Baoh the Visitor (バオー来訪者, Baō Raihōsha) is a manga written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump with seventeen chapters from October 1984 to February 1985. In September 1985, it was compiled into two tankōbon volumes with nine chapters. It later released as one bunkoban volume on June 16, 2000.
The manga was licensed in English and released in monthly chapter issues by VIZ Media in 1990. As it was financially unsuccessful, it was not until 1995 that it was re-released in a volume format. An OVA adaptation of the series by Studio Pierrot released on September 16, 1989.
Seventeen-year-old Ikuro Hashizawa can transform into the parasitical bio-weapon, Baoh, gaining superhuman strength and other abilities such as emitting corrosive substances and discharging electricity. He escapes from the secret Dress Organization along with a young psychic girl, Sumire, and the two must face various assassins sent by the organization to kill him.
One day, the mangled corpse of a woman washes up on a northeastern shore of Rikuchu, Japan. The dead woman is revealed to have been on a certain train several days earlier.
On said train, Dr. Kasuminome (霞の目博士, Kasuminome-hakase, Professor Hazyeye in the English translation) of the Dress Secret Organization (秘密組織ドレス, Himitsu Soshiki Doresu, Judas in the English translation), a covert government group responsible for creating secret weapons, escorts one of his latest creations, Baoh (バオー, Baō), kept dormant in a tank. Meanwhile, a little psychic girl named Sumire (スミレ, lit. "Violet"), who was kidnapped to be studied, escapes from her room and during her escape releases Baoh, revealed to be a young man with superhuman abilities. Baoh and Sumire subsequently escape the train, Kasuminome worried that he might have unleashed a terrible weapon.
Ikuro on the run
Ikuro battles various assassins and monsters
Fearful, Kasuminome immediately calls for an assassin to kill Baoh. Later, the boy and Sumire try to bond with each other, but a knife wielding assassin named N.22 stabs the former, forcing the duo to steal a motorbike and flee. The assassin reports his failure, and is ordered to gather more of his comrades to finish off Baoh before his power fully awakens. It is revealed that the boy, named Ikuro Hashizawa (橋沢 育朗, Hashizawa Ikurō), is amnesiac and doesn't remember how he obtained his uncanny strength and regeneration. N.22 soon attempts a second murder, slicing Ikuro's throat, but it only awakens Baoh, who dissolves N.22 before turning back into a human.
Later, a death squad is already searching for Ikuro and Sumire, who are busy betting on horse races to acquire money. Meanwhile, Kasuminome explains to his sponsors how deadly the Baoh, a parasite granting supernatural strength and several other abilities to even the weakest organisms the longer it stays inside of them. To demonstrate its potential, he pits a little Baoh dog against a tiger, a battle which Baoh wins. If Ikuro were to fully develop into a Baoh, he would wreak havoc upon the world and turn everything into a Baoh. Meanwhile, Ikuro and Sumire have settled inside an abandoned building, Ikuro sensing that something inside of him is changing. The death squad attacks the duo, but Ikuro transforms again into Baoh, decimating the squad. Unbeknownst to him, he is observed by another assassin.
Baoh senses the assassin, who reveals himself as a beastmaster commanding a heavily modfied giant mandrill named Martin. Due to its strength and many weapons hidden inside his body, Martin is more than a match for Baoh. Sumire, having sensed that Ikuro's humanity is still intact inside of Baoh, tries to stop the assassin from controlling Martin, only to be hurt. Enraged, Baoh finally overpowers Martin and kills both the beast and his master, healing and turning back into Ikuro.
Sumire taken hostage
Sumire is taken hostage by Dress
Walking through the mountains, Ikuro explains to Sumire that after a deadly car collision, Ikuro and his parents were heavily injured and taken to the hospital six months ago. Unfortunately, the doctor was linked to Dress, looking for guinea pigs at the time. Kasuminome callously killed Ikuro's parents under his eyes and took him away to inject the Baoh parasite inside of him. Back to the present, an old couple living in the area gives Ikuro and Sumire shelter and food. But during a moment the old man is isolated, another cyborg assassin emerges, hypnotizing the old man into waiting for midnight and shoot Ikuro in the head with his hunting rifle.
The cyborg named Dordo (ドルド, Dorudo) watches the house until the clock strikes midnight. The old man wakes up and tries to shoot Ikuro, who transforms into Baoh but senses that the old man is not his true enemy. Jumping through the roof, Baoh confronts Dordo who disables all of his sensory organs through chemicals released by a swarm of bats. Thankfully, the old man, who has come to his senses and guided by Sumire, shoots down the bats while taking a bullet. Baoh confronts Dordo, who is heavily wounded, but reveals his heavily modified body. He kidnaps Sumire to use her as bait and escapes with a delta plane to one of the Dress' headquarters near Sanriku. Ikuro is determined to free Sumire, but risks unleashing the beast inside of him for good.
Going away on a motorcycle given by the couple, Ikuro deems it necessary to learn to control his power first to have a chance to save Sumire. Meanwhile, Kasuminome chastises Dordo for his perceived failure and the danger of letting Baoh time to grow stronger. Meanwhile, Ikuro is forced to save a trapped girl from a speeding train and is pushed into managing to activate his acid touch without fully transforming. Humiliated by his hierarchy, Dordo goes out to snipe Ikuro, but his attempt is foiled thanks to Ikuro activating his super senses and strength to evade the bullets. Meanwhile, Sumire is experimented on, but the scientists cannot make her cooperate. Sumire then sees a hulking man, Walken (ウォーケン, Wōken) and is terrified. Walken is one of the most dangerous men in the world, gifted with extraordinary psychic powers and demonstrating it by willing a coffee cup into boiling.
Ikuro at the Dress facility
Baoh with a laser weapon
Taken back to the headquarters, Dordo is executed by Walken for his failure and is atomized into dust. To lure Baoh, Kasuminome purposefully tortures Sumire whose distress is detected by the weapon. Ikuro is already scaling the seaside cliff leading to a vulnerable side of the facility and, turning into Baoh, rampages through the security staff as well as survives death traps to reach Sumire's room. He is stopped by Walken, whose ability to destroy anything with a thought makes him invincible and his every attack deadly. Nonetheless, Baoh manages to stab inside Walken's brain by launching one of his arm blades and he finally reaches Sumire.
He is welcomed by a flurry of laser beams, and the attack does not faze Baoh but wounds Sumire. Seeing that Baoh is cornered, Kasuminome prepares to blow up the facility. Meanwhile, Baoh heals the girl with his blood. Walken has woken up, still alive despite his injury, and seeks Baoh for revenge. As the headgear restricting his psychic powers was destroyed by Baoh's attack, the full strength of Walken's abilities causes an earthquake inside the facility. As Sumire awakens, Walken finds them and destroys the floor. All of them, as well as Kasuminome who tried to escape in a pod, find themselves in a cavern. Telling Sumire to flee, Baoh uses one of the lasers to kill Walken for good, unintentionally fatally wounding Kasuminome in the process. The facility then self-destructs, causing the cavern to collapse.
Some time later, Sumire walks by the sea. She has been taken in by the old couple and lives a happy life while the incident at the research facility is covered up by the press. Looking at the water, she senses that Ikuro is dormant but alive at the bottom of the sea and predicts that he will return when she is seventeen and reunite with her.
I was once asked, "If you could have a superpower, what would it be?" I immediately answered, “Transform!” because with transformation, you can be anything you want. I think one would eventually get bored of precognition and telekinesis after a while, but transforming would always be fun. You could mess with other people and go to different places...... I'm sure you'd be able to enjoy yourself forever without ever getting tired, which is why I'd like everyone to check out Baoh the Visitor. It's a cool story, but also a sad one at the same time.
I think my first contact with Araki was when I read his submission for the Tezuka Awards. Looking at his manuscripts, I was surprised and delighted at how similar are styles were. Araki is very meticulous with how he crafts his story, going over it several times before putting pen to paper. He's the type of person who only starts writing once he has a complete grasp of the dynamics of his characters, the circumstances they face, their outlook on the world, and so on. This method is the same one used by novelists and screenwriters, but for a serial manga artist is very detrimental.
Most of these subtle attentions to detail go unnoticed by the reader, like the sci-fi themes scattered throughout the story and the deliberate awe created by the protagonist. Nonetheless, this is precisely where a science fiction writer gets to put their skills to the test, trying to visualize what we can only see in our wildest dreams. I mentioned earlier that our styles were similar. That's because I felt that his approach to drawing manga was very close to mine. There are very few artists who can make sci-fi manga entertaining without compromising the overall quality of their work, and Araki is one of them. Given his current style, I think he'll continue to grow as a manga artist in the future.
It's important to recognize that science fiction manga isn't the same as novels or films. At first, this seems obvious, but I think it's something necessary to keep in mind. I hope the both of us will continue drawing science fiction manga until we truly understand what it means.
I have been reading this unusually-powerful story with my undivided attention since its serialization in Shonen Jump. I appreciated that the artist didn't hold back in his drawings or in the storyline. Perhaps this is because what the author has been waiting to do for years boiled over all at once in this work.
If the persuasive power of a novel comes from its style, the persuasive power of a manga comes from its drawings. It's all about what kind of pictures you can present before the reader's eyes. The persuasiveness of those drawings is the persuasiveness of the manga itself. The small details fade away.
In that regard, when I laid eyes on the drawing of the Baoh parasite, I was struck by its eeriness—in other words, its persuasive power. When the reader is presented with such a drawing, they simply have to trust the author. Masaki Yamada once wrote that "science fiction is description," and I believe that manga is a form of description as well.
A sequel to this story will undoubtedly have to be drawn before long.
When I started writing Baoh the Visitor, I moved my workplace from my hometown of Sendai to Tokyo. Up until that point, I had been working alone, drawing at my own house. If I had a fax machine and an efficient photocopier like I do now, and could get to the editorial department in about two hours via bullet train, perhaps I wouldn’t have moved.
However, at the time Baoh began serialization in 1984, courier services had barely been established in Sendai, so my work schedule was already constrained. I didn't want to move to Tokyo in the summer because of the hot and humid weather, as well as the small size of the place (which I'm still not used to), but after some encouragement I took the plunge. And now, looking back, I can only remember the positives of coming to Tokyo.
Firstly, the people there were human, too. I got to know people with different ideas and information, and was shocked at the different ways of looking at things, and being able to see and hear new things was the biggest plus in terms of studying. There were books on sale by painters and designers I had never seen before, and I became obsessed with food I had never eaten before. I really admired the painters Frank Frazetta, Enki Bilal, and Antonio Lopez. I was surprised by the beauty and fashion sense of designer stores like Missoni and Versace. I also watched MTV shows late at night, and I got to see performances of Madonna and African American rap music for the first time. I brought the question I had been pondering since my previous work, Cool Shock B.T., with me to Tokyo: "How can I develop my own art style?" As I studied, I realized I had a lot of work to do.
The idea for Baoh the Visitor came to me while I was working in Sendai. Since I had depicted an "intellectual conflict" in Cool Shock B.T., I thought about creating a setting and protagonist based on the theme of "the body" for my next work. I wanted to write a story about the topic of creating biological weapons using the cloning and genetic engineering techniques already available in 1984. The abilities used by the protagonist had to be sufficiently biological and logical, even if they were exaggerated. I also wanted to depict the story's progression with a similar rhythm to rock music. That's what it felt like to me, anyway. It had to be like the groove I'd seen on MTV since I came to Tokyo, full of the shrieks, the crescendos, the "Barubarubarubaru!" of life.
Once serialization began and the story progressed, I began to feel that, while genes could be a strange and wonderful concept, there's also something sad about them. Perhaps something like fate exists within one's own genes. For around ten years after its conclusion, I was often asked whether I would continue Baoh the Visitor. However, I think it's best to keep the end of Baoh here. The heroine, a young girl, grows up with a sense of hope for the future. I drew the last chapter with the feeling that the future is driven by hope, and I believe this "ode to life" was inherited by a work I started two years later, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. In regard to that art style challenge I had during my Cool Shock B.T. days, I wonder if I'll continue to study and hone my skills from here on? In that regard, I'm hopeful for the future.
I lost the manuscript for the full-color illustration of this book at some point, probably when the Shueisha building was being renovated, and I haven't been able to find it since. That's why I decided to use a magazine cover from the time of its publication. In other words, the original cover doesn't exist anymore...
Hirohiko Araki Biography Summary from the back of issue #1
Back of Issue #1 of VIZ Media's Baoh: The Visitor
Back of Issue #2 of VIZ Media's Baoh: The Visitor
Back of Issue #3 of VIZ Media's Baoh: The Visitor
Back of Issue #4 of VIZ Media's Baoh: The Visitor
Back of Issue #5 of VIZ Media's Baoh: The Visitor
Back of Issue #6 of VIZ Media's Baoh: The Visitor
Back of Issue #7 of VIZ Media's Baoh: The Visitor
Back of Issue #8 of VIZ Media's Baoh: The Visitor
VIZ Media's Send off in the final issue of Baoh: The Visitor
Baoh was Araki's first successful manga series and allowed him to afford his first trip abroad, to England. However, Araki found the trip difficult as he didn't understand English and wasn't familiar with the food.
According to Araki, the name "Baoh" comes from the term "Bio" as in Biotechnology, which was a hot topic at the time of Baoh's publication.
VIZ planned to bring JoJo's Bizarre Adventure to America in the early 1990s. They ran a blurb about it in their promo newsletter Viz-In under the name "The Strange Adventures of JoJo". However, the plan collapsed when Baoh sold poorly in America.
Hiroyuki Takei, the manga artist of Shaman King, said that Baoh the Visitor was one of his favorite series along with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure in his youth.