Manga-ka: Osamu Tezuka
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: June 2007
Synopsis: “Apollo’s Song follows the tragic journey of Shogo, a young man whose abusive childhood has instilled in him a loathing for love so profound he finds himself compelled to acts of violence when he is witness to any act of intimacy or affection whether by human or beast. His hate is such that the gods intervene, cursing Shogo to experience love throughout the ages ultimately to have it ripped from his heart every time. From the Nazi atrocities of World War II to a dystopian future of human cloning, Shogo loses his heart, in so doing, healing the psychic scars of his childhood hatred.”
I had mixed feelings about this book. At the very least I can say it’s the weakest of Osamu Tezuka’s works that I’ve had the chance to read released in English, but then again Osamu was a creator of so much obvious literary abilities, that isn’t saying too much, and from someone who has only recently began really delving into his legacy, it perhaps says even less.
The story follows a troubled young man named Shogo. Raised by an abusive and promiscuous mother, Shogo has grown up with a pathological disgust towards expressions of love. After being caught brutally extinguishing the lives of animals, he’s taken into custody for psychological evaluation and treatment. A session of electric shock leads him to the feet of a Goddess-of-Love-type who curses him to forever love but one woman yet be doomed to lose her again and again.
The whole book is a pretty grim read, from the sadistic personality of Shogo, to the dark overall moral (so to speak) of the story that paints a pretty depressing picture of love. Futility is a constant boon to Shogo’s efforts, whether he’s running from police or trying to cope with his growing feelings for a woman who he meets in a variety of different lifetimes. Speaking of whom, women aren’t terribly well protrayed in this book either, more objects than characters, which while not something I gave much thought to in an overly critical sense, it really serves to betray the story’s age.
It’s a bit confusing to follow some parts at first, separating the main timeline the story takes place in, and then the overlapping out-of-mind experiences that Shogo lives through that sees him as a soldier in World War II or an assassin in a future where humans are nearly extinct. In all these lifetimes he meets a variation of the same woman and never under the most positive of circumstances.
I wouldn’t say I especially enjoyed the book, but again it isn’t to say I didn’t. There was enough suspense and twisted entertainment to keep me going from start to finish, but it’s not the kind of story I’ll likely seek out to read again. A recommended read to fans of Osamu Tezuka looking to experience another of his darker works invoked by societal Japan at the time, but to those uninitiated in his other books, I’d skip this one and pick up one of his more popular series, such as Black Jack or Astro Boy. They’re popular for a reason and always worth looking into, while Apollo’s Song, though fairly interesting, proves fairly disposable in its completion and too insubstantially bleak.