Posts Tagged ‘dororo’

Buddha Kapilavastu

July 6th, 2009 by jason

Written and drawn by Osamu Tesuka

I just finished this first volume of eight of the life of the Buddha, and I’m flabbergasted. Buddha is for everyone who thinks they hate Manga. Even more, Buddha is for everyone who thinks they hate comics.

I’ll admit, that I’ve had a prejudice against manga, even as there’s been some that I’ve read and enjoyed. I look at the shelves at the bookstore and at the library, and see the millions of volumes of Naruto, encroaching on the graphic novels. And I shake my head at what has happened to comics. Recently, however, I took someone else’s lead and decided to revisit the idea of reading Japanese comics, and looked up some suggestions from the Around Comics forum. That led me to 20th Century Boys and Pluto. Pluto is a retelling of the Astro Boy comics of Osamu Tezuka, who is given posthumous author credit. I read a little about Tezuka, and decided to look up some of his work. Paging through the volumes at the library, the first thing I noticed was how different the artwork is from my idea of Japanese comics. This was much more like something out of Segar’s Popeye or Barks’s Uncle Scrooge. He was known as the Godfather of Japanese Comics, whatever that meant, and almost all of his series have been highly praised. He was the creator of Astro Boy, both the cartoon and the comic. And, of course, I feel if it’s at the library, it’s worth a shot. I may check it out and return it after reading five pages, but it helps the library’s circulation numbers. With Buddha, I was hooked almost instantaneously.

With Buddha Kapilavastu, we witness the birth of Siddhartha, although this is more of something occurring in the background, while the lives of monks, slaves, pariahs and generals take the center stage. We meet Tatta, Narradatta and Chapra, Chapra’s mother, and General Budai. Some of them are introduced as villains, but over the course of the chapters, are given more rounded characters and you can’t help but warm to them. The stories of these characters are epic, with high adventure, humour, and romance, and more than a little violence. It was a brutal world at the time of the Buddha’s birth, and we’re witness to the cruelties of the class system of that era. It’s enough to bring you nearly to tears, reading how the world and society treat Tatta, the Pariah, and Chapra and his mother, both slaves by birth. Tezuka interconnects all these characters, weaving their lives into a tapestry, with the birth of Siddhartha currently just a slight embroidery at the edge.

The art, as I said, is quite different from most of the manga I’ve seen. There are traditions in Japanese comics, in the shapes of the faces, in the expressions and what sweat drops and shading signify. You can see that in this work, but it’s more of a hint than anything else. It reminds me a lot more of the animation styles in the French co-produced cartoon of the Mysterious Cities of Gold. From what I’ve read about him, Tezuka was heavily influenced by Disney, and Tezuka in turn influenced a lot of anime artists since then. As well as having his own style, he likes to play with panel borders, and includes several highly detailed panoramic landscapes in the volume.

While I don’t think I’m going to picking up every volume of Naruto or Dragon Ball Z, I am going to continue with Buddha, and checking out Tezuka’s other work, like Black Jack and Dororo. I might even watch some Astro Boy, having never actually seen it. I’ve just cracked the surface of this artist’s body of work, and there’s a lot left to see.