Japanese Comic Review: Silver Fang Legend “Gin”

One of my niche markets is Japanese manga comics. At the outset I did not know much about Japanese manga, but I was interested in the genre and in the social phenomenon of manga in Japan.

However, I gradually received requests from people living outside of Japan for various manga titles, and so with the help of my customers, I gradually built up a knowledge of manga. One of the most popular manga series that I offer is called Silver Fang Legend Gin.I recently wrote an article about the manga series, and reproduce it here:

In 1984, Japanese comic magazine Shonen Jump began publishing a new manga series by manga artist Yoshihiro Takahashi.The series ran for two years and was called “Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin“, or “Silver Fang Legend Gin” in English.

What was especially notable about the series was that the “hero” of the story was a Japanese akita dog called “Gin” (which is the Japanese word for “silver”). The akita dog, from Akita Prefecture in northern Honshu, Japan, is a versatile hunting dog that is ideal for hunting deer, bear and game. It is also the national dog of Japan.

Yoshihiro Takahashi, who was born in Akita Prefecture, is said to have been inspired to create a manga series with an akita dog as the hero after reading a news article about stray dogs that turned wild, formed dog packs and lived in the mountains.

Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin” is set in the Ohu mountains in the remote north eastern region of Honshu, an area populated by Japanese black bears. The story gradually shifts its focus from a hunting community, with man and dog responding to the menace of giant bears, to the animal world and the visceral conflict between bears and dogs.

Each group, humans, dogs and bears, consists of various characters, breeds or types, which adds variety and deepens the interest and complexity of the story.

The story opens with an account of how an akita puppy, Gin, loses his father, Riki, when Riki is thrown over a cliff during a fight with a gigantic bear called Akakabuto.

Thinking that Riki is dead, his master, Gohe, abandons him. Gin, and his young master, Daisuke, head off to hunt down and kill the giant bear. But the bear they succeed in killing turns out not to be Akakabuto.

Worse still, Akakabuto has gathered a whole gang of bears. Eventually, Gin leaves Daisuke and joins a dog pack that has formed to fight the bears.It transpires that the dogs are able to talk to each other, just as humans are, although the humans think the dogs are simply barking and yelping. The leader of the dog pack is Riki, Gin’s father, a charismatic leader. Unfortunately, however, he has lost his memory as a result of his fall during his fight with Akakabuto, so he does not recognize his son when Gin joins the dog pack…

The story involves a lot of violence but it proved to be popular enough for it to be turned into a ten volume manga book series. In 1987, Yoshihiro Takahashi’s achievement was recognized and “Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin” received a Shogakukan Manga Award.

In 1999, Yoshihiro Takahashi brought out a sequel called “Ginga Densetsu Weed“. He also wrote a prequel series, which was combined in a single six-chapter volume called “Ginga Densetsu Riki“.

The manga was turned into a television animation by Toei Animation and broadcast in Japan in 1986. It was released in the West as a video series dubbed into English and other languages, but because of the brutality of the fighting scenes it was considered too violent for children in its uncensored form and quite severely cut in several places.

David Hurley