Soumubu Soumuka Yamaguchi Roppeita (Yamaguchi Roppeita, General Affairs Department, General Affairs Section)
A long-term favorite, this manga is often described as a hymn to the salaryman. Its hero, YAMAGUCHI Roppeita, appears to be just another office worker with little hope for promotion, but in fact he’s a “super-general-affairs-man” who can finesse any problem with his own creative solutions. His workplace, the General Affairs Section of the General Affairs Department of automaker Dainichi Motors, is a jack-of-all-trades office constantly deluged with requests of various sorts from other departments. Each installment of the manga presents a human drama revolving around a particular trouble-shooting episode, with problems typical of the salaryman’s world often providing the theme. Among the colorful characters surrounding Roppeita are the foul-mouthed, sarcastic yet lovable subsection chief ARIMA, the kindhearted but indecisive section chief IMANISHI, company president TAGAWA (with whom Roppeita gets along surprisingly well), and Roppeita’s fiancee YOSHIZAWA Sayoko, the president’s secretary. The manga’s appealing portrayals of Roppeita and his coworkers have earned them the sympathies of a broad range of readers. The series ended after 30 years with the sudden passing of cartoonist TAKAI Kenichiro in November 2016.
YAMAGUCHI Roppeita, a super-ordinary man yet in some ways a superman, solves all manner of problems at a fictitious automobile company. The character is drawn with lines of a uniform thickness that give him a gentle, likeable aura. This drawing style makes even a snarky character like Roppeita’s superior, Subsection Chief ARIMA, somehow seem endearing. The manga was serialized for 30 years without a single hiatus, filling 81 book-length volumes that have sold over 10 million copies. Hailed as the “salaryman’s fight song,” the series enjoyed enduring popularity until it abruptly ceased publication with the death of its cartoonist, TAKAI Kenichiro, in November 2016 at age 79. TAKAI’s 60 years of living the “manga life” on the front lines of the industry was a remarkable feat in itself. No less impressive are writer HAYASHI Norio’s achievements with this work. Reflecting the social conditions of its era through a cast of well-rounded characters besides Roppeita himself, it richly deserves the appellation “human drama.” Throughout its long run, the manga has been a source of encouragement and solace to countless office workers. (MINAMOTO Taro)