Manga: Mogera

 

Mogera


Japanese Comic Title

モゲラ
[Mogera]

Authors:

Shigeru Kayama

Pencils:
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Shigeru Komatsuzaki
Shigeru Komatsuzaki
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Japanese
2017
Kodansha
50

Covers:

Shigeru Komatsuzaki

Comic

Monsters

Moguera
Moguera



Review

By: Nicholas Driscoll

Sometimes I read through an entire volume of manga/illustrated story before realizing the creators are incredibly famous or influential. When I read “Science Adventure Picture Story Godzilla,” it wasn’t until afterwards when I was writing up my review of the entire volume of Godzilla Manga Collection: 1954-1958 that I realized the artist, Wasuke Abe, was also the fellow who created the design for Godzilla himself. After reading the manga adaptation of The Mysterians (retitled Mogera), I was surprised to discover the artist, Shigeru Komatsuzaki, was a production designer on the movie itself, and was also an extremely influential SF illustrator in his time, working on movies and projects as diverse as Atragon, Thunderbirds, and even Metal Gear Solid. And apparently, according to the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, he resisted manga and stuck to just doing illustrations… But this is at least one example of an actual manga created by the master!

The manga was originally published as an appendix to the February 1958 edition of Omoshirobook, but was here reprinted in the Godzilla All Movie DVD Collector’s Box Vol. 18, released in 2017.

Story: Jouji, Etsuko, Hiroko, and Ryouichi (relatively young men and women) are enjoying a snowy evening at a skate park located near the foot of Mt. Fuji. Ryouichi, though, doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself much, and remains emotionally distant from the others. When Ryouichi notices a forest fire in the distance, he runs towards it, convinced that the conflagration was caused by aliens from the Mysteroid planet. Ryouichi’s heartfelt wish is to see real aliens and learn more about the universe. He finds that the trees are being burned from the roots up, and for him, this confirms his suspicions.

We then cut to Prof. Adachi at an astronomical observatory, and Adachi is talking with Jouji about Ryouichi, who has now disappeared, as well as the mysterious fires. Adachi explains that the Mysteroid is a small planet between Mars and Jupiter which many, many years ago was a big planet. Their conversation is interrupted by an announcement that the village at which Jouji and Ryouichi were hanging out the previous night has now been completely destroyed. When they rush to the village, they find open volcanic craters bubbling with lava, and then visit the area that had been burned up in the fire previously. They find the forest fire is continuing to burn, and their exploration is interrupted by a giant robot. A policeman takes a shot.

On the next page, Jouji and co are back in safety somewhere. Etsuko comforts Jouji, who is freaking out. Then Prof. Adachi shows Jouji a book in which there is an illustration depicting Mogera (complete with the name, written in English). The book isn’t really explained. Meanwhile, back at the giant robot, Mogera is blasting stuff with his eyes and faces off with some tanks before getting blown up while trying to cross a bridge. Jouji and Prof. Adachi then talk about how there is a Mysterian moon base, and then visit Prof. Adachi’s rocket research lab, where the pair pick up another dude to go check out a lake near the completely destroyed village because Adachi’s assistant, the previously mentioned Ryouichi, said that an alien base was in the water. (Phew! This story moves fast!)

Ryouichi, Adachi, and another guy go to the lake, and they discover that the Mysterian’s base really is under the water when the base itself rises out into the open. The base looks like a dome. Our heroes go inside, and it’s really cold, so they receive warm capes from their alien hosts. The aliens explain they are from Mysteroid, but that the planet was destroyed by nuclear war. Before the planet was destroyed, some Mysterians escaped ala Superman, and now they are on earth requesting for a three-kilometer square area for themselves. Our heroes leave. Outside, the JSDF attacks with tanks and jets—boom, pow, wham! The base glows and descends back under the water.

Check out that awesome art!
Check out that awesome art!

Back in a safe place, Prof. Adachi speculates that, due to the low temperatures in the base, the Mysterians may be weak to heat. So our heroes decide to make a heat weapon. Jouji and the girls are hanging out, too, and they see Ryouichi appear on their TV. Ryouichi claims to be an ally with the Mysterians, and wonders why the humans won’t listen to what the invading aliens have to say. According to Ryouichi, human technology is like toys next to the advanced tech the aliens possess. Jouji and co are outraged. Flying saucers are deployed against humanity and destroy a lot of stuff. The Mysterians think they can take over Tokyo within a month.

Meanwhile, Adachi has created a flying warship called the Beta (which they can operate from the Alpha), and also a heat weapon. Our heroes talk with Ryouichi on the TV, and Ryouchi claims that he is still an ally to the earth, but that humankind must listen to the Mysterians or Japan will be annihilated within one month. Adachi sends the Beta to attack, but it is blasted out of the sky. The Mysterians then kidnap Hiroko and Etsuko as a means to intimidate Adachi. In reaction, Jouji sneaks into the alien base to save the ladies. Also meanwhile, a heat weapon is shot from the sky. The heat weapon is called the markalite, which is like a radar dish that shoots heat. The markalite lands and proceeds to roast the alien base in the lake. The Mysterians don’t like the heat, so they contact the humans and ask for a cease fire. The humans refuse, so the Mysterians push a button and cause massive floods.

Meanwhile, Jouji finds a room full of machinery in the alien base and smashes it before being taken prisoner by the aliens. The aliens want to kill him, but because Jouji destroyed the machinery, the aliens can’t use some of their weapons and they can’t escape from the heat. And since they can’t take the heat, they are pretty screwed! One of the aliens decides to use his hand pistol to execute Jouji, but another alien tells him that the commander is calling, so Jouji’s death is postponed. This second alien is actually Ryouichi, and he helps guide the girls and Jouji out of the base. The Mysterians admit defeat and decide to flee into outer space. Ryouichi decides to accompany the aliens and explore the universe. Our heroes watch him go with the invaders in one of the flying saucers, expressing their amazement at his accomplishments. The end.

Okay, so the story is sometimes so rushed as to border on incoherence, and there really isn’t time to develop the characters or even have a lot of really meaningful action. Still, it’s entertaining to read, perhaps because it goes by so swiftly, like fast food. It’s not substantive, but it tastes good.

Obviously there are some pretty big story differences. In this version, the women of the earth are not being kidnapped for breeding purposes—Hiroko and Etsuko are grabbed just to discourage Adachi’s attacks. While in the movie, Ryouichi admits to being deceived by the aliens and sacrifices himself to defeat them, in the comic he never really confesses to any wrongdoing, helps our heroes escape, and then… flies off with the aliens!!! It’s not clear how the aliens are going to react when they find out he betrayed them!!! Also, despite the fact that the manga is called Mogera, it features the titular robot LESS than the movie, as after the initial attack, Mogera makes no further appearances in the illustrated version.

The art by Komatsuzaki is really phenomenal, and it’s obvious most of his work is in illustrations, not straight up manga. The page layouts tend to be very simple, with each page getting no more than four or five panels. His human characters are very realistically portrayed, but don’t have the relative emotionlessness of the ones in Monster Picture Story Godzilla, which has a similar hyper-detailed style. Komatsuzaki’s illustrations of the military hardware and Mogera himself are also superb and make the reading much, much more enjoyable.

In my opinion, Mogera is, for all its shortcomings, definitely one of the better, more interesting manga adaptations, not only for the pedigree of the artist, but because it’s fun to read, and the art sells the story. The paper, too, is not as cheap as with many of the manga that were included with the DVD collections, and this one includes a nice, slick cover. Definitely worth it for fans.