Jigoku no Senki (Japanese title: 地獄の戦鬼) is an erotic-action series that was originally serialized in Manga Erotopia in 1977 under the title “Taxi Driver”, and later collected into a 3 volume release by Hōbunsha Comics on March 1st, 1981. The series storyline was written by Shirō Azuma and illustrated by Toshio Maeda in what would be their first collaboration together. The two continued their partnership immediately after Taxi Driver ended it’s 2 year run in 1979 with the sequel “Satsujin Online” (殺人オン・ライン) which was also serialized in Manga Erotopia but never collected into a book release…
Set in the fictional city of Minowa, an ex-police detective by the name of Yajima earns a living as a taxi driver in order to raise the money needed to cover the exorbitant hospital costs in keeping his daughter, Maiko, on life support. Fortunately for Maiko however, her father isn’t just a taxi driver but also an extremely efficient hitman who rakes in big money from his high profile hits around the city. The story starts when Yajima agrees to accept a hit on a guy called Fubuki, an undercover narcotics officer who he used to work with at Kuzuhara Police station. Not realizing who Yajima is, Fubuki lures him into a brothel to have sex with one of the girls on duty. Within minutes the girl drops to her knees and gives Yajima a blowjob but he reacts by karate chopping her on the head and knocking her out instantly. Yajima then injects her with narcotics before calling out to Fubuki who is waiting in the hallway. Seeing the girl lying dead on the floor, Fubuki takes a close up look at her face and can smell drugs on her. Yajima lies but saying she injected too much but Fubuki immediately grabs him by the lapels and tells him she’s never done drugs in her life. It is at this moment that Fubuki recognizes who Yajima is and that there has been a hit placed on him. Yajima easily overpowers Fubuki before injecting him with an overdose of drugs which kills him instantly. With the death of both Fubuki and the girl looking like an accident, Yajima collects his 500,000 yen and goes back to his day job without a care in the world.
The next chapter follows immediately after the events in the brothel and introduces a police detective by the name of Morito Kurokawa. Blinded in one eye and never without his sunglasses, Kurokawa is a hard boiled, bald headed detective that has made it his personal mission to clear up Minowa City of all it’s drug and homicide related crime. Walking onto the scene of the crime, Kurokawa immediately recognizes the body of Fubuki and vows to find the person responsible for killing him. Another important person to make his appearance is Yasaburō Hashizume, a wealthy businessman that gives Yajima the majority of his contracts. In this chapter, both Kurokawa and Hashizume attempt to put a hit on Yajima but, after much to and fro between all three parties, Yajima eventually emerges victorious by killing both hitmen whilst at the same time sending a clear warning to Hashizume to never cross him again….
The 3rd chapter sees a change of pace when Hashizume pleads Yajima to assassinate a powerful prefectural congressman by the name of Daizaburo Shimura. Tired of Shimura muscling in on his turf, Hashizume offers Yajima a whopping 5 million yen to extinguish him for good, to which he readily agrees. Yajima spends the best part of a week closely trailing Shimura in order to find an opening in his schedule but finds it difficult due to the constant 24 hour protection afforded to him by his bodyguards. Yajima eventually concludes that the only way to get a hit on Shimura is when he is playing squash in the city gym and thus makes his plans accordingly. On the day of the hit, Yajima’s plan to use the air vents and take a shot at Shimura from the ceiling appears to go smoothly until he unexpectedly runs into a mysterious woman with the exact same plan, hiding in the air vent above the squash court. Unlike Yajima, the woman is sporting a harpoon gun and, unaware that Yajima is behind her in the vent, proceeds to take a shot at Shimura. Fortunately for the congressman, her shot goes wide and penetrates the throat of the young girl he’s playing squash with instead. Shimura and his men immediately bring their attention to the hole in the ceiling but are unable to capture his would be assassins. Outside, Yajima confronts the mysterious woman and accuses her of ruining his only chance at killing Shimura. The young woman reveals herself to be Shimura’s daughter, Keiko, and tells Yajima that she wants her father dead because he threw her mother off a skyscraper after the two separated. Keiko offers to join forces with Yajima in assassinating her father but he flatly refuses and tells her that he can do the job without her assistance. The following day Hashizume calls Yajima and tells him that Shimura is scheduled to make a visit to Tokyo on the bullet train and that it will be his final opportunity to kill him. Yajima makes the necessary preparations to kill Shimura by parking a rocket launching jeep on a nearby overpass situated opposite the bullet train tracks. Unaware to Yajima, Keiko is also on the train and she attempts to kill her father by detonating a small explosive radio controlled car. The attempt is a failure but seconds later Yajima fires his missile at the tracks. Fearing for his life, Shimura leaps out of the speeding bullet train door onto the ground below. Anticipating Shimura’s actions, Yajima mows him down with a machine gun the moment he jumps out of the bullet train to complete his contract.
The next chapter sheds some light on Yajima’s past when he finds himself put up against a lethal hitman known as Kuroki. The dual between the two takes place at the city amusement park and is set up for “entertainment purposes” by Hashizume and a corrupt politician named Taizo Mizuno, as a bet to see who has the better hitman. Yajima is completely unaware as to what’s going on but is lured into the trap when Kuroki kidnaps and molests Yajima’s ex-wife, Atsuko. Though Atsuko left Yajima and took his money soon after their daughter Maiko was hit by a car and put in intensive care, Yajima still feels a sense of obligation when she suddenly calls him out of the blue to rescue her. Answering the call, Yajima walks right into the trap and comes up against Kuroki in a deadly fight for survival. For much of the chapter, Kuroki has the upper hand but when he decapitates Atsuko in front of Yajima, he suddenly feels the full brunt of his opponent’s rage. Kuroki momentarily escapes but he soon comes up short when Yajima comes out of nowhere on a rollercoaster cart and beheads him with a hefty axe. Thanks to Kuroki’s walkie-talkie, Yajima discovers where Mizuno and Hashizume are spectating from and heads there with a sniper rifle in tow. The volume ends with Yajima shooting Mizuno dead and threatening Hashizume over the walkie-talkie that he has crossed the line for the last time….
The ensuing two volumes of Jigoku no Senki follow a very similar episodic narrative with each chapter being almost exclusively self contained. Though the “plot” isn’t pushed forward with each chapter, the main thread of Yajima coming up against Kurokawa is relevant throughout the entire manga. As is typical of Maeda’s work, there is an abundance of sex scattered throughout all three volumes but this story is more of an action affair with some very obvious inspirations coming from 007 and Golgo 13. The artwork in each volume is absolutely incredible with too many double page spreads to count. This period of Maeda’s career was heavily characterized by it’s dark tone and, after seeing this, it’s easy to draw comparisons with his other masterpiece, Trap of Blood, that was also written the same year. Another interesting fact about this manga is the obvious title change. Though it’s not 100% clear why the original title, “Taxi Driver”, wasn’t used for the volumes, its likely that the editors in charge felt that the occupation of the main character, coupled with the hidden spring-mounted revolver he has strapped to his arm, was too much of a rip-off of the classic De Niro movie of the same title that came out only a few years beforehand. The story goes to some pretty dark places too with one scene involving a heavily pregnant lady getting cut open; a scene that will certainly evoke an uncomfortable feeling among most readers. Ultimately however, Yajima’s story comes to a sad end when in a final showdown between himself and Kurokawa, his daughter Maiko gets shot dead. With nothing left to live for, Yajima ends his own life by causing a huge explosion that not only kills him, but also his daughter’s killer, Kurokawa.
Like the majority of Maeda’s work, Jigoku no Senki is long out of print and never got an official English release either. Personally, I really hope that changes someday since this title is one of my favorites after Trap of Blood and Urotsukidōji. As such, the only hope anyone currently has of reading this is by tracking down a copy in the usual used book places like Amazon or Yahoo Auction. If you DO find a copy though, I strongly recommend picking it up since the artwork is simply too good to miss. Happy hunting!
Here are the original Japanese covers for all three volumes: