Darakuya Store Monogatari (だらくやストア物語) is Yoshito Usui's debut series and predecessor to Crayon Shin-chan. The series was first published in May 1987 in the Manga Action magazine, winning the Newcomer Award in that publication, under the editorial Futabasha. It was published following the yonkoma format, with each short story consisting of four panels of equal size ordered from top to bottom and it is based on Usui's personal experiences when he used to work at a department store.
Darakuya Store Monogatari tells the story of the staff of Darakuya (だらくや) store, a big department store. There are no main protagonists in the series: different characters are shown in different stories and very rarely the comic strips remain focused on only one of them. The salesmen and women in the store, the cleaning staff, the managers... all of them are featured in the series.
The story was published monthly until 1990, when Yoshito Usui decided to focus on his new creation, Crayon Shin-chan. Until that moment, a total of three volumes of Darakuya Store Monogatari were published, each of them consisting of more than one hunderd 4-panel-comic strips. The stories are definitely targeted to adults, as high quantities of sex jokes and drama are present there.
Some of the stories that were not compiled in the three volumes of the series were republished in 1993 under the name Super Mix (すぅぱあ・みっくす). The complete series, featuring all the stories, was published again the year 2000 under the comercial name of Usui Yoshito Connection (臼井儀人こねくしょん). The series were also published in China with the name (不良百貨公司物語) by Tong Li Comics.
Origin of Crayon Shin-chan
But, without any doubt, the most interesting aspect of Darakuya Store Monogatari is that it served as a base to Yoshito Usui to creat the character of Shinnosuke Nohara. In particular, Shin-chan is based on the childhood version of Shinnosuke Nikaido (二階堂信之介), the president of Darakuya Store. When the editor in charge saw the story he proposed Yoshito Usui to make that character independent on an individual comic, as it 'would be interesing'.
In the third volume of the series, around 50 comic strips are dedicated to the story on how this character became president of the company. In fact, when republishing the series, this story originally called 'Shinnosuke's legend' (しんのすけ伝説) was presented as the first and main episode of Usui Yoshito Connection.
Shinnosuke Nikaido's story
The story of Shinnosuke Nikaido has little to do with Shin-chan though. When he was a kid, he was dressed as a girl by his parents and sent to a boarding school where he was forced to work hard. He managed to escape, being adopted by a travestite and worked with him as a dancer in night clubs. Shinnosuke's age remains unknown through all the story, as his appeareance is always the same.
After that, he worked in a traditional restaurant and as a cleaner in a shop. Then, after some training, Shinnosuke joined the navy and became a soldier. Unfortunately he was made prisoner. After a while, he managed to escape, coming back home and founding the Darakuya Store.
Similarities with Shinnosuke Nohara
The main similarty of both Shinnosukes is their appearance. They really look alike each other, and if pictures from both mangas are compared, the coincidences become obvious. Their faces have a particular shape and both characters are really short with thick eyebrowns.
However, appearance is not the only similarity that can be found. During the story of Shinnosuke Nikaido, some attitudes or situations are examples of what Shinnosuke Nohara will do in Crayon Shin-chan years later. Putting panties in his head, blowing in someone else's ears or enjoying the company of nice-looking girls are only some of the few characteristics of Shin-chan that were anticipated by Darakuya Store Monogatari.