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Urasawa Naoki

Entry updated 28 September 2022. Tagged: Artist, Author, Comics.

(1960-    ) Japanese artist and Manga creator, whose early output was largely non-genre, but whose more recent forays into science fiction and Equipoise have met with widespread acclaim. A graduate in Economics from Meisei University, his short story "Return" won a comics prize, luring him into the manga publishing industry with his professional debut "Beta" (graph 1983 Golgo 13 Bessatsu). Both were included in his early short story collection NASA (graph 1988), which also included linked short stories, in which the titular "Nippon Amateur Space Association" of middle-aged salarymen dream the impossible dream of going into space.

The bulk of Urasawa's work has appeared in the Big Comics family of magazines, aimed at adult male readers. He first found fame with Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl (graph 1986-1983 Big Comic Spirits), a sporting manga about an aspirant martial artist. Police procedurals and military fiction followed, until Master Keaton (November 1988-August 1994 Big Comic Original), a Technothriller about an SAS soldier who becomes a troubleshooting insurance investigator for Lloyd's of London. Despite long-running success, both of the manga and its Anime spin-off, publication of the former was suspended in 2005 in the wake of an accreditation dispute between Urasawa and the estate of the original author – Hajime Kimura (1946-2004), writing as Hokusei Katsuchika.

Monster (graph December 1994-December 2001 Big Comic Original), written and drawn by Urasawa, is a protracted and intricate exercise in Psychology and ethics, in which a discredited surgeon realizes that the young boy whose life he once saved, at the expense of his own career, has grown up to become a serial killer. His investigations drag him into the aftermath of a forgotten Eastern bloc Eugenics experiment designed to create the perfect soldier (see Superman; Medicine). Monster was the first of Urasawa's works to combine the tone of a noir policier with the Paranoia of a conspiracy thriller: a perspective that has informed all of his subsequent major works.

Urasawa's modern reputation is founded on two more recent titles, both of which have won him Seiun Awards in the Comics category. Pluto (graph September 2003-April 2009 Big Comic Original) is Recursive SF that retells a central story arc from Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy (see Astro Boy), focusing on the original protagonist's Robot nemesis, as seen through the police procedural of a robot detective (see Crime and Punishment). His best known work is English is arguably 20-seiki Shōnen: Honkaku Kagaku Bōken Manga ["20th Century Boys: A Serious Science Adventure Comic"] (graph 1999-2006 Big Comic Spirits; trans as 20th Century Boys 2009), a conspiracy fable in which a group of adults come to suspect that a dangerous millennial cult has its origins in the Pulp-inspired games they once played as children (see Children in SF; Religion). The story was also adapted into a live-action film trilogy, 20th Century Boys (2008-2009). However, despite a genre-based image abroad, science fiction is still regarded in Japan as only a fraction of Urasawa's work, which also includes a long-running tennis saga, a series of military thrillers, and even a nonfiction book, Dylan o Katarō ["Discussing Dylan"] (2007), about the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

Many of Urasawa's manga have also been adapted into Anime form, often with broadcast runs substantially longer than the single-season average for modern Japanese television shows. His most recent work of note is Billy Bat (graph October 2008-ongoing Shūkan Comic Morning), in which an American-born comic artist travels to Japan, worried that his hard-boiled comic "Billy Bat" has inadvertently infringed the copyright of a Japanese artist. Instead, he discovers that "Billy Bat" is an ancient symbol which has exerted great power for many centuries, a McGuffin sought after by Secret Masters in order to gain access to a scroll that supposedly grants its owner the power to rule the world (see Basilisks). [JonC]

Naoki Urasawa

born Tokyo: 2 February 1960

works (selected)

  • NASA: Urasawa Naoki Tanben-shū ["NASA: Collected Short Works of Naoki Urasawa"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1988) [coll: graph: pb/Naoki Urasawa]
  • Monster (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1988) [graph: in 18 volumes: pb/Naoki Urasawa]
    • Monster (San Francisco, California: Viz Media, 2006) [graph: translation of the above: pb/Naoki Urasawa]
  • 20-seiki Shōnen: Honkaku Kagaku Boken Manga ["20th Century Boys: A Serious Science Adventure Comic"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2009) [graph: vt 21-seiki Shōnen for final two volumes: in 22 volumes: pb/Naoki Urasawa]
    • 20th Century Boys (San Francisco, California: Viz Media, 2009) [graph: trans of the above in 22 volumes: pb/Naoki Urasawa]
  • Pluto (Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2004) [graph: in eight volumes: pb/Naoki Urasawa]
    • Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka (San Francisco, California: Viz Media, 2009) [graph: ongoing trans of the above: pb/Naoki Urasawa]
  • Dylan o Katarō ["Discussing Dylan"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2007) with Kōji Wakui [nonfiction: pb/Naoki Urasawa]
  • Billy Bat (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 2009) [graph: in four volumes ongoing: pb/Naoki Urasawa]


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