Golgo 13 has been killing people for over 50 years, and the series’ longevity is due in part to its artist’s rice-farmer mentality.

Golgo 13 is known as a man who never misses, and the famed manga/anime hit man has just hit one of his most impressive targets ever, as this week Golgo 13 became the longest-running manga series of all time.

The specific yardstick for this record, officially recognized by the Guinness World Records organization, is number of collected volumes, and Golgo 13’s 201st volume, which went on sale Monday, puts it past the 200 volumes of previous record holder Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen Mae Hashutsujo, a.k.a. Kochikame. With Kochikame having come to its conclusion in 2016, and no announcement of any sort of upcoming final arc for Golgo 13 in the near future, it’s likely the assassination saga will be extending its lead in the months and years to come.

▼ Golgo 13’s latest confirmed kill

Golgo 13’s volume-count isn’t its only impressive statistic either, as it’s currently in its 54th year in publication, having debuted in 1968. Also amazing: the series made it all the way to 2020 without ever going on hiatus, and the streak was only broken because of coronavirus pandemic-related health precautions that kept writer/artist Takao Saito from easily meeting with his staff and editors.

When asked how he’s been able to produce so consistently, the 84-year-old Saito looked back on his career so far. “First off, it’s a matter of mindset. For me, fundamentally, ever since I became a manga artist, I’ve thought of it as my job,” he explains. “People often ask me ‘Don’t you get tired of having done the same job for decades?’, but what would you think if a farmer said he was ‘tired’ of growing rice or wheat?”

▼ Time to make the manga

He also recognizes the competitive nature of the industry. “It’s also important to keep your word. I always meet my deadlines. Back when I was starting out, I never knew when the series might be cancelled, so I never took a vacation or missed a deadline.”

However, Saito is quick to point out that his personal work ethic alone wouldn’t have allowed Golgo 13 to come this far. As a series where the main character is constantly travelling to new settings, getting involved in incidents inspired by complex real-world political situations, scientific developments, and cultural traditions, Saito regularly consults with experts in a variety of different fields. “Thanks to [them], I have been able to write more than 600 chapters, but if I’d had to do it all from just my knowledge, I probably would have only made it to Chapter 10,” he says.

The series’ longevity has probably also been helped by its narrative structure. Essentially, Golgo 13 is a loose collection of individual contract killings, allowing Saito to dabble in whatever premise is interesting enough to sustain a few chapters, then switching to another once the idea has run its course and Golgo 13’s bullet has hit its mark. With no need to forcibly prolong conflicts or character arcs, Golgo 13 avoids feeling like it’s overstayed its welcome, and the protagonist’s stoic, reticent personality lets the story be driven by colorful guest characters who can be shuffled off and replaced once they’re no longer interesting. It probably also helps that Golgo 13 is carried in the bimonthly Big Comic. It’s arguably Japan’s most respectably mature manga anthology, one that older adults can read without fear of stigmatization, which prevents readers from ageing out of the series like they might with manga running in shonen and shojo anthologies marketed towards younger readers.

Despite his advanced age, Saito says he plans to continue drawing Golgo 13 for as long as he’s physically able to. “Golgo 13 is my manga, but at the same time, it belongs to the readers too, and for them, I want to keep creating, one story at a time,” he promises, and who knows, maybe one day we’ll see its protagonist laugh again.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Sankei Shimbun via Jin
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