Poker Under Arms

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Poker Under Arms (武装ポーカー, Busō Pōkā) is a Japanese shōnen manga one-shot written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki. Having been a "Selected Work" runner-up at the Tezuka Awards, this Wild West one-shot was Araki's first published work and his official debut as a manga artist.

The one-shot is included alongside Araki's other early works in the volumization of Gorgeous Irene.


A wealthy old man sits down at a picnic, preparing to tell his audience a story about a dangerous poker game between gunmen.

Don Peckinpah is an infamous gunman with a bounty of $10,000 on his head, making him a constant target for bounty hunters looking for fame and riches. He is often described as being the devil, due to his malicious yet calm nature. At the start of the story, Peckinpah has just killed his latest victim, a bounty hunter who tried to ambush him at the barber shop. Peckinpah is impressed by the cleverness of the ploy, but takes pride in having a quicker wit and a faster draw.

After leaving the barber, Peckinpah enters a bar and orders a drink. At the bar, he overhears a group of poker players and asks if he can join them. One of the players, Mike Harper, is an equally-skilled gunman who has just arrived in town bearing the same bounty as Peckinpah's. Peckinpah demonstrates his talent by taking four cards and flicking them into the deck to push out the four aces. Not one to be outdone, Harper then mixes the deck so that the four aces end up at the top, scaring the other players away. The two gunmen agree to play one-on-one.

Mike Harper quickly reveals himself to be the better player. Frustrated by his losing streak, Peckinpah interrupts the game to take out his anger on a old drunkard before regaining his composure. Peckinpah devilishly suggests that they make the game more interesting by betting their guns, which would render the loser an easy target for bounty hunters and fellow outlaws. Mike Harper reluctantly agrees to the stakes. Peckinpah discreetly switches his cards before revealing his hand: four of a kind in queens. Suddenly, the drunkard points out that Harper also has four queens in his hand. Peckinpah and Harper throw the table and draw, but the drunkard takes the opportunity to throw a Molotov cocktail at the two gunmen, killing both.

And so, the wealthy old man's story concludes. The old man's girlfriend appears and reminds him of his promise to go shopping for clothes with her. As they walk to their car, the man's girlfriend also mentions reading that he had killed two criminals in the newspaper, remarking that his life as a sheriff must be very hard work.



Author's Comment

Link to this sectionAuthor's Note
I was so excited when I heard that my work was going to be published that I wrote several diary entries about it!

Author's Note

Link to this sectionAuthor's Note
Poker Under Arms
My debut work. When I drew it, I hoped to take it to my editor's office and have him want to read it to the very end, without ceasing to flip the pages and putting down the work. The reason why it's 31 pages long is that at the time, it was decided that story manga should be cut down to that number of pages. I drew around a hundred pages in total, redrew it again up to page 31, reworked the material, and brought it into my editor's office. It was then submitted to the Tezuka Award committee. I chose to make it a Western because I loved Clint Eastwood.
デビュー作。とにかく作品持ち込みで編集者をラストベージまで “読ませたい“ と思ったし、途中でページをめくるのをやめて見捨てたりしないでください…と願って描いた。


In his book Hirohiko Araki's Manga Techniques, Araki explains how he designed Poker Under Arms to be as appealing as possible.

For starters, Araki chose the Western setting to stand out from the competition. Having the idea of a story about gambling and violence, Araki titled his work "Poker Under Arms" to evoke both of these concepts. Figuring that most competitors would feature their protagonists in the cover page, Araki decided to do the opposite and draw an unknown man being gunned down during a game of poker.

To start the story, Araki eschewed directly introducing his protagonists and instead used the character of the old man as a mysterious narrator. Araki then purposefully introduced Don Peckinpah in the second page in the barber shop to show the reader that he was a formidable gunman and a guy tough enough to be able to care about his appearance in the midst of a dangerous gunfight. Araki also decided to have Don Peckinpah gun down someone in an unusual place (the barber shop) to show the readers that the setting wasn't a normal town.

Araki also designed Don Peckinpah and Mike Harper's appearances so that they contrasted each other. Details include Don Peckinpah's white shirt against Harper's dark jacket, Peckinpah's dark hair against Harper's light hair, and Peckinpah's thick eyebrows against Harper's narrow ones.

Tezuka Award

Poker Under Arms was created as an entry for the 1981 Tezuka Award competition. Although no winner was selected, Araki's work alone won the "Selected Work" runner-up distinction, having drawn the attention of the judges.

Judge Commentaries

  • Tetsuya Chiba: The dialogue in "Poker Under Arms" is vivid and tasteful. The characters of the two poker players are well-defined and competently portrayed.
  • Yasutaka Tsutsui: Although of the same standard as usual, this time "Poker Under Arms" was unquestionably entertaining.
  • Noboru Baba: "Poker Under Arms" has a good storyline. The introduction to the main story is also good. It's a pity that the final page, where the sheriff appears, is a small panel.
  • Yusuke Nakano: The common denominator throughout is the prominence of skill and the weakness of the ability to woo the mind. However, "Poker Under Arms", "Cosmo Frontier", "The Fighter", "Loot! Smuggling Play", for example, are promising newcomers to the scene. If these newcomers continue to grow, I'm sure they will bring about a change in the world of shonen, in the world of comics.
  • Abe Takahisa: There were no outstanding works, but they were of intermediate quality. Among them, "Poker Under Arms" was quite strong and kept the reader engaged until the end. The only drawback is that it is a high degree!
  • Osamu Tezuka: Among the works, "Poker Under Arms" is the most entertaining. It's a bit mature, but it's thrilling and has an excellent composition that makes you think you're watching a film. An undisputed semi-finalist.








「全体に共通して言えることは、技巧が目だち、心にうったえる力が弱い。しかし、『武装ポーカー』『コスモフロンティア』『闘士』『略奪!密輸劇』などは、将来性のある新人群だ。 これらの新人群が、順調に成長すれば、少年誌の・・・いやコミック界の作品内容に、なんらかの変化をもたらすと確信する。」







Poker Under Arms between Gorgeous Irene and Cool Shock B.T.


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