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It’s really hard to read a book by Osamu Tezuka knowing you are going to be reviewing it. It’s hard because how do you review the guy that set the standard for manga, hell not only manga but comics in general. The guy that is known as the God of manga!!!? Even though he passed away in 1989 we (U.S.) are still getting so much of his massive works in comics. This recent book by Vertical is Dororo originally published in the late 60s came out in a three volume set. Now you can just get one gigantic volume filled with gorgeous Tezuka art.
It is a story about Japan during the Sengoku (Warring States) period. During this time the 48 demons rule the land and they sense the birth of a powerful human who will grow to destroy all of demon kind. Daigo Kagemitsu promises to offer body parts of his unborn child for domination of the country and to become unbeatable in warfare. When the baby is born his parents put him in the river, but he manages to survive and now goes by the name; Hyakkimaru (One-hundred Ogre Boy). He is found by a doctor who takes him in as his own son and builds him an artificial body. He also develops telepathic powers to make up for his lack of senses and body parts. When he reaches adulthood he sets on a journey to vanquish the 48 demons and reclaim his body parts. This is when he encounters a young street urchin named Dororo. Together they form a pact to get rid of all the demons so that one day Hyakkimaru can be complete again. There were some touching moments in the book when Hyakkimaru is reunited with his parents and brother, of course things weren’t all Full House by then end when he killed his brother. There was a great fight scene with the legendary nine tailed fox and a great new ghoul with baby spirits that united to form him. The thing that I started noticing when reading the middle part was that the stories were starting to get repetitive. It’s quite amazing to see Dororo get out of every deadly situation. I swear the kid must have powers too, because he is always getting out in the nick of time. As it turns out Dororo was a girl the entire time and Hyakkimaru figured it out when he got his eyes back. The series ends with the two “bros” parting ways; Hyakkimaru on his was to find more demons and Dororo fighting along the farmers.
Although this is not Astroboy, Kimba, or Black Jack, this is still Tezuka at the top of his game. But has he really made a manga that wasn’t enjoyable to read? Each one of his works is unique, but they all deal with the same basic human existence theme. There is a reason why he is the master at his craft and why he is one of the pioneers in the form of sequential art. One look at his artwork in the book and you can see his understanding of visuals and dramatic effects certain frames and blocks take on figures. He wasn’t only an artist, but a phenomenal story teller, director, and editor. I can’t say enough about this man and if you’ve never read anything by him, do yourself a favor and let this book introduce you to the world that he created. You can’t have a manga collection without this book in your library. It was really weird to have a book just end there, but that’s all Tezuka ever wrote of the series. The series feels incomplete and that really saddens me because it was so entertaining. Some great panel layouts with awesome fighting sequences, I can’t believe this book was written and drawn in the 60’s. It was still a fun title to read with enough of a closure to keep most satisfied, but some wanting more. B+
Gantz! How quick this became my manga to read at the top of the pile when I get new manga. It’s a manga that combines some of my favorite genre and ideas together. Did I mention how the art is completely stunning as well? Gantz: If you die in this world you wake up not in Heaven or purgatory, but in a game. The Gantz sphere sends you on missions back in the real world, usually to destroy aliens. The people chosen to do the mission cannot return from the mission until all enemies have been killed, or their time limit has run out. If you survive the mission you are awarded points for killing aliens and allowed to leave, and live their lives until summoned by Gantz for their next mission. Once reaching 100 points you have the option of leaving the game and returning to life with your memory erased, bringing back someone that has died, or getting more weapons. So many things are different in the course of just two volumes. The new team witnesses the death of Kei. But Kato swears to bring him back once he achieves 100 points, just like Kei did for him. A couple of the assassins tag along with the team when they get their new orders. This is where things get interesting as they run into another team wearing similar suits, but with better weapons. Does this mean there is more than one ball out there giving orders? Who is running all of this? So many more questions are brought up in this volume. I love how some of the other team right away recognize Reika as the Pop star that she was. It also seems that people can see the team, so this might change their strategy in the future. I want them all to have happy endings, but I know better than that. This is a series that is beautifully crafted. You can’t go into the book thinking that it’s going to be your every day run of the mill sci-fi adventure story. It is very violent with tons of sexual connotation and some very unsettling parts. Don’t let that turn you away from this wonderful piece of work. A
I remember when volume 1 of this series came out my oldest daughter Lydia wasn’t old enough to crawl. But I would read it to her, just because I thought it was a cute story about a little girl and her dreams of being an astronaut. I never imagined that this series would make me cry, gasp, get angry and sigh thinking of my youth. Such a range of emotions is what this series brought out in me. From volume 1 to the final volume 12 Asumi changed so much. Who is Asumi you ask? Well, Asumi Kamogawa was accepted to the Tokyo National Space School, which gives their students the opportunity to become astronauts. Along with her friends she studies and trains to become a future astronaut and follow in her father’s footsteps. Along the way she made friends with two girls: Kei and Marika and reunited with a childhood friend Shinnosuke and made a new friend who happened to be a pretty boy named Shu. As we all know Shu died in volume 11 and his death impacted his peers till the very end. The series comes to a conclusion the way that I thought it would have Asumi gets to be the only one picked to go to space and her friends stay behind to make something of themselves on Earth. Mr. Lion doesn’t have any more lessons to teach the kids and just like Winnie the Pooh when Christopher Robin didn’t need him anymore, he says goodbye to Asumi. This is the part that moved me so much. It was like saying goodbye to a physical representation of your innocent childhood. That is the hardest thing for people to let go of sometimes. We will always have part of that with us, but the imagination, the dreams, the strive and the passion we had as children are all but gone. Sure a new imaginary friend appears at the end for a new generation, but our group has grown and find their own paths to follow. There is a beautiful after story where Yaginuma states that his wish is for someone to think of his manga as a time machine. Well Yaginuma-San; it was definitely one for me, because throughout the series I kept thinking of my childhood and if I am the person I wanted to be as a child! Soooo, the thing that I finally did was learn what Spica meant; turns out it’s a binary star in the constellation Virgo. It happens to be one of the brightest stars in the sky. That’s what I felt about this manga; it is one of the brightest books I have ever read and it outshines so many. Thank you Yaginuma and Vertical for bringing this story into my hands. By far my highest possible recommendation! A+