Okamoto Noboru

Tokyo, Japan

15.02.1932 - 08.10.2021

Mangaka, writer.

Alias – Shirato Sanpei

He is known for his social criticism, as well as the realism of his drawing style and the characters in his scripts. He was considered a pioneer of the ambiguous genre of gekiga-manga for adults, on more acute social and provocation topics.

The son of the Japanese proletarian artist Toki Okamoto, his dream of becoming an artist on a par with his father began when he became an artist of Kamishibai (a form of Japanese street theater performance). He is also known for his works published in the first issues of Garo Manga Anthology magazine in 1964, which he began publishing to materialize his Kamui comic.

Shirato was born in Tokyo, Japan. As a child, Shirato’s father was an active participant in the proletarian cultural movement. Growing up, he experienced the brutality of the war years, and it is said that these dark emotions manifest themselves in the nihilistic society depicted in his works.

Shirato developed his artistic style by drawing paper-card shows (Kamishibai), a “movement style” unique to his manga.

Shirato began his career as a professional mangaka in 1957 with Ninja bugeicō (“Handbook of Ninja Martial Arts”, published in 1959-1962), a historical manga on the ninja theme that attracted the attention of students and intellectuals of the time.  This brutal epic story, which takes place during the period of the Japanese “Warring Kingdoms” (Sengoku), was perceived by many readers and critics as a veiled allegory of the ongoing protests of the Anpo against the US-Japanese security treaty (although Shirato himself later denied this was his intention). Regardless of Shirato’s true intentions, the manga seemed to match the feelings and experiences that the protesting students were going through at the time, and Ninja Bugacho gained passionate fans among leftist student activists.  Due to adult themes and violence, Ninja Bugeichō has been called one of the first examples of gekigi, a serious manga designed specifically for an adult audience, not for children.

The Legend of Kamui, the first series published in Garo, can be considered his most important manga. This is the story of Kamui, a ninja who leaves the organization that persecutes him and clearly sees the true nature of the Edo period and the discrimination that existed in the feudal system. Shirato’s works are primarily historical dramas dedicated to ninjas, representing the historical record of Japan and criticizing oppression, discrimination and exploitation.

Many of Shirato’s works have been adapted as anime series and films, including Ninja Bugeichō, adapted by Nagisa Oshima as Band of Ninja in 1967, an unusual film consisting only of manga images and voice acting without animation. Some works have attracted attention in the United States, such as The Legend of Kamui, released in 1987 by Viz Media, but others remain relatively unknown.

Works :

  • Kogarashi Kenshi (1957)
  • Shiro (1958)
  • Kiyoyuku Shojo (1959)
  • Ninja Bugeicho (1959-1962)
  • Kaze no Ishimaru (1960)
  • Wild Animals of Seton (1961-1964)
  • Sasuke (1961-1966)
  • Kamui Series (1964-1986)
  • Watari (1965-1966)


Reference: Wikipedia, 2021


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