Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting Started On Graphic Novels


So I began my "study" of graphic novels with Buddha, Volume 1: Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka. Evidently Tezuka is a big name in manga.

I know very little about this Japanese genre and tend to think of it as being adult comics with a lot of characters with strange big eyes. (According to anime.com that's Tezuka's influence.) At this point, I'm not sure whether or not manga has influenced the interest in graphic novels over the last ten years or so here in America or what it's relationship is at all. This tribute site says Tezuka's artwork gives the illusion of movement, and my impression is that graphic novels do do that, so he may have had some kind of influence on graphic novels overall.

Or maybe not. Maybe graphic novels just coincidentally share that with Tezuka's work.

Buddha: Kapilavastu doesn't really have that much to do with Buddha. He's born in this book, but most of the story involves other characters, which the back cover says are Tezuka's original characters and not from Buddhist tradition. The two most major are a slave, Chapra, and a pariah Tatta. The question "Why do humans suffer?" does come up, and Chapra and Tatta do suffer. But their suffering is interesting and adventurous while most books about characters who suffer tend to be, at least in my experience, ah...well, not interesting and adventurous. Improving, maybe.

A couple of interesting notes about the artwork--the pariah boys are naked in most cases, and there's a reason I know they're boys, if you follow my drift. Almost all the women are naked from the waist up, and they are all attractively portrayed, even the Buddha's mother who is pregnant, though we would never know if the text didn't tell us.

I have no idea what to make of that.

You also see facial expressions that are unrealistic in an over-the-top humorous sort of way, even though what is happening to the characters isn't necessarily humorous.

Again, I'm not sure what to make of that. I got used to it, though.

I can't say that I loved Buddha Volume 1, but there's something about it that's so intriguing that I'm hoping to move on to Volume 2. Oddly enough, no library in our consortium owns it, though some libraries have Volumes 5, 6, and 7.

That's right. I don't know what to make of that.

I'm wondering if Osamu Tezuka the Akira Kurosawa of graphic novels. Which would be really interesting because I just saw Seven Samurai this past summer.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Daniel said...

I think your comments about Japanese manga are interesting. So far, most every graphic novel I've read, or started, has done very little to engage me, and perhaps more to alienate me. I just bought an American one that I'm hoping will change my opinion.

I'm currently reading "Loving The Machine", which is sort of a social history of robots in arts, literature, and culture in Japan. Tezuka is mentioned frequently in it. Apparently the Manga tradition has had a very strong influence on how Japanese engineers have approached and developed their robots.

Anyway, reading that book has almost persuaded me to give those peculiar Japanese manga a second chance.