Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga - Dodekainby Jason Thompson, Nov 10th 2011
Episode LXXIX: Dodekain
Kazuhiko Shimamoto is an artist who loves the insanely manly burning-heart spirit of oldschool shonen manga. The creator of numerous action manga, the Moeyo Pen and Hoero Pen (a pair of "life of a manga artist" manga that have ten times as much blood, sweat and ink as Bakuman). and a manga adaptation of Shotaro Ishinomori's Skull Man (his only translated work, released by Tokyopop), it seems like every other manga he created has moe (fire) or honô (flames) in the title. It's popular to parody this stuff today, but Shimamoto was parodying it all the way back in 1983, with Honô no Tenkosei ("Blazing Transfer Student"). Watching Honô no Tenkosei reminded me of the first time I read Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man comics from 1963 and was blown away by the realization that the original Spider-Man was poking fun at superheroes! Most of the parody superhero comics that I thought were so cool and original were actually just doing the same things Stan Lee had done 30-40 years ago!
But sometimes you make fun of something because you love it. That's the way it is with Kazukiko Shimamoto, and the same with his ex-assistant, Masayuki Fujihara, creator of Masked Warrior X and Dodekain, two obscure manga translated by Antarctic Press in the 1990s. Today I'm really talking about Fujihara, not Shimamoto (sorry! Some other time!). Fujihara made fun of the sentai genre in Masked Warrior X, in which the hero, "Kendo-Man," is so intense about his training he has never taken off his kendo gear his entire life. But what he really loves is giant robots, and he'll always get my respect for creating Dodekain, my favorite mecha parody manga.
The story starts with the Earth is under attack by the alien Zogelians. As giant monsters destroy the cities and alien warships swarm across the skies, 12-year-old Takuma Ippongi runs around the rubble trying to save himself and Koyori, his girlfriend. Takuma's character flaw that he's too hyper and has no self-control and always does everything too hard. When Koyori's sweater catches on fire, Takumi whacks her on the back to put it out, but he hits too hard and hurts her back. "I was just tryin' ta put out th' fires!" he apologizes. "You could've done it gently!" she says. "Why are you so reckless? You've got no self-control! You can't always use maximum force!"
Then, they run into Dr. G, a crazed mad scientist. Dr. G offers Takuma the chance to save the Earth by piloting his giant robot, Dodekain! "The only thing that activates Dodekain is the energy from a burning hatred for the Zogelians! So now I grant you Dodekain!" Takuma takes Dr. G's offer, only to discover that Dodekain is a robot so big, it's actually BIGGER THAN THE ENTIRE PLANET EARTH! ("The mightiest giant Dodekain! It's height is 15,000 miles, its weight is 130 septillion 650 quintillion tons, and its power is infinite!") Dodekain flies in from outer space and Takuma flies out into space to pilot it. He tries to defeat the now insignificant and tiny Zogelians, but unfortunately, all of Dodekain's beam weaponry is so powerful it would destroy the planet if actually used it. Having no other choice, he slaps around the earth with an E. Honda-style Hundred Hand Slap, crushing the Zogelian armies. Meanwhile, a giant holographic image of his naked body (since he's naked inside the robot) is projected onto the planet so everyone can see him. Thus, everyone knows that Takuma is to blame for destroying the planet, and after the surviving aliens flee, he has to repair it by grabbing bits of asteroids and putting them on the planet to fill the holes.
Since it's unlikely that anyone will track down all 8 issues of this ancient manga (although the whole thing's still available from online back-issue comic stores), let me explain the rest of the story. (SPOILERS) After the earth is saved and sort of repaired, a mysterious transfer student shows up in school and causes real trouble, driving a wedge between Takuma and Koyori. You see, Koyori is really a pacifist and she wants Takuma to not be so violent and irresponsible all the time. ("I hate war…I wish the world could live in peace!") Then things get even worse when an even bigger Zogelian giant robot shows up, dwarfing Dodekain! "The black giant Ohkizon! 61,250 miles tall. Its weight is 115,072,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons, and it possesses unpredictable power!"
Takuma, whose vocabulary would get the manga an 18+ rating if it were published by Viz, is not happy to see Ohkizon. ("Shit…what an asshole!") Ohkizon grabs the Earth and challenges Takuma to a volleyball game using the planet as the ball! More destruction ensues, and finally Takuma gets the upper hand on his opponent and prepares to deliver the final blow. But then Koyori begs Takuma to stop. "No, Takuma! Even if you destroyed Ohkizon, the author—I mean the Zogelians—would just send Bigger Ohkizon, Even Bigger Ohkizon, Biggest Ohkizon, and Bigger Than Ever Ohkizon!" Koyori promises to keep Takuma from being so destructive, and in return, the Zogelians agree not to keep trying to destroy the planet. Thus, peace triumphs, although the pilot of Ohkizon sucker-punches Dodekain once for payback before he leaves.
Yes, I know…Diebuster and the higher-level Gurren Laganns are much bigger than some mecha that's just the size of Planet Earth. But Fujihara did it first, and it's hard to find any translated mecha manga that aren't spin-offs of anime. It's a fun parody of power-escalation shonen manga and giant robots, right down to the Go Nagai-ish artwork. Also, it's lucky that the series ends when it does, since it's hard to know how it could keep going, something Fujihara himself is obviously aware of.
Although Dodekain is a stand-alone, Masayuki Fujihara (whose actual name is Fujiwara, but he prefers the English spelling "Fujihara") has drawn a ton of other giant robot manga. His commercial credits include G Gundam manga, but he's REALLY popular in Japan for his many dojinshi based on the Super Robot Taisen video games. He's still out there rocking out old school with giant robots and burning passion. I don't care if it's a parody or if it's serious, as long as I'm not bored.
Jason Thompson is the author of Manga: The Complete Guide and King of RPGs, as well as manga editor for Otaku USA magazine.
Banner designed by Lanny Liu.
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