Monday, May 7, 2007

Sex, Lies, and Buddha

I recently finished reading the six-volume manga Buddha by Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka
is a major figure in manga history and is called "the Walt Disney of Japan" and "the God of Manga," depending on who you ask. His most famous work in America is "Astro Boy" which he animated from the manga as a TV series. Also an animator of films & film shorts, Tezuka was the recipient of several international animation awards, including the Grand Prix for Jumping in 1984. Check it out:

Tezuka's work was all very experimental for its time, including the way in which he told a story. Manga evolved from picture stories called 'e-monogatari' in which the accompanying text - not the images - drove the primary narrative. With manga, however, the succession of images tell the story. This story-telling shift from word to image was in part brought about by Tezuka, who started dealing with history and politics through manga in the 1970s, a phase in which Buddha was born.

Like most people these days, I went through a period of spiritual searching during which I explored Buddhism, among other things. In this period, I read a lot about Buddha's life and teachings, but no biography was as gripping and evocative as Tezuka's. Buddha stripped the veneer off of the now internationally-renown holy man to reveal the sordid massacres, scandals, revenge, and venal desires that surrounded Buddha's enlightenment and life work. This has got to be the most shocking version of Buddha's life ever, but because of this, it is also the most luminous and uplifting.

Buddha, however, is not just all incredible drawings and drama, it also displays Tezuka's sense of humor, which ranges from anachronistic to self-mocking. He includes 20st century references like watches, radios, and American baseball teams in his sudden blips of silliness. He also brings himself into the story for a cameo, and he mocks the antics of manga-artists as well. A mixture of everything that makes the world what it is, Buddha redeems through its brutal honesty. It's the most fun you'll ever have with a religious figure.


Paul said...

well, I liked the link to the book by the guy who makes stew. Dinty Moore's beef stew is the bomb!

May said...

yes, yes it is :)