Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Manga Review: MW by Osamu Tezuka

Every Tuesday I'll post either an anime or manga review.

Over the past few months, I’ve been exploring Tezuka’s other non-mainstream works, sampling titles like Buddha and Apollo’s Song. Of course like most anime fans, I’ve been a fan of Tezuka, if only for Astro Boy (“Tetsuwan Atom”) if not anything else. I have yet to read Ode to Kirihito but MW is vastly different from his other works. This title is very adult and that is made clear in the first chapter where we witness our protagonist ransoms a dead child, skewers the father with a speed boat, and then jumps a Catholic priest so they can have burning homosexual sex. Morality, redemption, and Machiavellian methods are recurring themes in MW and is easily a precursor to sophisticated manga of the past decade such as Monster. In MW, we also witness the versatility of Tezuka as his artwork leans more toward the serious although there are some moments when he resorts to the slapstick—usually to show that the characters are infuriated.

My first impression of the title is that it really looks like a book and Vertical, the publisher, does great credit to Tezuka in its packaging. It’s not as fancy and full of supplemental material as say, Dark Horse’s Kurosaki Corpse Delivery Service or Viz’s Tekkon Kinkreet but rather it’s more servicable and sturdy. While I’m not a fan of flipped manga, MW for the most part doesn’t really suffer from it. The price, $24.95, might appear steep, but MW is actually quite thick (to the point that I couldn’t finish it in one sitting and had to continue it the next day) and is easily the equal of the omnibus editions that a couple of manga publishers are now releasing, in thickness if not in size.

In terms of the actual story, MW is quite plotty yet is similarly full of character development. The events that take place stretch the possibility of what’s “realistic” but doesn’t break it, although I wouldn’t be surprised of modern readers will find that some of the scenarios to be “too convenient” for our hero. For the most part, I have no problems with the art although there are times when Tezuka falters a bit and there’s too much minimalism for my taste. Overall however, it’s really a tightly-packed title that’s engrossing and mature, a graphic novel thriller decades ahead of its time. Strictly not for the kids at home but very much a hallmark of its era. As much as I enjoy Tezuka’s other work, with the sole exception of Testuwan Atom, this is easily his best one yet, although that simply might be appealing to my adult sensibilities. Grab this manga if you want something sophisticated or if you’re a US comic fan, it easily falls under the domain of what’s considered indy. Otherwise, if you’re more into pop and fast, upbeat action, you might want to pass on this as it’s more cerebral and even dragging at times.

Rating: 4/5.

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