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Entry updated 21 May 2021. Tagged: Comics, Film.

1. Manga. (January 1985-December 1986 Monthly Shōnen Captain). Comic by Yoshihisa Tagami depicting a heavily stratified Dying-Earth society in which human classes are ranked from A to F, in the fashion of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), through which upward mobility requires valorous performance in an eternal Future War against rival human communities. Joining up following the death of his girlfriend, the proletarian Grey's suicidal bravery affords him swift progress through the ranks, although his fellow soldiers inevitably die in the crossfire. Possible love and redemption arrive in the form of fellow soldier Nova, only for the couple to discover that the coveted A-class Utopia is a mere McGuffin, and that the war itself is secretly managed by Big Mama, a Computer that has divined humanity's in-built wish for self-annihilation. One of the first sf manga translated into English, Grey (trans Gerard Jones and Satoru Fujii 1988 2vols) benefited on its US release from a cover recommendation by Harlan Ellison, and from its endurance on the backlist as the manga wave broke in America.

  • Grey (San Francisco, California: Viz, 1988) by Yoshihisa Tagami [graph: trans Gerard Jones and Satoru Fujii: published in two volumes: pb/]

2. Anime, vt Grey: Digital Target. (1986). Magic Bus, Tokuma Japan. Directed by Tetsu Dezaki. Written by Yasushi Hirano, Kazumi Koide. Cast includes Kazuhiko Inoue and Maya Okamoto. 73 minutes. Colour. Trans by Jonathan Clements (1995 UK, Western Connection); trans by David Fleming and Rupert Hindlebaum (1997 US, Viz Media). The anime version, made while the original comic was still running in serial form, does not portray Grey's climactic assault on Big Mama itself, instead offering a single post-credit title implying that Grey's mission was successful, albeit fatal.

Grey combines teenage cynicism and Orwellian Satire with the ever-escalating and ultimately unwinnable conflicts of computer arcade games, leading to many modern resonances, including the amoral "Kildren" of Hiroshi Mori's Sky Crawlers (2001, filmed 2008) and the unwinnable combat replays experienced by the protagonist of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need Is Kill (2004). [JonC]


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