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Mitsuse Ryū

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

Pseudonym of Kimio Iizuka (1928-1999) a Japanese author and founding member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan (SFWJ), much respected as a prose author and sometime poet in his lifetime, but now more likely to be remembered for popular Manga editions of his work, many of which feature human characters overwhelmed by the machinations of vastly superior intellects and technologies. With an interest in sf inspired by reading the works of Jūza Unno, he graduated in Zoology from the Tokyo University of Education after several false starts at other institutions. He subsequently became a high-school biology teacher, but was already deeply invested in the early connections of Japanese Fandom, a key member of the Uchūjin salon presided over by Takumi Shibano. After initially publishing poetry as by Zenroku Kikugawa, he appropriated the name of a character in a story by Yasushi Inoue as his pen-name for works published in Uchūjin. He took his wife's surname on marriage in 1959, hence his appearance as "Kimio Chiba" at birth in the checklist below.

Like most of his fellow Uchūjin members, including Aritsune Toyota and Kazumasa Hirai, although not Allan Kiodomari, he made an easy leap from Uchūjin to the paid professional pages of Hayakawa's S-F Magazine in the 1960s, beginning with "Hare no Umi 1979-nen" ["A Sunny Sea in 1979"] (May 1962 S-F Magazine). It, like many of his short stories, came tagged with a date, which would eventually allow many of his works to be rearranged into the Uchū Nendaiki ["Space Chronicles"], a long Future History, initially but not wholly framed as if related by a scholar in the Far Future. One story from the series, "Rakuyō 2217-nen" (1965 S-F Magazine; trans Tetsu Yano and Judith Merril as "Sunset, 2217 A.D." in Best Science Fiction for 1972, anth 1972, ed Frederik Pohl) was one of very few of his prose works translated into English before the present century. The same series would become a major feature of his novels, beginning with Tasogare ni Kaeru ["Returning in the Twilight"] (1964) which posits that the Solar System was a battleground in an ancient War between two Forerunner races, both of which were obliterated by an unspecified third force. Artefacts from this prehistoric conflict include two Spaceships, one of which is revealed as the cause of the Tunguska Event in 1908, while a second is found, still sentient and ready to deliver an Infodump, buried beneath the ice on Pluto (see Outer Planets). Humanity, however, is revealed first as a mere bystander, and then as collateral damage in the conflict, unable to communicate or reason with a godlike adversary that now intends to destroy it. It was adapted into a manga version in 2009 by Mamoru Oshii and Tsutomu Ōno.

Mitsuse was similarly ambitious with Hyakuoku no Hiru, Senoku no Yoru (December 1965-August 1966 S-F Magazine; fixup 1973; trans Alexander O Smith with Elye J Alexander as 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights 2011), a Shaggy God Story steeped in poetic appreciation of Time Abyss, in which humanity again is imagined as a powerless witness to an Alien conspiracy. The philosopher Plato discovers Atlantis to be an outpost of an alien civilization, placed on Earth to police potential rivals. Atlantis, however, is destroyed in a conflict among aliens, only for their emissaries to manifest again in India to Siddhartha, and again at Golgotha, recruiting Christ from the Crucifixion as an Earthbound agent and assassin. Spanning the birth and death of the universe on a scale redolent of Olaf Stapledon, the novel considers the mortality not of mankind or an individual human being, but of all life and existence, and rages against the dying of that light. The story was adapted into manga form for Shōnen Champion magazine by Moto Hagio in 1977. In collaboration with the artist Keiko Takemiya, Mitsuse also wrote the script for Andromeda Stories (November 1980-May 1981 Manga Shōnen; fixup 1983 graph; trans 2008), in which the scions of a royal family on a distant world discover that they are the product of a multi-generational breeding programme. This, in turn, has been set in motion by Secret Masters who are alien fifth columnists intent on thwarting their own race's attempts to conquer the planet. The story was adapted into an Anime in 1982, directed by Masamitsu Sasaki.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mitsuse appeared to take a detour away from his adult works into juvenilia and other media. His name was associated as a "consultant" with the Kaiju movie Uchūdaikaijū Girara ["Space Monster Guilala"] (1967; vt The X From Outer Space), although he was not one of the credited scriptwriters. His juveniles never quite achieved the iconic status of Yasutaka Tsutsui's Toki o Kakeru Shōjo, but several of his stories for younger readers were adapted for Television by Japan's national broadcaster NHK, commencing with Akatsuki wa Tada Gin-iro ["Dawn in Silver"] (1973), in which a transfer student at a Japanese school is revealed to be an agent from a Pariah Elite attempting to thwart an Alien conspiracy to conquer the Earth by convincing humanity that Pollution is harmless. Yubae Sakusen ["Sunset War"] (1974) capitalized on a 1970s vogue for Time Travel stories by dispatching three Japanese schoolboys to the samurai era via a Time Machine, where their mastery of "magic" gadgets from the future leads to their co-option into a government scheme to solve a town's "ninja problem". Asu e no Tsuiseki ["Pursuit of Tomorrow"] (1976) reveals that an outbreak of Amnesia at a Japanese school is actually the aftermath of a drastic Memory Edit initiated by alien refugees, hoping to keep their presence on Earth secret. Mitsuse's most inventive storyline was arguably "Sono Machi o Kese" ["Wipe Out the Town"] (1978), in which Japanese schoolboys, believing themselves to be hunting ghosts, eventually realize that they are tracking echoes and traces of a Parallel World, to which they are soon transported. There, they find themselves in a Japan under the rule of a fascist dictatorship, where "inferior" citizens are herded into concentration camps, and where the corrupt elite of the dystopian world plot to escape it and seek refuge in our own.

Kan'ei Mumei Ken ["The Tarnished Sword of Kan'ei"] (1969) begins in the seventeenth century, but soon scales out past everyday samurai-era intrigues to reveal that events are being manipulated by agents from the future. Other novels in a similar vein are often better filed as Alternate History, such as Hiden Miyamoto Musashi ["The Secret Life of Miyamoto Musashi"] (1976), a historical novel about a popular samurai-era character, absent any Time Paradoxes or meddling aliens. Not included in the Checklist below are several other novels, mainly from the 1980s, that repackage Japanese history in a manner that is pulpy, but not necessary Fantastika.

Published shortly before his death, Ihon Saiyūki ["An Alternate Journey to the West"] (1999) was written from Mitsuse's hospital bed, and reimagines Wu Cheng-en's novel Xi You Ji ["Journey to the West"] (circa 1592; trans Arthur Waley as Monkey: A Folk Tale of China 1942). Mitsuse's version both demythologizes and remythologizes the text, stripping away the pious Buddhist tone of the original to suggest that the true story was not one of a medieval monk travelling to India in search of sacred scrolls, but of an agent sent to Samarkand in search of scientific and technical knowledge, accompanied by three condemned men whose sentences will be commuted if their mission is somehow successful. In doing so, Mitsuse playfully asserts not only that one of China's classic novels is a garbled misprision of true events, but makes several allusions to characters and places from his Uchū Nendaiki series as well as 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights, in a valedictory tone that implies his final book might also be imagined as a capstone to and unifier of all his works. [JonC]

Kimio Chiba

born Minami-senju, Tokyo, Japan: 18 March 1928

died 7 July 1999

works (selected)


Uchū Nendaiki ["Space Chronicles"]

  • Tasogare ni Kaeru ["Returning in the Twilight"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1964) [Uchū Nendaiki: binding unknown/]
  • Ushinawareta Toshi no Kiroku ["Chronicles of the Lost City"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1972) [Uchū Nendaiki: binding unknown/]
  • Higashi Canal Bunsho ["Document of the East Canal"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1977) [Uchū Nendaiki: binding unknown/]
  • Sabita Ginga ["The Rusted Galaxy"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1987) [Uchū Nendaiki: binding unknown/]

individual titles

  • Akatsuki wa Tada Gin-iro ["Dawn in Silver"] (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1970) [binding unknown/]
  • Sono Hana o Miru Na! ["Don't Look at that Flower!"] (Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbun-sha, 1970) [binding unknown/]
  • Sakusen NACL ["Operation NACL"] (Tokyo: Iwasaki Shoten, 1971) [binding unknown/]
  • SOS Time Patrol (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1972) [binding unknown/]
  • Hyakuoku no Hiru, Senoku no Yoru (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1973) [binding unknown/]
  • Kan'ei Mumei Ken ["Tarnished Sword of Kan'ei"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1969) [binding unknown/]
  • Seito Totokufu ["Seito Metropolitan Government"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1975) [binding unknown/]
  • Hiden Miyamoto Musashi ["The Secret Life of Miyamoto Musashi"] (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbun-sha, 1976) [binding unknown/]
  • Kieta Machi ["The Town That Disappeared"] (Tokyo: Tsuru Shobō, 1978) [binding unknown/]
  • Ijigen Kaikyō ["Alternate Dimension Ridge"] (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1979) [binding unknown/]
  • Ihon Saiyūki ["An Alternate Journey to the West"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa, 1999) [binding unknown/]
  • Mitsuse Ryū SF Sakka no Eikō ["Towing the SF Author Ryū Mitsuse"] (Tokyo: Laputa, 2009) [coll: binding unknown/]

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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