(the special number featuring announcement pages of “Shonen”magazine in 1959,1960.)
(the special number featuring announcement pages of “Shonen”magazine in 1959,1960.)
In 1949, he was born in Ninohe-City in Iwate Prefecture.
After graduating from Daito-Bunka-University, he entered “New Design Center “in Shimbashi,Tokyo.
He was mainly in charge of picture conte of TV.
In 1971, he was invited by Eiichi Murano with who he had become acquainted with during college days to join a dojinshi circle “Kijin-Club”
(dojinshi: publication aimed at a hobby, or a fanzine)
He released “Miiko-Metamorphosis””The Adventure of Kotono””Super NYANNYAN”etc.
After leaving the company and working as a freelancer, he opened the secondhand comics shop “Natsuman-King” (the present name “Seiwado”) in Shinkoiwa, Tokyo.
He presides over a dojinshi circle “Apple-BOX-Create”.
He has published “Shonen-Natsuman-Oh””Manga-Ichi”, reprints of many old comics, and so.
Mr. Takahashi says
“During my dojinshi activity, Osamu Tezuka died. Hibari Misora and Yujiro Ishihara died.
The economic bubble burst, and the Showa era was over. I retired from the work of picture conte, opened a secondhand bookstore, and 30 years have passed…”
Close to Shin-Koiwa Station, on the first floor of the apartment facing Kuramae Street, there is a secondhand bookstore.
With “Seiwa-do” written in gentle gold-lettering on the door, it has such a discreet appearance that many would not notice it is a used bookstore at first glance. However, it is actually a well-known vintage manga specialty store, overflowing with valuable vintage manga books inside.
The shopkeeper is a comic artist, Chiko Takahashi, who has created works such as “Miiko Metamorphosis.” At the same time, he runs the fanzine group “Apple Box Create”.
At present, Apple Box Create regularly publishes two series called “Natsuman-Oh” and “Manga-Ichi”.
Reprinting old manga not published as a single title and lining it up with the cover of when it appeared on the magazine, both fanzines are published four or five times a year. Add single reprinting of old manga, and it publishes twenty-four or twenty-five issues per year.
The distinctive feature of Apple Box Create is its deep attachment to old manga which can even be called an obsession, and the depth and the length of its challenge that overwhelms others.
In April 2018, the 50th “Shonen-Natsuman-Oh” was published. The old manga reprinting project will celebrate its 30th anniversary in the summer of the same year.
Regarding this marvelous achievement, I hardly have any words to describe it.
I asked Mr. Takahashi what his motivation to continue up to this point is, and why he has been continuing reprinting like this.
I personally expected words that talked about a strong sense of mission and passion, but such words never came out from him.
Mr. Takahashi, with a quiet manner, seems like the person who originally does not have words of such high-handed attitude in his dictionary.
When he talked about delight, his words were modest. And even when he recounted his hardships, a serene atmosphere, as if looking back through the eyes of a third person, drifted.
Thus, only the enormously large facts he has piled up, remain.
Mr. Takahashi says.
“I mainly run reprints in the fanzine now, but this is just an extension of common fanzine activity. I began publishing reprints in midstream and this activity has gotten more publicity.”
In 1971, Mr. Takahashi started his career at the well-known fanzine “Kijin-Club”.
（the leader: Eiichi Muraoka).
“Kijin-Club” known widely for “COM” was also where Fumiko Okada debuted and had Katsuhiro Otomo appearing as a guest on it too.
“Some made a debut and others retired, several people and I remained. Then, from a certain time, I began editing for myself, with my own works and others which I invited.”
He said that the course of action was not clear at the beginning. He mainly put parody, but he soon noticed that readers liked the special features of old manga from their reaction.
Mr. Takahashi embarked on reprint in response to the comment from readers, which gradually came to be the life-work for Apple-Box-Create.
“Apple-Pururu..”: the first fanzine Mr. Takahashi edited alone and ran old manga.
The preparations for reprint begins several years before.
At first, he looks for originals for a long time.
Then, he contacts the author and asks for their permission to reprint for free, saying that fans are longing to read the work.
He makes 100 copies in offset printing now, taking on the full cost himself.
After printing, he distributes them for around 2000 yen through mail order and in two or three secondhand bookstores.
By the way, according to Mr. Takahashi, the number of 100 copies is the minimum number to call for an order at a printing office at present.
“If it is lower than 100, the printing fee will come too high. If higher than 100, the excess stock is troublesome.”
He doesn’t make a second impression. Because he must make it in units of 100 copies, it’s not easy to make an additional printing.
In the first place, he often cannot contact the author.
Due to old manga, not a few authors are missing.
Some authors have died, and even the deceased families are lost.
Under these circumstances, Mr. Takahashi generally publishes it with the proviso “Please contact me if you know their contacts” or sometimes he gives it up altogether. It depends on the circumstance.
Furthermore, even if he can contact the author, their permission is not given so often.
Even if he can make contact with the author, permission is not often granted.
Of the power relationships concerning copyrights, among companies, productions, authors and other persons with rights, an independent fanzine not linked with any organization is in the weakest position.
“In particular, I have admiration that is almost like fear to the authors I was fond of as a reader. So I can hardly bring myself to visit them and ask for reprint permission directly. I step back psychologically,” Mr. Takahashi says.
The path to arrive at an author and earn their understanding is far for individuals.
When a fan or a fan club helps him approach an author, it is ideal, he says.
Without a fan’s cooperation, a reprint is often called off or it does not go well after all.
Mr. Takahashi says.
When he contacts an author for reprint, malicious rumors sometimes are spread from fans.
Mr. Takahashi guesses that the fan might think it unpleasant that he approached close to the author for reprint permission.
On occasion, irrelevant people speak ill of him to the author, I hear.
“If a person thinks of me as an obstructive person, he might say anything behind my back. What is more, he writes abuse so that it is not a complete lie by mixing some truth and some speculation. Therefore, it looks quite true. They should have just asked me a question directly.”
When a rumor spread that he profited by reprint without permission, it influenced not only that occasion but also others.
Not a few authors who had given their approval changed their attitude completely.
Though he once got permission, he was forbidden to do so after he reprinted 1-2 works.
On another occasion,one of the authors,who had approved, said that he had no recollection of having given the permission. So Mr. Takahashi couldn’t avoid offering an apology.
“At such times, I feel depressed,” Mr. Takahashi says.
Some people reprints coarsely with no copyright and sells them for high prices on the Internet.
But Mr. Takahashi does not want to do such a thing.
“Doing that, we get nothing but money. Besides, bad reputation spreads. I am such a coward that doing so would make me unhappy. After all, all I want is to have readers say “You have done well” or “very nostalgic.””
All Mr. Takahashi hopes for is the evaluation from readers.
Some manga artists or bereaved families were pleased with Mr. Takahashi’s reprint.
When he asked for permission of the reprint of “Donguri Tengu” by Soji Ushio, the answer was deferred. But after getting involved in the publication trouble with a fan’s company, the plan was met with a hitch.
After ten-odd years and after the author’s death, Mr. Takahashi happened to be acquainted with the author’s son, Mr.Shiro Sagisu(a composer of “Evangelion””Shin Gozilla”). And then, he obtained his cheerful consent as the author’s son said, “It’s a pleasure that you reprint my father’s work.”
“Byakko-Kamen” by Tomohiko Oka was also a nice case in which the author’s son friendly approved.
What will I reprint next? It is pleasant for Mr. Takahashi to think so.
He thinks that his fanzine’s readers are the same generation’s people as him.
When he receives a sympathetic reaction from people who shared the same age with him, he is pleased.
People who live on a pension and have fewer opportunities to buy such a fanzine are the main subscribers of Mr. Takahashi’s reprints.
He has never intended to give up making a fanzine. Because he felt responsible for the readers who were waiting for the release.
Mr. Takahashi says,” When I begin to cause trouble for my friends, or when the readers of the same generation retire and the sales becomes under 50, I may intend to stop it.”
Mr. Shigekazu Imairi is a top collector of Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s works, who has appeared in this blog previously.
He was the chairperson of the Mitsuteru Yokoyama club, and having the author’s strong trust, he would frequently visit the author’s residence.
When Mr. Takahashi went to Mandarake in Nakano, he got to know Mr. Imairi by chance. He said that he is reprinting old manga and that he wants to reprint Yokoyama’s works if possible.
Mr. Imairi’s reaction was quick.
“Then you had better meet Yokoyama Sensei directly.”
Saying so, he contacted the Yokoyama’s house and took Mr. Takahashi.
Mr. Takahashi met the great author there and he was able to get permission to reprint the works where original manuscripts were not left.
Mr. Imairi generously offered Mr. Takahashi materials for reprint from his enormous collections.
Now “Mitsuteru Yokoyama Masterpiece Collections” by Apple-box-Create is appreciated as a complement of the official complete works by Hikari-Production, I hear.
These reprints of Yokoyama’s works bolstered Mr. Takahashi’s making of another one.
“The existence of Mr. Imairi is large beyond description.
I think that I would not have been able to continue reprinting without his help,”
Mr. Takahashi said.
the back cover of “Natsuman-Oh”No.50
the reprints of Yokoyama’s works
Actually, is this profitable?
Mr. Takahashi has been rumored to have gained very much by reprinting. Rumors say that he built a house by reprint.
As for making a fanzine, he always places an order with a long familiar printing office and prints 100 copies with offset printing.
As for the size, it is A5. The cover is full color. Both “Natsuman-oh” and “Manga-ichi” have 200-250 pages.
“At first, I distribute them to fans who reserved, and consign two-tenths. But however popular it is, one-tenth remains unsold,” Mr. Takahashi says.
“But if seventy percent of it sells, I do not suffer from a serious cost.”
Seeing the price of the printing office for reference, I groaned.
Is the production cost covered each time?
Otherwise, this is not a matter of whether he gains or not, but whether he suffers running a deficit or not, I said to him.
“But I don’t reprint as a business. I make a living by another means,”
Mr. Takahashi protests earnestly.
Mr. Takahashi runs a secondhand bookstore and sells vintage comics in not only the store but also on the lists.
With the spread of the Internet, the running of a secondhand bookstore is very hard these days, but, these days aside, the times when he was relatively well off were long, Mr. Takahashi said.
At first, he had his creative activity as a manga artist.
“My work… slightly dirty-minded, the name is exactly “the Eros”” Mr. Takahashi laughed.
“In addition, the work about a girl with cat ears “Miiko Metamorphosis”, or works like that, whenever I published 500- 1000 copies, would sell tens of thousands of yen worth.”
All of them became funds for the reprinting.
Mr. Takahashi says,
“I don’t make a living by reprint”.
“Nobody thinks that I continue publishing while bleeding. But this is not a business. It’s a hobby. A hobby is for one’s pleasure. So it’s natural that I suffer a loss.”
“Nobody thinks that I continue publishing while bleeding. But this is not business. It’s a hobby, a hobby to the end. A hobby is something for my pleasure. So it’s natural that I suffer a loss.”
But who continues bleeding calmly while going into the red, lowering their head and standing weak before the copyright, just because it is a hobby?
Who continues the” hobby” for several decades, saying it’s natural to suffer a loss?
There was a great gap between Mr. Takahashi’s calm attitude and his strenuous act.
But Mr. Takahashi himself did not seem to notice it at all.
It might let people who were apt to see things from a cost-benefit standpoint guess that he would be gaining money after all.
Probably it was something which really fit inside the ” hobby” genre at first. It was fun and interesting, and readers were pleased.
But, I presume that his word “hobby” might have begun to separate from the general meaning through his many years of activity.
Perhaps it has become sharpened as an expression of more positive, more limitative and a more inviolable domain?
Yukio Izumi ”Prince of the sea Tantan”
Mr. Takahashi’s turning point, who had been a manga artist of a fanzine, came with the arrival of offset printing.
The form of fanzines changed from the earliest handwritten fanzine to a copied one, and then, to an offset printing done by a printing office.
When their fanzine became printed by offset printing, not by homemade copy, Mr. Takahashi began to worry about the level of its contents. The offset looked more attractive by far and involved
“But the level of manuscripts was uneven. If we collect membership fees and make a fanzine together, we must print manuscripts of low level too.
But is it okay that we bother to print it in a printing office and have readers buy it? I came to think so. And then, I began to make a fanzine alone.”
At the spread of offset printing,what put Mr.Takahashi in trouble was his inside eyes which overlooked the whole. In addition, it was his feeling that couldn’t be indifferent to the form’s beauty, and that wanted readers not to be depressed with its contents.
It may be called a natural editor temperament, but he had the eyes which distinguished levels, and was consciousness to feel that form requires a matching level of content.
Consequently, Mr. Takahashi started being responsible for editing and came to realize the fun of picking artists with his horizontal connection to compose a fanzine that satisfies his discerning eyes.
“If I edit it with my own effort, I can call an artist that I felt was nice from beyond the group. Besides, I can reward their cooperation with works as a manga artist.”
The works which he thinks good, and the works which readers think good.
In that way, as mentioned before, reprinting of old manga began.
It seems that it was just one of the various ways for filling the pages at first.
But,during many years, probably as he faced increasing difficulty of production, the fanzine and reprinting became closely connected with each other, like two wheels of the car,for
“I don’t want to make a commercial magazine.”
Mr. Takahashi firmly asserted.
“A publishing company sometimes does reprints. They publish two or three works, but give it up. Because a company must think of its profit. ”
Mr. Takahashi has seen a lot of publishers that started reprints vigorously but couldn’t maintain the project.
“I notice I don’t see the reprints lately, Then, I find that they have disappeared.”
On the other hand, some publishers do reprints steadily and commercially.
But it is mainly reprints of marketable works in prospect of the number of the purchasing.
Apple-Box-Create has reprinted some famous works, but has published a lot of minor works which may not been published by others without hesitation.
Someone advised Mr. Takahashi to reprint only works that sell well.
But Mr. Takahashi says, “Profitable reprint is suitable for commercial publication”.
“Commercial publishing costs incomparably, too. I reprint just because there are waiting readers even if it doesn’t sell well. I have kept doing projects that only individuals can do.”
But it is difficult for the idea of “the project that only an individual can do” to gain understanding.
“The bereaved family, who I had been approaching for several years, accepted the reprint at the beginning. But as soon as I said the concrete contents, they refused its reprint because it was different from their image. In addition, another bereaved family said that they couldn’t give permission without a royalty.”
“What had they imagined about its reprint?” Mr. Takahashi thinks.
Had they imagined that the work would be published as a major commercial book?
Mr. Takahashi said to them that he understood.
And he swallowed the words that he wanted to say after.
“If this reprint is not published now, this work will not remain. Probably, several decades later, it becomes nothing.”
Anybody will do if a person leaves this work in the world; Mr. Takahashi says.
“Rather, I want to cooperate ”
I guess it was just the joy of reprinting at first.
Encouraged by readers’ comments that they felt nostalgic, the joy of reprinting was even more
simple and clear.
But after long times, suffering various hardships for the republication, Mr. Takahashi must have been faced with conditions to accomplish continued reprinting over and over again.
Especially the recognition about the limits of all commercial reprint was decisive for him,I presume.
A fanzine, of small circulation, and his intention of reprint may not be understood by a copyright holder even if he asks for permission.
This narrow way which is vague and unstable, and is sometimes exposed to slander is the most reliable way for Mr. Takahashi’s ideals of reprint at present.
And I think, when Mr. Takahashi knew it unconsciously, he might have been dragged into reprinting in its true meaning.
This connoisseur who is familiar with the history of comics knows the value of many obscure works.
Mr. Takahashi says that he can continue because it is a hobby. But it sounds that he doesn’t have the reason to stop and that he must continue because it is a hobby, like a declaration of resolve.
Please tell me a reprint that you think is important especially.
When I asked so, Mr. Takahashi took out two thick books.
Written by Seiichi Haruna
“Where is a Blue Bird?”
(“Shojo-Club” May 1958 – March 1959)
In 2005, Apple-box-Create reprinted this long girls’ comic in two volumes.
Mr. Takahashi said,
“Mitsuo Higashiura is now unfamiliar to people. The story is ordinary, but
the picture was outstandingly charming in those days.”
Mitsuo Higashiura (1930-2012)
He debuted in 1937 when he was 17 years old. He continued for many years while passing through several changes in his style.His early works are a marine adventure dramas “Sea Wolf” “Coward Whaling Corps” etc.After that, he published the historical dramas “Hayabusa-Zukin” “Soramame-Dohji” in some boys’ monthly magazines.And he also created early girls’ comic like most other male manga artists did, and published serializations in “Shoujo” “Shoujo Club” “Weekly Shoujo Friend”.
In addition, he has works such as “Mumyou Gennojo” (1966) written by Mitsuteru Yokoyama.
“Where is a Blue Bird?” is the story of a girl who grew up in a mean woman’s house who looks for happy life with her real mother.
The girl, Hizuru, who had been reluctantly brought up to be a Maiko in Kyoto knew
that her mother was living in Tokyo.
She went to Tokyo with a ribbon with diamond, a token of the parent-child
relationship, as she was running away.Meanwhile, her mother lived with Hizuru’s younger brother Masami, who had become a child star, but came near to being robbed of their residence by a bad person due to the debt of the uncle of Hizuru. What can save this predicament is only the diamond ribbon which was given to Hizuru who was adopted into another home.But the mother does not know where Hizuru is. On the other hand, Hizuru was robbed of the bag with the ribbon by a boy pickpocket in a train going to Tokyo.
Though a girl wandering for happiness, looking for her real mother, is a very common storyline, it was particularly prevailing in those days.
Mitsuo Higashiura published a lot of stories of such unhappy girls in girls’ comic magazines.
In “Shoujo” magazine, he drew “Kanariya-san” “Barairo-Tenshi” “Namida-no-Orgel”, all of which are stories of an orphaned girl in search for happiness.
“Shoujo” is a girls’ magazine that was published from 1949 through 1963 by Kobunsha.
One of its characteristics is that Tomoko Matsushima, a child-star, made the cover approximately all the time during the 1950s.
By the way, in 1957, Higashiura published a biography comic of Tomoko Matsushima “Manga-Monogatari Tomoko-chan” from Kobunsha.
In those days the editorial department of “Shoujo” magazine was committed to true stories and published a series of unhappy stories of which Tomoko actually encountered on the extra editions or the supplements.
In “Manga-Monogatari Tomoko-chan” by Higashiura, Tomoko’s unfortunate early background in which she was deprived of her father due to the war was described at first, and afterwards the sad stories that Tomoko really encountered were presented.
In the early 30s of the Showa era, when people still had a real feeling of the disasters of World War II, what “Shoujo” requred of their symbol Tomoko Matsushima was an image that she kept sadness to herself and shared a search for happiness like the other girls in spite of being a star.
And it was Mitsuo Higashiura that supported it from the side of manga.
Higashiura’s depiction of cute yet unhappy girls seemed to be evaluated by the editorial department as that which expressed the appearance and mentality of Tomoko Matsushima: an icon of the times in those days.
In addition, the author, Seiichi Haruna participated in this sad yet true story series
and collaborated with Higashiura a few times. He wrote several original comics and illustrated stories in some monthly girls’ magazines.
“Hahako-gusa” by him, which narrates the story of a girl who lost her father in an accident,remains in the National Diet Library.
This Higashiura, tagging with the said Haruna, changed his stage to “Shoujo-Club” by Kodansha and changed the heroine’s name from Tomoko to another star, Hizuru Takachiho’s name. This, another of his specialty story of a poor girl’s search for happiness, is this work “Where is a blue bird?”
Hizuru, who had escaped from her mean aunt and left Kyoto for Tokyo, fortunately met with her real mother. But knowing the loss of the ribbon with a diamond, the mother is hospitalized for anxiety. Her younger brother Masami is targeted by a bad person. The uncle is imprisoned.
Though she discovered the ribbon they had longed for, the joy was short-lived, as Masami loses his foot in an accident.
The bad people were arrested at last, but just after that, a fire due to the uncle’s negligence deprived them of both the mansion and the diamond. So, they fell to the slums, living hands to
mouth. To cure Masami’s foot, Hizuru went back to Kyoto to become a Maiko that she had so disliked. But Masami who was pessimistic about his foot runs away to Hokkaido, and Hizuru also flies to Hokkaido immediately. But on that airplane, a time bomb was planted.
This grand roller coaster story continues further. It is full of events, with Hizuru joining a circus troupe in Hokkaido, and Masami being involved in an incident regarding the hidden treasure of Ainu. This was when “The Whistle of Kotan” about an Ainu sibling was popular.
Is this really a sad story? No, it is different.
Hizuru, who always cried with a troubled expression in the first half, grows to accomplish
remarkable feats such as looking for the diamond, supporting her mother, and worrying about her younger brother while only occasionally shedding tears.
In Kyoto, where she returned, she scatters sparks on the stage with her rival as a Maiko. In the circus troupe in Hokkaido, she saves an emergency on stage with her talent of dance and receives cheers, completely wiping out the impression of her tearful days as a Maiko .
Her childish appearance gradually matures, and she becomes a girl who can create her own future when she says to her mother apologizing for her weakness: “We are a mother and a child, aren’t we? ・・・We swore to work together until we will get happiness, didn’t we? ”
In the end, as for the economic conditions, and as for Masami’s foot too, the real problems remain unsolved, but the mother and children go back to Tokyo from Hokkaido, brimming with vigor. Masami became strong mentally through life with the people of Ainu.
When reading “Where is a blue bird?”, in this story of the search for happiness by an unhappy girl, the best thing in those days–the thing called hope–began to overflow inevitably, which moved me deeply.
This work must be a big present that Mitsuo Higashiura left in the field of girls’ comics.
But at present, it is only 100 copies by Apple-box-Create that lets us be captivated by this
hopeful story similar to a rapid stream gaining momentum.
Mr. Takahashi turns 69 years old this year.
“When I reached my sixties, I thought that I entered the age where I don’t know what will happen from now on.”
“My body may come not to move. How long would I have enough energy to publish this?” Mr. Takahashi wonders.
But he says that there are still 20 or 30 works that he has already finished assembling its
originals as he thought republishing could be possible.
“They may increase. Having done them, and when I think that I have almost nothing to regret—that is when I want to conclude reprinting. When I reach the stage where I am satisfied with it, I hope I settle this.”
“In addition, If I finish my work that is published twice a year, it will be a good conclusion to my fanzine activity.”
The most important work by Mr. Takahashi “Miiko Metamorphosis” appears serially now.
He says that he created the heroine Miiko to appeal to men, but that she has become really pretty over time.
Mr. Takahashi as a manga artist is a born storyteller.
“At the start, there is something that I want to draw, and I proceed to the scene which I want to draw. Once I reach the scene, I can go until the ending without stopping. I can weave the story as I imagine it.”
His knowledge, his experience and his ability, and the human relations and his contribution for others, so to speak, all of him is there.
Making a fanzine is the very meaning to live.
That reminds me, when I asked Mr. Takahashi what kind of tenacity makes him continue like this.
“I need not to say tenacity particularly. This is like air.”
He said in his usual, even tone.
“Unless I breathe it, I will die”
“Manga-ichi”14th. in 2014
I don’t know whether it continues today or not, but there formerly existed a meeting for unpublished Japanese literature documents. The members excavated some unknown documents and
reprinted them and distribute it in the circle. When I found out about the reprints by Mr. Takahashi, I remembered the group.
Manga will become something that people who dig up unknown things strenuously will look for after this.
“Though it does not become the topic now, I don’t know what will happen in the times to come. If I continue like this, a small publishing company may someday think of taking it up.” Somebody will use this fanzine as a document sometime, Mr. Takahashi says.
Copyright is something absolutely necessary.
But it is a different large problem to maintain intellectual property as a document in order to maintain the rich harvest of the next age that lies in the active use of the inheritance from former ages.
While some companies monopolizing copyrights often seal information, the fanzines’ world, such as The Material Exhibition, takes this job now.
It took form this time as well. Mr. Takahashi feels relieved.
He has given a form to the will to produce, and he tastes just short-lived relief.
One of these days, he must set the limit. But he intends to stay here a little longer.
Under the banner of “hobby”, how much labor for nothing maintains the world?
Everyone leaves someday. Huge mountains are left behind.