Excellent works of art are always long lasting, that is especially true for one such old title, a work well worthy of comparing to Godzilla (which is currently facing a Hollywood remake). That work is Shotaro Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009. The first chapter of the original manga was published in 1964. Even among Japanese fans, there are very few who remember that the cyborg warriors wore a green costume back then. Also, at that time, Ishinomori was still using the name Ishimori. Nonetheless, Cyborg 009 hasn’t been forgotten in the past half century. The series gathered new fans in every generation, whether it was from the anime that was remade several times or from collaborations with various companies that used the popularity of the characters in their commercials. In other words, the public image of the series was solidified by the ‘70s even among those who had never come into contact with the original work. By the way, the original manga had more than 10 million copies printed in total.
009 Re:Cyborg, which released in October 2012, dared to re-interpret such a big, deeply rooted name. The movie’s director and scriptwriter Kenji Kamiyama himself, who is also a big lover of the series, said that the “reboot was a difficult project, since Cyborg 009 was unfinished.” What was Kenji Kamiyama trying to bring back to life?
Kamiyama: I wanted to place the characters before the eyes of today’s young people and have them look at the world. I thought that would be interesting. That is what I wanted to depict the most in 009 Re:Cyborg.
Being born in 1966, Kamiyama experienced first hand the golden age of Cyborg 009. He made his debut in 2002 with Mobile Police Patlabor Minimum: Minipato, a short anime featured together with WXIII Patlabor the Movie 3. However, out of the works he has directed, it is probably Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002) that showed the strongest authorship. Centered around the original story development, Kamiyama’s Ghost in the Shell is themed around the depth of sociality. SAC is often called the “3rd Ghost in the Shell” in addition to Masamune Shirow’s original manga and the movies directed by Mamoru Oshii, Kamiyama’s mentor. After depicting a stout drama in the Ghost in the Shell series, Kamiyama tackled Cyborg 009 as his first remake title. When the project started, he participated in writing a script and Mamoru Oshii was planned for director. However, his script, aiming for the “rebirth of 009” was adopted, and in the end, he took over directing as well.
Kamiyama: Sci-fi until the ‘80s had dreamt that the world would become borderless, become one... However, in reality, the cold war had ended and the Berlin Wall was supposed to be destroyed, but it only resulted in countries clashing for various reasons. Ideology, religion - something always stands in the way of uniting. In my opinion, as a result of globalization, we are heading in the opposite direction. That’s what I liked about Cyborg 009, that people from different countries fought together.
The concept that the nine heroes were all from different countries was considered groundbreaking in Japan at the time. Using the power that was bestowed upon them against their will and challenging their creator in a fight - as also seen in another representative work, Kamen Rider - such a plot is the true value of an Ishinomori drama. Furthermore, by bringing up the Vietnam war as a subject, for example, Cyborg 009 had a certain thickness to its story brought on by its international characters. The word is that in the background of all of this, there was a trip to collect data overseas.
Kamiyama: Well, reasonably speaking, in the age Cyborg 009 was made, having variations in the characters was considered more attractive, so you could also say it was a retrofitted setting. What made Cyborg 009 better than the others it that the characters each had their own deficiencies. Like, if you thought about it level-headedly, Shimamura Joe and Geronimo alone would be invincible (laughs). Jet looks really cool, but all he can do is fly (he is equipped with an acceleration device though), so even in the movie there’s not a lot you can do with him. But it’s precisely because the members are like that that the team has to combine their strength and solve the problem together, and I think that is the essence of Cyborg 009. I think as manga and animation evolved in the ‘80s, Ghost in the Shell, taking the same concept while pursuing realism, was born as a modern, more realistic adaptation of Cyborg 009, though I haven’t confirmed this with Masamune Shirow.
So in reality, Masamune Shirow, Mamoru Oshii, and Kenji Kamiyama were connected by Cyborg 009 right from the beginning...
To Part 2
© 2012 009 Re:Cyborg Production Committee
This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.