Hey everyone, This is Mokugyo, one of MANGA TOKYO’s most dedicated otaku writers! I have always loved manga and anime, and I have seen so many of them. Too many, actually. I also love art works such as ukiyo-e. There were so many famous and talented ukiyo-e artists in Japan: Hokusai Katsushika, Hiroshige Utamaro, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, Kyousai Kawanabe, and many more.
Today, I would like to introduce you all to Isobe Isobee Monogatari, a unique comical manga series with illustrations that look just like ukiyo-e.
What is Ukiyo-e?
Ukiyo-e (lit. ‘pictures of the floating world’) is a type of art work that gained popularity in the Edo period (1603-1868) and depicts the everyday life of the people of that time. The ukiyo-e pictures are very vivid in color, and they are loved by people all around the world as one of Japan’s traditional art forms. The most famous ukiyo-e is probably Hokusai’s The Great Wave, but I have included a few more below to give you a clue of the ukiyo-e style.
The story of ‘Isobe Isobee Monogatari ~Ukiyo wa Tsuraiyo~’
Isobe Isobee Monogatari ~Ukiyo wa Tsuraiyo~ (Chronicle of Isobe –The Life is Hard-) is an manga that is currently serializing in Weekly Shonen Jump, the popular manga magazine that publishes ONE PIECE and Naruto. Isobe Isobee Monogatari was first published in Jump in 2013 as a substitute work for ONE PIECE. Eiichirou Oda, the author of ONE PIECE, had to be hospitalized for a sudden illness, and there was a need to fill in the open space in Jump.
In that week’s Jump issue, there was a comment page titled ‘Apology for ONE PIECE author’s sick leave’, and right after the comments came an ukiyo-e gag manga. Because the apology was written in a serious tone, the readers were surprised by the comical story that came right after, and this made the story funnier.
The protagonist, Isobee Isobe, always says, ‘I will become a strong samurai’, but is actually a loser and a total slacker. This story illustrates this lazy man’s comical life, and is currently serialized in Weekly Shounen Jump. The manga already has 12 volumes.
— 『磯部磯兵衛物語～浮世はつらいよ～』公式 (@isobee_m) January 30, 2017
The manga is drawn with an Ukiyo-e-like touch
The most fascinating thing about Isobe Isobee Monogatari is that the illustrations look just like an ukiyo-e. Many scholars believe that the origin of modern Japanese manga is ukiyo-e. However, there are only a few manga series which literally use the ukiyo-e style in their illustrations.
— 『磯部磯兵衛物語～浮世はつらいよ～』公式 (@isobee_m) December 26, 2016
There once was a manga author named Hinako Sugiura who researched the Edo era and even published several books about Edo. She also wrote a manga using ukiyo-e pictures, long before Isobe Isobee Monogatari was published. However, unlike the comical Isobe Isobee, Sugiura’s manga had a serious and more academic context.