Piirtäjä tekee yhä 12-tuntista työpäivää

"Mangaka still works 12 hours a day"

Original article in Helsingin Sanomat by Jutta Sarhimaa, 2012.

Photo of the article by Kretari, translation to English by Sandy on Ginga Board.

The creator of the bear hound Gin, Yoshihiro Takahashi, draws a manga that has strong morals.

Since he was 12 years old, Yoshihiro Takahashi knew that he wanted to become a mangaka.

He admired Hiroshi Motomiya who drew a fighting manga where young boys battled in tournament matches held between schools. The manga was published in the 1970's in the Shonen Jump magazines which showcased manga directed at young boys.

Takahashi worked at Toyota's factories, manufacturing car parts. But he dreamed of drawing animals. He decided to apply to become an assistant for the mangaka he admired. Doing this was the traditional way of getting into the manga industry.

"Motomiya answered: Come again in half a year's time. If the quality of your drawings has improved, you'll get in", Takahashi says.

The quality did improve, but Takahashi had to work three long months on a probation period before he got to draw for real.

Takahashi celebrated his 40th year as mangaka last year. His most famous work, Ginga, is about warrior dogs. In the epic story, dogs from all around Japan unite to become a massive army in order to take down the giant bears terrorizing the people of the region. The bears are led by a deranged, red-maned Akakabuto (translates to: Red helmet). The main character Gin is of the noble Akita breed, who's fate it is to fight against Akakabuto.

Gin works according to the ancient Japanese samurai ethics, the bushido code.

"The basic rule in bushido is that in order to do the right thing, it is alright to die for your cause. To survive is not the most important thing - but the fact that you did the right thing", Takahashi describes.

Reading the story becomes easier if you imagine the dogs as humans, or samurai warriors. But what do the bears represent?

Takahashi thinks for a long time.

"They represent foreign attackers. Maybe from Finland's point of view, they could be Russia?"

Takahashi often laughs during the interview, politely chuckling. He looks like your average Japanese white-collar worker. And work is something his visit to Finland definitely creates: Today and tomorrow he spends as the guest of honor at Animecon (a convention directed to those interested in Japanese culture) in Kuopio. He has fan meetings and autographing events. His publisher Yuji Saka follows him around like a shadow.

Takahashi visited Finland for the first time last September.

"I was surprised by the fact that the Finnish fans were so quiet and calm - and didn't crowd me. There is a saying in Japan that the people of the north are calmer, but it seems to apply to the rest of the world as well", Takahashi says.

Originally the story of Gin was only about action.

"Since then I've added a constant presence of strong morals. In the end, good prevails and evil doesn't."

The strong morals come from Japan, from Takahashi's childhood. Times were hard and strong morals acted as strict guidelines for people. If someone dropped their wallet, the one who found it took it to the police.

The characters of Ginga strive towards their intended goal with all they have. The series is currently more popular in Finland than it is in Japan.

"When Ginga was published, I believe that a part of it's success was because it reminded people of these disappearing values, like of friendship and respecting others. The series' success in Finland tells me that people are starting to miss these things in here as well", Takahashi says.

Ginga is an experience most people from 25-35 year-olds in Finland have had, tied tightly with their generation. An animated version of it was published on VHS tapes under the G -rating back in the year 1989. Back then, the Japanese version of animation was still very foreign and unappreciated. That is why the mountains of Ou changed to Alaska - and the bears were all Grizzlies.

Even though the series was heavily censored, the deaths of the characters were often sad. When Punainen Jättiläinen started publishing the manga in Finnish in 2010, the nostalgic bond many of the Finns had with the series paid off. Exactly one year ago, Ginga was the most sold manga in Finland. Weed and Orion, stories that speak of future dog generations, attract even more younger fans.

Takahashi is certainly not threatened with unemployment. He often draws 12 hours a day.

"Developing the story and coming up with new villains is often harder than the actual drawing."

Yoshihiro Takahashi

  • Born 18th of September 1953 in Higashinaruse, Akita prefecture.
  • Has drawn many series directed to boys, like sports and adventure stories. Most famous of which is about bear hounds.
  • Hopeanuoli/Ginga (Ginga Nagareboshi Gin) was published as a manga in 1983-87. The 21 episode long anime series was published 1987.
  • Takahashi continued drawing dogs with 60 volume long story about Gin's son Weed. It ended in 2009. Currently Takahashi is drawing the adventures of Weed's son, Orion.
  • Takahashi has a black labrador named Liz. She is named after Elizabeth Taylor.