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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 17, 2012
I have to say that the story behind the production of this volume is fairly interesting. Digital Manga Publishing had originally wanted to publish Osamu Tezuka's Barbara, but lacked the funds to do so. The company had also lacked the funds to re-publish another of Tezuka's works, Swallowing the Earth, but utilized Kickstarter as a way of funding the manga, also doing so for Barbara. The end result is that now Barbara is available in English, albeit in limited quantity. Hopefully the current run will sell well enough to warrant another printing, as this really is an interesting look into Tezuka.

As far as the artwork goes, I was struck by how different parts of this felt from some of his other work. This was drawn at the same time as Black Jack and many of his other works, and while you can definitely identify it as Tezuka's style it differs in several ways. He seems to have experimented with the artwork in this volume, which is at times bizarre and at other times a little disconcerting. There are elements of playfulness in this volume, but the tone here is fairly somber for the most part. This is ultimately a tragic tale to tell of love, obsession, and loss.

I think what makes this so interesting is that the titular Barbara isn't really that likable of a character. She's an unapologetic drunk and while she does seem to care for Mikura, she's ultimately in it for herself, fully aware that whatever she has with him will more than likely be as fleeting as any of her interactions with her previous men. This is fairly different from some of Tezuka's other works, which usually have the lead female character being a positive character or at least a likeable one. You don't really get anyone in this book that's as absolutely likeable as some of the characters from Black Jack or Princess Knight. Everyone here is flawed and selfish in their own ways. Barbara is just the only one who is openly honest about it, which makes her refreshing. Although I will admit that the lack of any truly "good" character might put some people off since let's face it- a lot of manga out there tends to focus around a character that we're supposed to root for. We don't have that here and we end up being more like a silent participant, watching Mikura spin into what seems like an inevitable "bad end"- especially after a fortune teller predicts that he'll die if he doesn't change the ending of a book he's currently working on. Does he die? Well, I won't spoil that for you by going into more detail about that.

Overall, this is a wonderful manga and one that really deserves more attention than it's currently getting. It's the type of book that people could write a discussion paper about and brings up a lot of interesting ideas. Unfortunately as of this review (October 2012) the quantity of books is rather limited, but I was lucky enough to get this via a local comic book store. It's definitely worth tracking down for you devoted Tezuka fans.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2012
I just finished reading Tezuka's book "The book of human insects" and couldn't understand why one of the reviewers disliked it so vehemently. We can't have things are way all the time, can we?

This book Barbara really caught my attention. The sequence of events from beginning to end were unpredictable, you never knew what would be next. Barbara "not what she seems to be" works great.
The characters all have a degree of mystery to them, they have there secrets. In Mikura's case hallucinations, etc..and who knows what else? I like how some of these "secrets" are never fully discussed or discovered..think about it. This book is interesting and brilliantly done.
I hope the publisher continues to release quality like this. I'm glad I read it.. you will be too! A+
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
So here's the thing. Tezuka's BARBARA is by far one of the manga legend's most bizarre, surreal, evocative, and subjective works ever published. The title is an at times chaotic swirling of social ills -- characters dally in the black arts, drugs and alcohol enable the common man, artists thrive on just being adequate, and politicians (and their daughters) only have eyes for the camera. BARBARA may focus its narrative on one Yousuke Mikura and the "drunken, foul-smelling hippie chick" named Barbara, but the greater scope of this manga story encompasses what it means to suffer as an artist, how/why this suffering manifests itself in self-destructive ways, and whether it is ever possible (necessary?) to alleviate this suffering at all.

Mikura is a brilliant novelist, but he is a man of many vices: substance abuse and debauchery chief among them. Whenever the man is in a rut (or, interestingly enough, whenever he convinces himself that his works-in-progress just don't fly), he descends into a surreal madness whereby sex and violence dutifully ameliorate his creative "block." Barbara is an unknown. She drinks constantly, never bathes, speaks and behaves with a masculine capriciousness (here, the cultural context is important), and yet.... she can quote French poetry from memory, can recognize almost any work of fine art or literary art of centuries past, and is more honest with herself, sitting beneath a dirty pillar in the Shinjuku train station than the thousands of drones middling about her put together.

Why do the lives of these characters intersect? That's difficult to say. Tezuka doesn't often give us the "why," but merely contrives believable circumstances in which the characters must discern if said intersection is worth pursuing, worth building into something meaningful. Barbara is a beautiful and artistic woman. She is also Mikura's sheath and his muse, protecting him from himself, bringing him back from the cliff and preventing the man from losing his sanity when he should be focused on his writing. Mikura, meanwhile, becomes a little too dependent on Barbara, and forces himself to investigate her dark and mysterious past, ultimately trying to break away the identity of the woman he knows now from the identity of the woman he fears he doesn't know. Does Barbara want that clean break? Does Mikura himself need a clean break? Do either of them deserve it?

BARBARA is a product of its time, as illustrated in the excellent forward by manga scholar Fred Schodt. This means that the comic's various elements of racism, sexism, weighty domestic violence, ethnocentrism, and more are exactly what they are -- debilitating social ills, sometimes celebrated, sometimes held as suspect. Nowadays, we presume the reader is adult and mature enough to understand this.

All in all, BARBARA provides an exquisite look inside the mind of a man (Mikura) who is slowly going insane, knows it, and is trying his utmost to fight back, if only to be lulled back into his sins one chapter after another. This is a must-read for Tezuka enthusiasts. This is also a must-read for artists and creative types, who have any affinity for manga whatsoever. Many chapters of BARBARA dissect the heart of the artist/creator with such guiltless precision, you're moved to tears. Other times, Mikura will disgust you, and you'll have no remorse for the sorrow he causes for himself and others.

On the production end, it's unknown of Digital Manga will pursue another printing or two for this project, given its origin as a crowd-funded endeavor. But hopefully this book will get into more hands sooner rather than later. There are a few pages toward the end that I'm pretty sure were oriented incorrectly (i.e., reading left-to-right, instead of right-to-left), but three or four out of 440 isn't a deal breaker in my experience.
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