In this story written and drawn by Shū Sakuratani, a rooster discovers superpowers and confronts “kijû”, monstrous humanoid creatures born from the negative feelings of society.
Can a simple rooster save the world from ugly and dangerous creatures? This is the starting point of one of the most amazing manga of the moment, Rooster Fighter, in bookstores since May 4. In this satirical story written and drawn by Shū Sakuratani, a rooster named Keiji discovers superpowers and confronts “kijû”, monstrous humanoid creatures born from the negative feelings of society.
But this story, far from being completely delusional, is a work haunted by the endless crisis of the Japanese economy. Rooster Fighter evokes the left-behind of the recession in a story much more moving and melancholy than it seems. Because for Shū Sakuratani, his manga is also and above all an animalist plea, he confides to BFMTV:
“Most animals live daily in a much more threatening environment than we tend to believe. I wanted to reflect on the fact that animals could lose their lives at any time without it being surprising, because they live surrounded by a very harsh and very hostile nature. I wanted to show that they could be very isolated. And I wanted these lonely characters to be saved by a hero like Keiji. It is probably in opposition to these characters that Keiji can twirl and parade shamelessly.”
Keiji, the first name of this tough rooster, is not insignificant in Japan. It echoes one of the most popular manga of the archipelago, Keji by Tetsuo Hara (Ken The Boy Who Lived). “It’s true that I love the series Keji, but I never thought it could refer to it! The name of Keiji contains the mysteries of his origins which I will reveal little by little”, assures the mangaka, who confides to have been inspired by another important figure of the manga, the implacable hitman Golgo 13, of which he was crazy child adventures.
Drawing a muscle chicken, a challenge
Shū Sakuratani has been attached to the figure of the rooster since childhood. “They were the first animals I came into contact with, and maybe I have more affinity with these birds than most people. Still, unfortunately for the chickens that were raised at home, my grandmother’s relentless hand fell on them before we could say goodbye and turned them into the main courses of our dinners.”
Staging a rooster remains a challenge, even for a seasoned cartoonist like him: “When I have to give power to the attacks of a tiny little chicken, I struggle every day.” He also struggles to make himself believable against his enemies three times his size. “Since a chicken has no arms, I can’t make it carry anything. Compared to a human, there are few ways to indicate the variations in power of its attacks, and I break my head every time to show these transformations.”
Physically, his cock is impressive despite everything, with his pectorals and his prominent abs. A unique case in the history of the 9th Art. To account for his power, Shū Sakuratani relies on his hero’s sharp gaze, inspired by one of Japan’s greatest stars, Ken Takakura. He spent dozens of hours finding his rooster’s gaze: “I spent my time drawing, then erasing, then starting again endlessly, even now I feel like I’m playing my life when I draw it .”
“Sometimes scary or sometimes comical”
tale of monsters, Rooster Fighter “can seem sometimes frightening or sometimes comical”, still specifies Shū Sakuratani. “It’s according to this that I imagine my drawings. This aspect of my work is very pleasing”, further notes the mangaka whose each creature, with a particularly repulsive design, feeds on the negative feelings of individuals and represents the unconscious. from the Japanese company:
“I was wondering what ‘my negative feelings’ might look like if they were to take shape in reality, and what came out of my imagination resulted in these kind of monsters. As these are very negative emotions, this ended up giving very ugly designs. I also supported their grotesque appearance so that when faced with these creatures that scare humans away they are so ugly, Keiji and his gang would look all the cooler when they fight with determination.”
Of The attack of the Titans to Kaiju #8 Passing by Rooster Fighter, the “kaiju”, these giant monsters of Japanese folklore, are omnipresent in contemporary manga. A proliferation linked to the current climate, which is quite negative, believes Shū Sakuratani: “It is when negative feelings reach their climax that ‘kaiju’ monsters are created.” Facing them, the Keiji rooster is a much more solar figure whose exact role has not yet been defined by the mangaka. “Maybe in the future, growing up, Keiji could become the symbol of something…”
Shū Sakuratani already has the end of Rooster Fighter in the lead, but for now he’s focusing on the story: “I have a good idea what the ending might be but… Keiji is such a lively character, in all honesty, I’m not sure to be able to take it where I want and do it as I want…” He hopes in the meantime to satisfy his readers: “Frankly, if readers could have a great time just by reading their adventures, there would be no would have no greater joy for me!”
Rooster Fighter, Shū Sakuratani, Mangetsu, €7.90. One volume available. The second volume will be released on July 4.