an old sumo comic from japan

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?

 “Dairiki-kun” front cover
Toshio Kinoshita
dated 1April 1956 on back cover

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.

“Dairiki-kun” back cover

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5 Responses to an old sumo comic from japan

  1. 1971wolfie says:

    You know, one of these days I\’m going to learn to give you some info about the crazy stuff I send you instead of just throwing things in the mail…You know, one of these days I\’m going to learn to give you some info about the crazy stuff I send you instead of just throwing things in the mail…

    The comic’s title is ”Dairiki-kun”. The kanji ”dai” is “big”, ”riki” is “power”, and of course -kun is an affectionate tag for a boy (-chan is used for girls and very young boys, -san for adults, -sama for customers and honored people). The artist is Toshio Kinoshita. Squinting at the publication data in the upper left of the back cover, it looks like it came out on April 1st, 1956 (31st year of the Showa era). Until the mid-60s a lot of Japanese publications of all types were printed on that horrible post-war acid pulp paper. And your analysis of the story, from what I remember, is pretty much spot-on.

    The back cover is an ad for another comic by an artist named Nakashima.

  2. 1971wolfie says:

    Apologies for the doubling in the first paragraph- the computer I’m on is apparently freaking out at WordPress, or something.

  3. Pam Bliss says:

    As some computers do. And thank you for the information– it’s all good whenever you send it. I will revise the caption on the image and add some notes.

  4. Sean K. says:

    Rather than scanning, couldn’t you take a digital photo of a page? It wouldn’t be quite as good quality, but should still look good enough and would only require that the book be gently held open, rather than flattened. Perhaps an assistant (such as that IT fellow of yours) could do the holding open?

  5. Pam Bliss says:

    That’s actually a really good idea, Sean. I knew there was a reason I keep you guys around! The IT guy has the day off from the day job tomorrow for the 4th, and I will enlist his help. Look for images sometime tomorrow– I will try to get some that at least give you some of the flavor of the work.

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