Pineapple Army

Author: Kazuya Kudo
Illustrator: Naoki Urasawa

U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9780929279398
Released: December 1990
Original run: 1986-1988

I was very excited when Naoki Urasawa was selected as the subject of February 2013’s Manga Moveable Feast. One of the major reasons that I developed an obsession with manga is thanks to Urasawa and his series Pluto, a reimagining of one of Osamu Tezuka’s most popular Astro Boy stories. After reading Pluto, I immediately started to look for more of his work, which led to my discovery of Pineapple Army—his first work to be published in English. Viz Media released ten issues of Pineapple Army between 1988 and 1989 before publishing a collected volume in 1990. Pineapple Army, written by Kazuya Kudo and illustrated by Urasawa, is an eight volume series in Japan, originally serialized between 1986 and 1988. The English-language edition of Pineapple Army selects ten stories from throughout the series’ original run.

Jed Goshi is a formidable man. He’s an ex-marine, an ex-mercenary, a Vietnam war hero, an explosives expert, an exceptionally capable strategist, and an incredibly skilled combatant. Goshi now lives in New York City where he is a part of the Civilian Defense Forces, instructing amateurs in military tactics and teaching people how to fight for themselves. Often the cases he takes on are those that have little chance of success: four orphaned girls threatened by organized crime, a cowardly father and son being targeted by an assassin, a young woman in Latin America trying to rescue her kidnapped father, and so on. Even when Goshi is on vacation or out on a date he can’t seem to avoid being drawn into some sort of conflict. Events don’t always play out well but one thing is certain: Goshi is very good at what he does.

Pineapple Army is one of Urasawa’s earliest professional works. While the influence of other artists like Katsuhiro Otomo is fairly obvious, especially in the character designs, the beginnings of Urasawa’s own personal style can also be seen. Urasawa’s semi-realistic illustrations work well for Pineapple Army. Although there is plenty of action, the manga is very character driven. The realism of Urasawa’s artwork helps to keep even the more outrageous elements of the story grounded and the characters, particularly Goshi, believable (at least for the most part). He excels in creating memorable and expressive faces. Urasawa’s action sequences are great, too, everything from hand-to-hand combat to flying bullets and exploding grenades. The scenes are dynamic—at times even cinematic—clear, and easy to follow.

For the most part, the ten stories collected in Pineapple Army stand fairly well on their own. Still, it can be ocassionally awkward as the overarching plot of the series is obscured and some of the side characters are taken out of context. However, it’s Goshi who is the most important to Pineapple Army. Each story reveals a little more of his past and who he is as a person. I want to know more, though. Goshi is an appealing character. He has principles and a strong sense of justice. While he is capable and willing to resort to violence, he’s not a warmonger. It is very clear that he cares about people. But even so, Goshi has not been able to return to a normal civilian life. The same goes for most of the other war veterans that Goshi encounters in Pineapple Army, often as antagonists. I originally picked up Pineapple Army because of Urasawa’s involvement, but I’ve come to appreciate it for Kudo’s writing as well. Sadly, I doubt that any more of the series will ever be released in English, but I’m glad to have at least this one volume.

My Week in Manga: May 30-June 5, 2011

My News and Reviews

I was away for most of last week and the beginning of this week in order to attend a conference for work. (NASIG for those of you who are curious.) I had a good time in St. Louis and learned lots of useful things, but this did mean I didn’t get as much manga and anime in as I would have liked. It also means that this week’s “My Week in Manga” is a bit late. Forgive me, but I needed to do laundry and sleep.

Fortunately for me, last week was one of my lighter weeks at Experiments in Manga. I announced the winner of the Oh, Ono! manga giveaway and manged to successfully schedule May’s Bookshelf Overload to post while I was away. I also added two new resources to the Resources page: The Fandom Post and Manga Bubbles. For your online reading enjoyment, I would like to bring your attention to Manga Artifacts: Pineapple Army by Kate Dacey over on The Manga Critic; it’s a much better look at the manga than my quick take below provides.

Quick Takes

King of RPGs, Volume 2 written by Jason Thompson and illustrated by Victor Hao. The second volume of King of RPGs was one of my most anticipated releases for 2011. I loved the first volume so it didn’t come as much of a surprise to me that I loved the second as well. Most of the plot centers on MMORPGs and tabletop RPGs in this volume but there are still plenty of references other geek cultures, too. My favorite parts are when the role-playing insanity bleeds over into reality. Shesh, more than ever, is the main focus of this volume. However, new characters are also introduced, including the noble gold farmer Baijin Gangshi who I fairly adored. I really hope to see more volumes of King of RPGs; it’s a riot.

Pineapple Army written by Kazuya Kudo and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. I primarily picked up Pineapple Army because of Naoki Urasawa’s involvement with the manga. In Japan, the series ran for eight volumes. You wouldn’t know this by looking at Viz’s single volume edition, though—it collects ten chapters selected from throughout the original series. They mostly stand alone, though I suspect there may be some recurring characters that I would have liked to get to know better. I’d like get to know the protagonist Jed Goshi better, too. I happened to particularly like his beefy character design and found his personality to be appealing as well. It will probably never happen, but I wouldn’t mind the rest of this series available in English.

Pretty Face, Volumes 1-6 by Yasuhiro Kano. It’s a ridiculous premise—Masashi Rando, high school karate champion, is nearly killed in a terrible bus accident. In the process of recovery, his plastic surgeon gives him the face of the girl he has a crush on since he only had her photo as a reference. Or something like that. Oh! And his crush just happens to have a missing twin sister, so Rando takes her place. Perhaps not too surprisingly, there is plenty of fan service, especially in the first few volumes although it does carry through the entire series. Narrative-wise, Pretty Face is very episodic and somewhat directionless, but there were a few moments here and there that made me genuinely laugh out loud.

Cross Game, Episodes 17-22 directed by Osamu Sekita. So, I still don’t really care about baseball all that much, but I do care about the characters of Cross Game tremendously. And since they care about baseball, I find myself at least interested in what is happening and cheer them on in their efforts. I’ve been very happy with how the characters are developing. I’m particularly fond of Azuma who turns out to be much more complicated person than he initially appeared. I’m also interested in seeing where the newer characters, like Mizuki and Azuma’s older brother, go. I’ll definitely be watching more of this series even if I don’t end up picking up more of Adachi’s original manga.