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Documentary-style, autobiographical manga recalls 2 Gekiga gods from the 1970s; Iga shows fierce competition between Saito and Koike

Thanks to Saizusha
The cover of “Gekiga no Kamisama” by Kazuhiro Iga

Gekiga no Kamisama (The Gods of Gekiga)
by Kazuhiro Iga (Saizusha)

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The late Takao Saito, the author and artist of “Golgo 13,” told people that he had decided exactly how he would end the popular hard-boiled manga, but he never told anyone what that would actually look like. The famous Gekiga – a type of manga for adults that became popular in the late 20th century – is still published, but is now drawn by Saito’s staff.

This month’s manga, “Gekiga no Kamisama” (The Gods of Gekiga), contains a scene that references this exact situation.

In this documentary-style manga, Saito reveals the final chapter of “Golgo 13” to his staff and tells them that Golgo, the main character and hero of the story, is stabbed by a mere thief and dies quickly. This is indeed unexpected.

Saito is confident in his unique and clever idea, but one day he sees his ‘perfect’ ending for Golgo being used in a TV detective show.

“Oh no!” he exclaims. Saito then mutters, “I have to think of an even more outrageous way for Golgo to die.”

This episode must be true, as the author, Kazuhiro Iga, witnessed it himself.

Iga joined Saito Production in 1970 after graduating high school and became Saito’s assistant. At the age of 72, Iga still actively draws kiga. Known for his realistic and impressive drawing style, he has worked on samurai and historical manga, such as “Shogun no Bodyguard”. “Gekiga no Kamisama” is his latest work, which is autobiographical and vividly depicts the golden age of jijiga in the 1970s.

Another god in the industry who appears in this work is the late Kazuo Koike, who is the story writer for many jijiga series, including “Kozure Okami” (“Lone Wolf and Cub”). Koike was originally part of the story writing staff at Saito Production and was involved in the launch of ‘Golgo 13’. Koike left after a few years and founded his own studio.

In 1972, Iga left Saito Production to join Koike. In other words, Iga worked very closely with two charismatic legends in the jijiga world. The contrast between the two titans is endlessly fascinating.

Saito was one of the pioneers in introducing a system of division of labor to create manga, but he failed to mentor anyone who could surpass him. Koike, on the other hand, set out to develop a group of artists who would have more freedom to enhance each of their own strengths. To realize his vision and also promote his “character theory,” which was his belief that developing attractive characters was the most important element of any manga, Koike opened a private jijiga school.

Although both Saito and Koike worked to organize and commercialize manga production, the methods they used were very different. In “Gekiga no Kamisama,” Iga candidly portrays the fierce competition that existed between the two gods of the industry.

Koike died in 2019 and Saito in 2021. While it’s pointless to think about who won, the obituaries of Koike, who faced business failure and copyright issues later in life, were shorter than those of Saito. Personally, I believe that Koike’s achievements in producing many unique works and nurturing some outstanding manga artists deserve more praise and should be reevaluated.

“Golgo 13” became an animated film in 1983. Just before the film ends, there is a scene where a woman suddenly shoots Golgo. The woman became a sex worker after Golgo shot her husband, but he has no idea who she is. The film ends without clearly showing whether the bullets hit Golgo or not.

I’m just speculating, but that scene could have been Saito’s new idea to end the series. I said at the beginning that the series continues to this day. I wonder if Saito’s staff will come up with a new way to end the manga series by killing the hero in an even more unheard of way.



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