Cyborg 009

(Please also see my Cyborg 009 Overview at EX Magazine.)

Wow, talk about old! Cyborg 009 is a manga from the late 1960's; I believe it's even older than Doraemon. (3/98 Note: Author Ishinomori Shoutarou passed away Jan. 28 of this year at age 60, ending a long, influential career in the vast manga/anime industry.) Unlike Doraemon, I think Cyborg 009 ended a looooong time ago. As a "classic" manga, it has been reissued at least once. I also think it was one of the original Japanese large-evil-robot mangas. For all I know, it was partially based on the novel Cyborg (the source of "The 6 Million Dollar Man"), and maybe on James Bond as well.

Cyborg 009 started off a continuing story of the classic Japanese idea of a team of (uniformed) warriors banded against an evil enemy (note such Anime series such as "G-Force" ("Gatchaman") and "Voltron" version 1 ("GoLion")). The protagonists are nine experimental cyborgs, eight men and one woman, who have been collected from all over the world by the evil terrorist group Black Ghost. The nine, with the aid of a defecting scientist, escape Black Ghost's control and turn against it. The main character is Cyborg 009, the newest and strongest of the cyborgs, who happens to be a half-Japanese young man (back from the days when Japan had an inferiority complex, I guess :) who was once a juvenile delinquent. Black Ghost, of course, wants their first nine cyborgs destroyed, and starts building more cyborgs to go out and kill them. (Strangely, the newer ones have names like 0010 (instead of 010)). In the meantime, Black Ghost is also busy causing war and destruction all around the world, using technology that Just Didn't Exist in the 1960's.

Over the course of many books, the Cyborgs go from war zone to war zone: from undersea battles, to Vietnam, to the Middle East, to a subterranean lost world and so on and so forth. Finally, the author (Ishi(no)mori Shotaro) got sick of the Cyborgs and decided to end the series. The Cyborgs finally track down the mastermind of Black Ghost. 009 winds up in a spaceship in Earth orbit, and battles the mastermind. Well, the mastermind is an android, and the real mastermind is a set of 3 brains. 009 toasts them, too, but they die leaving the message "We are but a cell of Black Ghost, for as long as humanity loves war and death, there will always be a Black Ghost." 007(?) arrives, and the 2 leave the destroyed spaceship. Except oops, they're outside Earth's atmosphere, and 007(?) lacks the fuel to prevent them from burning up in re-entry. "Where do you want to fall?" he asks. Last few pages show a mother and son (or was it sister and brother) watching a falling star. The boy makes a wish for toy guns, but the woman makes a wish for world peace.

Well, except it didn't end there. Due to public reaction, the author continued the series (by saying that 001, a precocious baby psionic, had teleported the two cyborgs to safety). The rest of the series reads like a cross between the TV series "In Search Of" and a bad pulp magazine, following a trend that earlier books in the series had begun to follow. The cyborgs investigate strange, mysterious places around Earth, in the meantime getting involved in random short stories of varying degrees of weirdness. The theme of ancient high-tech lost civilizations, mad scientists, forgotten magical places, and aliens from outer space prevail. The plots aren't necessarily much good, but I'm used to Tezuka Osamu's masterful stuff, such as Black Jack (it doesn't help that Ishi(no)mori's artwork seems to be a takeoff on Tezuka Osamu's)... but, still, 009 must be given credit for being one of the earliest SF (and, I must say, occult) mangas in Japan.

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