Japan Sinks! Author Sakyo Komatsu's 1st Manga Discovered in U.S.
posted on by Egan Loo
A manga that is the "long-lost debut work" of acclaimed science-fiction novelist Sakyo Komatsu (Japan Sinks!) was discovered in the Prange Collection at the University of Maryland this past spring. Komatsu published several manga while he attended Kyoto University, but Komatsu published this earliest known work under his birth name Minoru Komatsu in 1948, when he was still in high school.
This Kaijin Sukereton Hakashi (The Mysterious Skeleton Doctor) manga carries particular significance since it dealt with earthquakes and science — two themes in Komatsu's most famous work, his 1973 novel Japan Sinks! (Nihon Chinbotsu). In Kaijin Sukereton Hakashi, detective Supiido tries to thwart the Skeleton Doctor's plot to sink Japan into the ocean via a device that causes artificial earthquakes.
According to the book's end pages, an Osaka-based publisher released this book in September 1948. It has 64 B6-size pages with two-color printing. The Gordon W. Prange Collection houses many published works that were inspected for censorship by the General Headquarters in Allied-occupied Japan, after World War II. This past spring, a Komatsu fan discovered the manga in the database of the Prange Collection's digitized contents at the National Diet Library in Tokyo. The Sakyo Komatsu Library consulted the opinions of several experts and confirmed the manga to be Komatsu's.
An artificial earthquake device also appeared in another manga called Daichi Teikai that Komatsu (under the pen name Minoru Mori) later drew when he attended Kyoto University. Leiji Matsumoto — Komatsu's longtime friend and an acclaimed manga creator in his own right — declared that Kaijin Sukereton Hakashi, with its signature themes, storyline, and scenes, could only have been drawn by Komatsu. Matsumoto added, "Here is his first step to becoming a future science fiction author."
According to his autobiography and other sources, Komatsu was moved by the late Osamu Tezuka's 1947 manga New Treasure Island (Shin Takarajima) to draw his own manga. At the time, many small publishers released inexpensive manga books known as "Akahon" (red books) with poor-quality paper. Komatsu submitted his unsolicited manuscripts to publishers such as these.
Komatsu later wrote a number of novels that gained recognition not only in Japan, but around the world. Perhaps his best known novel is the 1973 disaster story Japan Sinks! which inspired two live-action films and a live-action television series. The novel itself has sold over three million copies and won an award from the Mysery Writers of Japan. Komatsu then wrote a sequel that won a Seiun Award from the Japan Science Fiction Convention in 2007.
Komatsu passed away in 2011 at the age of 80.
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