Manga-ka: Osamu Tezuka
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: May 2006
Synopsis: “In Buddha, originally serialized in the 1970s and one of his last works, Osamu Tezuka 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.”
Though I failed to grasp the depths of which Buddha is apparently intended to symbolize, it’s still a strong prolouge to the life of a young man destined for great things in a world that suffers so strongly from its own failings.
The majority of the story follows the meeting between two young boys, one a slave and the other a Pariah, one even lower than slaves in the world’s hierarchy. Through unfortunate circumstances, the two become allies and take off in a quest of vengeance after the loss of their family and friends. Chapra, the slave, saves the life of his enemy in order to have his heroics rewarded with a promotion to higher class.
I enjoyed the following portion of the story, where Chapra becomes a part of the royal guard and works his way up the ranks in both class and skill. Watching him slowly lose his original goal amidst the challenge and prestige of his new standing was a believable bout of human character and did momentarily tug at my heartstrings when his Mother seeks to see him again later in the story.
The overall pacing of the book was somewhat erratic with a number of parts I found far more compelling and linear than others. The story skips around to different characters and multiple perspectives, though the relevance of some isn’t yet as evident, but do prove foreshadowing for future events.
I enjoyed the short moments the story took to showcase the expectant parents whose child’s coming is coinciding with a variety of telling signs. A renowned monk confirms the parents’ believes, and this same man is master to a traveling monk who joins with Chapra and the obnoxiously cheeky Pariah child on their journey. His revelation by the book’s end serves the most in the way of enlightment I had as a reader but the intentional displays of futility when it comes to violence, vengeance, and even life itself at times, was well evident throughout the story via the suffering of the characters.
It’s really come the end that you fully realize the book’s role as essentially a prologue to the actual continuing plot that will begin in volume two. I’m immensely curious to read about the newly born, whose birth came with numerous divine signs and auspicious visits. On the flipside, I am less than interested in following the character deemed to become the apparent lead for a while. Between the two I thought would be moving onto larger roles, the one I found most annoying ended up being the only survivor.
Either way, though I found this first volume of Buddha a little uneven, it still fit a lot of pretty epic storytelling into its pages and my curiousity alone regarding the series’ new direction leaves me eager to read the next installment.