Tag Archives: Vertical Inc.

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.

Chi’s Sweet Home Volume 3-4

Chi’s adventures continue as she meets the Yamadas friend from Hokkaido and their very active daughter Juli, goes hunting with Blackie and nearly gets caught by the super. But salvation comes in the form of a billboard that advertises apartments that welcome pets. So it’s an all new adventure for Chi to move, get comfortable in a new place and meet a variety of new friends.

Continue reading Chi’s Sweet Home Volume 3-4

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.