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Manga Showdown: Lone Wolf & Cub vs. Astro Boy.

December 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Manga, News

( We’ve got a showdown of two influential manga series! Osamu Tezuka’s iconic shonen series Astro Boy will take on the Golden Duo of Goseki Kojima and Kazuo Koike’s samurai series Lone Wolf and Cub! Both series are ones that heavily influenced my love of manga but which one wins?

Astro Boy (1952-1968)

Astro Boy came out in 1952 and ran until 1968. It is one of those early series that defined shonen—basically manga and anime aimed at young boys. Astro Boy is an android boy built in the 21st century by Dr. Tenma to replaced his deceased son.

What we have here is essentially robot Pinocchio. This makes sense as Tezuka is consider the Japanese Walt Disney. Also, the series serves as Japan’s first superhero comic.

Our hero can fly, has super strength, speed, and durability, and can fire projectiles. Most of his stories has him fighting crime and like but there are stories about Astro dealing with not being a human and learning things along the way woven into all the action. Like Godzilla, Astro Boy is one of Japan’s post-war mega series that deals with science and—at times—war.

I discovered Astro Boy in the late 90s when I kept hearing about how important the series was online. Eventually, I read it in high school and while I did not—and still don’t—enjoy the artwork, I appreciated the story when it was a continuing story arc. I’m not a fan of episodic, baddie of the week stuff but I got into early Kinnikuman and Devil Man at this time.

Most of Astro Boy isn’t episodic but the chapters that are come off as hard filler. Still, there’s some strong writing here. It’s a really good manga but not Tezuka’s strongest work though it is his most influential. Capcom’s Mega Man is a classic video game series inspired by Astro Boy.

Lone Wolf and Cub (1970-1976)

This is Kojima and Koike’s first work together and was incredible out the gate. It tells the story of Ogami Itto, who serves as the official executioner for the shogun. Ogami is away on official business when his wife gives birth to their son Daigoro. When he gets home, he finds that his wife and their servants have all been murdered. Only Daigoro is left alive.

All of this is a set up by the Yagyu Clan headed up by Retsudo Yagyu. He wants Ogami’s position to give the Yagyu clan full power over enforcing laws. Evidence is planted which points to Ogami as not only the murderer but for conspiring for the shogun’s assassination!

After some time, Ogami gives his only, baby son a choice. If he crawled to the ball, Ogami would mercy kill him and set out after Yagyu alone. If Daigoro crawled to the sword, he would join him on the path of vengeance. Daigoro went to the sword and the two set off—hence Lone Wolf and Cub.

This was the second manga I ever got. The artwork was detailed but had this noir-manga vibe to it to match the dark, noir story. Most stories involved the two meeting villagers or potential clients to carry out assassinations for them. In background, the Yagyu Clan were plotting Ogami’s death as his fangs and claws were turned on them. Every volume had at least one big Ogami and Daigoro vs. Yagyu Clan battle.

The duo often traveled by foot with Daigoro riding in a baby cart—hence The Baby Cart Assassin nickname for the film series—that had spring spears and detachable spears in the framework. Daigoro had gotten so accustomed to seeing his father kill that he provided support on instinct. Their father-son relationship is equal parts cool, heart-warming, and odd.

Like Lone Wolf and Cub would win numerous awards for art and writing and spawn films. The Golden Duo’s work would result in a spin-off as well and inspired Frank Miller’s Sin City and Ronin, Max Allan Collins’ Road to Perdition, and Gendy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack. Lone Wolf and Cub is one of the landmark series of the more mature seinen demographic in manga.

Winner: Lone Wolf and Cub

While Astro Boy really got things rolling for the modern manga industry and the storytelling was far from bad—the storytelling and art style doesn’t touch the landmark work of the Golden Duo. I can say that Astro Boy is historically significant and introduced a couple of tropes. It established early shonen storytelling before other writers came along and built on it.

However, Lone Wolf and Cub—debuting as Tezuka was working on Phoenix—is a gorgeous series artistically and has some of the best dramatic writing for a manga series. Tezuka’s Black Jack, Dororo, Phoenix, and Princess Knight could all match Lone Wolf and Cub in the story department but if we’re being honest, Tezuka’s art style looked dated by the late 1960s as artists such as Goseki Kojima came onto the scene.

Plus, we’re pitting Astro Boy against Lone Wolf and Cub. Astro Boy wins the influence battle but goes 1-2 against the influential jidaigeki series.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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