Sunday, July 18, 2010

Maegaki: The Top 10 Most Influential Manga-ka

In the past week, Oricon Entertainment Inc., well-known for their weekly rankings, released the results of a poll that recently asked for Japan's ten most influential mangaka artists that had changed the history of manga. The three-day poll asked 841 men and women all over Japan between the ages of 10 and 40, and the results were posted on their website. (H/T: Silicon Era)

1. Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Black Jack)
2. Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball, Dr. Slump)
3. "Fujiko F. Fujio" (a.k.a. Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motou Abiko - Doraemon)
4. Eiichiro Oda (One Piece)
5. Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk, Vagabond)
6. Shigeru Mizuki (GeGeGe no Kitaro)
7. Fujio Akatsuka (Tensai Bakabon)
8. Machiko Hasegawa (Sazae-san)
9. Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind)
10 (tie). Osamu Akimoto (Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kôen Mae Hashutsujo)
10 (tie). Naoki Urasawa (Monster, 20th Century Boys)

Not a bad selection, but I have a few things to say about this ranking in terms of its operation:
  1. The sample size seems to be rather small. Asking only 841 people for this survey seems to sell the influence of manga immensely short. I have a hard time believing that Oricon could cut the pool to such a small cross-section; that's 0.00067% of Japan's population!
  2. The sample size seems rather restricted to the younger generation. If you assume the oldest to be in their 40's, then we're likely talking about manga fans who are more biased towards titles written after 1975. I'm not saying that there were no influences after 1975, but it does seem to tell us that Oricon doesn't consider the older generation to have a say in the matter.
  3. There is an obvious bias towards shônen manga. Yes, we foreigners may be a little more biased in our approach of manga, but the closest you get to shôjo manga is Tezuka's Takarazuka-influenced Ribon no Kishi, and the only female mangaka listed (Hasegawa) didn't quite change the style of manga as much as she proved a woman could compete in the manga industry. More importantly, considering that four of the authors have written specifically for Shônen Jump, I tend to believe that more of the interviewed subjects read that anthology more than others.
Perhaps the last entry is how the poll is to be read: this isn't as much a poll about influence on style as it is about influence on manga's history. Of course, influence on style tends to alter the direction of future manga artists. Still, I feel that some important names are missing from the chart:
  • Rumiko Takahashi. How is it that arguably the biggest female shônen-manga author got left off this list? How is it that the creator of Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha, and Maison Ikkoku was dissed? Perhaps this image of Takahashi as a dominant domestic mangaka is an illusion; after all, in 2006's Japan Media Arts Festival, Urusei Yatsura was ranked 31st in the 100 Best Manga ranking, behind the likes of Hunter X Hunter and Ushio and Tora.
  • Monkey Punch / Takao Saito. Considering that both Golgo 13 and Lupin the 3rd are two action icons that still exist in print and film to this very day, it's a wonder if these two don't cancel each other out in terms of influence. Then again, maybe we're looking at a niche market, when manga itself is such a broad industry.
  • Riyoko Ikeda. Considering just how influential the entire Year 24 Flower Group was on shôjo manga, Ikeda deserves to be a representative for the group's power. While some may argue Naoko Takeuchi is more deserving of entry, The Rose of Versailles could be argued as the real precursor to both the starry-eyed style of shôjo manga and the gender confusion we see in many manga over the past fifteen years.
  • Leiji Matsumoto. A giant in science-fiction manga doesn't even get a nod for his work in Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, and Captain Harlock? Again, we're probably looking more at his immense influence in anime, but Matsumoto is also quite the manga historian, having composed a referential book that chronicles manga from the 1920s to the late 1950s with Hidaka Bin.
  • [Other possible entries: Katsuhiro Ôtomo (Akira), Go Nagai (Devilman), Seiji Matsuyama (just kidding).]
If the rankings were to be rewritten?

1. Osamu Tezuka
2. "Fujiko F. Fujio" (a.k.a. Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motou Abiko)
3. Akira Toriyama
4. Rumiko Takahashi
5. Shigeru Mizuki
6. Machiko Hasegawa
7. Takehiko Inoue
8. Riyoko Ikeda
9. Leiji Matsumoto
10. Hayao Miyazaki
(Akatsuka, Ôtomo, Saito, Nagai, and Monkey Punch would be knocking on the door, in that order.)

Am I biased? Certainly. I still think that Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kôen Mae Hashutsujo is horribly overrated and that One Piece is too recent to be ranked. Am I Japanese? Certainly not. My opinion is obviously corrupted by my ethnicity and my Western influences.

But I'm still crying foul about this survey.

6 comments:

  1. What is Miyazaki doing on the list?

    And Moto Hagio, not Riyoko Ikeda is THE representative of the Year 24 Group. But without Shotaro Ishinomori, every list is a half-joke.

    Takehiko Inoue can't be above Go Nagai even in the last stage of madness, except in the case the "influence" is measured by the number of books sold.

    Influence is not something that can be voted by the general public. It is just ridiculous. ;)

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  2. I agree with the last statement there. Influence is something that cannot be witnessed by the naked eye, nor does popularity equate to influence. Eiichiro Oda may have created the biggest-selling manga last year (One Piece), but I debate that influence stems out of sales.

    I was wary of Ikeda over Hagio, but plopping one in over the other is difficult. Still, Year 24 needs to occupy a space, whether it be by an individual or the entire group.

    Miyazaki...yeah, it's a tough one. Go Nagai could easily have this spot. I won't cave, however, as I still think that Nausicaa is more influential than any single Go Nagai work. Preference and opinion, not fact.

    I can't defend Inoue that well, but I do think Slam Dunk is a decent representative of sports manga. Maybe not the apex, I suppose.

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  3. Well, Inoue is an excellent and extremely popular artist, but he hasn't done anything especially new, even within the field of sports manga. Shinji Mizushima is historically the most important person in that aspect, but he is not famous in the West.

    Regarding Miyazaki, I think that Nausicaa the anime is way more influential than Nausicaa the manga. I heard many people, some of them Japanese, praising the manga, but I have never heard of any manga artist influenced directly by it. Even Daisuke Igarashi, who is a Miyazaki fan, mentioned Totoro as his greatest influence.

    But Go Nagai changed manga history... several times. With Harenchi Gakuen, with Mazinger Z, with Devilman. The glory of Devilman is so great that it was given an official tribute (in contrast to dojinshi) by other artists in the form of Neo-Devilman, and that is a rarity in the world of manga. Without Devilman, there would be no Hokuto no Ken, no Berserk, even no CLAMP's X as we know them today.

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  4. what about Masashi Kishimoto creator of naruto? Or Tite Kubo creator of Bleach

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    1. Naruto and Bleach, you mean those endless droning mainstream series that are only continued at this point for the sake of sustained profit margins? I can agree with Toriyama for Dragonball and Slump, but certainly not BDZ or DBGT.

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  5. Gotta agree that Rumiko Takahashi should be on the list; and Go Nagai's Devilman was certainly ahead of its time. Takehiko should be on the list though; if you're talking about influence. He might not have produced the best sports manga in all history, but he certainly played a huge part in boosting the popularity of basketball in Japan. Heck; there are NBA players from China who said they started playing basketball due to the manga. That's gotta count for something.

    Having said that, what do you think about Hiromu Arakawa's "Fullmetal Alchemist" series? Or more importantly, Rakuten Kitazawa? I know most people don't know who the heck he is; but he's considered THE founding father of modern manga by many historians; and the first professional mangaka EVER. He was actually an influence for Osamu Tezuka; and trained many of his successors before he retired, which ensured continuity. No one might read his works anymore, but without him, we might not even have manga in the first place. If this list is supposed to be one of influence and importance in contribution to the manga industry, then he'd certainly deserve a place.

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