Out of the Vault – Raika

Got a little tired of the Ultraverse after a month, so I’m going to move around a while. Raika was a ninja manga that published a 20 issue run in 1992. It was published by Sun Comics, and and was unusual in that it published weekly.

Sun Comics was a company run by Steve Schanes, one of the Schanes brothers who had helped revolutionize the direct comics market and introduce creator-owned comics through Pacific Comics in the early 80’s. The Rocketeer made his first appearances in Pacific Comics titles.

After Pacific folded, Schanes co-founded Blackthorne Publishing, which was mainly known for publishing licensed strips, 3-D comics and TMNT parodies. Blackthorne folded in 1990, and in 1992 came Sun Comics, featuring reprints of manga like Raika and High School Agent.

Raika is a pretty standard ninja manga, mainly notable for the fact that the word “ninja” never appears in it. The time period in which the book takes place is pre-ninja, before the Japanese archipelago had united under one ruler. The country of Yamatai is ruled by Empress Himiko, an aged prophetess in ill health.

Well, it’s pretty obvious which way that’s going. Chosei is a Chinese adviser to the Empress who plans to kill her, then put her young assistant Iyo on the throne as his puppet. Speaking of Iyo…

Yes, because this story takes place before there were any such things as ninja, they use an even more esoteric proto-ninjutsu known as shinsenjutsu. The guy with the spiky hair is Raika, a hotheaded young not-ninja who will soon be prophesied to destroy Yamatai and unite the kingdoms into one Japan.

And though in the beginning, the ninja techniques seem more akin to an old-school ninja strip like Kamui, in later issues, the techniques get wilder, pointing the way to future insanityfests like Naruto. This scene, for instance…

in which one of Raika’s enemies performs a strange “martial arts” technique that summons a gigantic frog for him to ride.

Apparently, Raika was supposed to develop into an epic Arthurian-style romance in which Raika would become the ruler who would unite the Japanese kingdoms, but it ended up folding in less than a year. It may have been the weekly schedule which did the title in, since that meant you would be spending $10 a month on that title alone, so you’d better really love it.

Still I liked Raika and I wish I could see more of it.

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2 Responses to Out of the Vault – Raika

  1. I fully agree completely.

  2. Karmington says:

    Raika was a big hit for me, sad to see it flop out after 20 issues. Inquiry : was issue number 4 a misprint, I’m missing about 20 pages there… Have not found any links anywhere to the original Japanese series, whether it continued to closure or not either.

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