Orion – Masamune Shirow Manga Book Review

Posted By yonghow on October 7th, 2014

Orion Masamune Shirow Manga

Orion is a science fantasy manga by Ghost In The Shell creator Masamune Shirow, first published in 1991 by Seishinsha. This relatively little known piece of work doesn’t receive nearly as many accolades as Shirow’s other manga like Ghost In The Shell & Appleseed, but it really is a gem of a manga with superb artwork and some great ideas/concepts.

As a kid I read the Chinese language edition of the manga but I’ve always wanted to revisit the comic in its original Japanese language.

Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga

In a nutshell, the main story revolves around two primary characters, the Shinto God Of Destruction Susano and a powerful sorceress Sesuka in their struggles to stop the Nine Headed Naga from destroying the Universe. Chaos ensues, with lots of great humor and superlative action sequences thrown in.

The manga’s core concepts borrow heavily from Japanese/Chinese mythology elements, in particular the summoning of heavenly deities to wage battles using a combination of scrolls, talismans and spells. Shirow’s impressive skills as a concept artist sees him re-imagining deities that are household names in Chinese/Japanese culture into spectacular fantasy characters.

Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga

The staggering amount of detail and complexity is Shirow’s drawings are just mind-blowing, and this was back in 1991 when screentones (stickers with gradation used to create the grey shades in the drawings) had to be painstakingly pasted, then scrapped away in areas where specular/shine effects were desired. It is ALOT of work.

Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga

(above) The Monkey King Hanuman is summoned by the sorcerer Hebime to battle Susano. Hanuman is the monkey deity from the Hindu mythological tale The Ramayana, and predates the Chinese Monkey King Sun Wukong from Journey To The West. Here however, his character design is based more on Sun Wukong, with the classic striped tiger robe and the long decorative “antennas” from his battle armor head dress.

Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga
Orion Masamune Shirow Manga

One of my favourite Shirow Masamune mangas, right up there with Ghost In The Shell and Appleseed. There are also some very nice colored illustrations of the Orion characters in Shirow’s art book Intron Depot.

“Orion – Masamune Shirow” manga details :

Dimensions – 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
Soft cover, 280 pages
B&W, in English

Orion Masamune Shirow Manga Amazon Buy Link
Buy From Amazon CA | Buy From Amazon UK | Buy From Amazon Japan

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12 Responses to “Orion – Masamune Shirow Manga Book Review”

DISTRAKT

One of my favorites!

Gustavo Pabon

Orion was a worthless series. I wish he would continue “Appleseed”. There was a preview of his last Appleseed work in Hypernotes. The work looked beautiful. I don’t know if he inked it himself but it was a great tease. I’ll say a prayer. 🙂

Scott

Long time Orion fan. Cool to see you review something i already loved.

Shirow always approaches his world-building and stories with such meticulous attention to technical details. It’s really entertaining to see him tackle fantasy and magic with the same sensibility. It has this weird scientific examination of magic.

i fell in love with the english translation, and as i have little to no understanding of deities from Chinese/Japanese mythology, i’ve always felt i was missing out on a deeper understanding of the story. i envy you!

i’m also glad you mentioned the humor. Orion is really funny throughout the whole book. It’s kind of a shame… Aside from Appleseed, most of Shirow’s stories have a great deal of humor in them. Even Ghost in the Shell. Mamoru Oshii created a wonderful, iconic anime – don’t get me wrong – but it was a joyless affair, and every adaptation since has followed suit.

i just love this book. So glad you like it too!

martin

ah the good old days of masamune shirow..
love this manga as well

yonghow

DISTRAKT – Ditto.

Gustavo – Appleseed has some very serious, intense fight scenes that I love. And there’s also humor !

Scott – I absolutely agree about the humor part. I guess that is why mangas are a great medium for Shirow. In an animated film it would be much harder to do so and maintain consistency, as you pointed out about Mamoru’s adaptation.

martin – Good old days indeed. I don’t really agree with Shirow recent works.

AF

It is incredible the way he draws those spells as geometric patterns. Unlike Clamp manga, that prefers flowing curves and sexy lines (a more organic approach), his magic brings an inorganic look.
.
It is like the competition in Kaori Yuki’s manga Angel Sanctuary beween an organic angel versus an inorganic angel. In this case it is the contrast between one style of art and another style of art. (shonen, shojo etc…)

yonghow

AF – Interesting observations. :]

What I like about Orion is also the how seamlessly Shirow combines elements of fantasy and sci-fiction. Like you said, organic vs inorganic, but it works really well.

Don Austin

I personally never understood why Orion was sort of the forgotten stepchild of Shirow’s works. It’s a great story (I especially loved the humorous bits) and the artwork is breathtaking. For me that is still a unique book and I don’t think you’ll ever see anything quite like it ever again. I still have my Japanese copy as well as the Darkhorse/Studio Proteus versions of the book.

I really wish that it would have been popular enough to get an animated feature. C’est la vie… :[

yonghow

Don Austin – Agreed, I’m definitely keen on an anime adaptation too, but only if it is good old 2D traditional animation ! 😛

Annn

Too bad all Shirow does now is sick animal hentai porn?!?!? He coulda had 4 more volumes of Appleseed already..such a waste.

yonghow

Annn – It does seem he has fallen on bad times as of late. I’ve not found any of his recent work of much appeal. :[

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