Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Volume I (1966-67/2014) Jiro Kuwata
Trade paperback, 352 pages
Kuwata’s version of Batman for Japanese manga audiences appeared at roughly the same time as the Batman television show in America and Japan (1966-67). Hints of the campy style of the TV show carry over into Kuwata’s work, but you won’t see any of Batman’s regular lineup of supervillains. Instead, Kuwata gives us Lord Death Man, Doctor Faceless, the Human Ball, Professor Gorilla, Go-Go the Magician, and “The Man Who Quit Being Human,” the story of a mutant.
All of the Kuwata stories have something to do with science, either in concept (such as the ability to control weather) or in execution. (The Human Ball invents a seemingly unstoppable suit that combines rubber and metal alloys.) Batman and Robin spend a good deal of time in detective mode, analyzing evidence and consulting scientific resources in attempting to stop these criminals.
Also missing from the TV show are sound effect exclamations such as “Bam!” or “Pow!” or “Zap!” Instead, we’re treated to (translations of) “Blam Blam Blam!” “Whoosh!” and “Fooosh!” You’ll see lots of sound effects because if Kuwata’s Batmanga is anything, it’s action-oriented.
Although the stories are all set in Gotham City, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s almost as if Batman and Robin have been transported to some alien world, which actually adds to the allure of the book.
Ultimately the stories are fun, but rather formulaic, which is no problem as long as you know what you’re expecting. Most of the three-part stories are fairly routine, but still enjoyable. The final story, however, a four-part story called “The Man Who Quit Being Human” rises above the rest, delivering not only a good tale, but some excellent dramatic moments as a scientist struggles with whether or not he should experiment in taking the next step in human evolution.
I’m not sure if some of the source material is in poor condition or if the transfers are rough, but the majority of the mostly black-and-white pages aren’t as sharp and clear as they should be. Still, it’s fun seeing Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson drawn manga style (although in costume, the heroes somewhat resemble a Carmine Infantino-type art style) and the stories do have a certain charm. Batman fans will definitely want to check this one out and the price makes picking this one up a pretty easy decision.
This volume is published in the standard manga size of 5.8″ x 8.2″ Future volumes are forthcoming. You can also subscribe to the entire Jiro Kuwata Batmanga series through ComiXology.