.Tsukasa Hj article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 4, No. 12, November 2001
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Tsukasa Hojo (both o's long) has been a manga god in Shueisha's Shonen Jump pantheon for nearly twenty years. His success began in the early 1980's with the sexy action series Cat's Eye, which was followed by the even more successful sexy action series City Hunter --both of which were animated. Because his more recent work does not closely resemble his first two series, and none of it has been animated, some U.S. fans think Hojo (both o's long) hasn't done anything worthwhile since City Hunter. Nothing could be further from the truth, as any true Hojo (both o's long) fan will tell you. There's more to this old favorite than just sexy action.

Hojo's (both o's long) debut title, the short story Ore wa Otoko Da! (I Am a Man!), foreshadows his future success. This comedy about girls sharing the dorm at a boys high school tempers the humor with romance and drama as the super manly lead, Sho (long o), overcomes his discomfort toward all things feminine. While Hojo (both o's long) may be best known for action, it's his inclusion of comedy, drama and romance which make his work so good and so popular.

With three sexy sisters to choose from --sophisticated Rui, charming Hitomi, and cute Ai-- there's reason enough for guys to enjoy Cat's Eye. That their famous father has disappeared under mysterious circumstances around the same time as pieces of his art start appearing in the galleries of suspicious collectors adds enough intrigue to involve a wider audience. When the sisters become super thieves to steal back their father's art, hoping to find clues to his disappearance, the series becomes action-packed and quite addictive. Will they get caught? Will they find their father? With Hitomi's boyfriend being an inspector from the police station across the street from the cafe she and her sisters run, there's also plenty for humor and romance. The 18-volume series began in 1981 and was animated first in 1983 then continued in 1984, totaling 73 episodes. Since then, the sisters in their sexy Cat's Eye thief outfits have become anime icons.

City Hunter's lead, that lascivious sharpshooter Ryo (long o) Saeba, is a bodyguard and private investigator for an exclusive clientele --beautiful women between the ages of 18 and 30 who are desperate enough they need to hire him. Ryo (long o) is a combination of drama, action and humor all rolled into one character! The series begins rather intensely when Ryo's (long o) partner and friend, Hideyuki Makimura, is gunned down by the drug cartel he refuses to join. Dying in Ryo's (long o) arms, Makimura asks his partner to take care of his little sister, Kaori. While filled with a wide variety of action-packed and often humorous stories, it's the serious repercussions of Makimura's death which underscore the entire series. To begin with, Ryo (long o) must take in spunky, tomboyish Kaori who becomes determined to be his partner. And the drug cartel doesn't just go away; part of Ryo's (long o) mysterious past is connected to them. In the end, he must deal with the problem. Whether being chased by Kaori with a mallet for being lecherous or taking out international criminals, Ryo's (long o) life is filled with a wide variety of entertaining adventures.

Originating from a pair of short stories available in Tenshi no Okurimono (Angel's Gift - Jump Comics Tsukasa Hojo (both o's long) Short Story Collection 1), City Hunter ran for thirty five manga plus a pair of novels. There have been four City Hunter TV series --totaling nearly 200 episodes-- TV specials and movies (including one with Jackie Chan), and lots of CDs, art books and other merchandise, making City Hunter Hojo's most successful series.

Like many artists after a lengthy smash hit or two, Hojo (both o's long) took a break from sagas and wrote a few short stories which were collected in his second collection, Sakura no Hana Sakukoro (Cherry Blossoms in Bloom). These and all his later stories utilize Hojo's (both o's long) artistic mastery which culminated during the course of City Hunter, but instead of gunfights with assassins and drug cartels, the tension is caused by realistic situations such as a boy lost in a flooding river and a photographer who may lose his sight because of a tragic accident. The title story of the collection involves a boy named Masaki who becomes mesmerized by Sara, daughter of the mobile florist that appeared in Masaki's little town one day. He happily listens to her odd, spiritual attitudes about plants, but it takes sharing a meaningful childhood tale involving the huge cherry tree in his backyard to win Sara over. When Masaki falls into the river while trying to save some flowers from a flood, Sara reveals her mysterious connection to plants by using the cherry tree's love for Masaki and his family to save the boy. After exposing her strange ability, Sara and her father must leave the town.

Cherry Blossoms in Bloom was the springboard for the 3-volume series Konorebi no Moto de (Beneath the Dappled Shade), which is filled with a variety of sweet and exciting stories in which plants play a significant role. The series is made sexier by Sara's ability to separate her spirit from her body, and her spirit is that of a beautiful adult woman. To add tension, a local teacher recognizes Sara from his collection of beautiful girl photos, only Sara looks exactly like she was eight years ago! Once Mr. Ooki sees Sara's spirit, he becomes obsessed with catching a photo of it.

RASH!! is a short series about a sexy doctor who can kick butt, and that comes in handy since she works at a penitentiary. The first chapter involves Dr. Yuki (long u) dealing with a speeding prison bus seized by prisoners taking advantage of the driver's heart attack. James Bond could only hope to be so sexy, determined and capable. Shonen stories with an expert, adult female lead are rare; ones portraying some of the men behind bars as something other than hardened criminals is also rare. Dr. Yuki's (long u) sassy confidence and competence offer plenty of humor to balance off the action and drama.

Hojo's (both o's long) next work, Shonen-tachi (long o) no Ita Natsu ~Melody of Jenny~(Summer of Boys ~Melody of Jenny~ Jump Comics Tsukasa Hojo (both o's long) Short Story Collection 3), allows little room for humor. Like the film Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies), Boys of Summer gives us a look at how the impersonal nature of political and military conflicts can affect people's lives in very personal ways, but Hojo (both o's long) approaches this theme with the additional element of multiculturalism. The title story involves a group of children, displaced during World War II, finding a white man hiding in an abandoned farm house from the Japanese military. Like many children sent from big cities into the countryside, the main characters wanted to escape the farm labor and go back home. David, the white man who eventually befriends them, also wants to return to Tokyo, to his Japanese wife and child. The result is a remarkable story both touching and tragic.

Family Compo (a.k.a. F Compo) is Hojo's (both o's long) most recent series which ran for fourteen volumes in Shueisha's Allman anthology. Arguably Hojo's (both o's long) best work, fans of Banana Yoshimoto might find the basic story familiar. After the death of his father, Masahiko is surprised by his mother at the door --she's been dead since he was two! But it's only his aunt inviting him into her family. Tempted, he visits on his pretty cousin's sixteenth birthday. The comfortable, caring quality of his aunt's family is a stark contrast to the barren family life he and his father lived. It all seems great until his drunk cousin dumps water on his uncle. Helping his uncle out of his wet shirt, he discovers his uncle is a woman. Then he learns his aunt's really his mother's brother. This causes him to have a serious gender crisis, casting doubt on even his pretty cousin. After this bumpy beginning, Masahiko's life with his new family continues with many amusing and thoughtful tales. Eventually he learns acceptance and comes to realize love is love, regardless of gender or appearances.

Hojo (both o's long) has always had a knack for portraying beautiful sexy characters and well-paced action. While Cat's Eye and City Hunter exemplify these attributes, they are by no means Hojo's (both o's long) only works worthy of note and appreciation. Indeed, it is his later work which best demonstrates the abilities of a mature and gifted story teller as well as those of a talented manga artist.

 

This is here for my sake. I mention all of them but the last, so don't worry about using it.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Cat's Eye
18 volumes
April 1982 - July 1985

City Hunter
35 volumes
January 1986 - April 1992

Tenshi no Okurimono (Angel's Gift)
Jump Comics Tsukasa Hojo (both o's long) Short Story Collection 1
November 1988

Sakura no Hana Sakukoro (Cherry Blossoms in Bloom)
Jump Comics Tsukasa Hojo (both o's long) Short Story Collection 2
May 1995

Konorebi no Moto de (Beneath the Dappled Shade)
3 volumes
March 1994 - July 1994

RASH!!
2 volumes
February 1995 - May 1995

Shonen-tachi no Ita Natsu ~Melody of Jenny~ (Summer of Boys ~Melody of Jenny~)
Jump Comics Tsukasa Hojo (both o's long) Short Story Collection 3
February 1996

Family Compo (a.k.a. F Compo)
14 volumes
April 1997 - November 2000

Parrot - Kofuku (long o) no Hito (Parrot - The Blessed Man)
a short story collection
February 2000


FEATURES - ARTICLE INDEX - RESUME INDEX - RESUME