Saturday, July 18, 2009

I read a manga; and I liked it.

But before I talk about the manga, I need to discuss my history as an NES video game player. It's relevant, really.

The NES was my family's video game console of choice growing up (virtually our only video game option at that) and being in a small town we took whatever games we could get. When the rental stores put their used games on sale, we often picked through their stock. This was how my brother Jonathan came to present my Mom with the game Top Secret Episode, starring Golgo 13.

I don't know how much Mom played the game, but Jonathan and I certainly worked at it. I haven't found any speed runs for this game, but the video below should give you some idea of how difficult it was:

Back at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo this year, I dug out a copy of Golgo 13: the Impossible Hit. By then I had heard that Golgo 13 was originally a manga character but this was the first evidence of his comic book career I had found.

It's a black & white book sized like a normal comic and told left to right (the North American way). I was interested to note that this comic was released to coincide with Top Secret Episode. In this story, sniper supreme Golgo 13 assassinates a man and gets away with it - not because he's good at covering his tracks, the police discern that he did it - because the shot was taken from so far away and with so much wind resistance that no jury could be convinced it was possible.

Golgo 13 has been published in Japan since 1969 but the only real attempt at collecting his works was a 13 volume collection from Viz which began in 2006. Rather than start at the beginning, it assembles a "best of" Golgo 13. These are told right to left (the Japanese way) in the traditional manga size.

Volume 1 ("Supergun") features two stories: the lengthy story "Supergun" from 1997 and the shorter tale "Hit and Run" from 1979. In "Supergun," Iraq has constructed a "vengeance weapon" not unlike those Hitler demanded during WW2. This cannon can fire a payload to a target a continent away and evidence suggests the USA will be the target. Knowing that they will likely get only one with their cannon, the Pentagon is particularly worried at what the payload might carry to make the shot worthwhile. Golgo 13 is hired to travel incognito through Iraq, find the gun and take it out. Although I think the story spends too long in Washington depicting the government and military shuddering at the prospects of the weapon, the Golgo 13 mateiral - in particular the final showdown - is a great action thriller.

As to "Hit and Run": a policeman's fiancee is killed by a hit & run driver who also happens to be a local crimelord. Having exhausted his legal options, the cop makes an unorthodox decision to get his fiancee's killer: he hires Golgo 13. Or does he...?

I'd really meant to try out manga for some time now but I didn't have any interest in most properties. I've watched a fair bit of anime but I'm not particularly interested in seeing the manga versions for any of the anime I've seen. Golgo 13 looks to be fine manga and I hope to collect the other 12 Viz books in the near future.

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