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Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu Hardcover – October 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Tezuka, the master of Japanese comics, mixes his own characters with history as deftly as he transfers the most profound, complex emotions onto extremely cartoony characters, and his work defies easy categorization. In Buddha, originally serialized in the 1970s and one of his last works, he lavishly retells the life of Siddhartha, who isn't even born until page 268. Instead, Tezuka introduces Chapra, a slave who attempts to escape his fate by posing as the son of a general; Tatta, a crazed wild child pariah who communes with animals; Chapra's slave mother, who stands by him no matter what; and Naradatta, a monk attempting to discover the meaning of strange portents of the Buddha's birth. Throughout the book, the characters engage in fresh and unexpected adventures, escapes and reverses, as they play out Tezuka's philosophical concern with overcoming fate and the uselessness of violence. Despite episodes of extreme brutality and broad humor, the core of the story revolves around various set pieces, as when Tatta sacrifices himself to a snake to save Naradatta and Chapra's mom. After a moment of intense emotion, the scene is upended by the arrival of a bandit who mocks their attempts at keeping their karmic slates clean. "Why were you all fussing over some stupid trade? Why not just kill the snake and eat it?" The answer unfolds over succeeding volumes. Heavily influenced by Walt Disney, Tezuka's often cute characters may take some getting used to, but his storytelling is strong and clean. Appearing in handsome packages designed by Chip Kidd, this is a stunning achievement.
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"Infused with humor and history, the epic of Siddhartha is perhaps Osamu Tezuka's crowning acheivement and illustrates why, without irony, Tezuka is referred to as 'The King of Japanese Comics'." - LA Weekly"Buddha is one of Tezuka's true masterpieces. We're lucky to have this excellent new edition in English." - Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics"In handsome volumes designed by Chip Kidd, the Vertical books present Tezuka at his best." - National Post
"Buddha is an engrossing tale. The armchair philosopher, the devout Buddhist, the casual manga fan - this book satisfies all with its tale of humanism through sequential art, and definitely earns its place on a bibliophile's bookshelf." -Anime Insider"This is one of the greatest acheivements of the comics medium, a masterpiece by one of the greats." -Artbomb.net"In Tezuka's world, the exquisite collapses into the goofy in a New York minute, the goofy into the melodramatic, the melodramatic into the brutal, and the brutal into the sincerely touching. The suprising result is a work wholly unique and downright fun." -Time Out NY"Tezuka's Buddha is a striking and memorable confluence of ancient wisdom and contemporary popular art." -Yoga Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
As a Buddhist, I was wondering what this treatment of the Buddha's life would be like. This is my first exposure to manga style. My only reference point is comic books. I had enjoyed another "comic book," illustrated treatment of the life of a Buddhist saint, Milarepa. That was well done. I very much wanted a book that would capture the interest of my two children, 10 and 14 years old. It did. My 14 year old read the book in two days. My 10 year old and I read it aloud together.
What is facinating is the way the author creates the historical context using a mixture of historical figures and people of his own imagination. We are given an insight to the caste system of ancient India and the stage is set for the Buddha's questions about suffering, it's origins, and his strong desire to put an end to suffering.
I'd say that this is appropriate for 9 year olds and up. For adults: my wife and I kept reading ahead. It is captivating. It has the air of an adventure story. I also enjoyed explaining and discussing the context of the story with my children.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
The only thing that I'm less than thrilled with is the 1/4-sized dust-jacket. I mean, what the heck is that for? A way to make it look colorful on the store shelves?
WRITING: I can't say anything about the translation, as I haven't
even seen an issue of the original, much less read it. However, the writing, in terms of construction, word-choice and grammar, is superb.
Whoever this unnamed translator is, they're my new favorite, replacing Gerard Jones. The writing, as in story, character, pacing, et cetera, is superb. Although part of the plot reminds me a bit too much of Hinotori: Dawn. A few issues later are we going to have one of the character decide they want to be the best sculptor in the world? :)
Also, the story is split up into chapters (I assume linked to how they were originally published), something which was sorely missed in the Hinotori series, which made each volume one long story.
Some people are going to have trouble with the humor, and are
naturally going to assume the translator inserted them, never having read any Tezuka before. It also occurred to me that only the really great writers are the ones who even attempt to play with anachronism like this. The only other people besides Tezuka I can think of who do this sort of thing well are Shakespeare and Chaucer. (Well, aside from Disney animated features as of late).
Buddha only manages to get himself born in this volume, so the plot centers around characters whose overall relevance we have to wonder about. Some character I thought were going to be very important to the story didn't survive the first volume. (Speaking of Buddha, I thought his pre-Enlightenment name was Gautama?)
ART: The usual Tezuka mixed bag. A bizarre mixture of natural artwork which wouldn't look out of place in the Louvre, and then you have something which looks like the work out of Carl Barks or Walt Disney (though, I might point out, having a far greater "freedom of space" than any western comic artist has yet managed to achieve).
There's quite a bit of nudity, as could be expected. Combined with the "Eastern spiritualism", it's enough to give the people at Focus On The Family a heart attack. Expect to see this book burned in the Bible Belt soon.
OVERALL: I'm not lying when I say this is the best single manga I've ever read. As much as I like Hinotori, it's always a big spotty for me, since I don't think I agree with what Tezuka is ultimately trying to say. This being an historical account and not the Buddhist equivalent of the Left Behind novels, I'm more apt to accept it on its own terms. Highly recommended for everyone, even and especially those who aren't fans of manga.
After I got past the anachronisms (characters referring to modern products) and the attempts to use modern idiom (example: the use of the phrase "my peeps"), it was hard to put the book down. In fact I read a volume a day. Tezuka draws the way he feels like and that means that the characters range from classic semi-realistic manga to Japanese comic style to pure Disney (especially the crocodiles) all against realistically drawn backgrounds. The female characters are almost always drawn half-naked, just like Indian sculpture and paintings from that period. It may be a little hard for the Western senses to have semi-naked women involved with serious religious discussion but that's our problem not the story. The dialog is in the percussive manga style but the ideas of Buddhism are there and you can follow the road of Buddha's conflicts as he reaches his final philosophy.