Thursday, 17 February 2011

More Tezuka

I've just finished reading Osamu Tezuka's latest manga to be released in English translation, Ayako. It's an especially dark story (originally serialised in 1972-73) covering about 30 years of post-war Japan, and one family's attempt to keep its local power and standing by any means necessary as the family falls apart. The American occupation is a backdrop, politics an ever-present overlay but the massively corrupt family is the book's centrepiece, while Ayako represents an odd "purity".

From dramatic comic framing...
It's like some Victorian drama but, at the same time, as modern as you'd like it to be. Epic in itself (nearly 700 pages) it's just part of Tezuka's dark-side output (alongside his extensive, more popularly recognised work like Astro Boy and Black Jack). As such it's illustrations range from the almost slapdash to the suddenly detailed and careful.

But it is another "joy" – if underage incest, rape, family-enforced imprisonment in a cellar, murder, political intrigue and the after effects of war can be termed "joy". That sounds sensationalist, but this is simply a melodramatic, large-scale creation around corruption and hope. I call it modern, but I'd be curious to see how it would fare with the current Tokyo bill on depictions of sexuality in manga for minors. Ayako is pretty clearly an "adult" book in itself and therefore possibly unaffected, but Tezuka crosses over age groups extensively and it would be interesting (if impossible, of course) to know, if he was writing now, how he would approach his work in the light of the restrictions.

...to the suddenly detailed.
There are quibbles: the translation is strange – the family speaks with a country accent that reads weirdly in English. It's the one slight let-down and reminder that you are reading a "comic" rather than a book. (And certain translations don't read well at all – ie: all the references to "big bro" etc). It may or may not be a direct translation of Tezuka's style, but it doesn't work so well to English-language readers, as online reviewers have pointed out. One plot and illustration point seems inconsistent to me. But the latter is just a glitch that reinforces a certain genius.

It's from Vertical publishing again. Chipp Kidd had been doing the Tezuka cover designs, but this time the cover is by Peter Mendelshund, and it's an excellent, understated, clean design with a neat handwritten font for the title.

How would Tezuka fit
comfortably with the current
regulations in Tokyo?

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