Before the Nineties, manga were pretty different from what we are used to nowadays, both in style and content. As techniques and technologies for creating a manga have become more sophisticated, authors had to constantly adapt to the demands of an increasingly demanding contemporary public which requested for complex, meaningful stories told through drawings that needed to be as much detailed as possible. In this new realistic manga scenario, there is no more space for a traditional, simplistic kind of manga, now considered “too naïve in the plot and lacking in picture quality” … unless your name is Fujio Akatsuka and your legacy is immortal! Indeed, there is something in Fujio Akatsuka’s works that is still capable of capturing the interest even of younger generations to the point that a new anime serialization of his best-known manga – Osomatsu- kun – has been recently aired and is still on the top of the most-liked manga charts, not only in Japan but also in the rest of the world.
Although Fujio Akatsuka’s gag stories are very particular, being mainly humorous, illustrated in an old style, and often senseless in content, there is something about them which is able to arouse people’s curiosity and keep them glued until the last page. It perhaps is because of the witty satiric balloons masterfully hidden through the pages that guarantee Fujio Akatsuka’s manga are product of a sharp mind, or it may be because of the brilliant, superb-structured characters he was able to give life to, or because of his unique way to construct a good and efficient narrative. Whatever Fujio Akatsuka’s secret was, it is certain it had made him ascend to the best mangaka heaven. Are you searching for some cult manga? Well, then you are in the right place, because Fujio Akatsuka’s works are still legendary after all these years. Here is for you Fujio Akatsuka’s masterpieces selected list!
4. Let’s La Gon
- Genre: Comedy, Shounen
- Volumes: 12
- Published Date: Sep. 1971 – Jul. 1974
Let’s start this chart with Fujio Akatsuka’s favorite manga, that is Let’s La Gon. As for all Fujio Akatsuka’s works, the plot of the avant-garde comedy Let’s La Gon is particularly simple and follows the adventures of a young boy named Gon, his dad and other crazy persons in town. Gon is the younger of six brothers, but he is the only one who is still alive. Unfortunately for Gon, in fact, his brothers as well as his mom were all accidentally killed by his father in one way or another, right before the events of the series. Left alone, Gon is going to run around and get up to mischief also in his dead brothers’ place.
Let’s La Gon’s title isn’t the only thing that makes no sense about this manga. After all, Fujio Akatsuka was a gag manga legend, so creating hilarious scenarios was his main task, which he has been able to accomplish to the fullest. Indeed, what is special about Let’s La Gon is the fact Gon’s adventures takes place in a realistic Japan of the Seventies, though the events happening has no meaning at all. It is no coincidence, in fact, that Let’s La Gon has been defined as an “anarchy gag manga” in which Gon’s actions has no time, logic or chronology. With Let’s La Gon, Fujio Akatsuka’s purpose was to make people laugh and live a good moment during a particularly difficult era when Japan was going through a great crisis. And, considering the success Let’s La Gon obtained, one could say he did it!
3. Himitsu no Akko-chan (Akko-chan’s Secret)
- Genre: Shoujo, Magical Girl, Romance
- Volumes: 3
- Published Date: May 1962 – Aug. 1965
Let’s move on the second position of our chart which is destined to one of the most famous manga of all times – Himitsu no Akko-chan. This masterpiece by Fujio Akatsuka is about the young Akko Kagami, an arrogant and childlike elementary school daughter of a luxurious cruiser. The only thing Akko really cares about is her mirror, given to her by her beloved mother she lives together with. One day, Akko accidentally breaks the mirror, but instead of throwing it away, she prefers to bury it in her house yard. Touched by the respect Akko had for that mirror, a spirit catches up with her in a dream and gives Akko a compact mirror; the little pretty object is magical and allows her to transform into anyone she wants to be.
Before becoming a comedy writer, Fujio Akatsuka has also been a well-appreciated shoujo manga artist; actually, he has started his career as a mangaka exactly with a shoujo manga – Nama-chan – which became a hit very early. Himitsu no Akko-chan is Fujio Akatsuka’s second shoujo manga, but it wasn’t less of a success than its predecessor. On the contrary, it has been so much appreciated that an anime serialization has been aired in 1969 while a drama movie has been made even more recently – in 2012. The plot is pretty simple and it revolves around Akko’s life experiences while dealing with her powers, but it is never boring or childlike; in fact, it addresses the issue of arrogance and vanity from a light, fresh and sometimes hilarious point of view. Akko’s methods to achieve her goals through magic and impersonation of other characters are manipulative and cunning, but still there is a lesson waiting for her at the end of the day that will slowly change her way to think and act. Himitsu no Akko-chan surely is a brilliant manga with a touching end everyone should read at least once in life.
2. Tensai Bakabon (The Genious Bakabon)
- Genre: Comedy, Shounen
- Volumes: 38
- Published Date: Apr. 1967 – 1992
Let’s get back to the world of Fujio Akatsuka’s gag manga to talk about another cult work – Tensai Bakabon. This manga’s story is about the misadventures of a dim-witted boy named Bakabon and his crazy father, who has no name and will eventually become the main character. Indeed, Bakabon is merely a sidekick, serving as a foil to those insane, senseless adventures his father will get into. Graduated at Bakada University (“Idiot University”), Bakabon’s Papa will go through any kind of stupid circumstance together with his former peers from university, from which he was also highly regarded.
Prized with the Bungeishunjuu Manga Award in 1971, Tensai Bakabon has been a true hit in the world of funny comics and has inspired many other later mangaka. Starting from the name of the series that means “genius” (tensai) and “stupid, idiotic” (bakamon), the whole work is highly contradictory; indeed, the humor in the series mainly comes from the dumb actions of the characters who make all sorts of idiotic stuff, while their stupidity is the focus of the story. The characters are as stupid as they are well-structured; there is a key role for each of them, and they have a key symbolic line Fujio Akatsuka was able to make them smartly repeat at the right time in order to cause hilarity. It is no wonder why Tensai Bakabon could be rewarded and made into an anime only few years after its publication.
- Genre: Comedy, Shounen
- Volumes: 34
- Published Date: 1962 – 1988
There is no doubt Osomatsu-kun is the king of Fujio Akatsuka’s masterpieces and it is no exaggeration to state that! Indeed, Osomatsu-kun wasn’t only popular back in the Sixties when it started being published, but it is acclaimed also nowadays thanks to the newest inspired anime series Osomatsu-san which it is proof of the fact Fujio Akatsuka’s humor is immortal and timeless. As any other Fujio Akatsuka’s works, Osomatsu-kun hasn’t a real plot neither. The whole story revolves around the adventures of six twin brothers, the Matsuno sextuplet, whose leader is the firstborn Osomatsu. Hated by the oden seller Chibita and the thief Iyami who try to lure them out in order to stole their family’s possessions, the Matsuno brothers will cause trouble for everyone who has the courage to deal with them.
Acclaimed by Japanese audience and transformed into multiple anime series, videogames and, gadgets, Osomatsu-kun is a very, very Japanese manga; indeed, all of the gag in the work relates to Japanese culture, political situation, state of the economy, and so on. For this reason, it is necessary to have a great knowledge of Japanese culture of the Sixties and Seventies to be able to understand that subtle satire of its hiding between the lines. It certainly is that the reason why Osomatsu-kun could obtain its success now and then. In Osomatsu-kun, nonsense situations and hilariousness aren’t an end in itself; in fact, the story serves as a way to point out common stereotypes in the Japanese society, and their stupidity. Osomatsu-kun is Japanese humor in its purest form magisterially told through a number of hilarious events; prized with the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1964, Osomatsu-kun is the speculum of what Japanese don’t like to say about themselves.
There are authors capable of writing good manga, and then there are authors who will certainly create a masterpiece every time they put pen to paper. Fujio Akatsuka belongs to this second category of authors since he was able to lend dignity to the genre of comedy manga and become an incomparable, immortal legend.
And you? What do you think about Fujio Akatsuka? Have you read some of his manga or are you thinking about starting? Don’t be shy and let us know with a comment!