Here we are, we’re back again for another round of CC Comic Zone! This is the place where we come to talk about all things Comics, Manga, Graphic Novels and, pretty much, all illustrated media! Once again I’m Frank Inglese and this week I want to talk about something that is very near and dear to my heart, this week we will be discussing “The Rise And Fall Of The Bancho”. For those of you who don’t know what a Bancho is; basically they’re the biggest and baddest fighters in a group of big, bad fighters, they’re the powerful leaders, the delinquent youth, they’re full of angst and attitude and they prove to be some of the coolest characters in illustrated media, not to mention games and Anime.
Banchos everywhere, they are, even if you can’t pick one straight away you know that they are around. Now if you are aware of what exactly Banchos are than you’re probably thinking of the biblically buff, supremely solid and atrociously angry High Schoolers with their long jackets and their stern faces, you’re both right and wrong. Those stereotypical Banchos are the staple and also the most well known versions of the fighters, they’re also the most interesting, but there are some that seem to slip through the cracks because of their, let’s say, lack of image.
That’s not to say they’re bad though, they’re just…”hidden”. While Banchos and Bosozoku Gangs were real cool a while ago, I feel like they’re being forgotten about and if not that then they’re being overlooked. I happen to be a massive fan of Bancho-style characters, they’re tough, they’re honourable, they believe in respect and they’re great leaders. That’s the perfect combination for a main protagonist yet we barely see it happen.
Japan has the bulk of Bancho characters and, obviously, it’s because it originated in Japan, what I don’t like is how Western Comics and Graphic Novels havn’t seemed to pick up on the trend, or what’s left of it. Yes, I would consider Ombra Ravenga from Sharknife to be, somewhat, Bancho but he is more the Yakuza-type which does share a great deal of it’s traits with the Bancho label. Japan clearly has the lead when it comes to these types of characters, absolutely.
The Manga “Crows” would have to be the most popular Bancho-based series considering there are not many that revolve around that type of thing. The fact that it spawned two movies is fantastic because they were done well and you definitely got the essence of Bancho, not only that though because it also raised “Bancho Awareness”. There are also series’ like Yu Yu Hakusho which, basically, was about Banchos who fought spirits, now I haven’t read it but I trust my source.
The popular Shonen Jump Manga Bleach, it’s main character is a Bancho, well, WAS a Bancho at one point in time but the audience tends to forget about that, with good reason though, he went from being a semi-normal teen to a sword-weilding, death machine. Think back to the small arc where Chad and Ichigo share their past with the audience, we’re met with drawn scenes of Chad and Ichigo kicking down the school gates, hands in pockets, anger on their face and picking fights with whoever they could which, now that I think about it, is a very big throwback to it’s predecessor Yu Yu Hakusho.
Fact is; they were Banchos, that’s part of their backstory and it’s something that gets forgotten. Bleach actually has a fair few Bancho-types; I think Kenpachi walks the fine line between Bancho and Yakuza, Kensei Muguruma deffinitely fits the description and Moe Shishigawara (The Fullbringer) was dressed in the appropriate attire and had the attitude too. They’re most certainly everywhere.
I want to jump into who I consider to be the biggest, most well known Bancho and, possibly, one of the greatest additions to it’s rise in popularity: Jotaru Kujo. We all know him, he’s the most popular of the Joestar family and he’s my favourite character from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Let me start off by saying; when the next season of JJBA comes out, Banchos will once again rise. His story starts off a lot like Bleach, he’s a normal teen who gets into fights, every girl wants him and every guy wants to be him, he then gets a supernatural power that would usually change all that…not for Jotaro Kujo, he sticks to his Bancho ways with or without Star Platinum by his side and that’s what I love about this character.
He fights some crazy and exciting characters but he never seems to loose his cool, he’s always got a stern face and a powerful punch and I’m not even going to go into the 80s one-liners he loves. “Yare yare daze”. So Bancho. I still want to mention another JJBA character, Josuke Higashikata, who is much like Jotaro. I’m not going to speak much about him but those of you who know the series will understand why I chose to give him a mention, he is basically the next generation of Bancho in the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure series.
There’s a Manga that I don’t believe is well know, it is called “Kongou Bancho” and it is a very intense Bancho-based Manga which, unlike Crows, throws us into a world where Banchos aren’t just awesome fighters, they’re on another damn level. The plot of Kongou Bancho is very much reminiscent of a large-scale game, there are 23 Districts controlled by 23 Banchos and the one to beat them all will become the leader of Japan, there’s a hidden society that sets up the games, there’s a lot of deception and searching and what not, I don’t want to wreck any story so I wont get into it.
I believe we need more story lines like these where, not only is there Banchos, but there’s a twist that brings the interest level up. Being able to see different types of Bancho is really fun and it gets the imaginative juices flowing, it honestly does. in Kongou Bancho there is a Sukeban (Lady bancho) with “herculean grade” muscles which allow her to pick up incredibly large objects, there’s a Bancho who proactices Buddhism and uses the teachings from it for combat, there’s so many different types and they all fit into the story and setting. I just feel it’s an under appreciated Manga which just happens to be about an under appreciated trope or “character type”.
In the age we live in now I think that we need to revive character-types like this and while they’re not entirely “dead” they’re definitely on their way out. The great thing is that the Bancho character that are circulating through Manga are fan-favourites and are loved by a lot of people out there, it’s just unfortunate that the West hasn’t entirely caught on and, while they have their leaders and their fighters, they’re missing out on such a great addition to any story. At least that’s what I believe. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of this kind of stuff in the future, there’s a Manga which is soon to be released called “Guren 5” which has the tagline “Delinquents save the world!” that I hope will bring some light back to this character-type so keep an eye out for that. Passion, Respect, Honour and Power!