We wanted to pay tribute to the oldest manga yet published that sadly not many current manga fans have heard of: Golgo 13.

Golgo 13 It is the oldest manga still published to this day, with 53 years under its belt (and only a brief hiatus, in 2020). The manga, written and illustrated by Takao Saito, has been published on Shogakukan’s Great Comic beginning in 1968. The series, which has won numerous awards since its debut, tells several stories of the main character, an infamous hitman.

Golgo 13The tankōbon collection has reached one of the highest volumes in history. Having sold 280 million copies, it is one of the top five best-selling manga and manga. the best-selling Seinen series in stock (sorry, Maddened). There are numerous adaptations: live-action feature films, an OVA, a 50-episode anime, an anime movie, and many video games. It has been a great success in Japan, where it has become a cultural phenomenon.

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At the center of this story, we find the eponymous hero, Golgo 13. He could definitely be characterized as the James Bond of the manga – women, guns, conspiracies, and international cat and mouse games of murder and espionage are his specialty. The way Golgo 13, also known by the alias Duke Togo, is presented is simply ideal: its actual first lines arrive very late in the first chapter and instead, it is presented through the mystery that surrounds it; through the elusiveness of his character. Travel the world and murder high profile figures for money. He is always lurking in the background and in the shadows, but no one knows his true identity. The name by which he is supposedly known is a reference to the unfortunate number 13, and also to the 13th Jesus’ disciple, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus and eventually through his actions sent him to Golgotha ​​(hence “Golgo”). And this man is the best at one thing: killing. He mostly concludes his duties with a custom M16 rifle (he’s an excellent sniper) but he uses it more because he likes it than he needs it. He once killed 20 men with a knife.

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Golgo 13 sleeve, Golgo aiming with M16 rifle

Golgo 13 is not a good person or a hero. His actions are selfish and only intended to promote him, his lifestyle, and his career as a hitman. So why keep reading? Why support it? That’s easy: you don’t support it, not exactly. He is so capable at what he does and the various plots are so intriguing to follow that one gets hooked. Golgo is determined, stoic, sometimes angry, and doesn’t really evolve; for is manga that is a bonus, simply because two things drive its narrative: the compelling stories involving international conspiracies and the protagonist’s missions and his determination to complete them and move on no matter what.

Golgo missions occasionally serve the greater good, but only by chance and coincidence. Ultimately, the reason you do everything, your ultimate purpose, is this: you get the job done so you can keep doing your job. That’s it. He has no affiliations and although many speculate about his origin (maybe it is Japanese?), In the end he only informs himself. His presence is as elusive as his character. That’s why readers can focus on the action and the plots: From Cold War espionage to coups in remote parts of the world, Golgo is involved in everything and Saito’s team clearly investigates thoroughly. The sandy noir aesthetic is also an attractive factor.

At the end of the day, maybe Golgo 13 It is so successful because there is no general plot (a person can start almost at any time) and at the same time, the stories are always topical politically and historically. Unfortunately, only 13 of the 199 volumes are available in English, published by Viz Media. Hopefully more of his stories will be translated into English in the future and he could eventually become a household name outside of Japan.

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