The snail mail gets less and less exciting as the years go by, but its arrival is still a notable event here at world headquarters. (Or so the dogs tell me.) And every so often something interesting shows up in the mailbox. Like, I don’t know, cool old comics from Japan?
Many thanks to Wolfie for sending me this charmer, and for translating the cover. As he notes below, “Dai” is big, “riki” is power and “-kun” is a tag used for a boy. So this is the story of “Big Power Boy”. I have no translation for the interior at all, but that wouldn’t stop anyone who reads a lot of comics from enjoying it. The cover pretty much tells you what’s going to happen: a young, innocent man is going to win a sumo match in front of a roaring crowd. And indeed he does. As I interpret the story, not being able to read a word of it: the main character is a chubby boy growing up in a village. People tease him for being fat, but it has its benefits. He is very strong and getting stronger, and he uses his might for right. He protects other kids from bullies, helps his widowed dad on the farm, saves his best girl (who looks like a Japanese Betty Boop) from trouble , and is friends with a bear– just an all around good guy . Eventually his father hurts his back, and they are in danger of losing the farm, but the boy saves the day by winning a sumo match in town. He gives away the prizes (this is the one place where I really wish I could read the pages, since I’m not sure why he does it, though I’m sure it’s crazy honorable) but he is rewarded anyway with a big contract to join a sumo school in the city. The last panel shows a little steam engine puffing away at a rural station, and the boy shaking hands with his father through the carriage window.
I really want to show you at least one interior page; the art is simple, cartoony in the best sense of the word, drawn with a clear line and what is almost certainly a dip pen. The style looks like a cross between Tezuka and the old Fleischer studio cartoons. But the comic itself is both cheaply printed (except for the cover) and very old. The pages (some printed in a very dark blue and some in purple) are yellow and brittle, and the whole thing is surprisingly intact, in somewhat better than “rough but readable” shape. So I hesitate to rock the boat by flattening it on the scanner. I’m going to do a little research on safe scanning for old comics before I try it.
The back cover, Wolfie tells me, is an ad for another sumo comic by a cartoonist called Nakashima. Sports comics have always been popular in Japan, and sumo must have been a favorite subject. If anyone would like a print quality scan of either of these images, please email me.