Why You Need To Read Manga Mainstay Cyborg 009

by Tito W. James

Cyborg 009 has been a manga mainstay that’s had multiple anime adaptions and a multi-generational fan base. However, its many anime incarnations pale in comparison to the original.

Cyborg 009 is about a team of ethnically diverse superheroes fighting war profiteers. Some of the characters may embody some period-centric stereotypes but they are written three dimensionally and in a heroic light. The manga is way ahead of its time and outclasses many contemporary comics with similar premises.

Meet The Heroes:

  • 001: Super-intelligent psychic baby.
  • 002: Member of the Jets gang from West Side Story who can fly at super-sonic speed like a jet plane.
  • 003: A woman with all five senses enhanced.
  • 004: His whole body acts like a Swiss army knife.
  • 005: A Native American brave with super-strength.
  • 006: Can breath fire and dig like Mole from Disney’s Atlantis.
  • 007: He’s British and can shape-shift to disguise himself.
  • 008: He can breath underwater.
  • 009: Combines all the powers of his allies plus their fighting spirit.

This is the first page. In so many ways it’s the opposite of what American comics are doing. It’s one image that progresses from frame to frame like animation. It’s graphically arresting and communicates one single explosive idea with zero dialogue. I was hooked by the first page and read the first volume in two hours.

There’s an unmistakable level of charm derived from the retro-futuristic technology and bold cartoony character designs. Cyborg 009 was created at a time when manga was heavily influenced by American black-and-white cartoons while also embracing sophisticated stories pioneered by creators like Osamu Tezuka.

This combination between serious subject matter and cartoon humor is virtually unseen in Western comics, and with a rising nostalgia for 1930’s cartoons and a contemporary need for stories about different races working as a team, Cyborg 009 reads like a story for our time.

Cyborg 009 is a criminally underrated series that has yet to have had an anime series to do it justice. I hope that the manga gets collected into hard cover classic editions like Devilman. Cyborge 009 is the hero we need right now.

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