Friday, October 17, 2008

Buddha - Osamu Tezuka

This is another great find from my local library. I have never read anything by Tezuka before, although I have heard of him referenced as the father of Anime, and one of the early innovators of Manga who really shaped the medium into what we know it as today. He is responsible for Astro Boy, Kimba the white lion, The anime Metropolis, and tons more.

Buddha is a series of 8 books, all of them over 300 pages. It is the Story of Siddhartha on his journey to enlightenment. I have only finished the first two volumes so far, but they are the sort of compelling page turners that make you want to see what happens next at the expense of sleep or work or social interaction. I was surprised by how accessible the books are. I shouldn't have been, but as I said, this is my first Osamu Tezuka.

The great thing about this is that it is written to be enjoyed. The language is loose and funny, often making anachronistic references to things that just didn't exist in the time frame of the series. Television, cola, professional wrestling, and many more things make the trip back in time for this. The art is cartoonish and expressive, but mixed into that are beautiful sweeping detailed landscapes and nature scenes.

The writing and the scope of this are every bit as epic and literary as you might expect any several thousand page fictional account of the life of Siddhartha to be.   There are a ton of characters in this, and we see a lot of them. The books will focus on characters at one point in time, and eventually they will show up later, often in unexpected situations, many years from the last time we saw them. The themes throughout are of humanity and oneness and man's place in the world and sort of universal things that tie us together with each other, and also with nature around us. 

Based on the strength of the first two volumes alone, I fully recommend this for anyone who enjoys good stories and good writing. There is a great deal more depth there, but it all starts with a good story, doesn't it. Tezuka's art and his mastery of the form are brilliantly on display here. I recommend that everyone get out to their local library and see if they have this in their collection... If not, find out why they don't and encourage them to get it.

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