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Manga / Oldboy

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Oldboy is a Japanese manga written by Garon Tsuchiya, illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi, and serialized from 1996 to 1998. It is perhaps best known as the basis for the 2003 South Korean film adaptation of the same name.

Kidnapped without provocation, a man identifying as Yamashita is kept in a tiny cell, with only a TV, bed and bathroom. Left with nothing to do but exercise and pass time, he spends ten years alone, only to find himself dressed, drugged and dumped in a public park without reason. Given plenty of money and a phone by his captors, Yamashita meets a young girl named Eri, finds his old friend Tsukamoto and even gets a job, but finds himself driven to track down those who imprisoned him.

The manga was adapted into an award-winning Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook, which was hugely successful and brought a new interest to the manga, allowing the series to be translated in 2005. The film was later given an American remake in 2013, directed by Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin. This version was poorly received and a Box Office Bomb.

Please note that, like its film counterpart, this manga involves several major twists and reveals so watch for spoilers.

This manga series contains examples of:

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Alias Dojima and Yamashita gamble if the latter can figure out why he was imprisoned, with the stakes of the loser dying (or, if Yamashita loses and runs, everyone he cares about dies).
  • Crazy-Prepared: Alias Dojima, who somehow has bugs planted in the right place beforehand on several occasions.
  • Creepy Child: Kakinuma. Even Yukio (read: his teacher) harbored a dislike for him simply because he was so creepy.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Kakinuma's quest for revenge is all a result of Goto pitying him when they were children.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Yamashita, who willingly throws away a gun at one point to prevent Reckless Gun Usage.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: The reason for Kakinuma imprisoning Goto is because he was the only person to ever pity him when they were children.
  • Driven to Suicide: Kakinuma, who loses his gamble and decides to keep to his end of the bargain.
  • Gratuitous English: Tsukamoto's bar is called "Moon Dog".
  • The Jailer
  • Le Parkour: In one of the books, Yamashita loses one of Alias Dojima's thugs by running into a high building and jumping roof to roof.
  • No Name Given: The protagonist and antagonist, who go by the names Yamashita/Mister and "Alias Dojima" until their real names are revealed (Shinichi Goto and Takaaki Kakinuma respectively).
    • Alias Dojima's spy never gets a real or fake name.
  • Perma-Stubble: Yamashita though he appears clean-shaven in the epilogue.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The premise remains the same between the manga and movie, but beyond that they differ completely. Even the calm Yamashita from the manga is changed to the almost psychopathic Oh Dae-su in the movie. Also, no one except Kakinuma dies in the manga; in the film, there is literally a mountain of corpses left by Oh Dae-su.
  • Left Hanging: Despite Eri having a second level of post-hypnotic suggestion that may still dictate her actions, the group never find out what it is due to Kyoko disappearing.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Both Goto and Yamashita invoke this, when pushed too hard and beaten respectively.
  • Sexy Secretary: Kyoko Kataoka, Alias Dojima's assistant. Her sexiness is even used to distract and control Tsukamoto when they start visiting Moon Dog.
  • Smug Snake: Alias Dojima, who is constantly calm (even when Goto snaps and starts punching him in the face, he remains somewhat indifferent).
  • Token Romance: Yamashita and Eri. It turns out it's a result of hypnosis. They get somewhat over it.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Yamashita, who spent most of his ten-year imprisonment doing push-ups, sit-ups and shadow boxing. He even manages to beat up a group of thugs easily when he's released.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Kakinuma when Goto figures out why he imprisoned him.
  • "What Now?" Ending: The epilogue of the series ends with Kakinuma dead, and Goto with Eri. However, Goto has a nightmare about Eri's second layer of hypnosis causing her to kill herself, prompting Goto to conclude that Kakinuma's game has yet to finish.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Yamashita, wanting more money after being released, acts drunk to attract muggers so he can mug them.