The live action movie White Collar Worker Kintaro is blatant wish-fulfilment. Kintaro is played by a handsome actor. The character has a young son (the boy's mother died in childbirth) and is admired by his superiors, who assign him to a difficult supervisor to toughen him up. He is a karate expert and, we eventually learn, was apparently in a motorcycle gang before he turned respectable. A famous pop singer, adored by all Japan, is unrequitedly in love with him. His mentor tells him, "Your boldness is the dream of all salarymen."
Juggling the demands of family and work, Kintaro must run to an award ceremony at his office after taking part in some kind of father-son games. He changes clothes on the sidewalk as he runs, calling up images of Clark Kent transforming into Superman. On the way, he stops on a dime; a gang of five punks is mugging another salaryman. Kintaro decides to be even later for the ceremony so that he can beat up the entire gang. As they flee, he puts his jacket back on with a flourish and says, blood dripping from one corner of his mouth, "Don't make light of salarymen."
The movie is very fun, though I rather doubt that Japanese businessmen settle disputes with their managers by challenging them to karate duels.
The animated series about the popular character Kintaro, chronicling his struggles to adjust from his former life as a motorcycle gang member to his present life as a salaryman. There is a great deal of that peculiarly Japanese humor, such as when an executive is so impressed with the pencils Kintaro has been sharpening that he asks, "Which girl has been sharpening pencils since yesterday? The way pencils are sharpened has changed dramatically. They are done so elegantly, delicately and easy to write. I would love to marry a girl who sharpens pencils like this." Yeah, that's what I look for in a woman.
I'm also fond of the final episode on this tape, where Kintaro runs into a former fellow gang member who has since had a sex change operation; she informs Kintaro that it was his decision to become a salaryman that gave her the courage to be his... er, her true self.
"You can do it, Kin-chan. You can make being a salaryman as cool as being the leader of a bike gang."
Also order the second, third, fourth and fifth seasons.
This series can be obtained at Langton Info, and copies sometimes show up on ebay. Well worth the search.
Reviews by Grey Bard:
Division Chief Kosaku Shima - Volume One
"Kosaku Shima is a happy man, and it doesn't seem to make sense. His girlfriend Kumiko is an ocean away, working i n Los Angeles, and only visits once or twice a year on business. Meanwhile, his little daughter Nami lives nearby with his ex-wife, but he sees her almost as little. Despite this, he enjoys his life for a very simple reason - he loves his work. Shima throws his whole heart into his job as an executive for Hatsushiba Electric, being a true friend to his coworkers and a loyal employee to the huge corporation while still maintaining his personal integrity. Whether he's sent to save a small factory from a brutal takeover attempt, rescuing the corporation's philanthropy fund from a recession, or trying to find ways to make his short time with the women in his life magical, Kosaku Shima manages to do it with grace, warmth and his own personal style."
Division Chief Kosaku Shima -Volume Two
"Although he's forty six years old and has never been to Paris before, Kosaku Shima is surprised to find himself becoming quite the corporate jetsetter. Hatsushiba Electric has offices all over the globe, and it seems like most of them have problems that need a light touch and an open mind - Shima's specialties. However, nothing is ever as simple as it looks, from building a workforce in Vietnam to getting to the bottom of some mysterious mismanagement at Hatsushiba's Hollywood studio division. Even trying to save a superior's personal life turns out to be a little more complicated than Shima expected. Everywhere he goes, Kosaku Shima is finding something new and every time he does, he rises to meet the challenge."
Division Chief Kosaku Shima - Volume Three
"Everything changes, even giant corporations like Hatsushiba, Kosaku Shima's employer and home away from home. President Nakazawa, head of Hatsushiba Electric and Shima's personal mentor, has decided to step down and retire. Kumiko, Shima's girlfriend, has moved to France. Even Shima's professional life, long a source of happiness and stability, has changed. He now has a new office, a new job description and an opinionated new secretary. Between learning everything he can about wine, his new stock in trade, and learning how to navigate his changing world, Kosaku Shima is in for a few surprises - not all of them unpleasant."
Yugo the Negotiator, based on a tragically untranslated manga series by Shinji Makari and Shuu Akana, is really only included because this anime doesn't have any giant robots or hot schoolgirls with magical powers. (Not that I have anything against either, but a change is nice.) It's a gritty series about a tough-as-nails negotiator with a heart of gold. Yugo has an incredible tolerance for pain and an indomitable will. He is willing to suffer incredibly in order to carry out his assignments, and often, his motives are compassionate rather than greedy or even idealistic. The contemporary settings and villains who, despite their evil, do have their own kind of honor combine with the central character to make this a fascinating series.
Like Yugo the Negotiator, this manga doesn't entirely fit. The two main characters have made a pact to strive to put power in Japan into the hands of younger men, displacing the old men who dominate everything. One does this by joining the Yakuza, the other in the corporate world as a salaryman. The artwork, by Ryoichi Ikegami of Mai The Psychic Girl, is stunning and the story complex.
What really amused me about this book is that many of the complaints the Japanese workers in it make are virtually the same as American workers were making at the time, i.e. that protective trade policies from America were costing them work.
This study of manga has a section on joho manga.
A new joho series available in bookstores now! Visit the website.