The first issue of Weekly Shonen Jump was published in 1968.
In fact, Shonen Magazine (Kodansha) and Shonen Sunday (Shogakukan) were first published in 1957, so it is surprising that Weekly Shonen Jump was late comers.
Weekly Shonen Jump’s sales have been sluggish in recent years, but its circulation was particularly high in the 1980s and 1990s (it broke the 5 million mark in 1988). I was born in the 1980s, and it would not be wrong to say that I spent my childhood in the golden age of Jump, and many of its works still leave a strong impression on me.
I would like to look back at the image of heroes depicted in the Showa era and early Heisei era through what kind of content I have been exposed to.
The Three Principles of Weekly Shonen Jump
It is well known story that Shonen Jump has made it a principle to include “friendship(友情),” “effort(努力),” and “victory(勝利)” as common values in the manga it publishes.
For elementary and junior high school students, who are the main reader of Weekly Shonen Jump, it is probably easier to understand abstract concepts such as “friendship”, “effort”, and “victory” through manga, which they can immerse themselves in and become emotionally involved with, than through lessons from their parents or teachers.
These three principles are being values that have been handed down to JUMP without changing in the past, present, or future. With this in mind, let’s take a look back at some examples of how heroes were portrayed in those days.
As I mentioned in the first article of this series, there are four elements that make up a hero.
Tragedy, friends, anger, enemies.
And if I were to add a further element of Jump’s heroism, it would be the following two points.
・Growth and awakening their potentials
・Death of a friend brings awakening
The two elements I mentioned are more related to each other than independent of each other. In this paper, I would like to focus on the representative works of the 1990s and early 2000s, “Dragon Ball” and “One Piece”. Both are well-known and popular works.
In Dragon Ball, the story is about the main character, Son Goku, who defeats his enemies (many of whom are plotting to conquer the earth) that keep coming at him.
Son Goku(孫悟空) is blessed with a great sense of combat, and the more he fights, the stronger he becomes. His strength comes from the fact that he is a Saiyajin(サイヤ人), people who like to fight. They are belligerent, and by nature, maniacal, brutal, and ruthless, but Son Goku(孫悟空) is fortunate to have lost his maniacal nature after an incident in his childhood where he was hit on the head. However, Son Goku(孫悟空)‘s undaunted attitude even in the face of powerful enemies, “I’m excited! is a remnant of the original Saiyajin’s belligerent temperament, but the loss of his maniacal nature emphasizes the aspect of pure enjoyment of the fight itself.
Son Goku(孫悟空) is a hero who risks his life to protect the Earth, but he is not human. His roots are in the Saiyajin(サイヤ人) race from outer space. The story of “tracing his roots” can be similar to Kamen Rider, but the fact that he is not human is probably the most important element for a hero.
In addition, as mentioned in another episode, Son Goku(孫悟空)‘s father Bardak was killed by Freeza, and his home planet Vegeta was also destroyed by Freeza. Son Goku(孫悟空)‘s tragic situation is another element that he shares with other heroes.
Krillin’s death and awakening to Super Saiyajin
The episode in which Son Goku(孫悟空) reaches a major turning point is the Namek Star Arc.
In order to obtain the Dragon Balls that exist on the planet Namek (which are larger than usual and grant three wishes), Son Goku(孫悟空) is in the middle of a battle against Freeza, a powerful enemy who is slaughtering the Namek people, when his friend Krillin is cruelly killed. Out of anger, Son Goku(孫悟空) awaked his potential as a Super Saiyajin. He gains tremendous power and defeats Freeza.
What kind of hero was Son Goku(孫悟空)?
Although Son Goku(孫悟空) is a fighting Saiyajin, he was portrayed as a big-hearted, pure and innocent being. He’s a big eater, he’s a natural blabbermouth, and he loves his friends. For example, Amuro Rei, the main character of Mobile Suit Gundam, is troubled by the question, “Why should I be involved in a war?
It may seem like a stretch, but the way he relentlessly defeated his enemies and grew in the process overlaps with the period of rapid economic growth that Japan experienced in the past, and I think that not only children but also adults were absorbed in the story, which helped them to drown out their depressing days. In a sense, the pure strength of Son Goku was portrayed as a symbol of a hero who would never be defeated, just like Mito Komon.
Next, let’s move on to One Piece.
One Piece is a successful manga in terms of marketing, point of view because it has succeeded in attracting not only children but also adult readers.
As you can see from above picture, there are many adults who read the book with enthusiasm and are fascinated by its worldview. This is partly because it is interesting from a TV point of view, but also because it has become very popular in the business world and of course among the target audience of elementary, junior high, and high school students.
Even people (especially adults) who were not able to openly say that they read manga were allowed to do so with One Piece. It can be said that the atmosphere created by One Piece has spread to other manga works, and has greatly contributed to the world becoming a place where “reading manga” is not something to be ashamed of. That is how big an impact One Piece had on society.
A mix of acquired and congenital
His strength is an acquired ability due to eating a special food called “the Devil’s Fruit”. However, Luffy, like Son Goku(孫悟空) , has his own special roots. He is also portrayed as having special roots as the “heir to the “D””.
Here, I would like to think about “death”, which is characteristically depicted in One Piece.
Death” in One Piece
Eiichiro Oda, the author of One Piece, cites not depicting the death of characters as an important element of the story. It has become a tradition in One Piece to have a party with friends and inhabitants of the island after a battle.
If my friends and enemies die, I won’t be able to portray the joyous banquet scene.Eiichiro Oda said in Interview of magazine.
Mr. Oda said. No matter how hard the battle, no one (friend or enemy) died. Even characters who were thought to be dead were later shown to be in Impel Down (prison). However, in episode 574, a character’s death was shown for the first time. The main character Luffy’s brother-in-law, Portgas D. Ace (Ace), and in episode 576, Whitebeard (Edward Newgate), who was said to be the closest man to “the King of Pirates”, died.
The story of Luffy’s recovery from this incident will be a major catalyst for the next phase of the story, and the fact that Oda, who had stubbornly refused to depict the death of a character until then, depicted the death of someone close to Luffy is probably because he judged that this was essential for Luffy’s growth.
Difference of Death (Dragon Ball and One Piece)
In One Piece, when a character died, it is a complete death. The reason I used the word “complete” is because Dragon Ball has a special way of dealing with death.
In Dragon Ball, if you collect seven “Dragon Balls,” the special tool that gives the game its title, Shen Long(神龍) will grant you whatever you wish. It can even bring back dead people, such as Krillin, who died on the planet Namek. For this reason, death is not portrayed as a lifelong farewell in Dragon Ball.
Dragon Ball also has an existence called the Heavenly Realm (⇔ Hell). In the Heaven Realm (⇔ Hell), Son Goku(孫悟空)‘s allies and former enemies appear, and battles unfold there as well. Above all, the main character, Son Goku(孫悟空), dies once.
What kind of hero is Luffy?
So, what kind of hero is Luffy? One Piece is still being serialized, so there is a possibility that the way it is portrayed will change in the future, but in general, it can be said that Luffy is optimistic. He enjoys every hardship, which is similar to Son Goku(孫悟空) of Dragon Ball.
If I had to find a difference, I would say that Luffy is able to ask for help from others. Luffy’s ability to face others by exposing his weaknesses and asking them to help him and become his friends is new.
On the other hand, he is also a passionate hero who can act selfishly and forcefully at times in order to carry out his own wishes. Perhaps it is the fact that he is a pirate that makes him that way.
Above all, Luffy probably does not consider himself a hero (Enforcer of justice). This is partly because justice is on the side of the Navy, and partly because he is not adventuring because he wants to do justice, but because he wants to become “the King of Pirates(海賊王)”. In the process, he helps people who happen to need his help. Sometimes it’s the same pirates, and sometimes it’s the Navy.
In summary, Luffy is a hero, but he is not a enforcer of justice, because only he pushes forward to his goal and removes obstacles in the process. I think that this insatiable attitude of achieving goals has captured the hearts of business people and people who are pursuing their dreams and made them crazy about him. Luffy is a hero full of charm that makes you want to follow him for some reason.
The “DNA of the Strong” in the Hero Image of the Early Heisei Era
Both Son Goku(孫悟空),and Luffy have one thing in common: no matter how strong the enemy is, they will not give up and will face him and eventually win. Both of them have the DNA of the strong in their roots. Son Goku(孫悟空) is a Saiyajin and Luffy is the heir to the “D”.
In other words, they can be said to be born elites, can’t they?
In fact, Vegeta, who is portrayed as Son Goku(孫悟空)‘s rival, often says, “I am an elite, a Saiyajin prince. However, he is always defeated and overwhelmingly outclassed by the supposedly non-elite Son Goku(孫悟空).
This is also true for Luffy. He had a special gift named “Haoushoku-no-Haki(覇王色の覇気)” which uses only special persons like Navy Admiral(海軍大将), “Yonko(四皇)”.
Why One Piece has been so well accepted by society.
Of course, the comics had their charms.I think that the economic situation that Japan was in may have also contributed to the popularity of One Piece.
The era is in recession after the burst of the bubble economy. What was said to be a lost decade has been stretched out over 20 or 30 years.
At that time, all adults must have lost confidence, but I believe that Eiichiro Oda was sending a message to his generation of readers that “we (Japanese) can do better” in addition to the three Jump principles of “friendship(友情), effort(努力), and victory(勝利)” for children.
This is because, as I mentioned earlier, One Piece was not only talked about as a bible for the younger generation, but was also increasingly talked about in a business context. A large number of start-up business owners were particularly fond of One Piece, and they were waging a business battle against the large corporations sitting in Japanese society. I think that they overlapped their business story with One Piece.
The reason why One Piece has been accepted so well by the world is that the only people who can break through the stagnation in Japan are the pirates like “the Straw Hat Pirates(麦わらの一味)”, who may not be famous now, but are steadily gaining power. I think this is a result of the expectations of the world and the declarations of the start-up companies that are the main players.
In this respect, Son Goku(孫悟空) of “Dragon Ball” can be seen as a hero of the previous era, so I can’t help but feel the importance of “One Piece,” a work born with the new era.
In this article, I have only extracted elements from two works, “Dragon Ball” and “One Piece”, but they are not so far off in terms of measuring the impact they have had on the world because they were widely read by the masses.
In particular, Luffy’s impact on the world was to tell us who were down in the dumps, “Gather your friends and raise the flag! Do something about it yourselves! I interpreted that way.
Next time, I would like to examine how the works of Jump born in the latter half of the Heisei era are still influencing us today.
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