On 11th March 2011 the north-east coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami. Among the many buildings damaged by the twin impact was the Ishinomori Mangattan Museum, one of two museums devoted to the great manga creator Shotaro Ishinomori.
Tomorrow, less than two years later, thanks to mighty efforts by museum staff and others, the museum re-opens. According to its website, there will be an opening ceremony at 1 p.m. and admission will be free until 6 p.m. in celebration. Masked Rider Number 1 and Sea Jetter will be there, there’ll be a robot contest, and the Masked Rider Girls will add a touch of glamour to the day. New merchandise, including some very tasty t-shirts, will be available.
As well as being a hopeful sign of the revival of North-East Japan after such a terrible catastrophe, this is an important day for the history of manga. Ishinomori was one of the most influential of the wave of mangaka who grew up in postwar Japan reading the work of Osamu Tezuka, and brought a new wave of energy and dynamism to manga. Creator of iconic characters such as Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider, he also originated Japan’s sentai team TV shows in which bands of colour-coded teens fight futuristic evil: these became the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. His adult works included Japan, Inc.: An Introduction to Japanese Economics and the soap opera Hotel. The Ishimori Pro website has a biography and list of works in English and French, as well as Japanese.
A true original, he made his professional debut aged just sixteen. By the time he was twenty-four he had been to his first American SF convention in Seattle and gone around the world in seventy days. In 1980 he celebrated his 25th anniversary as a manga artist and the production of over 70,000 pages of art. Ten years after his untimely death in 1998, at the age of sixty, the Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged him as the most prolific solo comic creator ever, with 770 titles totally around 128,000 pages. (Osamu Tezuka, who incidentally introduced Ishinomori to the girl he would later marry, created over 20,000 more pages, but around 70 less titles.)
Ishinomori’s importance to world science fiction can scarcely be overstated, given the huge and enduring influence of his characters and stories. The re-opening of the Mangattan is a chance to celebrate his remarkable life and work.