Otaku Corner: Tokyo Tribes

Gang war­fare takes over Tokyo’s streets

Brandon-2012-cutoutWel­come to another of Otaku Cor­ner, GI’s own lit­tle spot of The Strip where we bring you the finest manga and anime this side of the gam­ing world. I’m shar­ing a great series that led the recent pop cul­ture mar­riage of Japan­ese manga art and Amer­i­can urban hip-hop into a world­wide phe­nom­e­non, Tokyo Tribes. Tokyo Tribes has set the stage for great titles like “Samu­rai Cham­ploo” and “Afro Samu­rai” to gain their well-deserved popularity.

Cre­ated by Santa Inoue and pub­lished by Toky­opop, Tokyo Tribes Vol­ume one fol­lows the exploits of four “tribes” or gangs, who dom­i­nate sec­tions of Tokyo’s most known locales as a result of a peace truce estab­lished after riots nearly destroyed the city. The series focuses on Kai, sec­ond in charge of the Musashinokuni Saru, and Mera, head of the Bukuro Wu-Ronz. They were once friends but are now mor­tal ene­mies because of the untimely death of Mera’s girl­friend for which Kai is blamed. This hatred is reignited when three Saru Shibuya mem­bers are killed in Bukuro by the Wu-Ronz.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Photo cour­tesy of Amazon.com

Hear­ing the news, Kai wants pay­back, but wisely fol­lows the advice of Tera, Saru’s leader, to not act. Mean­while, the Wu-Ronz head to Musashinokuni on ille­gal errands requested by their bene­fac­tors. Along the way, they insti­gate bat­tle with the Shin­juku Hands by injur­ing one of their mem­bers. Not know­ing that the Wu-Ronz are in town, Kai takes Tera to the local train sta­tion and while buy­ing food at a local burger joint, Tera is attacked by Mera. Tera sur­vives, but instead of get­ting med­ical help, Tera goes after Kai along with two other Saru mem­bers, Hashem and Steno, to stop him from chas­ing Mera. The manga ends with Kai and Mera fac­ing each other before a rooftop battle.

Read­ers will not be dis­ap­pointed with Vol­ume one. As an orig­i­nal work, it’s main theme of urban life in Tokyo is a refresh­ing approach from the picture-perfect images pre­sented in other manga. Inoue-san, fus­ing hip-hop and manga, also pays homage to R&B artists Mary J. Blige and Anthony Hamil­ton, who have a huge fol­low­ing in Japan. Toky­opop deserves credit as pub­lisher Stu­art Levy, trans­la­tor Alexis Kirsch and adap­ta­tion writer David Walker stuck with the theme of Japan­ese edge and hip-hop charm instead of imi­tat­ing other series for sales.

Tokyo Tribes is the first manga to ignite the des­tined mash up of hip-hop and comic art in mod­ern media. Its sto­ry­line will hook you and leave you want­ing more. Will Saru sur­vive the flames that will erupt in Tokyo? Keep read­ing Otaku Cor­ner to find out.

Bran­don Beatty is editor-at-large of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

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