Tag Archives: Osamu Tezuka

DMP Goes for Shojo for Next Tezuka Kickstarter

Storm Fairy KickstarterIt’s been just over a month since DMP ended their last Tezuka Kickstarter project, the printing of Clockwork Apple, with the stretch goals of printing Brave Dan, and reprinting of Barbara and Swallowing the Earth. On June 16, they launched the next project, to print the shojo short story title Storm Fairy. After 4 days, the project is $823 shy of hitting its base goal of $14, 200.

Storm Fairy is a collection of the 3 short stories. “Storm Fairy,” or “Fairy of Storms,” is the main story that the collection is named after. An Empress fleeing her burning castle and meets a wood fairy. In exchange for the fairy’s favor, the must give up the face of her next born child. That is Princess Ruri, who must wear a mask to hide her disfigured face. Ruri is usurped when an unscrupulous man learns her secret and steal her mask for his daughter. On the run, Ruri meets the samurai Tonosuke who takes her in, and the fairy Hanoke, who unknowingly has Ruri’s face.

The second story, “Kokeshi Detective Agency,” is described as having a similar tone to the Encyclopedia Brown detective stories. Paco is not afraid of things that go bump in the night, so she not bothered by the spooky mysteries she solves with Waco, her dog friend protects her. In the “Pink Angel,” the fair Pink from the realm of beautiful sunsets tries to make people happy and in need by morphing into what it is they need while King Brown and Sepia, from the realm of Thunderstorms, try their best to make people miserable.

I think this is the first title DMP has kickstarted that has me tempted to back. While all three stories sound appealing, I’m really interested in “Kokeshi Detective Agency.” I have a fondness for detective stories and a nostalgia for Encyclopedia Brown, so getting a taste of both is a boon for me. The rewards structure is pretty sound, with the first tier to get the book digitally being at $10, a reasonable amount for a kickstarter, and $20 for in print. Some new rewards are t-shirts, a dress, and a tote bag, all actual useful items that let people show off their Tezuka love.

There are two stretch goals set on this project. At $26,000, Unico will get a reprint run, but for an addition $1000, it will get a reprint run with higher quality colors. For another $5,500, or a total of $32, 500, the previously digital-only title Crime and Punishment will get a print run. I’m not too big on the Unico reprint, but I’m always for giving a digital-only series a print run, even if it’s one I’m not interested in. Though considering the subject of this project, I think another shojo-y title would have been more appropriate.

Considering DMP still has 25 days to hit its goal, there is little doubt Storm Fairy will be funded. What it’s going to come down to once again is if the stretch goals are hit. Clockwork Apple went down to the wire to get all its stretch goals, but it did make it. It will be interesting to see if this, the first Tezuka shojo to kickstart will do as well as its shonen and seinen siblings.

Here We Go Again

Clockwork Apple KickstarterOn Thursday, Digital Manga Publishing announced their next Tezuka-in-Print kickstarter. They are being modest again, with a single series anthology, Clockwork Apple. It features 8 short stories of speculative fiction that were written between 1968 – 1973.  DMP describes the volume as such:

In this collection of speculative fiction a man finds a wonder drug, a robot has a baby, a town is subjected to control by substance, a robber runs away from murder, a man searches for his mysterious love, American school kids are kidnapped, an activist takes part in political intrigue, and space hippies defy peace conventions.

It is recommended to fans of the TV show The Twilight Zone and the comics Creepy and Eerie, due to similar tone and themes. Considering what a classic those titles are, that is high praise for this volume.

DMP is looking for $13,500 to publish the book with the digital tier hitting at $15, and the print tier at $20. The book will be a little thicker than most manga volumes, coming in at 284 pages, and DMP is saying they will use heavier stock paper, which is what probably puts the print book at the near MSRP of $19.99. There are of course plenty of rewards, including a digital companion, bookmarks, wooden coins, a cabby hat, moleskin journal, tote bag, and pins. They have also brought back their Library tier, were 5 volumes of the book will be sent to the library of your choice.

There are also stretch goals planned, with the first hitting at $18,200, what will put the currently digital only title Brave Dan into print. This is a good strategy for DMP to take. The work for Brave Dan has already been done. It was translated as a DMG title and is available on eManga. Kickstarting every Tezuka is untenable, but making them stretch goals for already available digital titles will put them much more into reach. There are five other titles available; Age of Adventure, Crime and Punishment, Mr. Cactus, New Treasure Island, and The Castle at Dawn.

As of this writing, the Kickstarter is at $12,096 with 328 backers with 25 days to go. It is nearly funded after 5 days with only $1404 left to go. Hitting that first stretch goal is very doable, and I rather hope it does make it. I would love to see the stretch goals include printing digital only titles. I think DMP’s goal to get Tezuka library in print is a good one and this is may be the way they were looking for to do it.

No Such Thing as a Sure Thing

Tezuka World KickstarterIt seems like the impossible, but it happened. The Digital Manga Kickstarter campaign, Tezuka’s World Release failed to meet its goal of $380,000 in 30 days. It was an ambition project. The entire kickstarter consisted of 6 series’ totaling 31 volumes to be published all at once. But it was a little too ambitious. The $380,000 as the initial goal only covered 2 titles totaling 20 volumes. Two more titles totaling an additional 5 volumes would become available at $475,000 and the final two titles totaling the last 6 volumes would become available at $589,000. That’s a lot of money, over half a million dollars for fans to pony up for just six titles.

Controversy surrounded this project right from the start. The cost and the levels needed to pledge just to get print copies of books was the first and foremost concern of many supporters. At the beginning, backers had to pledge at the $750 level to get copies of the books. That’s a lot of money for 31 books. There was a lot of questions about the tiers, mostly filled with promotional items and why getting books, the reason most people were looking to support the project, were at such a high price. Alex Hoffman of Sequential State did a 3 part post analyzing the project and discussing the issues he saw with it.

Not everyone saw the project as a negative. The Tezuka in English tumblr posted a defense of the kickstarter, asking people to not look at the project as a way to preorder books, but as an investment in DMP and their vision. DMP president Hikaru Sasahara seemed to think the same as a message from him in video and text was posted to the kickstarter page as updates. In his message, he explained why the cost of the kickstarted needed to be so high and what were the company’s ultimate goals. His message still wasn’t enough for backers, and a FAQ page was posted to answer further questions.

Ultimately, all of these explanation weren’t enough. It really appeared that DMP was asking Tezuka fans to fund, not just the project, but the operating expenses of the company. This isn’t what Tezuka fans were used to being asked, or were expecting. Past kickstarters run by DMP were about getting a few books out and fans were happy to fund them. But what DMP tried to do with this project was an entirely different animal and the backers made it very clear that they weren’t interested. In the end, only 115 people backed the project which raised $26,971.00, or 7% of the first goal.

With the information that has come out of this project, I do wonder what DMP said to Tezuka Pro to get them to hand over the license of 500 volumes and what they expected. Was part of DMP’s pitch the numbers from their kickstarter, and other successfully funded Tezuka kickstarters? It does seem that Tezuka was the one creator that you could put up a kickstarter for and people would just throw money at it. But it’s now apparent that even die-hard fans have limits. In DMP’s follow-up answers, it was implied that kickstarter was integral to the success of the license. Possibly even in them getting it. DMP was vastly overestimating western fans means and desire for Tezuka titles if they were counting on them to fund the entire project.

The thing I found most troubling was the expectation that backers would pay for DMP’s operating expenses. They should have had that all planned out and funded before even taking on such a monumental project. Kickstarter has been and continues to be about funding a project. Backers fund projects. Investors fund companies. Maybe DMP should look into Patreon if it’s going to be that much of a hardship on them.

I do hope DMP does try another, more modest kickstarter. There are still plenty of Tezuka titles that western fans want and will fund. They just need to find that balance between what fans want and what they will pay for. As DMP found out the hard way, this wasn’t it. Osamu Tezuka may be the God of Manga, but even with a god, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

Apollo’s Song: Manga Movable Feast

Apollo’s Song follows the tragic journey of Shogo, a young man whose abusive childhood has instilled in him a loathing for love so profound he finds himself compelled to acts of violence when he is witness to any act of intimacy or affection whether by human or beast. His hate is such that the gods intervene, cursing Shogo to experience love throughout the ages ultimately to have it ripped from his heart every time. From the Nazi atrocities of World War II to a dystopian future of human cloning, Shogo loses his heart, in so doing, healing the psychological scars of his childhood hatred.

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical, inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Drama
Price: $10.95/part
Rating: ★★★★☆

I first read Apollo’s Song 2 years ago, but could never get my thoughts about it to coalesce enough about it to get a review done. I decided to try again with the latest MMF. And again, I was at a loss for what to say. The story didn’t really speak to me, and some parts repulsed me. I had to give it a lot of thought to really come up with the reason why.

It really all came down to what the essence of this story is. It’s a tragedy. Anyone looking for some kind of happy ending here need not apply. In fact, I wouldn’t just call this story a tragedy, but it’s a tragedy’s tragedy. Because when you think it might not be so dark an ending after all, that little ray of hope is snatched from your fingers and trounced to death in front of you. Can you tell I’m not big on tragedies? It’s not that I don’t like them. I enjoyed the Sophocles tragedies, and with this title so strongly influenced by Greek myth, you’d think I’d enjoy it too. But I just couldn’t connect to it.

Apollo’s Song is composed of four stories essentially. Each lets Shogo experience a different kind of love. The first is about love at first sight with Shogo as a Nazi falling for a Jewish girl. The second is love that grows as Shogo and Naomi gradually fall in love despite their social differences. The third story shows the power of love, as Queen Sigma, a synthetic human who learns to love Shogo and then kills herself after he dies. The fourth story is the overarching plot in which Shogo experiences the other stories through dreams and hypnosis. By the end of this story, Shogo seems to be cured as he has fallen in love with Hiromi, the woman who has been secretly trying to heal him. Of course, this story couldn’t end well either.

Each of the stories make well-conceived, well written vignettes. I liked each of the stories when looked at by themselves. It’s when I look at the volume as a whole that I start to have problems. When I got to the end, I was left wondering, “What was the point?” My biggest problem with this title was all the killing of animals. I am a big animal lover, and can’t even watch the nature specials that show animals just struggling to survive. So seeing animals killed for showing affection really disturbed me. On this second reading, I skipped  over those pages. Knowing the scenes were coming didn’t help me get past them. I understand the scenes were necessary for Shogo’s story, but it was just too disturbing for me.

The ending was so pessimistic. To me, Tezuka is saying there is no happiness to be found in love. It will aways end tragically, and humanity has no choice but to keep going through the vicious cycle of love, loss and death. There is no joy in love, and no hope for humanity to escape. I also don’t get the whole beginning and ending with the anthropomorphized sperm and egg. Is Tezuka trying to imply that love is biologically driven? The opening scene at the beginning is an interesting way to show how children are conceived, but it didn’t have any relation to the rest of the book. Apollo’s Song is about the concept of love, not its biological byproduct. Children can be conceived without love, so I didn’t see the point of opening the book like that, and then revisiting it at the end.

Even though I don’t agree with the themes of Apollo’s Song, Tezuka’s ability to convey them can not be debated. One scene that particularly stands out to me is in the second story, “No Man’s Land”. While Shogo is exploring the island, the animals keep him out of one area. He finally convinces them to let him in. What he finds is a clearing where the animals of the island mate. Shogo feels uncomfortable watching and leaves. In that scene, Tezuka does an admirable job of conveying the reverence that is felt for that clearing. I felt just as uncomfortable as Shogo.

Apollo’s Song is not a title for everyone. It definitely falls into Tezuka’s dark side, though not in the way as MW or Book of Human Insects. In those stories, the good guys are just outsmarted by the bad guys. In Apollo’s Song, Shogo never had a chance in the first place. I would recommend this title but only to those interested in tragedy and all its forms, or die-hard fans of Tezuka. Apollo’s Song is a title worth reading, It’s just not something I would want to read again.

Book of Human Insects: Manga Movable Feast

Toshiko Tomura is a genius; she has already been an established international stage actress, and up-and-coming architect, and an award as Japan’s best new writer. Toshiko is also the mastermind behind a series of murders. The ultimate mimic, she has plagiarized, blackmailed, stolen and replicated the works of scores of talents. And now as her star is rising within the world of the elites and powerful she has amassed a long list of enemies frustrated by the fact that she has built critical and financial acclaim for nothing more than copying others’ work. Neglected as a child, she is challenging the concepts of gender inequality while unleashing her loneliness upon the world as she climbs the social ladder one body at a time.

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Thriller
Price: $21.95
Rating: ★★★★★

I wasn’t going to read this title. It seemed to have all the hallmarks of being another MW, and I’ve had quite enough of that. But I started paging through it, and as should be expected, got sucked into the story, and had to read it from the beginning. While it has some superficial similarities to MW, I was relieved to find the story and protagonist Toshiko, is really very different.

On the surface, Yuki from MW and Toshiko do seem to have a lot in common. They are both sociopaths that use anything or anyone to get their way. They have their own agenda and will kill anyone that stands in their way, showing no remorse. But just below the surface lies the one thing that makes a big difference between these two; their motivations. Yuki didn’t start out as a sociopath. Circumstances beyond his control helped to make him into the monster he eventually became. The effects of the poison gas and disregard for life made him into a killer. Toshiko was born with her abilities and used them to their fullest. She does not kill for the pleasure of seeing someone die. She kills those who could be of a threat to her. She does it out of a perverse sense of survival. The contrast of Yuki and Toshiko could be framed in the nature vs nurture argument. Yuki is a product of his environment while Toshiko is an example of survival of the fittest. I like to use the analogy of Godzilla. Yuki is 1954 Godzilla, a man-made monster who turns on his creators. Toshiko is Heisei/1990’s Godzilla, a force of nature who doesn’t hold any real malice toward anyone, but is just doing what she must to survive.

And surviving is what Toshiko does best. Even though insects are used as the analogy for Toshiko’s abilities, it really looks like evolution to me. She goes into a new environment, adapts to it, and uses her new skills to move on to a new environment. Her acting skills allows her to blend into any social situation. Her time married to the CEO taught her to be shrewd and calculating in her inevitable destruction of him, though for a while it seemed that she had met her match in him. But nothing is taboo to Toshiko. She will do anything and everything to make sure she stays on top. She is the ultimate survivor, and as a result is the least human.

But even Toshiko has a kink in her armor. That kink is Mizuno, the designer she stole a design from. His story becomes a counter balance to Toshiko’s, as he struggles in the wake of Toshiko’s betrayal. He is the most human character just as Toshiko is the least. Instead of doing whatever it takes to move ahead, Mizuno accepts his the low paying job he has to take, and marries a woman who looks like Toshiko on the outside, but is nothing like her on the inside. But Mizuno truly loves her, and proves it by throwing away his life to avenge her, something Toshiko could probably never understand. Toshiko is portrayed as not needing anyone, but at the end, we get a glimpse that she isn’t completely invulnerable to feelings as the news of Mizuno’s fate seems to upset her. Even though she seems unable to show it, Mizuno may have really gotten to her.

The Book of Human Insects is another great thriller from Osamu Tezuka. The story was much easier to read than MW, as it was not anywhere as disturbing or outrageous. Toshiko was a much more sympathetic character than Yuki, especially at the end. She never appears to kill out of pure folly, and only does so to protect herself. She truly is an embodiment of nature; taking what she needs to live, and only killing to protect herself and survive. Definitely pick this volume up if you get the chance. The cat and mouse between Toshiko and Kamaishi, the steel executive, is worth it in and of itself, but the whole volume is a compelling read.

Manga Wrap Up Week Seven

With February’s Manga Movable Feast being about Osamu Tezuka, I spent this week concentrating on the few titles I had left that I hadn’t reviewed yet. In going back and looking for the links of older reviews, I couldn’t believe how much Tezuka I had actually read over the years. The first manga by Tezuka I ever read was MW, which was a serious eye-opener for me. Next came Dororo, a title I enjoyed a lot, and thought was criminally short. And then there came Black Jack. I loved it from the first volume, and I have managed to review all but one of the 17 volumes that Vertical released. In between all that amazing medical work came the bizarre Swallowing the Earth. There were some titles I could have read but chose not too, like Ayako. I almost passed up on Book of Human Insects, but curiosity got the best of me, and I was sucked in.

This week, I read Princess Knight Parts 1 and 2, and Apollo’s Song. Princess Knight was a title I was looking forward to, and was glad to get a hold of the volumes before the MMF. I loved this series. It was a lot of fun and made a great fairy tale of a modern world. In stark contrast to this series, I then read Apollo’s Song. This isn’t the first time I’ve read this title, or tried to review it. My first attempt just left me with a bunch of jumbled thoughts that I couldn’t get to come together. Hopefully this second attempt will be better. I really didn’t like Apollo’s Song as much of most of the other Tezuka titles I’ve read. I’ll try to get my thoughts out to explain why.

In between these two titles, I squeezed in a new Viz title, The Earl and the Fairy. I remember when the anime for this series was announced, and at the time, the premise didn’t sound too interesting. But I was still intrigued enough to want to read the manga. And I am glad I did. The story was fascinating, and I really liked the characters. I look forward to reviewing this title and reading more.

I also read the latest issue of Yen Plus. I think I’m going to be skipping Witch and Wizard. As much as like Sveltlana’s artwork, the story is just too melodramatic for me. And I hate stories with villains who seem to be so powerful and without any kind of flaw. I’m hoping Infernal Devices starts going somewhere. It’s not nearly as fun or exciting as Soulless. I do like Soul Eater Not more than Soul Eater, and it’s nice that Yen Press has been able to get on simultaneous release with Japan, but the Japanese side has again become woefully small. As in, Soul Eater Not is the ONLY title on the Japanese side. It would be nice to get some symmetry back.

For the next week, I’m going to get back on my catch-up reading. I’m going to work on another Tokyopop title, one that was sadly never completed. Dazzle is a title I picked up on some recommendation I read, and did enjoy the first 4 volumes that I read. The interaction of the main characters reminded me a lot of Saiyuki. But it went on a long release schedule, so it kind of fell to the weigh-side for me. But I have gradually picked the remaining volumes, and just recently got the final volume Tokyopop released, though sadly not the final volume in the series, number 10. So I’ll be finished up this series this week.

  • Princess Knight Part 1-2
  • Apollo’s Song
  • The Earl and the Fairy Volume 1
  • Yen Plus February 2012

Some Wine for the Princess

Vertical is a publisher that never fails to surprise, or deliver. Whenever licensing time comes up, Marketing Director Ed Chavez would get on Twitter and ask for license requests. In variably, there would be several people who would pipe up with Princess Knight, Osamu Tezuka’s first shojo, and invaribly, Ed would shoot the request down. Now we know why. On Anime News Network’s AnnCast, Ed was a guest where he announced not one, but two licenses, one of which was the oft-requested Princess Knight. The other was Drops of God, a wine manga that has been getting some press in the media for the affect it can have on a wine’s price that is featured in the title. It was hinted at last April by the creators that the manga had been licensed in the US, but no publisher had stepped up. Now we know why.

I have to give Ed a lot of credit. He has quite the poker face/text. From his tweets in the last wrong, I got the distinct impression that Princess Knight was off the table as a request. He had said they were working on a Tezuka license, but with his catalog, that could mean just about anything! From the reaction to the news when it broke on twitter, I don’t think anyone suspected Vertical would get either of these titles! That is being a good marketing manager. Vertical really scored when they got Ed for that position.

I myself am looking forward to Princess Knight. I read the preview that was run in Shojo Beat for it’s 5(?) anniversary, and I really liked it. It definitely has a lot of merit beyond its historical significance. Drops of God….I’m not so sure about. I don’t drink wine. I have no interest in wine, so a manga devoted to going out and finding the 13 best wines doesn’t sound all that interesting. But, I’ve been wrong before. Most of the praise that it has gotten is for its detail about the wines, but according to one twitter-er, the title is written by the same time as writes Bloody Monday, another title that I’m really looking forward to, so this is a wait and see.

For more information about these two titles, check out the license requests by David Welsh.

Swallowing the Earth

Amidst the chaos of World War II, two Japanese soldiers hear of Zephyrus, an utterly captivating woman rumored to exist on an island in the South Pacific. The tales of this bold enchantress seducing men to their dooms are both chilling and fascinating. Over twenty years pass, and Zephyrus resurfaces in Japan, seemingly unchanged, to wield her mysterious power over men once more.

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Teen+ (16+)
Genre: Action/Mystery
Price: $24.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

The one man immune to Zephyrus’ charms is simple drunkard, Gohonmatsu Seki, son of one of the wartime soldiers. Employed to spy on Zephyrus, what will Gohonmatsu uncover about her ultimate plot to create international discord and consume the world of men? What brought this woman to conspire for decades against patriarchal society-against an entire gender-and can anything be done to stop her plans?

Swallowing the Earth is a strange tale of revenge as a few women start a war against the entire male gender for the wrongs done to the female gender. It takes a long and meandering path to come to a simple conclusion; true happiness is only attainable if one is free of lust, power and greed. Or, as the Beatles would say, “All You Need is Love.”

A woman, Zephyrus, is betrayed by her husband during World War II because of his desire for money and power. She runs away with her 6 daughters and finds peace on a South Pacific island, away from the world of men. Her dying wish to her daughters is for them to take revenge on all men for what happened to her by making all money worthless and creating anarchy, and to scorn all men. The daughters plot and prepare, and 20 years later, set their plan in motion. One man stands in their way; Gohomatsu Seki. He is a simple dock worker who doesn’t care about anything but alcohol. He is immune to Zephyrus’ charms and travels to the South Seas and the United States to try to stop her plans.

In between chapters of the main plot line there are short side stories. These stories relate back to what is happening in the main plot, often illustrating the effects of Zephyrus’ plans on ordinary people. With the introduction of the synthetic skin, 5 strangers in the US south become a family. And in another, after the economic collapse, a doctor tries to help a young woman with no memory of voice.

I’m not really sure what to make of this title. On the surface, it appears to be about women using their intelligence and other tools to turn the tables on men. They are shown to be strong and taking the initiative by showing men the folly of their ways for last few decades. Zephyrus is portrayed as taking revenge on men for the way women have been treated and men are shown getting their just desserts.

A closer look at the work however, shows the opposite. It portrays women as petty and vindictive. The whole plot is concocted because one woman was betrayed by one man. She wasn’t the first, nor would she be the last. The sisters aren’t working against man for the good of women. They are doing it for one person, their mother. Zephyrus created a look that men would find irresistible, exploiting their desire for lust, but woman as seductress are always shown as a negative. This is a pattern I’ve noticed in Tezuka’s other work Black Jack. Beautiful women are greedy and will betray the men attracted to them. And even though the sisters are working take down men, they are making women suffer as well. The side story of the Doctor and female patient illustrates this. There is nothing good or noble in their acts. In many ways, they are no different from the men they wish to punish.

Gohonmatsu is an unusual protagonist. He is an alcoholic, and doesn’t care about anything but drinking. While this would normally keep him from being the good role model most protagonists are usually portrayed as, his lack of desire for power, money and sex keeps him from falling under Zephyrus’ spell and thus the only man capable of standing up to her plans. So, he’s got something good going for him. Even as the world falls apart over greed and vanity, Gohomatsu remains unaffected as long as he can get, or make, alcohol. Material things have no hold on him as he can easily barter a drink of his alcohol for them, and they trade them all for a wedding ring for Milda. It’s the intangible that matters most to him, whether it’s the taste of alcohol, or the happiness of the woman he loves, he can throw all material things away for the things he loves. In many ways this makes him a noble character.

Swallowing the Earth is an intriguing title if you are a fan of Tezuka or older gekiga manga. It isn’t as dark as MW, and does have some interesting things to say about men and women. I don’t regret reading this title, but it’s not one I would pick up again. I enjoyed reading the vignette stories more than the main narrative, which often felt disjointed. By the end though it feels like little has changed. Zephyrus’ plans had succeeded, and the world returned to a simpler way of life before technology and to a barter economic system, but not people. The cycle of revenge tries to start again, and while it is stopped, this time by Gohomatsu’s son, it makes me wonder what was the point of this title. But then again, maybe that was the point. Fundamentally, people don’t change.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Year of the Tiger

This week begins the Chinese New Year.  This traditional Chinese holiday is based on a lunar calendar and is associated with an animal in the Chinese Zodiac.  This year’s animal is the Tiger.  So, I went looking for manga with tigers in them.  Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a lot.  I extended it to any of the big cats, and that make the list grow some, but it’s really surprising how few manga have tigers in them.

Continue reading Year of the Tiger

Black Jack Volume 6

Revenge and redemption seems to be the theme of this sixth volume of Black Jack. Whether it’s a Mob Boss taking revenge on a prideful and corrupt doctor, or a father and son reconciling during a volcanic eruption, Tezuka explores these issues through Black Jack’s dealings with his patients.

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Medical Drama
Price: $16.95
Rating: ★★★★½
Buy This Book

Revenge can come in may forms.  Whether it’s the traditional “eye for an eye”, or in the name of justice, Black Jack ends up getting involved with people seeking revenge, and the patients often are the true victims.  In “Twice Dead”, Black Jack’s skills are sought to help save a boy just so he can be put on trial for murder.  “Brachydactyl” has a father trying to get revenge on his wife for cheating on him by denying their son the medical treatment he needs.  The ably titled “Revenge” has a Mob Boss punishing a doctor for not letting Black Jack help his son.  It’s Black Jack that administers the finale blow in this story.  “Terror Virus” has Black Jack and his rival Dr. Kiriko working to save men exposed to a biological weapon.  When Black Jack isn’t allowed to finish his work, Kiriko delivers “an eye for an eye” to the men who tried to condemn Black Jack’s patients.  While not commenting on whether revenge is right or wrong, Tezuka does an excellent job of eliciting an emotional reaction from the reader.

Through all this darkness of revenge and retribution there is the light of redemption, though endings are more bittersweet.  In “Brachydactyl”, while the father thought he wanted  revenge, he is given a chance at redemption thanks to an observation by Black Jack.  And in “Amidst Fire and Ash”, Black Jack’s resolve helps a father and son find reconciliation and redemption for the father.  “A Body Turning To Stone” has strong religious overtones to it, especially at the end.  But a father is again giving the chance at redemption with his first born, though the price ends up being higher than he intended.  While the redemption of these fathers with their sons is good to see, not all of the endings are uplifting.  But there is still a feeling of hope at the end that makes the reader feel that maybe the hardships will be worth it.

Throughout this volume of  Black Jack, Tezuka continues his social commentary on the medical community.  Perception is shown to be more valued than skill as Black Jack is denied a license to practice, and even jailed and kept there despite the need of his skills.  Though one again, he refuses a license on principle, and I can’t say I blame him.  There is also a subtle condemnation of experimenting on animals, and not so subtle one of man’s destruction of the environment.

Overall, this is another great collection of stories of the infamous doctor.  The diseases and situations Black jack must face continue to entertain as well as make you think.  There was only one scene that I found disturbing, during an operation, but is was only for one frame and could passed by quickly.  Don’t let the scenes of the operations dissuade you from reading this series.  Tezuka’s comment on the human condition far outweighs his portrayal of the human anatomy.  Don’t pass this series up.  You won’t be disappointed.

Review copy provided by publisher. Image © Vertical Inc.

Why I Like Osamu Tezuka’s Manga

A few weeks ago on Twitter, there was a discussion about Osamu Tezuka’s manga and whether he deserves the title “God of Manga”, and it got me thinking.  I have to admit, back before I started writing about manga, I was kind of in agreement with animealmanac.  I’d never read any of Tezuka’s manga before.  I was familiar with Osamu Tezuka, mostly by reputation, and by the cartoon Kimba the White Lion.  I have very found memories of Kimba, but never took Tezuka too seriously because of that.  I knew he was called the “God of Manga”, but never understood why.  And then I started writing reviews and receiving review copies.

Continue reading Why I Like Osamu Tezuka’s Manga

Dororo Volume 1-3

A Samurai during Japan’s Warring States period (1467-1573), Daigo Kagemitsu wants complete control over Japan.  He promises his unborn son’s 48 body parts to demons in exchange for that control.  When the baby is born deformed, Daigo throws the newborn into the river to die, but it is miraculously found by a doctor, Jukai, who makes prosthetics for the child and adopts him as his own.  When the boy Hyakkimaru is grown, he leaves home and begins a journey to recover his body parts.  Along the way he runs into a brash young thief, Dororo, whom he teams up with; together they battle demon and monster on their adventure to reclaim Hyakkimaru’s wholeness.

Dororo 1-3
Dororo 1-3

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action/Adventure
Price: $13.95
Rating: ★★★★½

Dororo, first serialized in 1967, can be seen as a proto-shonen story.  It has many of the elements we now see in shonen titles today, though these were new at the time. Tezuka spins a memorable supernatural action/adventure tale and characters that really draw you in, and only disappoints at the very end, though not in story, but lack of it.

The first volume of this title is the introduction. Tezuka jumps from past to present, first telling of Daigo’s deal, then introducing Hyakkimaru and Dororo. Hyakkimaru tells Dororo his story, trying to convince the young thief not to follow him, but Dororo doesn’t give up so easily. After a few chapters fighting a demon that returns Hyakkimaru’s arm, it’s Dororo’s tragic past that is revealed.  It ends with another demon defeated and Hyakkimaru gaining another body part.

This volume is the strongest of the three, with the great action sequences interspersed with the story telling. One of the themes introduced this is volume that continues through all three seems to be that of “No good deed goes unpunished”. After Hyakkimaru and Dororo go through so much trouble to help rid villages of the demons that plague them, always their reward is to chased off with nary a thank you. Tezuka’s fascination with human nature is seen here as the excuses the villagers often give is refusing to help a thief (Dororo) or Hyakkimaru’s different appearance. Of course, it doesn’t bother them when Hyakkimaru reveals his sword hidden in his arm when he’s fighting a demon; Only after the demon’s defeated and he might need something like food or shelter to rest.

Volume two gets into more character development for Hyakkimaru. He meets his father, the ruthless Daigo and his second son Tahomaru. Things don’t go well, and Hyakkimaru ends up killing Tahomaru in a duel and his father demanding his head. He sends Dororo away deciding he was better off dead when the old man from the first volume that gave Hyakkimaru the hope of becoming a great swordsman despite his handicap, appears. He helps Hyakkimaru see that he needs more in life than just killing demons, and a map to that mysteriously appears on Dororo’s back proves to be it. Hyakkimaru decides to help Dororo find his father’s treasure. This volume ends in must the same way as the first with Hyakkimaru defeating a demon, gaining a limb, and getting chased out of the village.

I’ve seen this volume described as making the series darker, and with all the needless killing of innocents in the first half, one could agree. But, the first volume already established that life was hard, and that Daigo was evil. Maybe “serious” would be a better description. We see just how hard life is and how evil Daigo can be.  We gain more insight into Hyakkimaru as well. He has no real purpose beyond finding his missing body parts. He isn’t killing demons to help people. He has to kill a demon before he will know if it was one of the 48. The old man tried to get Hyakkimaru to realize this, but it’s really Dororo that makes him see. Through their journey, Hyakkimaru and Dororo have formed a bond that neither can see, but certainly feel. It’s this bond that makes Hyakkimaru more human than just his regained body parts.

Volume three picks up with the search for Dororo’s father’s treasure. Then there are a few demon hunting stories and the final story involves Hyakkimaru facing his father again and helping a village of farmers overcome him. Hyakkimaru parts ways with Dororo again after a revelation, and then leaves.  And…that’s the end.

This volume starts out full steam and stays that way to the very end. Tezuka never shows any indication that these would be the last stories. Nothing is resolved, and if anything, things are set up to imply more to come, so that when you come to the end, it’s like hitting a brick wall. The last page is nothing but a few lines that are woefully inadequate for what was up ’til now an exciting ride!

This brings me to the things I didn’t like about this series, and there aren’t a lot. The biggest problem I had with it was Tezuka continually breaking the fourth wall. Now, I don’t mind a manga being referential, but I really don’t like it when characters speak to the reader, break through panels and refer to things completely inappropriate to the title. Tezuka did this in every volume, though sparingly. But it was enough to distract from an already riveting story. He already had good comedic moments the Dororo. He didn’t need to add these others.

The other problem was the abrupt ending. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the pace had slowed some, or if there had been some indication that the story would be ending, but there wasn’t. You get to the end of the last story, turn to the last page and are left stunned, wondering where the rest of the story went. It is a real disappointing end of an otherwise great story.

Overall, Dororo is a great story. The characters are fun and well-developed. The demons that Hyakkimaru and Dororo face are varied and interesting. The art is classic Tezuka, but it really grows on you. Do not pass this title up just because the art doesn’t look modern and polished.  If you are interested in action and/or folklore/supernatural than this is a must read. Tezuka’s shonen classic shows why so many creators used him as a template. This great story is only marred by a jarring end.