“It’s a title that was missing in the French landscape”: the cult manga “Rokudenashi Blues” back in bookstores

Flagship title of “fûryô”, a sub-genre featuring big-hearted thugs, Rokudenashi Blues is making a comeback in France with a new edition which will be published this Wednesday, June 1st by Pika editions.

Formerly known in France as Scum Bluesthe cult manga of the 1990s Rokudenashi Blues by Masanori Morita is available again in a new edition to be published this Wednesday, June 1st by Pika editions. A return eagerly awaited by fans of “fûryô”, a Japanese sub-genre which features thugs.

First published in Japan on May 30, 1988 in the columns of Weekly Shōnen Jump, Rokudenashi Blues has sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. We follow the stories of love, friendship and honor of a band of high school students who often choose fists to gain respect.

Flagship title of the second golden age of Shōnen Jump in the 1980s and 1990s, Rokudenashi Blues has contributed to the revival of the journal alongside series such as Captain Tsubasa, Cat’s Eye, Hokuto no Ken, dragonball, Saint SeiyaJojo’s Bizarre Adventure, DragonQuest, YūYū Hakusho and slam dunk.

Realism and graphic exaggerations

“One can imagine in fact the merit that Rokudenashi Blues to exist for almost ten years in this terribly competitive and hyper-demanding editorial ecosystem”, notes Ludovic Gottigny, specialist in the history of Shōnen Jump and contributor to the specialized journal ottomanbefore recalling that success was not instantaneous for Morita’s manga:

“It took between six months and a year for the series to settle in, find its rhythm, its graphic balance and its own grammar, before definitely exploding with the addition of colorful characters like Koheiji, then the arc of the Four Kings of Heaven and the addition of small humorous chapters in [style] ‘super deformed’, Rokudenashi Buruuchu.”

Without revolutionizing the “fûryô”, Rokudenashi Blues “Impelled a new direction for him, more realistic with regard to the daily life of the young protagonists if not in the combat phases”, closer to the classic shônens, analyzes Ludovic Gottigny. “An ambivalence that is found in a style that is both realistic but not impervious to graphic exaggerations for humorous purposes.”

A sheet from the manga "Rokudenashi Blues" by Masanori Morita
A page from the manga “Rokudenashi Blues” by Masanori Morita © Pika

Former assistant to Tetsuo Hara (Hokuto no Ken), Morita won with Rokudenashi Blues then Rookies (1998-2003) and Beshari Gurashi (2006) as a big name in manga. Ludovic Gottigny salutes in particular “his slick graphic style, his visual humor and [sa] great ability to convey the impact of the action.”

Exhausted for fifteen years, Rokudenashi Blues owes its resurrection in France to a favorable context for the reissues of manga classics, and especially to “fûryô”, a genre long neglected by the French, which has just obtained immense success on our territory with tokyo revenge by Ken Wakui.

“If there is so much buzz, it is also because it is a title that was missing in the French landscape”, specifies Mehdi Benrabah, editorial director of Pika. “If people have claimed it, it’s also because it’s one of the last shonens in the Jump which was no longer available on the French market. It was my dream to publish it.”

Why did you wait so long to fulfill this dream? “I have always prioritized other titles which until then had higher potential than Rokudenashi Blues. We are talking about a 1988 title which in its normal edition is 42 volumes. It remains a challenge. You think twice before you start,” says Mehdi Benrabah.

The click occurred in 2018 during the major exhibition dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Weekly Shōnen Jump“When I saw the place given to Rokudenashi Blueswhich was set at the same level as YūYū Hakusho, slam dunk, Yu Gi Oh!it reinforced my desire to republish it in France.”

According to the publisher, the second French life of Rokudenashi Blues could only take place at Pika: “The ‘furyo’ has never left the Pika catalog, whether with Funny scum, GTO, Young GTO Where The Fable. We are all opportunists in publishing, but the pressure of people, I’m sorry, is relative to my work and my decisions.”

Change of title

On this occasion, Scum Blues took back its Japanese name. “From the moment people know how to say Jujutsu Kaisen, Rokudenashi Bluesit’s going to fit,” says the editor. “And Scum Blues, that didn’t mean much. The word ‘scum’, very connoted with us, does not apply to these guys, who are good for nothing with values.”

“It’s a choice that does not shock me,” notes Ludovic Gottigny. “I really liked the name ‘Racaille Blues’, which was very well found while remaining faithful to the Japanese title, but I understand Pika’s desire to stand out from the previous edition.” But he deplores the retranslation, which erases the excess of the dialogues of the original edition:

“‘Over the top’ at times, she perfectly reproduced in her level of language the attitudes, the elocution and the extravagances of the characters as well as certain key geographical nuances in the understanding of the narrative issues”, he judges.

Despite the shortage of paper, Pika editions offer a neat edition with a large circulation. “We believe that this edition lives up to expectations. We put our hearts into it,” insists Mehdi Benrabah. A volume comes out every two months. 25 are planned in all.

Despite the shortage of paper, Pika editions offer a neat edition with a large circulation. “We believe that this edition lives up to expectations. We retranslated everything, re-lettered everything. We put our hearts into it,” insists Mehdi Benrabah. A volume comes out every two months. 25 are planned in all.

A sheet from the manga "Rokudenashi Blues" by Masanori Morita
A page from the manga “Rokudenashi Blues” by Masanori Morita © Pika

But one detail has already pissed off the fans: the presence of a single color page in the reissue, yet announced as final. A non-subject, believes Mehdi Benrabah, visibly still shaken by the many criticisms that have been posted on this subject on social networks:

“We are based on an existing edition in Japan, ‘bunko’, which is a paperback. We chose to put it in a more classy, ​​enlarged box. We had other design ideas that are not in the bunko edition, but the only color material we had access to was that of this ‘bunko’ edition. End of story!”

The publisher invites fans of Rokudenashi Blues on Twitter to go to bookstores. “I hope that these people who have pushed hard will also be there in the stores. I really hope so. Because, obviously, we would not like to stop at Rokudenashi Blues. All of Morita’s work interests me.”

Half of his work remains unpublished in France. And Morita is working on a new series mixing thriller and horror, “which he has been fantasizing about for several years, which he wants to be more ambitious, serious and realistic than his previous titles, probably inspired in this by his best enemy. [le mangaka Takehiko] Inoue”, concludes Ludovic Gottigny.

Rokudenashi Blues, Masanori Morita (script & drawing), Pascale Simon (translation), Pika Masterpiece, 340 pages, 16 euros. 25 volumes planned. Published every two months.