Saturday, July 22, 2006

Shotaro Ishinomori
Shotaro Ishinomori (石ノ森章太郎 Ishinomori Shōtarō), (January 25, 1938- January 28, 1998) was an influential figure in manga, anime and tokusatsu who created several long-running series such as Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider (Japan's answer to Spider-Man and Batman).
Ishinomori's real name was Shotaro Onodera (小野寺章太郎 Onodera Shōtarō), and he was also known as Shotaro Ishimori (石森章太郎 Ishimori Shōtarō) before 1986, when he changed his last name to Ishinomori.
Cyborg 009, created in 1963, became the first superpowered hero team created in Japan. That same year, Kazumasa Hirai and Jiro Kuwata created Japan's first cyborg superhero, 8 Man (which predated Kamen Rider by eight years).
The success of the tokusatsu superhero TV series Kamen Rider, produced by Toei Company Ltd. in 1971, led to the birth of the "henshin" (transforming) superhero (human-sized superheroes who transform by doing a pose, and use martial arts to fight henchmen and the weekly monster), and resulted in many sequel shows to this day. Ishinomori then created many similar superhero dramas, including Android Kikaider , Henshin Ninja Arashi, Inazuman, Robotto Keiji, Secret Task Force Goranger (the first Super Sentai series), Kaiketsu Zubat, and countless others. He even created popular children's shows such as Hoshi no Ko Chobin (Chobin, Child of the Stars, 1974, which was a major success on Italian television), and 'Good Luck, Robocon!.
Ishinomori's art is quite reminiscent of that of his mentor, Osamu Tezuka. The true story of his first meeting with Tezuka was illustrated in a short four-page tale drawn up as supplementary material for the 1970s Astro Boy manga reprints. Around 1955, Ishinomori submitted work to a contest seeking new talent in the magazine, Manga Shonen. Tezuka was impressed by his drawings and asked Ishinomori to help him with Astro Boy. In the American release, this story can be seen in Volume 15, along with Ishinomori's earliest work on the "Electro" story arc.
There was also a The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past comic created for Nintendo Power magazine by Shotaro Ishinomori. Loosely based on the game, this telling portrayed Link's parents as Knights of Hyrule, lost to the Dark World. It also included other original characters such as Link's fairy guide and companion, Epheremelda (long before this concept was introduced to the series, unless you count the Super Mario Bros. Super Show's Legend of Zelda segments); and Roam, a descendant of the Knights of Hyrule who fought in the Imprisoning War. (Roam bears a striking resemblance to 002 from Cyborg 009 who could also fly as a result of changing into his beast form in the Dark World.) The comic ran as a serial in NP starting in January 1992 (Volume 32) and ran in 12 parts. It was later collected in graphic novel form.
At the end of 1997, Kazuhiko Shimamoto, a young and up and coming manga-ka was contacted by an increasingly ill Shotaro Ishinomori and asked if he would do a continuation (more like a remake) of his 100-page, one-shot manga from 1970, Skull Man (the manga that became the basis for Kamen Rider). Ishinomori - who had been one of Shimamoto's boyhood heroes - faxed the younger man copies of the proposed story and his plot notes. Shimamoto was astounded that he had been chosen to work upon his idol's final, great work.
Shimamoto had already been involved in the revival of one of Ishinomori's other earlier works (including Kamen Rider) but little did he dream that, as only one of many who Ishinomori had inspired, he would be chosen for final collaboration and resurrection of The Skull Man.
Ishinomori died of a heart failure on January 28, 1998. His final work was the tokusatsu superhero TV series, Voislugger, televised months later.