Daiji Kazumine: the Mike Noble of Japan?

Having just said happy birthday to a British giant of TV comics, let’s take a look at an artist who could be described as his Japanese equivalent: Daiji Kazumine.

He was born as Kuniharu Terada in December 1935 in Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, the fifth of eight brothers. His parents ran a liquor store. A childhood passion for comics had him copying characters from Osamu Tezuka, but didn’t start drawing comics seriously until he had to spend three years recuperating from a bout of tuberculosis that also cost him a kidney.

Despite parental opposition, in 1954 he started an apprenticeship to illustrator and emonogatari artist/writer Tomohiko Oka. Jiro Kuwata, who would later create manga hits including Batman and 8Man, was also one of Oka’s  proteges at the time. Kazumine’s first solo effort Nazo no Karakuri Yashiki (Karakuri Mansion of Mystery) was published a year after Oka’s 1955 hit White Tiger Mask. He originally wanted to work under the name of Kuniyoshi Terada, merging his real name and that of a great Edo-era artist, but he was offered the chance to do a baseball comic. Another Terada – Hiro Terada, Osamu Tezuka’s former housemate at the Tokiwa boarding-house – was already famous for his baseball comics. So he became Daiji Kazumine.

Under this name he has created his own manga and illustrated educational and other books for audiences from kindergarten age to adult. He is probably most famous for bringing TV shows to life in comicbook form. Children all over Japan have devoured his tales of Godzilla, Ultraman and many other TV heroes for many years.  He has a real gift for grasping what young readers want from a TV comic, and has brought their heroes to life with a sense of adventure and an unerring eye for what makes a great action panel. He even designed his own Ultramonster, the Space Battleship Yamato-inspired Yamaton. And like Mike Noble, he was one of the artists creating comicbook versions of Supermarionation shows. His work on Captain Scarlet and Joe 90  still takes fans of a certain age back to the playgrounds of childhood.

Two of his works, a comicbook version of Maurice LeBlanc’s Arsene Lupin tales and Electric Man Arrow, are available in English.

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