The Dog Collection Magazine Issue 49 - Akita
This is an article from "The Dog" about Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin in their Akita issue. It was published in 2007, so some information is a bit outdated.
SPOILER WARNING! The "canine hero" section of the article contains heavy spoilers for Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin. If you have not read the manga or watched the anime, you may want to skip this section.
Gin and Comic
"Manga" comic books are read by millions of Japanese people each week, and one of the most popular cartoon heroes among teenagers is a brave Akita called Gin.
Weekly sales of Japanese comics — manga — exceeded the entire annual output of the American comic industry, so it's no surprise that there are genres to please all. For shonen (teenage boys and girls), one of the most acclaimed action and adventure comics of all time is called Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin, the story of Gin, an Akita pup, who abandons his owner to join a pack of wild dogs and fight off a deranged killer bear in the Ohu mountains.
The gory cartoon strip, which is peppered with bloodthirsty fights between dogs, bears and wolves, originally appeared in the Japanese magazine Weekly Shonen Jump for 18 volumes between 1983 and 1987, and has been republished four times. Its creator Yoshihiro Takahashi is said to be the only manga drawer who has created a hero out of a dog. His inspiration for Gin came from his own pet Akita, and from a news article he read about pets being abandoned by their masters and living as wild hunting dogs in the mountains. The name Ginga Nagareboshi Gin means "Silver Fang", and Gin means "Silver".
The story of Ginga Nagareboshi Gin begins in a blizzard when old man Takeda Gohei and his hunting dog Shiro are ambushed by the killer bear Akakabuto in the mountains. The bear rips off the old man's left ear, Gohei shoots out the bear's right eye with his rifle and Shiro attacks, but is dragged into the gorge by the bear and killed. Eleven years later, Gohei returns with Shiro's son Riki, only to be ambushed again by Akakabuto. Riki saves his master but is thrown into the deep gorge by the bear and presumed dead. Gohei's grandson, Daisuke, and his newborn pup Gin, who are out looking for Gohei, witness the fight and return home, defeated, with the injured old man.
Gin, who is the son of Riki, never forgets his father and encourages Daisuke to train him to be the best bear dog ever, so he can seek his revenge. The hunt together in the mountains where, one day, they meet a group of wild dogs, led by the Great Leader of Ohu, who looks very similar to Riki. Gin is fascinated by the pack and decides to leave his human family to follow the wild dogs. Gin discovers that the pack is gathering dogs from all over Japan to fight Akakabuto and his minions, and eagerly joins the mission. Many dogs are deployed for the final battle to kill Akakabuto, including Ben, a Great Dane, Moss, an English Mastiff and Smith, an English Setter. At the sight of Akakabuto, the large pack cowers in fear, but is given courage to fight by their leader. At first, Akakabuto won't surrender and kills many of the dogs. The leader pulls Gin aside and tells him that he is Riki, his father, and that he survived the fall into the gorge a year ago, but hasn't forgotten his hatred for Akakabuto. Takeda Gohei suddenly appears and shoots Akakabuto to the ground with his rifle. But as the sun rises over Ohu, the bear stands up and attacks Gohei once more. Riki leaps up to defend his old master, but gets caught in Akakabuto's deadly claws. Like a true Japanese martial art hero, Gin performs the climactic Zetsu Tenrou-Battouga — the death strike — decapitating Akakabuto in the one killer blow. Badly wounded from the bear's claws, Riki tells Gin in his final breaths that he must now take over the role as leader of Ohu's wild dogs. And so Gin's adventures continue.
Such was the success of the manga that it was adapted into an anime — the Japanese word for animation — in 1986. The series ran for 21 episodes on Japanese TV, and was later televised in Korea and China. Gin has since found a cult status across the world, particularly among teenagers in Finland, Denmark and Norway, despite the footage being dubbed and heavily censored. In 2003 and then in 2006, non-dubbed and uncensored DVD box sets went on sale in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, much to the delight of the teenagers across Scandinavia.
In 1999, Takahashi created a sequel called Ginga Densetsu Weed, a story that takes place 14 years after the original and is about Gin's son Weed, who goes in search of his father whom he has never met. The strip became just as popular as the original, and was made into an anime in 2005. Takahashi also wrote a successful prequel to the manga, called Ginga Densetsu Riki, a story about Riki's past.
NOTE: Ginga Site unfortunately no longer exists, but is being carried on as GingaBoard.com