In the year 1964, Manga writer Takao Saitou published a series of four short graphic novels (if one can use the term, here) based extremely loosely on Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Timed to coincide with the release of the film “Goldfinger” these manga novels were a massive hit in Japan. So much so, that Takao Saitou was inspired to create his own Bond-like character Golgo 13- which is perhaps, one of the most iconic manga series of that time.
The novels converted to manga were Live and Let Die, On Her Majesty’ Secret Service, The Man With The Golden Gun and Thunderball.
Years later, the Takao Saitou series on Bond ran out of print and became increasingly difficult to find. They popped up often on internet auction sites and collectors were ready to pay hefty prices to own one of the four books. Thankfully, these books have become far more affordable since 2015. A republication of all four volumes celebrated the mangaka’s 60th year in publishing.
The manga versions deviate quite a bit from the Ian Fleming novels. While the first of the series, Live and Let Die (死ぬのは奴らだ) sticks a little close to the original plot, the others are more or less original fiction by Saitou. In fact, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (女王陛下の００７) Bond even dons a gladiator’s dress and fights a lion in front of a pleased looking Mr.Big.
The illustration style is typical Showa period and so are the original touches to the story lines. But that only adds to the charm of these nostalgic pieces. The story pacing is frantic and there is much to enjoy in the books for both Bond fans and manga lovers. There are loads of set action pieces that are added on so that Takao Saitou could have a ball drawing them. There are ski chases, train-top fights and of course, an enormous number of car chases.
Although, as far as we know, these versions are not yet available in English, if you do get your hands on the Japanese versions don’t hesitate. Just buy them! They are worth learning Japanese for 🙂