Obata Takeshi

The hand-of-god in the Manga industry

15 April, 2010 by

At some point of time you might have heard of Death Note and even possibly had seen the Live action film in theaters. What you might not know of, is that Death Note was a manga collaboration between writer Ohba Tsugumi and the mangaka Obata Takeshi. In this guide, I will like to focus on the mangaka Obata Takeshi (小畑 健).

Obata was born on 11 February 1969 in Niigata, Japan. What sets him apart from other mangakas is that he usually works as an artist in collaboration with a writer, where his main focus is to dish out professional artworks and panels for the manga society. Obata is also unique among Shonen artist for the details of his artworks and his fashion sense. He often dons stylish clothing and trendy accessories on the characters he draw.

Up to date, Obata’s most successful manga has been the much mentioned Death Note. It’s a success that lead to the 2 part live-action film being made for it. While I’ll be touching on Death Note, I’d also like to introduce readers to the other manga that he has drawn for Shonen Jump. Hikaru no Go, Bakuman and Cyborg Jii-Chan G.

From top, Cyborg Jii-Chan G, Hikaru no Go, Death Note, Bakuman.

First up, Cybrog Jii-Chan G. It was his first debut manga to be serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump and also his only serialized work in which he did both the story and drawing. Another interesting note is that Cybrog Jii-Chan G was written under the name of Hijikata Shigeru(土方茂), his old pen name. A lot of fellow manga reading friends did not know about this fact. Comparing the art work of Cyborg Jii-Chan G and his more recent works (etc Death Note) you will find that they both posses a whole different kind of art style, so it does surprise readers that who have read either or both of the manga to realize that they were drawn by the same mangaka. Cyborg Jii-Chan G premiered in Weekly Shonen Jump during 1989, and its 31 individual chapters were collected and published in 4 tankobon volumes.

The story focuses on a granddad with a personality larger than life who has transformed his body into a almost entirely cyborg state. His ideas and actions cause major mishaps in a very hilarious way, with his family members bearing most of the brunt. The artwork is definitely not in the Obata style we know at best, but the story itself definitely makes up for it. The only drawback? Its only last for 4 tankobon volumes. Savor it while it last.

Cover page for Cyborg Jii-Chan G.

What the manga looks like.

Secondly, Hikaru no Go what could be said to be my favorite series among his manga works. It’s also the series that put him in the limelight of the manga industry. Written by Hotta Yumi and illustrated by Obata Takeshi, it was serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump in 1998. 189 chapters plus 11 “omake” chapters were collected in 23 tankobon volumes. Hikaru no Go gained tremendous success and even produced a huge Go fad in Japan. Interestingly, every single Go move in the manga isn’t just a gimmick. Professional Go player Umezawa Yukari supervised the creation of the manga series and anime, confirming the authenticity of every Go move and ensuring they could me mimicked in real life.

Hikaru no Go is a story a boy who’s life was changed after interacting with the haunted Go board, the desire of playing Go from the spirit, forces the boy to enter the world of Go. From this manga you will be able to see the transition of his art style from good to very good. It’s also a very interesting story to follow though. If anything, it certainly aroused my interest in trying Go. But alas, I’m not into mind games. Do give this series a try, and you might understand why it caused such a huge Go fad among its readers.

Hikaru no Go Cover.

Hikaru no Go Complete Edition cover. A reprint of the original book made bigger, with new original illustrations by Takeshi Obata.

Character illustrations of Hikaru no Go.

Next up, Death Note. This is the most well known title among his manga series and also the most popular. In Japan alone, 20 million copies of the manga have been sold and a 2 part live-action film was made. Even though I’m not a huge fan of suspense manga, I was still attracted to this series due to the well done artwork. Among all of Obata’s works (even his currently running Bakuman), Death Note’s art stands out as his best, the emotions carry through perfectly. Written by Ohba Tsugumi and illustrated by Obata Takeshi, it was serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump in 2003. 108 chapters were collected in 12 tankobon volumes.

What would you do, if you had gotten hold of a notebook which allowed you to kill anyone by just writing their name within? That was the premise of the Death Note series. In the story, a very intelligent teenager decided used it to dish out punishment to criminals and instill fear into the public. Of course bearers of justice stand up to try to counter the tyranny while risking their own death. This leads to interesting scenarios where amount of psychological games and tactics dished out by both sides reach staggering heights. If you have not seen the manga, you must give it a try.

Death Note cover. This is the 13th "Omake" book of Death Note.

Character illustration of Misia Amane.

Character illustrations of L and Yagami Light.

Lastly Bakuman, the currently running series Obata has been drawing since the end of the Death Note series. Written by Obha Tsugumi as well, Bakuman was serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump in 2008. 81 chapters are currently written and have been collected in 7 tankobon volumes (uncompleted). The amusing concept of a manga about drawing manga won me over.

Following the footsteps of 2 college boys aspiring to be mangaka, the manga brings you into the world of the actual manga making business. We watch as they compete with fellow mangaka rivals, writing and drawing the best manga they could to suit the taste of current readers while fulfilling their dreams of love and romance. It’s an interesting, never before seen insight into the world manga.

Even though Bakuman isn’t as huge a hit as Obata’s previously 2 undertakings (Death Note and Hikaru no Go), Bakuman still stands on its own due to its unique manga concept. Potentially Bakuman could become a very huge hit just like Hikaru no Go if given the chance, it’s still a young series that will take time to mature and gain fans.

Bakuman Shonen Cover.

Bakuman Tankobon Cover.

Other than the main running titles, Obata Takeshi has also been writing several one shots (single chapter manga) and providing artwork for video games. Of particular interest is his work on the Castlevania franchise and a very famous one shot in collaboration with the writer Nishio Ishin (the writer responsible for the manga Medaka box in Shonen Jump) known as Urooboe Uroboros. Interestingly, he also mentored several mangaka, who managed to produce their own successful manga series when they went solo. Does Eyeshield 21, To Love-Ruu, Black Cat and Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X) sound familiar?

Urooboe Ouroboros One Shot.

Artwork for Castlevania.

Obata Takeshi has contributed well to the manga industry. Both through his bestselling mangas and his mentoring of other mangakas who in turn contribute other bestsellers themselves. I do have friends who think ill of a mangaka who has to rely on another writer, but I rather think that by doing so Obata can focus on what he does best, visualize interesting scene panels and draw beautiful characters. As what was sort of quoted in his Obata’s own Bakuman series, “Not everyone can write and draw well like some of the manga geniuses out there, but an equally well duo of writer and mangaka could have the same results, if they know what they are going for”. This holds true for Obata Takeshi, as a real life mangaka who coexists with writers to produce some of the bestselling manga in the industry.

Addicted to film, Yan shoots with a black Nikon Fm3a. For special occasions, Yan shoots with a Mamiya Sekor TLR.