As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hey everyone! This is Mokugyo, the manga-and-anime-loving writer on MANGA.TOKYO! There are many manga artists in Japan. As manga titles cover such a wide variety of genres, there are unique mangaka in every generation.
Today, I would like to introduce the readers of MANGA.TOKYO to Usamaru Furuya, the manga author who is well known for writing Teiichi no Kuni and Litchi Light Club (Litchee Hikari Club). I have known about him for more than a decade, but now he is finally starting to gain public fame among the Japanese public.
Because some of his manga are violent and grotesque, they may not be to your taste, but Usamaru Furuya and his various manga series need to be in your otaku radar.
— 古屋兎丸 (@usamarus2001) December 29, 2016
Furuya us the man in the middle. (Post from Furuya’s Twitter)
Usamaru Furuya is a 49-year-old manga artist, born in 1968. He has been working as a manga artist since the late 1990s, and because he graduated an art university, he is well known by fans for his beautiful drawings. He uses various techniques for his illustrations, such as drawing a double-page spread of a manga with pencil only and using Japanese paper for the background. His unique skills and techniques were even introduced in the TV program Urasawa Naoki no Manben (Learning about Manga with Naoki Urasawa).
He has written about various themes, such as aesthetic grotesque stories, student council president elections, cynical comedies, disaster survival, and more. One thing all these stories have in common is their fantasy aspects.
Palepoli is the first manga Furuya wrote. It is a very unique and bizarre 4-panel manga. By looking through this manga released in 1994, we can see how advanced were his drawing skills. The story includes parodies of famous paintings, movies, and manga. Although there are many grotesque scenes, the story is very funny. I assume that this manga is only known by Furuya fans and hardcore manga fans. Nevertheless, it is a very unique manga that I would recommend to everyone.
One of the manga which drastically increased the number of Furuya’s fans is Litchi Light Club, released in 2006. This manga was originally based on a popular stage play in the 1980s. When young Furuya saw this theatrical performance, he was strongly influenced by it, and he decided to make a manga adaptation by adding his own interpretations.
In the corner of a town crowded with many factories, nine middle school boys establish the Light Club (Hikari Club). In this club, in which Zera is the leader, the members build a humanoid robot named Litchi, named after the fruit (also spelled ‘Lychee’). One day, Zera orders Litchi to abduct a beautiful girl. However, when a girl named Kanon comes to the Light Club, things start to get out of control.
One of the major factors of this manga is that it includes aesthetic and violent scenes. There are also grotesque scenes in which, for example, blood spatters and internal organs come out. If you are a manga fan, you may know of Suehiro Maruo, the manga artist who is famous for his beautiful drawings and mysterious stories. Furuya have mentioned that he has been strongly influenced by Maruo, and you can tell this by reading Litchi Light Club.
As of June 2017, the only anime adaptation that Litchi Light Club has received was a series of comedy shorts. I believe that many aspects of the original story were changed in the anime adaptation, since the manga includes too many scenes that can’t be shown on TV. Apart from its violent scenes, the original story also includes various aspects such as love-hate drama among boys and distorted world views unique to adolescence. Because the manga is radical in many ways, it is difficult for me to recommend it to everyone.
Litchi Light Club received a live action film adaptation in 2016. Litchi, the enormous robot, was voiced by Tomokazu Sugita, who is well known for voicing Gintoki Sakata from Gintama. The movie is very faithful to the original manga and is rated R15+.
— 古屋兎丸 (@usamarus2001) April 30, 2017
Illustration of Teiichi no Kuni that looks like an Old Movie Poster (Post from Furuya’s Twitter)
Teiichi no Kuni was serialized in the manga magazine Jump Square from 2010 to 2016. Its live action film adaptation was released in 2017, and because of the movie’s success, the original manga gained public fame. I personally assume that this manga may get an anime adaptation in the near future.
Teiichi no Kuni is about a political struggle in high school, a very rare theme for a boy’s manga. The story’s protagonist is Teiichi Akaba, who is ready to do whatever it takes to be elected as the student council president. The manga is full of creativity, unique themes, and beautiful drawings. For the most part, it is a happy comedy. What’s interesting is that, although the story is funny, it also includes political satire. A lot of money is used to win the votes in the election, and there are even honey traps.
Teiichi Akaba is a sly boy who comes up with the most cunning strategies to win the votes in the student council election. If this manga followed the ordinary storyline of a boys’ manga, I’m sure Dan Otaka, Teiichi’s rival, would have been the protagonist. Dan is a very intelligent boy, and although he grew up in a poor family, he was able to enter the elite boys’ school, Kaitei High School, by studying very hard. He is loved by everyone, and he has the potential to become the protagonist. Nevertheless, Usamaru Furuya chose Teiichi, the strange character, as the protagonist, rather than choosing Dan. That is what’s amazing about Furuya’s manga.
Genkaku Picasso (Hallucinatory Picasso) was serialized in Jump Square from 2008 to 2010. The protagonist is Hikari, a second-year student in high school. He is very talented at drawing, and everyone calls him ‘Picasso’. After his friend Chiaki dies in an accident, Hikari experiences deep grief. However, Chiaki comes back to life in the form of a small angel! Together with Chiaki, Hikari draws pictures in order to help and save many people.
In this story, Hikari draws the inside of people’s feelings, and he jumps into these illustrations. It is an eccentric fantasy story. We can say that the idea of jumping into an artwork is unique to Furuya, who graduated from an art university. Just like in Furuya’s other manga, Hikari is a protagonist who has a distorted character. However, as you read on, I’m sure you will start to like this boy. I personally believe this manga should get an anime adaptation.
What would happen if a huge earthquake were to directly hit the Tokyo area? Japan is a country which has experienced many earthquakes. Therefore, for many years, the Japanese people have been planning out anti-disaster measures in case an earthquake hits Tokyo. The manga 51 Ways to Save Her (Kanojo wo Mamoru 51 no Houhou), which was serialized from 2006 to 2007, is a story about a magnitude 8 earthquake hitting Tokyo. The protagonist Jin Mishima is a college senior who is doing his job-hunting activities. One day, he re-encounters Nanako Okano, his middle school classmate, in Odaiba, Tokyo. However, a huge earthquake suddenly occurs. Many buildings fall down, and the roads become muddy due to liquefaction. Would the two characters be able to go home safely? 51 Ways to Save Her is a story with many practical aspects in which you can learn about what to do when a disaster really occurs. Thanks to Furuya’s outstanding drawing skills, the disaster scenes are illustrated very realistically. Also, Nanako is a big fan of visual kei bands, and this is an aspect that matches the aesthetic world of Furuya’s manga.
— 古屋兎丸 (@usamarus2001) January 6, 2017
Amane Gymnasium is Furuya’s newest manga series. It started serialization in 2017. Amane Miyakata, an ordinary temporary worker, loves to make dolls. She receives some clay as a gift from the shopkeeper of her favorite art supply store, and she decides to make seven ball-jointed dolls who suddenly start moving on their own. It is unique how ball-jointed dolls are used as the characters. Although Furuya is a man, he also has sensibilities similar to a woman.
Usamaru Furuya is a very talented manga artist who can draw beautiful drawings and create the most unique characters. For a long time, he had been known as a manga author who writes rather unusual and mysterious stories. However, because many of his manga have been adapted into anime and films in recent years, he is beginning to gain fame among the general public. Although his works may seem peculiar to some people, all of them are full with entertaining aspects. I hope people all around the world now know more about Usamaru Furuya, the amazing manga artist.