Monday, June 29, 2009

Apollo's Song

The story: This story follows Shogo, a sociopath with a penchant for torturing animals. Because he received no affection from his mother, he's never felt love and turns towards violence when it's displayed by the poor creatures he hurts. For some reason, he's been condemned to a life where he always falls in love with the same woman, but is never able to realize that love. Throughout eternity, the endless cycle repeats itself as Shogo watches the woman he loves die in his arms time and again.

Reaction: This is one serious story from Osamu Tezuka and it's an interesting juxtaposition with his distinctive art style. At first, I was revolted by Shogo's behavior, but as the story went on, I felt myself feeling truly sorry for him. The flashbacks and scenes with his mother were heartbreaking in some ways and disgusting in others. All in all, it shows how one person can lose and regain his humanity. Tezuka's storytelling style really shines here.

Deep thoughts: Not only does Tezuka examine love -- fraternal, maternal and romantic -- within the pages of Apollo's Song, but he also looks at other issues, like cloning, the environment and the Holocaust. While it's so easy to look at the creation of life clinically, oftentimes, reproduction is the product of true, romantic love between a man and a woman. I found his dichotomous look at reproduction interesting and, at times, refreshing, considering the prevailing attitudes in 1970, when this work was originally published. Additionally, his attitudes towards man's role in destroying the environment came across quite clearly.

Artwork: It goes without saying that Tezuka has a very unique, cartoonish art style that truly shows the influence Walt Disney had on his work. But, the fact that his art is presented alongside such deeper, more thoughtful themes doesn't take away any of the gravity of his underlying ethical message. Tezuka's art also lends a great sense of place, from the forests to his futuristic version of Tokyo; each is created with the same eye for detail.

The verdict: Required reading. This is really an amazing manga that explores what it means to be human, to love and what humanity's role is in the world. While Apollo's Song is much like the Greek tragedy its title alludes to, there are small moments of hope and joy, too. Whether you want to think, watch love bloom or enjoy action sequences galore, this book is one nearly any adult can enjoy. Apollo's Song is available in the U.S. from Vertical.

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