Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rosy's scrawled manga recommendation: Golgo 13 by Takao Saito and Kazuo Koike

Golgo 13
Takao Saito and Kazuo Koike

For four decades, Golgo 13 has been the world's greatest assassin for hire - sometimes to settle a private score, and sometimes to change history!
His real name and nationality are unknown - but his legend is everywhere. G13 never fails a job, and never sees his clients again... unless they try to betray him!

Alternative names
Duke Togo
Golgo Thirteen
Gorugo 13


Manga reader sites (free)
Kiss Manga

Rosy's scrawlings on Golgo 13
This manga has the flavour of classic spy stories like those of James Bond and yet it is about a hired assassin who travels the world and kills on command, uncaring of world politics or the potential chaotic results. He's a man who doesn't allow people to stand behind him and is forever prepared to be attacked, even when in bed. On receiving a request he travels anywhere in the world and kills on command but he's careful in his approach to ensure he isn't being played. And if he is, those attempting to manipulate or kill him die. This is a hard boiled episodic sniper assassin story that stands alongside the spy stories of the cold war and early.
Golgo 13 doesn't, I should mention up front, portray women in an admirable light. Golgo himself plays the mostly silent, stoic, smoking man's man while most of the women he comes across betrayers or easily swayed by sex. There is only one woman he's run across in my reading so far that could be seen in another light: the lady who accidentally killed her husband. Unfortunately she goes about the same way as any other, which is death at the hands of Golgo. One or two other women, usually incidental figures, are pictured as victims or those desperate to swap sex for safety. While the women are active, strong and often in powerful positions they are nearly always portrayed in a negative light and Golgo's own opinion of them is even worse than that.
Golgo 13 follows Golgo's life closely, set some time in the late sixties and early seventies as far as I can tell, with short story arcs that capture Golgo's individual missions. The pace is slower than most action stories about today but it holds the same, often thoughtful, pace as early spy stories with a flourish of gunfire to break up the mystery and twisting politics. Golgo is a steady point in each story, around which others panic and scrabble to gain dominance over others. His detached point of view seems almost sane compared to theirs and because of that Golgo has a mystique you want to unravel and assume as your own, although doing so would be rather detrimental.
The art of Golgo 13, created by Takao Saito, has a lot of older manga drawing trends that share many commonalities with comics. Because of this the international travels become visually plausible. The cost of this is that many women look the same while all but the most prominent racial features of any character is usually lost. This seems odd at first but there is a bit of a level plane look at politics and the violence surrounding it that is attractive. It is like looking through Golgo's eyes at a world of violence where one group is just as important as any other in the gaining of a pay packet. He doesn't care who survives or becomes the dominant political player and that view is reflected in the homogeneous human scenery he works in. Instead, he himself is the one most likely to stand out. The art, with its alternating stillness and action, lends an old school air to the assassin story that compliments the characterisation and the era in which Golgo works.

I'd recommend this manga to: those who enjoy James Bond stories and films, assassin, war and international spy stories.

Notes on manga reader sites
The quality of manga readers can vary. The uploads are often done cheaply or as a serious hobby by a collective. Be aware that sometimes licence hasn't been given but the sites noted above, Manga Fox in particular, are extremely careful about adding and pulling mangas according to license agreements. So you shouldn't have to worry too much about the material being pirated. There are also translated works and non-translated. Amongst the translated works you will find that the quality of translation may vary according to the skills of the translators. Usually the works are perfectly readable anyway, with only a few added or dropped words or a word in the incorrect tense or with/out plurals. But sometimes the text becomes gobbledygook. In which case, either seek another version or give up and buy an official copy once a printed translation comes out. The other issue of note is you may need to expand the screen to read the text easily as sometimes the scans are minimised a little.
I find that if a page doesn't download properly or some other issue occurs (too slow or someone ordered the pages incorrectly etc.) with one reader then skipping across to another reader and picking up where I was is quite easy and rarely annoying.
Otherwise, enjoy and watch out you don't get too addicted you forget about the necessary things in life.

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