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Cyborg 009


Cyborg 009 is a shōnen manga series created by Shotaru Ishinomori. The series focuses on nine cyborgs (especially the eponymous 009) who were abducted by an international arms-dealing crime syndicate known as Black Ghost and turned into human weapons. As the series opens, the cyborgs escape to freedom and decide to turn their new-found powers against Black Ghost in order to establish peace.

Ishinomori first published Cyborg 009 in Japan through Weekly Shōnen King in 1964. The first arc concluded in 1968, and the series switched to Weekly Shōnen Magazine for the second arc, which concluded in 1970. Throughout these first two arcs, the 00 cyborgs fought Black Ghost assassins, cyborgs based on Greek mythology, and an underground empire of reptiles, and finally Black Ghost himself. Ishinomori originally planned to end the series with the climactic final fight against Black Ghost, but he later decided to continue the series due to popular demand. He wrote six more arcs, each with a different publisher, and the series continued until 1981, but without a definitive ending. Although Ishinomori died in 1998, his son, Joe Onodera, used Ishinomori’s notes to write a final five-volume arc entitled Cyborg 009 Conclusion: God’s War as a final conclusion to the series. The final arc was released in 2012 and finished in 2014.

Comixology, a major digital comics distributer, acquired the rights to Ishinimori’s work in 2012. The company has since translated and released the first ten volumes of Cyborg 009, which many consider to be the definitive version of the story.

In addition to its size and the length of time it took to reach a conclusion, Cyborg 009 is also significant in its reflection of Cold War, nuclear age anxieties. The story begins with a brief history lesson on the atom bomb, the arms race, and the space race. Black Ghost wants to create cyborgs expressly to expand war, and thus his influence, to outer space. Nuclear submarines and Vietnam also play a prominent role in the series’ earlier storylines.

Cyborg 009 has been adapted into animated series, films, video games, a western graphic novel, and even radio dramas. Animated series were created in 1968, 1979, and 2001; spanning 26, 50, and 51 episodes respectively. Two animated films were released in 1966 and 1967. A third film was released specifically as an extension of the second TV series. A fourth film was released in 2012, this time a CG-animated film directed by Kenji Kamiya. Cyborg 009 video games were published in Japan only for the Sega CD (1993), the Super Famicom (known as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the west; 1994), and the Sony Playstation (2002).  Radio dramas were produced in Japan in 1979 and 2009.

In 2013, Archaia released a western reboot of Cyborg 009 written by F.J. Desanto and Bradley Camp.  The new series follows a similar story as the original, while also making references to other Ishinomori works, such as Kamen Rider.

— Isaac Mayeux

Further Reading

  • Rosenbaum, Roman. “Ishinomori Shōtarō: (Re)presenting Japanese Graphic History.” International Journal Of Comic Art 16, no. 2 (Winter 2014): 212-224. Print.
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