Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dart Adams presents Tokyo Tribes by Inoue Santa

Writer and inker Inoue Santa (Rinjin 13-go, Born 2 Die, Tokyo Grafitti) was already well known for his manga and his art before he created the successful manga title "Tokyo Tribe" back in 1993. "Tokyo Tribe" ran for a number of years and detailed the lifes of different gangs or tribes in Tokyo. Since Santa was born in 1968, he grew up on Hip Hop culture and was heavily influenced by it, he decided to infuse "Tokyo Tribes" with those elements to make it stand out from the other manga series that pervaded the marketplace.

In 1998, after starting his Santastic! clothing line that features characters from "Tokyo Tribe" and doing a bunch of graphic design work for other companies Inoue decided to make a sequel to "Tokyo Tribe". The story would include the main tribes from the original storyline but with different characters and have the events happen five years after the "Tokyo Tribe" story ended. It was called "Tokyo Tribes" and it enjoyed quite a run (1998-2005) and influenced and inspired a bunch of other artists and toy creators.

The main characters consist of Kai, a member of a gang called Saru. In the original story, the main character Nagisa was a member of the Shinjuku Saru. These Saru were started by Kai's boy Tera, whom we later find out in a supplemental manga story was a friend of Nagisa's who started his branch of the Saru to honor his fallen friend. Five years back, there was a huge riot/gang war in which several people lost their lives. Since that day, things had been relatively peaceful between the tribes.

Kai is a DJ and the Masashino Saru are pretty much a crew of cats that chill at this diner called Penny's and party. They also watch each others back when beef jumps off but they rarely start any. Kai's former best friend Mera and his boy Skunk have gone off and taken control of a massive gang called the Wuronz. Mera is a tall bald cat who rocks yellow Timberlands, a long winter coat and his signature chain at all times. He also carries around a katana blade and he's extremely deadly with it. Kai opts for an aluminum bat as his weapon of choice.

Kai hears that Mera and his Wuronz are tearing shit up in town and wonders what's going on. About a year ago Mera told him that if he saw him again he'd kill him at a friend's funeral. Kai has no idea why Mera wants him dead as he didn't explain what he believes Kai has done to him. The funeral was for Mera's girlfriend Fujio who died the night Kai won a prestigious DJ contest. While Kai was there when she died, he doesn't understand how Mera can fault him for her death. Either way, both former friends are now at odds.

Not only that, but since the Bukuro Wuronz are encroaching on the territories of other tribes, the old days seem to be coming back. After a couple of Masashino Saru are found dead in the wrong part of town some members of the Saru try to get revenge on whom they think the culprits are. Kai does some investigating and discovers that the Wuronz are involved somehow and a girl that resembles Fujio that works at the brothel the Sarus went to are all tied together somehow.

Mera and his Wuronz are backed by Buppa, a sadistic Yakuza boss that resembles Jabba The Hut in more ways than one. He wants the Bukuro Wuronz to take over other gangs and absorb them as well as acquiring girls to become escorts and sex workers for his brothels. Mera won't allow the girl called Sunmi to have customers because she reminds him of his own dead girlfriend. This becomes a problem later on.

Mera approaches Kai several times and attempts to kill him but each time something else occurs that ends up stopping him from finishing the job. Tera sacrifices himself and begs Mera to rethink things just as Mera was about the deliver his finishing blow. He is shook to his core that Tera would defend his friend like that. Afterwards, things begin to get really crazy. I would go more into detail about what happens with the characters but I don't want to spoil it for you all.

In 2005, the "Tokyo Tribes" manga was adapted into a 13 episode anime series and produced by the world famous Madhouse Studios after the final volume of the series was produced. It aired in Japan back in 2006 and was wildly successful, Santa's clothing line even features clothing and gear from/inspired by the biggest tribes in his manga. You can go into stores and get your own Saru or Shinjuku Hands gear if you want. Santa also used several emcees for inspiration with his character designs.

You have the O.G. Shinjuku Saru Renkon Chef (rocking the eyepatch above and below), Shinjuku Hands leader Iwao looks like Ice Cube and his girl Eve, a Black American superhuman cyborg hitman with a trusty PSP named Jadakins (that looks like Ben Wallace with cornrows), Don Chichi who looks like Baby and his woman Fox "Boogie" Brown. There's also Sleepy who resembles a Japanese Snoop Dogg. The music supervisor of the anime series was the world famous DJ Muro, also known as The King Of Diggin'. Love, the protagonist of Santa's "Tokyo Graffiti" manga also makes a cameo as well.

The other main tribe, the Shinjuku Hands were a big part of the initial story. It's leader Iwao (above inbetween Renkon Chef and Kai) used to clash with the Shinjuku Saru leader Nagisa quite often. Fujio was Nagisa's girlfriend but she left Shinjuku after the uprising and the death of Nagisa to move to Mera and Kai's town. She fell in love with Mera and was friends with Kai until her mysterious death the night of the DJ contest. That's the super back story.

"Tokyo Tribes" was called "Tokyo Tribe2" to avoid confusion between Madhouse Studios' anime series and the line of manga/graphic novels. It was optioned to be adapted into a live action feature by MTV back around the same time the anime was but it may never be produced and if anyone wants to make it they'll have to go acquire the rights from them. Currently, Santa started making a third part to the series called "Tokyo Tribes 3" back in March as well as expanding his Santastic! clothing line and stores by working with Adidas to produce gear inspired by his manga series.

Vee of the Hip Hop art blog Scritch and Scratch recently put me on to this anime. Since it still hasn't been released in North America as of yet you'll have to go to the following spots to watch it and experience the same thing that made me miss most of my Sunday night and Monday afternoon trying to watch/acquire all 13 episodes.



Langdon Alger said...

great Tokyo Tribes write up..hip hop heads who were around during the "golden era" of the 90's would definitely appreciate this manga

Vee (Scratch) said...

I forgot to mention I was referring to the manga. I nearly forgot about the anime. I have the whole manga series. Pretty decent.

Dart Adams said...

@ Vee:

Yeah, I've seen the anime and checked out a few TPB's of "Tokyo Tribes". The original "Tokyo Tribe" series is harder to get a hold of, though.

Good lookin' out.


Vee (Scratch) said...

Yo, I didn't realize that there was a Tokyo Tribe manga series. I only heard of the Tribe(s).

. . . and good looking for the 13 episodes link. I now have all of them. It's not coming to the States, I read a while back that MTV was going to pick it up. I guess it did not happen. Love the Internets!

Anonymous said...

I never watched the whole anime for TT2, but I got some of the volumes in English and Japanese, plus the original Tokyo Tribe volume. Even though Santa Inoue's drawings can be a bit wonky, the guy's got a lot of style. It's kinda interesting to spot all the references to Hip Hop culture, like the way some of the characters are named or modeled after real rappers.

I always thought it was weird how Iwao (the Ice Cube-lookin' guy) is a sort of good guy in Tokyo Tribe 2, since he was SUPER evil in the first story.