Tuesday, October 7, 2008


What can I say? But a captivating graphic
novel from "God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka.
(creator of Astro boy and the like) Starting off,
Tezuka's style is much more reminiscent of older
American counterparts, such as Tex Avery and the
Warner brother's lot. Not to diminish this, you can
clearly see where current anime takes it's
templates from the master, with the exaggerated
eyes, and breathtaking landscape and details. His
work though isn't so uniform, so to speak.
I really enjoyed his work on the Phoenix anthology series.

The character designs evoke more of a
Disney-ish feel, of clearly lined, very simple
makeup. I, myself, enjoy comics, or graphic
novels that have very simple cartoonish
characters, yet the story is the complete
opposite taking on serious themes.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not stuck in
that mindset, but, I do have an affinity
towards dueling opposites even in storytelling
in the visual medium. This is a prime example
of that type of drastic interplaying.

This story focuses primarily on two
protagonists as well as other major
players. It's not so much as there is
a main character so to speak,
even though, the book is clearly titled
BUDDHA, he's merely shown as a child
in vignettes that don't particularly play
a role in the main story. Yet, I leave that
mention with an asterisk, because while
the main narrative is playing out, his story is
directly affected by the plot.
Yet it doesn't work in vice versa.

Tatta above, Chapra below

Coming to the main protagonists of this
tale, there is the sweet natured, Chapra,
and the ne'erdowell street urchin Tatta.
Both are living extremely difficult lives, due
to the caste system which is highly pervasive
in the Indian culture. Suffice to say these two
lives intersect, then intertwine with
disastrous results. Not necessarally of their
own doing so to speak, but of the unfortunate
stigma attached to them for not being birthed
in the "right" bloodline.

Now I don't mean to belittle the importance
of other characters, such as Chapra's
mother, and the Brahmin priest Naradatta,
are integral to the plot. There are protagonist
and antagonists all over the place, without the
overall structure being muddled. A highly
skilled storyteller like Tezuka is able to craft
with seemingly ease. The overall structure of
the piece is highly political, spiritual, saddening,
yet peppered with humor to alleviate some of the shocking
moments which occur in the book.

It chronicles the rise of Chapra from skilled
marksman on the lowest rung of the caste
system to the adopted son of a warrior general.
As well as, the tough little scamp Tatta who
has godly magical powers, seeking vengeance
for various reasons. Both playing an integral
role, I believe, to a larger story. The idea of warring
nations and the public that suffers beneath them
is something we can all relate to. Since this Graphic
novel is the first in a series of books. I will say it is
defenitley worth it to take a look at this book, it
marries the ideals of Buddhism without feeling
preachy, I am not a practitioner of said religion,
But I like to see what else is going on in this world.
(though this probably is the least correct way to do it!)

Anyways, the book, though it's the beginning,
certainly has a thrilling ending that I was certainly
not prepared for, but has a seed planted for the future
editions. Plus Chip Kidd (my favorite cover artist)
designed all the book jackets. So just for wonderful
art alone take a look at this book.

Chip Kidd's spines for the book jackets

Available at all stores and the New York public library.


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