Thursday, March 18, 2010

Garo Manga Monthly

Excepting obvious classics such as Doraemon and Akira, I must say I'm not a big fan of manga or anime. But recently I've discovered a magazine that exposed to me a side of the art I had yet to observe in any great detail.

First published in September 1964, the manga monthly Garo (月刊漫画ガロ) was heavily read by young, college-aged boys, many of whom were no doubt anxious for graphic literature that acknowledged the radical developments of the decade, whether in story or style.

Garo's founder and editor Katsuichi Nagai helped establish the genre of gekiga, or "dramatic pictures", with the help of fresh, talented artists like Sanpei Shirato, whose serialized ninja epic Kamui-den ("The Legend of Kamui") ran in the journal for nearly seven years. Through his ambitious choice of subjects and illustrators, Nagai helped pave the way for a generation of artists whose work targeted a more mature audience.

As an ambitious and influential periodical Garo spawned a number of imitators, most notably Osamu Tezuka's similarly themed monthly COM. Garo also appeared to have influenced some of Tezuka's more naturalistic works of the 70s and 80s, such as Phoenix — first published in COM and considered by many his crowning achievement — and Adolf, a dark mystery of sorts set in Nazi Germany.

Garo reached the height of its popularity in the early 70s, and though it encompassed a myriad assortment of modern artistic styles over the years, the magazine began to experience a gradual decline in circulation until Nagai was forced to sell his publishing company Serindō to PC software manufacturer Zeit in 1991; he was kept on as chairman until his death in 1996.

Nagai's passing marked the beginning of the end for the troubled monthly. Citing internal discord, Zeit filed for bankruptcy the following year. Despite this, Garo continued to be published. But in a market over-saturated with bland, easy-to-digest content, Nagai's original, pioneering effort ultimately became unprofitable, and the end of 2002 brought with it the journal's final issue.

I owe my discovery of gekiga to a gentleman by the name of Tsote (a.k.a. Curtis Hoffman), who, being somewhat of a manga connoisseur, graciously provides full-page scans, reviews and translations of Garo (and other manga) on his blog Three Steps Over Japan. Mr. Hoffman has also compiled a detailed history of manga from the birth of woodblock printing up until the advent of modern manga in the 1950s and 60s.

Here, we offer a sample of Mr. Hoffman's scans of Garo thus far; a collection of choice images representing the magazine's outstanding art, specifically during the latter half of 1966. For more, visit Three Steps Over Japan and its sister blog Nihongo Hunter.

Garo, Issue 23, July 1966

Garo, Issue 24, August 1966

Garo, Issue 25, September 1966

Garo, Issue 26, October 1966

Garo, Issue 27, November 1966

Garo, Issue 28, December 1966

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