Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Project: Future-Retro Hero Story

All right, new project time. This series has been on my to-do list since the very beginning: Takehito Ito's Future-Retro Hero Story. It's the precursor to Outlaw Star, and as such might be characterized as a juvenile fantasy, versus an adolescent one. In other words, they both have spell guns and spaceships, but FRHS tends more to slapstick than it does toward violence.

Why do I find FRHS intriguing? Ito has a gift for world-building, for universe-building. As much as I love Star Wars and Star Trek, we need more sci-fi universes, ones that are full of their creator's inspirations and idiosyncrasies. Though Ito borrows a lot of elements from American pulp sci-fi (Edmond Hamilton's Captain Future stories being perhaps the wellspring), there's an original universe here. And the pulpiness, the pulpiness. I love it whenever one culture's innovation is viewed through the lens of another, entirely different culture. (I feel compelled to mention Yuichi Hasegawa's Maps, which is earlier and arguably more pulp than FRHS, with absolutely tremendous scale. I would probably never have discovered it if not for ebookjapan promotions. Anyway, another great series that will never be translated.) That said, FRHS does appear to suffer from pacing issues. It may very well have been meant to be a 20-volume epic, but as it turned out, fortune was not so kind to the project.

FRHS was first serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Comic Comp magazine, an outgrowth of their computer gaming mag Comptiq. It seems likely that it was one of the inaugural serializations, starting in 1988, though I haven't been able to find confirmation of whether or not that's true. But in 1992 there was a shakeup at Kadokawa Shoten: Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, apparently passed over for the throne, quit and formed his own company, Media Works, where he was joined by many of the Kadokawa artists and creators. As if that weren't enough, in 1993 Haruki Kadokawa, the big cheese, was arrested and later convicted on drug charges. It would seem that FRHS was caught up in the drama -- the obi on volume 5 proudly proclaims the greenlighting of an OVA, one that never came to fruition.

That fifth and final volume of FRHS published under the Comic Comp imprint covered chapters through early 1991. No further volumes appeared until the entire series was released under Shueisha's Home imprint over the course of 1996. Where were the chapters published in the meantime? Unlike most collected tanks, which give the date and magazine of initial publication, these volumes are strangely silent. Japanese Wikipedia claims that FRHS restarted serialization in Ultra Jump come 1995. This is reasonable given that the Outlaw Star manga appeared in Ultra Jump, but then why would they publish the tanks under the Home imprint? Mysteries, I tell you.

Anyway, as far as I know, there are three editions of FRHS out there: 1) 5 volumes, Comp Comics (Kadokawa), incomplete 2) 8 volumes, Home Comics (Shueisha), complete, 3) 5 volumes, Home Bunko (Shueisha), complete. We'll be working from the latter edition, which is dubbed the "Director's Cut". I thought at first the Director's Cut was distinguished by the little scribbles in the margins -- yes, those are from the author and not from the scanlator -- but it seems to have more to do with the reformatting of 8 volumes into 5: additional intro and outro pages have been added. By the way, these volumes are published without chapter numbers, so the release chapter splitting may be arbitrary and capricious.

This is a joint with You're Welcome Scans. Without them I'd probably end up sitting on stuff a lot longer than necessary. Next up is a quick, stopgap TL check of the old Jinmen-Juushin material, then we're into unexplored territory. Should be a fun ride.