REVIEW: To-y Vol. 1 (1985)

A Manga by Atsushi Kamijo

I recently watched the anime OVA To-y (click to read previous review for more context), which I enjoyed quite a bit. However, as good as that film is, there are some flaws with it. It’s pretty short, has some logical leaps in the plot, and is obviously a truncated version of something else – the very manga I have read one volume of today. Sadly, unless a company swoops in and licenses this for the west, I have only been able to find unofficial translations of this book, nothing else. I would have preferred to do more, but that’s how it is sometimes when you get into older anime. That said, the storyline in this volume is largely about 3/4 of what is in the film, and it interesting to see the two compared as they are VERY different.

“The story follows To-y Fujii (藤井冬威), lead singer of GASP, and his attempts not to sell out during his rise through the recording industry. The story also follows To-y’s growing relationship with Niya Yamada (山田二矢), as the two find comfort in one another while they are shunned by mainstream society.”

GASP is said to have a horrible reputation in both versions of this story. It was interesting to see exactly how violent the band is in this comic in comparison to the film. In the anime, one only really sees characters murmuring about how violent the band is in passing. To-y does punch Yoji Aikawa in the face at one point, but it’s because he doesn’t look too enthused during their official set at a live music venue. The fact that GASP has any sort of legitimacy and that they are getting booked anywhere stands at a complete contrast to the tone of the manga. In this book, they are the epitome of punk rock.

Rather than having a booked show, GASP decides to fight their way up to the stage during an Aikawa show, fight everyone that they can to get up there, take over the show entirely and play an impromptu set to a group of fans that are not in the mood for punk rock music at all. Fans rush the stage and start fighting the band, only to get assailed by musical equipment. The violence definitely gives this comic away harder edge than the animated version, and as a result it is far more “punk rock” then what is presented as well. watching the scenes where To-y acts crazy while covered in blood after having glass thrown at him is a crazy visual for sure. What we see here reminds me of the legendary stories about the band EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, which despite being an industrial band versus a punk band, they did some very punk things like jackhammer a stage apart, fight the fans, and allegedly throw a Molotov Cocktail into the crowd.

Some other differences include the characterization of T-oy’s chief love interest, the quirky band groupie Niya. In this book, she has has the appearance of being much younger than T-oy is despite being roughly the same age. She seems to get mistaken for a boy a lot, and gets bullied by delinquents due to her personality. In one volume, the two don’t too too far past being friends, but you can easily see she is far less sexualized and a bit more “silly”. She also still seems to be just as obsessed with cats as in the film, but doesn’t keep shape-shifting into a cat-girl for gags. I’m not sure one version is more serious in the other due to the character being chiefly planted into the story as comic relief, but we get a better sense of her as a person rather than some sort of magical sprite of a girl that tags along with the band.

The film excised pretty much everything in this book related to T-oy’s school life, his scraps with delinquents, his tardiness and his attempts to avoid all social interaction with school clubs and girls fawning over him due to his looks. You can see that Niya is the perfect foil for T-oy as she embodies the care-free attitude of youth, something everyone is trying to yank from his arms. I’m not sure where there relationship goes here, but it’s a lot less weird, at least in volume one.

T-oy Volume One by Atsushi Kamijo is a solid look at counterculture in 1980’s Japan. While it lacks the musical oomph of the film, I’d argue that this manga far better fits the idea of a renegade punk band trying to avoid “making it big” despite the world changing around them. I REALLY wish I could read more, and hope somebody picks it up in some manner. The version I was reading was by a scan group called Penicillin Shock, named after one of the bands in this book. You can easily find this and other stories by Kamijo HERE, which is where I plan to read more in the future. Help me spread the word about obscure books like this, maybe somebody will see there is an audience for this or the movie in the west!

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