Cyborg 009 vol 1

UK Distributor: Tokyopop

Author: Shotaro Ishinomori

Suggested Retail Price (SRP): £5.99

Number of Pages: 200 

ISBN: 1591826764

Reviewed: 23rd July 2006

Reviewer: Tom (Webmaster)


The term 'classic' is usually just another way of saying old.  Marketing men usually label anything over twenty years old as a 'classic' in the hope that people will buy it and it usually works - it is how many shoddy old titles are sold.  When there is trend for a certain genre, the companies will dig up anything from their back catalogue if a few quid can be made out of it.  Thankfully Cyborg 009 is not one of these titles and is totally deserving of being described as a classic. 

Created in 1963 at the height of the cold war, Ishinomori has addressed these unstable political times by creating a manga which unites people of all nations against a common goal - peace.  He does this by creating a premise which begins with a meeting of weapon manufacturers ('merchants of death') who are discussing how they can keep the world in a state of perpetual war in order profit.  The meeting is chaired by the mysterious individual 'Black Ghost' who tells the merchants he has the technology to create cybernetic humans.  He plans to use this technology to create armies of living weapons and to instigate a world war in order to sell them.  Black Ghost then orders his minions to kidnap a number of individuals so they can test the technology on live subjects and turn them into cyborgs.  The manga then cuts to various countries across the globe (America, England, Japan, etc) and the kidnapped are then turned into living weapons.  Soon after their horrific transformations, however, they rebel and escape their captors.  Now this team of nine cyborgs is the only force which can stop Black Ghost from destroying the Earth. 

As I said before Cyborg 009 is a classic but that is not immediately obvious.  The Cold War setting and the character design appear dated, as does the main villain (mask + cloak + world domination plan = rubbish).  Some may also find the stereotypes of the main characters disturbing, particularly the Sambo styling of African Cyborg 008 and the stern mohawked native American Cyborg 005, but read on and you realise that the stereotyping is deliberate.  Ishinomori wants to show the reader that races do appear differently from one another but inside are no different and can work together.  This may be a clichéd message now, but back in the 1963, before the 'summer of love', this would not have been so common.  Inshinomori goes a step further by giving each cyborg an unique ability in order to show that each country, however small, has something to offer to the world.  He lets himself down here by giving the Japanese cyborg (009) all the abilities the other eight have, which damages the message but it is understandable that the hero would be Japanese given that this is a Japanese comic. 

Cyborg 009 is also quite contradictory to read now as it is both dated and modern at the same time.  Although the Cold War is history, when reading Cyborg 009 in these post-9/11 times it feels like it never went away.  Reading of Cyborg 004's escape from East Germany prior to his kidnapping could easily be North Korea today, as is 006's famine suffering during '60s China.  In places it really is disturbing to read as you slowly realise we have not advanced as much as we think we have since the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Cyborg 009 is not completely doom and gloom as the cyborg's escape is exciting and seeing the full force of Black Ghost's militia is truly spectacular.  Comedy is provided thanks to the excellent English Cyborg 007 and Chinese Cyborg 006, as well as romance thanks to the French Cyborg 003.  Cyborg 001 also provides an interesting character as he is a baby that has not yet learned to speak but can communicate telepathically due to his modified super-intelligent brain.  001 leads the team and appears to be a two fingers up to the general theory that age equals intelligence. 

Action, comedy, more action and a serious message of unity, Cyborg 009 is an excellent manga which remains just as relevant now as it was back in the '60s.  Essential reading. 


An excellent introduction is included, providing a brief commentary to the time in which Cyborg 009 was created.  Also a preview of the next volume and the usual adverts for other Tokyopop publications.   


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