Michio Yuki has it all: looks, intelligence, a pedigree as the scion of a famous kabuki family, a promising career at a major bank, legions of female admirers. But underneath the sheen of perfection lurks a secret with the power to shake the world to its foundations.
I wasn’t sure what to make of MW (pronounced Moo) when I received it. I’d never read any Tezuka before and my only real exposure to his work was the TV series Kimba, so I really didn’t know what to expect. But I really wasn’t expecting what I got! The stark reality of kidnapping, murder, and man love in just the first few chapters was a shock. But after a steady diet of shonen and shojo manga, a strong dose of realism can be a shock, but in a good way.
One the surface, MW is a political crime thriller. Sixteen years ago, a poisonous gas was accidentally released on the small island of Okinawa Mafune, killing all the residents, but unknowingly, two people survived; Michio Yuki and Iwano Garai. The whole incident was covered up by the government and the military of “Nation X”, a thinly veiled reference to the United States. Yuki and Garai were affected by the tragedy in different ways. Garai became a Catholic priest, while Yuki, infected by remnants of the gas, lost all sense of right and wrong. While maintaining a façade of a good, gentle, charming man, he goes on a kidnapping/murder spree. Only Father Garai and the famous prosecutor Meguro, who has never failed to get his man, know or suspect otherwise. At first, it appears that Yuki’s crimes are being committed to exact revenge on those that caused the accident and covered it up. But, as the pieces come together, we see that there is much more to Yuki’s plans.
But, if you take a step back and look, you will see there is another level to this story. At it’s core, MW is a story of the battle between good and evil. Yuki, with no conscience, is the perfect representation of evil. He kills without thought, seeks pleasure from anyone, man, woman or beast, and will use anyone to further his own agenda. Garai and Meguro represent the forces of good. Garai seeks to save Yuki’s soul, and Meguro seeks justice for Yuki’s victims and the public good. But, they are only human, with all the flaws and rules they must follow. Just as in real life, there is no perfect representation of good. Yuki can ignore all those things, evading the police and playing Father Garai like a violin. While it seems Yuki is unstoppable, it is the humanity in Father Garai that give him the strength to stop Yuki’s plan.
There is a lot of talking going on in this book, with not a lot of action until the climax. I think this story would have worked just as well as a prose novel. But, as the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and I don’t think you could find a thousand words to adequately portray some of the scenes Tezuka has illustrated in this story. This is especially true when he is depicting Father Garai’s tortured soul, and Yuki’s inner demons. The art is neat and controlled. The characters are made to look very real, without any cartoonish outlandishness, or any of the other manga conventions you would expect. It is as real as Tezuka could make it, which is just what this story needs.
Disturbing and starkly real, MW is a compelling thriller. It deals with issues of war, weapons of mass destruction and homosexuality that are as relevant today as they were thirty years ago. Whether you’re interested in civics, history, crime or philosophy, MW has something that will reach out to everyone.
Review Copy provided by publisher.