Ogino Makoto

Tagged: Comics | Art

(1959-2019) Japanese comics creator whose chief work, a series of interconnected tales stemming from his first professional sale, dominated his entire career, spiralling into an ungainly collection of sometimes contradictory works with major discrepancies in tone. Kujaku-Ō ["Peacock King"] (1985-1989 Young Jump) features a youthful Buddhist priest, given to indulgences in sins of the flesh, but gifted with demon-hunting powers through being the Reincarnation of multiple powerful figures from the past, including Lucifer, Mahamayuri and Melek Taus. Such a backstory gradually establishes Ogino's world as a syncretic milieu in which all religions reach with varying degrees of success to describe the truth of the afterlife, the demonic threats that lurk within it, and the precise rules of the elaborate rituals required to acquire power across the threshold. Drawing on the vast canon of not only Buddhism, but also of many other Religions, the work would occupy Ogino for much of the next four decades, although he would make multiple attempts to shake it off.

Ogino's most obviously sf genre work was ALGO! (1989-1990 Young Jump), in which a teen computer hobbyist becomes the target for agents of a Middle Eastern despot, attempting to acquire his new motherboard – the portal to an alternate world within the computer. In an echo of much of the Buddhist multiverse folklore of Kujaku-Ō, the titular Algo is the Satan-figure of the other world, now seeking refuge in the human realm. The story ran for six months, before editors informed Ogino that his "vacation" was over and that he should now return to the suspended serialization of Kujaku-Ō. Ogino, for his part, claimed that ALGO! was merely ahead of its time, and that the Japanese were not yet ready for a Cyberpunk story – a point readily disproved by the contemporary success of Masamune Shirow with Kōkaku Kidōtai ["Mobile Armoured Riot Police" vt The Ghost in the Shell] (May 1989-November 1990 Young). Minor works, in which Ogino again tried to throw off the yoke of his most successful franchise, included Yasha Karasu ["Demon Crow"] (1994-1997 Young Jump), which restaged it ancient Japan, and Child (1997-2000 Young Jump), in which a Pariah Elite of children duel with Psi Powers.

Although his works were occasionally adapted into other media, Ogino was displeased with his treatment in films and games. Kujaku-Ō, in particular, was subject to revisions and changes in production company and directors, released first as Kujaku-Ō (1988; vt US as Peacock King) in Anime form, and remade as Shin Kujaku-Ō ["True Peacock King"] (1994 vt US as Spirit Warrior), and abroad as the video games SpellCaster (1988) and Mystic Defender (1989). It enjoyed marginally greater success in the Chinese market, where its Wuxia stylings and Buddhist iconography made it more accessible to local viewers, and resulted in the live-action Hong Kong films Heung-cheuk wongji ["Legend of the Phoenix"] (1988) and Aasaolo ["Ashura"] (1990 vt US Saga of the Phoenix).

Ogino was ever frustrated at the ebbs and flows of editorial policy in the teen comics market. His Kenjūshin ["The Gun Spirit"] (2000-2003 Young Jump) was conceived as a retooling of Wild West gunslinger themes in contemporary Tokyo, but was soon compromised by the almost complete lack of firearms in real-world Japanese crime and law enforcement. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States led to even greater timidity among his editors in treatments of extremism and urban crime, Ogino dragged the storyline into the safer realm of fantastika, creating a Mutant adversary, Neo-Terror.

Ogino suffered public embarrassment when he was accused of plagiarism by Baku Yumemakura, with whose Psyche Diver series (1984-2010) the Kujaku-Ō comics shared many similarities. Later editions of Kujaku-Ō grudgingly include mention of Yumemakura as an inspirational "reference", but Ogino's magpie-like bricolage, a common and productive feature of many a creator (see, for example Katsuhiro Ōtomo), often seemed to have trouble distinguishing between the acceptable appropriation of public-domain folklore with the greyer area of lifting ideas from works in copyright. Hospitalized during the drawing of Onryōji ["Angry Spirit Warrior"] (2004-2005 Business Jump), and apparently working against deadlines with every expectation of dying, Ogino lifted elements from the video game Silent Hill, and the film They Live (1988), directed by John Carpenter. He later revealed that Onryōji was intended as the final chapters of a cancelled Kujaku-Ō story. Loyal readers were hence forced to conduct a form of redactive literary archaeology on Ogino's work, shuffling differing narratives, with different character names, created for venues with differing standards, sometimes years apart and even set in different timelines, in order to create a palimpsest of Ogino's authorial intent.

In an ironic reversal, he was obliged to drop his fishing series Oboko (2003-2004 Business Jump) when a mid-recession change in editorial policy decreed that there was not enough sex and violence in it. He subsequently announced that he would be continuing it elsewhere as Sarubia no Umi ["The Sea of Sarubia"] (2010-2012 Magazine Magazine), although sweeping changes to the cast and setting made the relationship between the two difficult to spot.

Occasionally heard to regard the long-term success of Kujaku-Ō as a form of karmic retribution, Ogino, like Rumiko Takahashi, is a manga creator whose best-known works are not necessarily indicative of his true skill. The gentle, environmentally-conscious romance of Oboko, and Sarubia no Umi's gritty glimpses of everyday life in a harbour town show a very different author and artist at work, as does 15 no Haru ["15 Springs"] (2010-2011 Super Jump) a collection of short stories, each of which visits a major historical figure (Catherine the Great, Charles Darwin, Genghis Khan ...) at a formative moment in their teen years. [JonC]

Makoto Ogino

born Gifu, Japan: 26 May 1959

died Japan: 29 April 2019

works (selected)

Kujaku-Ō

  • Kujaku-Ō ["Peacock King"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1985-1989) [graph: 17 volumes: Kujaku-Ō: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Kujaku-Ō Taima Seiden ["Peacock King: Demonic Rebellion"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1990-1992) [graph: 11 volumes: Kujaku-Ō: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Onryōji ["Angry Spirit Warrior"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2005) [graph: claimed by author as an unofficial continuation of Kujaku-Ō in a different venue: 3 volumes: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Kujaku-Ō Magari Kamiki ["Peacock King: Song of the Divine"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2006-2010) [graph: 12 volumes: Kujaku-Ō: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Kujaku-Ō Rising ["Peacock King: Rising"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2012-2019) [graph: 9 volumes at time of author's death: Kujaku-Ō: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Kujaku-Ō Sengoku Tensei ["Peacock King: Civil War Reincarnation"] (Tokyo: LEED-sha, 2012-2019) [graph: 4 volumes at time of author's death: Kujaku-Ō: pb/Makoto Ogino]

individual titles

  • ALGO! (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1990) [graph: in 3 volumes: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Yasha Karasu ["Demon Crow"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1994-1997) [graph: in 10 volumes: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Child (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1997-2000) [graph: in 7 volumes: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Kenjūshin ["The Gun Spirit"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2000-2003) [graph: in 9 volumes: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Oboko (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2004) [graph: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • 15 no Haru ["15 Springs"](Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2011) [coll: graph: pb/Makoto Ogino]
  • Sarubia no Umi (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2012) [graph: in 3 volumes: pb/Makoto Ogino]

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