". I've opted not to throw up that scan.

I adorev these pieces, and my only regret is that I didn't grab a third available from the series, this one involving some form of demonic entity and a lot of lumber. Thematically though, this works better as a duology. I want to hang them, but I'm afraid of causing damage, in spite of Japan being about as muggy as Houston and without common use of air conditioning. If they lasted over thirty years under those conditions, many hanging from a thread from a ceiling, how much more harm could I do?


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