Born July 7, 1964 (Chiba, Japan)
Japanese author, illustrator
Kosuke Fujishima's Oh My Goddess! manga series has brought him enormous success in both Japan and the United States. Noted for his beautiful artwork and humorous, good-natured storylines, Fujishima has become one of the leading manga, or Japanese comics, creators. In August 1994 Oh My Goddess! began its monthly publication in the United States, and it was still running in 2005, making it the longest-running manga series in the country. It remains Fujishima's main focus and his greatest success.
Fujishima was born on July 7, 1964, in Chiba, Japan. As with other manga creators little is known about Fujishima's youth or family life. Few manga creators reveal these personal details to the public. What is known is that Fujishima became an editor for Puff, a comics news magazine, directly after his graduation from high school. While interviewing the much-admired Japanese manga creator Tatsuya Egawa for a magazine profile, Fujishima boldly asked if Egawa needed an assistant. Upon seeing Fujishima's portfolio of sketches, Egawa offered him a job. Fujishima developed as an artist under Egawa's tutelage, helping with work on Egawa's popular Be Free! manga, a Japanese style comic.
When Be Free! was made into a live-action movie, Fujishima created a manga that offered fans behind-the-scenes insight into the making of the film. The manga was published in Comic Morning in 1986 to great fan approval; one of the fans' favorites was a policewoman character Fujishima had created. He quickly developed a storyline around the policewoman and began publishing his first original manga series, You're Under Arrest!, later that same year. The first issues appeared in Morning Party Extra magazine, one of many Japanese manga magazines. In Japan, manga stories are first published in manga magazines, which may be issued weekly or monthly. These magazines range in length from 200 to 850 pages and contain a number of stories from various authors and artists. Once a story has run for a time, it is collected in a tankobon, or compilation volume, which brings together a set of stories in a series. It is these tank obon that have provided the basis for the CLAMP manga that has been published in the United States.
Oh My Goddess! Graphic Novels
Vol. 1, Wrong Number (2002).
Vol. 2, Leader of the Pack (2002).
Vol. 3, Final Exam (2002).
Vol. 4, Love Potion 9 (1997).
Vol. 5, Sympathy for the Devil (1998).
Vol. 6, Terrible Master Urd (1999).
Vol. 7, The Queen of Vengeance (1999).
Vol. 8, Mara Strikes Back (2000).
Vol. 9, Ninja Master (2000).
Vol. 10, Miss Keiichi (2001).
Vol. 11, The Devil in Miss Urd (2001).
Vol. 12, The Fourth Goddess (2001).
Vol. 13, Childhood's End (2002).
Vol. 14, Queen Sayoko (2002).
Vol. 15, Hand in Hand (2003).
Vol. 16, Mystery Child (2003).
Vol. 17, Traveler (2003).
Vol. 18, The Phantom Racer (2004).
Vol. 19/20, Sora Unchained (2005).
Vol. 21, Peorth Is Back! (2005).
Vol. 22, Oh My Goddess! (2005).
You're Under Arrest! Graphic Novels
The Wild Ones (1997).
Lights and Siren (1999).
Develops first manga title
You're Under Arrest! focuses on Miyuki Kobayakawa and Natsumi Tsujimoto, two policewomen in the Tokyo City Police. Miyuki is a level-headed senior officer and an adept mechanic, calmly teaching the ropes to her rookie partner, Natsumi, whose hot temper and amazing strength create as much trouble as they solve. The series offers exciting chases and action-packed storylines—with special attention given to detailed drawings of racing cars and motorcycles—but the thrust of the series is the relationship between the two women, whose intelligence and independence interested fans. "The Japanese are fascinated with the fictional idea of strong women—it does seem to appeal to them in a very strong way," translator Toren Smith told Dark Horse interviewer Michael Gilman.
Fujishima enjoyed a modest amount of success with You're Under Arrest! The manga stories that first appeared in magazines began to be collected in tank obon in 1987. Despite this, Fujishima soon found himself at work on what would become his greatest success. To promote a contest to win You're Under Arrest! paraphernalia in 1988, Fujishima drew characters from his manga praying to a goddess in hopes of winning the prizes. Fujishima especially liked the goddess and developed a new manga that would feature her prominently. The first issue of the resulting manga was published in 1988 in Afternoon magazine. The series, titled Oh My Goddess!, quickly made Fujishima a household name in Japan because it struck a chord with so many fans. For the next few years, Fujishima simultaneously worked on You're Under Arrest! and Oh My Goddess! But the stunning popularity of Oh My Goddess! prompted him to stop publication of You're Under Arrest! in 1992, after seven tank obon volumes.
Oh My Goddess!
Oh My Goddess! is the story of Keiichi Morisato and his life with three goddesses. The series begins when Keiichi, an awkward college freshman, attempts to dial a fast-food delivery service to order his dinner; instead he mistakenly reaches the Goddess Technical Help Line. The goddess Belldandy grants him one wish. Girlfriend-less Keiichi wishes that the goddess remain at his side forever. Although seemingly a dream come true, Keiichi soon realizes that life with the goddess is more complicated than he imagined—especially when her two sisters, Urd and Skuld—move in with them. The series is a lighthearted comedy, following the trials and tribulations of Keiichi and Belldandy's life together: the complications introduced by Belldandy's magical powers, the disruption of Urd's attempts at meddling in their life with magic potions and spells, Skuld's interfering gizmos and gadgets, and the change introduced into every one of Keiichi's previous relationships with friends and family now that he has goddesses in his presence. Barb Lien, in a Sequential Tart review, praised the Oh My Goddess! series for being "intelligent and funny" and "consistently entertaining." And Lisa Martincik, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, noted that "The stories in Oh My Goddess! are simple, but not without sophistication, and are always beautifully drawn."
In Japan, manga series are created for specific audiences, divided by age and gender. Oh My Goddess! straddles these boundaries. It has been described as part of the shonen genre that is developed for a male audience younger than age sixteen, as well as for the seinen genre, which means literally "young adult" and describes manga targeted at males over the age of sixteen. Like shonen manga, seinen manga often have a male protagonist with stories about some type of action, sport, or romance. Shonen has a younger protagonist and more innocent encounters, while seinen usually has a college-age or adult male protagonist and more overt sexual elements. Oh My Goddess! features older characters, but unlike other seinen stories, it does not include blatant nudity or offensive language. Julie New-comb of GreenCine describes the animated series of Oh My Goddess! as being part of an "important subset of the shonen genre giving rise to what's been dubbed 'harem anime,' in which one hapless young man finds himself surrounded (usually living in the same house) with a bevy of beautiful girls." In general, critics agree that Oh My Goddess! includes such appealing storylines that the series appeals to a broad range of male youth as well as to female audiences.
Belldandy, Urd, and Skuld are based loosely on Norse mythology. They represent the Norns, three sisters who are associated with the past, the present, and the future. Urd, the oldest, is associated with what was. Verdande (which has been translated in Oh My Goddess! as Belldandy) is associated with all things in the present. And Skuld, the youngest, is associated with all things that have yet to come.
The success of Oh My Goddess! in Japan spawned an industry of related trinkets, television shows, videos, and a movie, making Fujishima well known throughout his country. Manga importer Toren Smith took notice of the series and began translating it for American audiences in the early 1990s. Oh My Goddess! first published in the United States in monthly comic book form, with subsequent collection in graphic novels published by Dark Horse Comics. By 2005, Oh My Goddess! stopped monthly publication as single comic issues in favor of regular publication in longer graphic novel format. That same year, the popularity of Oh My Goddess! prompted Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) to introduce an animated version of the manga titled Ah! My Goddess to U.S. television viewers. The popularity of the anime (animated cartoon) prompted TBS to broadcast a second season of the show starting in the spring of 2006.
Comes a long way
The success of Oh My Goddess! in both manga and anime form increased U.S. distributors' interest in Fujishima's earlier, less-popular series You're Under Arrest! Fujishima, however, did not like his earliest stories and would not agree to republish them in English translation. However, Fujishima did agree to publish enough of You're Under Arrest! in English translation to fill two graphic novel-size volumes. Toren Smith told Gilman that fans should not fret over the exclusion of the earliest issues of You're Under Arrest! from the U.S. market because Fujishima's artistic style had changed so dramatically since his early stories. He explained that Fujishima "felt that volume 5 was where his art really began to come into his own.… The art is so different in the earlier books that people wouldn't even recognize the characters. That's no exaggeration, by the way."
Fujishima's refined artistic style has brought him critical acclaim. A reviewer for Manga Maniacs Web site praised Fujishima's work for Oh My Goddess! as having "top notch design" and "exquisite wet ink shading and highly detailed costumes and settings." Publishers Weekly commented on Fujishima's "airy and elegant" artwork. In his earlier work, Fujishima used bolder, sharper-edged shading contrasts, and his characters were noted for having more prominent features than the softer forms of the later series. The one aspect of Fujishima's designs that has consistently received high marks from reviewers is his depiction of automobiles. Fujishima is a noted fanatic of cars and motorcycles, owning ten himself, and his drawings of them are vividly realistic.
Fujishima did not limit his work to manga. He developed characters for several video games and created anime series for both You're Under Arrest! and Oh My Goddess! He also created an original anime story called eX-Driver about a future in which cars run on electricity and are smart enough to drive passengers themselves. Though these other works occasionally diverted Fujishima's attention, Oh My Goddess! remained his main focus. About Fujishima's other work, Smith told Dark Horse that American audiences should not expect Fujishima to create any product specifically for an American audience. Even if You're Under Arrest! became wildly popular in the United States, for example, Smith did not expect Fujishima to write more issues for that series. "The U.S. market—even for the most successful manga artist—represents an insignificant fraction of his market in Japan, and there's no point in the artist spending any time at all doing anything specifically for the U.S.," Smith explained. This news sat well with many American manga fans, who appreciated that manga offered them insight into a culture very different from their own. Fujishima's popularity remained high in both Japan and the United States in late 2005, which may lead to the translation of some of his other work into English.
For More Information
"Oh My Goddess!: Traveler." Publishers Weekly (February 23, 2004): 54.
Weiner, Steve. "A Friend in High Places." School Library Journal (October 2004): 29.
Gilman, Michael. "Interview with Toren Smith." Dark Horse. http://www.darkhorse.com/news/interviews.php?id=622 (accessed on November 22, 2005).
Newcomb, Julie. "Anime." GreenCine. http://www.greencine.com/static/primers/anime.jsp (accessed on November 22, 2005).
"Oh My Goddess!" http://www.mangamaniacs.org/reviews/omg.shtml (accessed on November 22, 2005).