Title: Cyborg 009 vol 1
Author: Shotaro Ishinomori
Suggested Retail Price (SRP): £5.99
Number of Pages: 200
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