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Skull Man (スカルマン Sukaru Man?) was a manga series created by Shotaro Ishinomori which first appeared in Shōnen Magazine in 1970 and immediately caused a sensation, selling over 1.5 million copies. The hero, orphaned when his parents were murdered, grows up to use his peculiar powers to take his revenge. The original Skull Man was one of manga's first anti-heroes, someone who would sacrifice the lives of innocents in his quest for vengeance. This darkness is what made the Skull Man so magnetic and successful.[citation needed]

While the TV series Kamen Rider (Masked Rider) was still in development, Ishinomori, who created that series with producer Toru Hirayama, made this manga as his own personal version, which the producers at Toei Company Ltd. used as the basis for the show. Several changes in content were made, as this 100-page one-shot story was too dark and gruesome (even cerebral) for a children's show.

In the late 90s, before Ishinomori's death, the ill cartoonist contacted mangaka Kazuhiko Shimamoto to do a remake (ambiguously a continuation) of his original one-shot manga. This remake boasted an extensive, continuing storyline and more complex artwork (along with a tribute to Ishinomori in the final issue, with several of his famous characters gathered together). This was the manga that was presented in the US by TOKYOPOP. The original 1970 version has yet to be released in America.

An animated TV series adaptation, produced by Bones and directed by Takeshi Mori, finished airing on Fuji TV on July 22, 2007. The anime series has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks and will be distributed by Section23 Films. The complete collection was released on DVD on February 2, 2010.[1]

Story

1970 Manga (One-shot)

There are mass murders and catastrophes all over Japan, committed by a masked/caped psychic madman called the Skull Man, and his shape-shifting aide Garo (named after the manga ninja Garo created by Sanpei Shirato), who can turn into various powerful mutant monsters. The calamities caused by the Skull Man are investigated by the Tachiki Detective Agency, with the help of a young man named Tatsuo Kagura, the son of a yakuza in the Kagura Clan.

Eventually, later in the story, Police Chief Tachiki, who heads the Tachiki Detective Agency, suspects Tatsuo to be the Skull Man, who, in turn, suspects the detective to be part of a public conspiracy that has been after him for fifteen years. It turns out that he was adopted by the Kagura Clan, and his real parents were murdered, and for those fifteen years, Tatsuo was hunting for the mastermind, who manipulates all industry, finance and even politics. Tatsuo, the Skull Man, threateningly demands Tachiki to tell him the name of the mastermind, after muttering the culprit's family name, Chisato, he is shot in the head by the Skull Man, and he and Garo race off to finally meet him.

The duo race to the estate of a reclusive old man named Kogetsu Chisato, who lives with a girl named Maya, who is mute and blind (she has perpetually closed eyes). With psychotic rage, Skull Man threatens to kill Chisato, who not only kindly welcomes him, but has been looking forward to his arrival. But Maya telepathically persuades him not to kill Chisato, and she reveals a shocking secret: Chisato is Skull Man's grandfather and Maya his younger sister.

Chisato tells his shocked grandson the whole story: his own son, Tatsuo's father, was a scientific genius beyond geniuses. In fact, he was so intelligent and unearthly that he was a mutant, a being of Newmanity (Shinjinrui - similar to that in Ishinomori's later creation, Inazuman). His wife, whom he married and had Tatsuo with, was a mutant also. The couple conducted bizarre experiments that could be capable of destroying humanity as we know it. Chisato feared this greatly, so when Maya was born, he killed his own son and daughter-in-law, and also sought to kill his grandson Tatsuo, who was rescued and raised by Garo. He couldn't bring himself to kill Maya, however, and raised her to be his faithful servant. Maya then told Skull Man that Chisato wanted to bring him back before he could do anything.

Chisato then traps himself with Skull Man, Garo and Maya in glass walls, proceeding to set himself and all the others ablaze, sadly stating that "We were born in the wrong era!". Along with his entire "family", Tatsuo, the Skull Man, dies a tragic, horrible death in the inferno, thus ending the original story.

1998 Manga

The 1998 manga is a follow-up sequel to the one-shot manga. Skull Man revolves around Tatsuo Kagura, who early in his life was subjected to several mutating science experiments that ended up giving him amazing powers and skills. Longing revenge for the murder of his parents he becomes Skull Man, a shadowy crusader who battles The Syndicate and its evil leader Rasputin.

The story begins abruptly with a woman who possesses immense psychic powers killing a man, only to then be attacked herself by a man who can become a bat, a wolf or an alligator named Garo. Garo is revealed to be Skull Man’s childhood protector and present ally in the coming war against Rasputin and his hordes of evil mutants. Later in the story, it is revealed that Skull Man was saved by Garo from his supposed death from the original story.

Skull Man makes allies, loses comrades and dies in combat with a lethal mutant just in the first book. What follows is a trip into the world of shadows and the evil within all of us. Throughout his journey Skull Man will face spiders, wasps, scorpions, plants, cobras, vultures, grasshoppers (all based on monsters also featured in the first Kamen Rider series), and finally Rasputin himself.

Creation

While based on Ishinomori's original manga story, the 1990s version was actually put together by well known mangaka Kazuhiko Shimamoto, who had been a fan of Ishinomori's work since childhood. Ishinomori contacted Shimamoto towards the end of the former's life, requesting him to work with him on reviving the story of The Skull Man. In accomplishing this, Ishinomori faxed Shimamoto the story premise and plot notes, while Shimamoto put it all together and did the artwork. A few years earlier, Shimamoto worked on a manga adaptation of the movie Kamen Rider ZO, which included a short story about a struggling mangaka who completely idolized a fictional version of Ishinomori.

Hero cameos

The Skull Man manga features a myriad of cameos of other famous Ishinomori heroes, although this is mainly contained in the final few pages of the manga's last chapter. They include:

  • Joe Shimamura: Joe Shimamura/Cyborg 009 makes his appearance in Chapter 36 and is seen punching out a mugger after rescuing the mugger's victim. During this event, he and Ryuusei, the Skull Man, meet and debate evil and the nature of man over coffee. After the two part company for the evening, they meet again by chance at the docks to stop an illegal deal between corrupt politicians, Ryuusei in his Skull Man garb and Joe in his 00 Cyborg uniform (albeit only seen in silhouette aside from close ups on his face).
  • Kamen Rider: Detective Hioka, who pursued The Skull Man, was changed into a Reconstructed Human by the Syndicate. After being rescued by Maria and brought back to Tatsuo/The Skull Man, he then further reconstructed him to be more advanced than the other grasshopper mutants the Syndicate created. In his original mutant form Hioka closely resembles the designs of Kamen Riders ZO and J, and grows his antenna after a battle with Syndicate grunts; his upgraded form is based heavily on the designs of Kamen Rider #1, Hongo Takeshi, Hioka's Kamen Rider rides a motorcycle very much like the original Cyclone motorcycle, possesses a scarf around his neck, and his head appears to be a helmet instead of physically becoming the grasshopper head. However, unlike Kamen Rider #1, his costume is much closer to a motorcycle jacket and pants than the cloth pants and "armored" tunic that costumed Kamen Rider #1, and is seen using a laser pistol in his rescue of The Skull Man.
  • Henshin Ninja Arashi: In The Skull Man manga, A young ninja in the city who is almost killed by an ape-like Syndicate mutant, who stabs him in the chest with a knife. He is found on the brink of death by The Skull Man, and taken back to his laboratory. As The Skull Man hopes to revive him with cyborg technology,the panels reveal feathers flown over indicating that this man is a descendant of Arashi and it is possible that he will receive the powers like his ancestor and will go along with The Skull Man to fight against evil.
  • Goranger: The five members of Himitsu Sentai Goranger can be seen in the hero collage at the end of the manga's final chapter.
  • Robot Keiji: Robot Keiji, in his civilian clothing, can be seen directly in front of Ki Ranger in the hero collage at the end of the manga's final chapter.
  • Inazuman: Inazuman can be seen directly in front of Momo Ranger in the hero collage at the end of the manga's final chapter.
  • Kikaider: Kikaider can be seen in his android form in front of and between both Robot Detective K and Inazuman in the hero collage at the end of the manga's final chapter
  • Uchuu Tetsujin Kyodain: Skyzel and Groundzel can both be seen behind and to the right of Henshin Ninja Arashi in the hero collage at the end of the manga with Sky Zero on the right and Ground Zero on the left.

Anime

Studio BONES has adapted Skull Man into a TV anime series which premiered on Fuji TV in April 2007. The series is directed by Takeshi Mori and written by Yutaka Izubuchi. A live action "Episode Zero" was shown on April 21, titled "Skullman: Prologue of Darkness," starring Ami Suzuki and Kamen Rider Hibiki and Death Note's Shigeki Hosokawa.[2] It was also set up to be a pseudo prequel of Cyborg 009.

Unlike previous stories of Skull Man past, the story closely focuses on a journalist named Hayato Mikogami who returns to his hometown at Otomo to investigate strange rumors of killings done by a man wearing a skull mask. Tailed tightly by a young photographer, Kiriko Mamiya, the two soon uncover the many strings of connections between the victims, a local pharmaceutical company, a mysterious new religious sect and strange half human, half animal creatures, which roam the night streets for blood.

Characters

Skull Man (スカルマン Sukaru Man?)

Voiced by: Hiroshi Tsuchida

A mysterious man in skull shaped mask making appearances in Ōtomo City and rumored to have been killing numerous victims in the city, especially those roaming at night. He is believed to be Tatsuo Kagura at first, but then it reveals that Yoshio is the one. After Yoshio's death, Hayato becomes Skull Man himself and saves Maya from the ritual, for Yoshio's sake. The Skull Man is actually not a person, but a suit, granting the user superpowers and deadly weapons. Jin, Kiriko's brother, faked himself as Skull Man, but gets killed later by the real one (Yoshio)
Hayato Mikogami (御子神 隼人 Mikogami Hayato?)

Voiced by: Makoto Yasumura

Hayato Mikogami once lived in the orphanage in Ōtomo City. After being adopted and raised, he left Ōtomo to move to Tokyo so he can work for a famous newspaper. Years later at 23 years old, he is working for a second rate newspaper and with permission leaves to go back to Ōtomo City to search for the legendary figure, Skull Man who by rumors had recently killed an actress. While on the train trip, he meets young Kiriko who doesn't have the correct passport to get into the city and he helps her in by presenting a business card of Gōzō. Later, after getting comfortable into his old house, he gets locked outside due to Kiriko's tantrum. Without realizing, he breaks the midnight curfew and witnesses a man who is running away from someone. The man injures Hayato after he tries to help him but the man gets killed by the Skull Man. Hayato collapses on scene, pinning him to the murder but is let off due to this ties with Gōzō.
Hayato is a care free guy who smokes and is constantly annoyed by Kiriko. Later he develops a close friendship with her.
Kiriko Mamiya (間宮 霧子 Mamiya Kiriko?)

Voiced by: Ayako Kawasumi

A 16 year old girl aspiring to be a photographer. Hayato helps her get into the city, and she decides to stick to him and help him in his work. She actually enters the city to look for a friend of hers, Jin, who was with her in the resistance and disappeared two years ago.
Kyōichirō Tachigi

Voiced by: Katsunosuke Hori

Kyōichirō Tachigi is a 50 year old man who arrives to Ōtomo City on the same train as Hayato Mikogami and Kiriko Mamiya. He is a private investigator who seems to have ulterior motives of catching Skull Man.
Father Yoshio Kanzaki

Voiced by: Masayuki Katou

A 23 year old priest working at an orphanage, and a childhood friend of Hayato.
Hitomi Tachibana
An actress who is killed days prior to the start of the story.
Yui Onizuka

Voiced by: Sayaka Ohara

Another actress and a friend of the late Hitomi.
Sayoko Karasuma

Voiced by: Yumi Kakazu

Yui's assistant. A mutant who transformed to protect Yui, but is killed by the Skull Man.
Gōzō Kuroshio (黒潮 豪蔵 Kuroshio Gouzou?)

Voiced by: Osamu Saka

An 58 year old acquaintance of Hayato and leader of the Ōtomo Concern. While he pretends to be a philanthropist on the outside, he is directly involved with the incident ten years ago, and is not below using dirty means such as assassination to advance his own agenda.
Sara Kuroshio
Gōzō's wife. She is the chairwoman of the religious organization Byakureikai.
Maya Kuroshio

Voiced by: Fumiko Orikasa

Gōzō's 17 year old daughter. Despite her weak health she secretly helps out at the orphanage, apparently due to her attraction to Kanzaki. She is also deeply involved with the Byakureikai sect.
Tatsuo Kagura
Allegedly killed in an arson case ten years ago, but rumored to be alive and seeking revenge. Hayato believes this person to be the prime suspect for the identity of the Skull Man.

Episodes

# Title Original air date
00 Skullman: Prologue Of Darkness
"" ()
April 21, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Live action prequel episode.
01 City of the Dancing Mask
"Kamen ga Odoru Machi" (仮面が踊る街)
April 28, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Journalist Hayato Mikogami arrives in his hometown and begins investigating the enigmatic Skull Man. However, he runs into his target sooner than expected.
02 The Man From the Past
"Kako kara kita Otoko" (過去からきた男)
May 5, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Hayato, temporarily a murder suspect, is released from police custody due to his connections. His further investigations reveal a possible connection between the Skull Man and an arson case ten years ago.
03 Crimson Rain Falls in the Afternoon
"Shinkō no Ame wa Gogo ni Furu" (深紅の雨は午後に降る)
May 12, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Yui receives a threatening letter and later becomes the target of blackmail. Kiriko follows Yui and Sayoko to the theater. However, the real target of the Skull Man is Sayoko, who turns out to be a mutant.
04 The Ghost That Goes For a Stroll
"Sanpo suru Yūrei" (散歩する幽霊)
May 19, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
A dead body hung from a railroad bridge makes Hayato investigate the legend of the Phantom Monorail. However, once on board, he becomes the target of the Skull Man.
05 The False Blind Spot
"Itsuwari no Shikaku" (偽りの死角)
May 26, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Usami, the Skull Man impostor, tries to eliminate the original. Meanwhile, Kiriko discovers a person from her past among the Byakureikai members.
06 Banquet of the Grim Reaper
"Shinigamitachi no Utage" (死神たちの宴)
June 2, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Hayato and Kiriko run across yet another Skull Man killing the town mayor. With other trails getting cold, the two decide to investigate the Byakureikai from the inside.
07 Master of the Beasts
"Jinjū Tsukaishi" (人獣使い師)
June 9, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Hayato and Kiriko are discovered and kicked out of Byakureikai, but Hayato discovers that one of the disciples there is an old acquaintance of Kiriko and the reason for her entering the town. That person - Jin - is masquerading as the Skull Man in order to carry out assassinations for Gōzō Kuroshio.
08 The Maiden Whispers in the Moonlight
"Gekkō ni Otome wa Sasayaku" (月光に乙女はささやく)
June 16, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Kiriko and Hayato, fresh off a lead left by Jin, work together to investigate photograph's left by him of the White Bell compound. His legacy will draw them deeper into the events surrounding the White Bell cult. Meanwhile, coming out of cathartis, Kiriko runs into Maya again after the previous episodes developments, and Hayato warms up to an old flame by the name of Nami that returns to the village after him, and learns about his old school crush's unfortunate history after he left Otomo.
09 Blessed Are the Impure
"Etareshimono ni Shukufuku o" (穢れしものに祝福を)
June 23, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
The Police step up patrols in the city in response to the escalating violence and wind up with more victims as a result, due to a monster lurking about. At the same time Nami is having recurring nightmares, driving her to the brink of desperation, while her unknowing admirer Detective Shinjou gets high hopes after being promised a date with her. In the mix of encircling circumstances, Hayato tries to support Nami and is rejected, just as events unfold which will change everything for the three of them.
10 The Circus Laughs at Midnight
"Sākasu wa Mayonaka ni Warau" (サーカスは真夜中に嗤う)
June 30, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Hayato and Kiriko hide out in the woods, since Hayato is now a wanted criminal now. It is finally announced that Father Kanzaki is the Skull man, and with his Lost Numbers he would fight the new enemy cyborgs.
11 Darkness Take My Hand
"Yami yo, Waga Te o Toritamae" (闇よ、我が手を取りたまえ)
July 7, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
After the battle between the Skullman and the Cyborgs in the forest subsides, Hayato, Kiriko, and Detective Shinjou descend on Yoshio Kanzaki's church to finally learn the truth about the Skullman, but they were not alone.
12 Bloody Eve
"Chi no Seiya" (血の聖夜)
July 14, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Taking up the dying wishes of his close friend, Hayato returns to the city to stop Masaki Kuroshio's evil machinations from unfolding.
13 Black Fable: All That I Love Leaves Me
"Kuroi Gūwa ~ Aishikimono wa Subete Sariyuku" (黒い寓話〜愛しきものは全て去りゆく)
July 21, 2007 {{{FirstEngAirDate}}}
Having succeeded to achieving his objective Masaki Kuroshio announces the birth of a new humanity, but the Skull Man passes judgement on him and declares he will put an end to the madness once and for all.

Cast

Skull Man: Hiroshi Tsuchida
Kiriko Mamiya: Ayako Kawasumi
Maya Kuroshio: Fumiko Orikasa
Akira Usami: Hiroyuki Yoshino
Hayato Minagami: Makoto Yasumura
Yoshio Kanzaki: Masayuki Katou
Masaki Kumashiro: Toshiyuki Morikawa
Tetsurou Shingyouji: Hideki Tasaka
Kyouichirou Tachigi: Katsunosuke Hori
Reina Shingyouji: Michiko Neya
Gouzou Kuroshio: Osamu Saka
Tsuyoshi Shinjou: Tomokazu Seki

References

External links

zh:鬼面騎士

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