Today we are interested in the “furyo” genre – delinquent manga in Japan – which seems to be resurfacing with the emergence of one of the most popular manga and anime of 2021, Tokyo Revengers. And more specifically to the different types of gangs that inspired this genre.
Tokyo Revengers has grown tremendously in popularity since the anime premiered in April 2021, and many are eagerly awaiting season 2. One of the elements that has played a major role in the success of the series is highlighting the organization of gangs in Japan as well as values such as honor and loyalty that circulate within these gangs.. This isn’t the first time a series about delinquents has been hugely successful. In effect, Tokyo Revengers knew how to keep the delinquent kind alive. Thus, to understand the genre “furyo”, it is important to understand who are the main protagonists: these delinquents and these Japanese gangs of the 70s.
The furyo genre: a history of gangs
During the 1970s and 1980s, the best-known series of the “seinen” genre and the “shojo” genre also used gang members as protagonists. manga such as Sukeban Deka, Hana no Asuka-gumi! or otokogumi were among the most famous. Among the manga mentioned, we can find two emblematic figures sukeban – women offenders or gang members. Although there have been more recent titles featuring delinquent characters, such as GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka or Cromartie High Schoolthe craze around the genre itself slowly died down.
The rise of the genre also reflects an increase in gang-related activity in Japan. During the 1960s, the Yakuza and many small gangs were at their peak, although they rarely worked together. The Yakuza preferred to focus on profits and crimes that made moneywhile most small gangs tried to shirk their responsibilities whether as students or citizens, and thus caused chaos for fun, with no real purpose. Due to the extravagant nature of these gangs, the Yakuza tended to despise them particularly because of their behavior. These little gangs would be mainly made up of teenagers and young adultsbut there were also younger members. For them, delinquency was a way of life.
The groups of sukeban started with girls hiding and smuggling cigarettes into school while this practice was strictly prohibited, especially in Japan where mores and social codes are very strict. However, these small groups of young offenders have proliferated and these eventually moved on to larger and more destructive crimes. They were at their heyday in the 1970s when their male counterparts, the banchowere in decline. At that time, we would then be talking about no less than 20,000 girls who would have been part of the Kanto Women Delinquent Alliance. Despite their chaotic nature, these gangs always had strict codes of conduct for each member to follow, with a heavy emphasis on loyalty.
The sukeban dyed their hair, usually blond or some other bright color, and wore their uniforms with rolled up sleeves and usually elongated skirts; by breaking dress codes, they stood apart to show off their rebellious sides. In addition, they cut off their shirts to show their bellies, something that could be enormously shocking for the time and all the more so because it was in a school setting. They could also be seen wearing badges or pins with symbols representing their associations with gangs. Kanjis, testifying to this membership, were sometimes sewn on their clothes. Their eyebrows were usually plucked and they rarely wore makeup, generating a certain hostility. This fashion and this lifestyle marked Japan in the 70s but we can still find all these characteristics typical of sukeban nowadays through manga and anime, we can cite as an example the character of Arisa Uotani in fruit basket.
The term bancho is the masculine equivalent of sukeban. This term applied primarily to middle and high school students who were local gang leaders. They also dyed their hair in bright colors and styled it in a pompadour. Younger gang members were called gakitaisho. These latter, who could not claim leader status were also called yankii, a term that could also apply to girls. They wore long biker coats with the kanji or mottoes of their gangs embroidered on them, similar to the sukeban. They were also considered motorcycle gangs (bosozokugangs)as they rode noisy custom motorcycles through cities, revving their engines or honking with a specific rhythm to signal which gang they were members of. Kuwabara from manga Yu Yu Hakusho is a bancho emblematic of manga culture.
Well, we hope that this article will have given you the background you need to better understand the interest aroused by this genre which is resurfacing thanks to Ken Wakui’s manga, Tokyo Revengers. If you also want to discover other classics of the genre, do not hesitate to consult our top 10 essentials of the furyo genre.