Saturday, September 01, 2007

Buddha, Vol. 3: Devadatta by Osamu Tezuka

This is the third in the massive eight-volume series retelling the history of Siddhartha, who is given the title "Buddha" on the second-to-last page of this book. Actually, there's a lot of other things mixed up in here -- many of which I expect are fictional -- but the story of the Buddha is at the center.

Tezuka's style is still wildly diverse here, in drawing, theme, and just about every other aspect you can think of. Extremely cartoony children share panel space with photo-realistic backgrounds and philosophical musings give way to slapstick, melodrama, or modern references. It mostly hangs together, but the rapid changes in tone often gave me whiplash.

At the beginning of this volume, Siddhartha has finally left his home and become a monk. He falls in with an older monk, Dhepa, and starts learning about hardship. But then the story shifts a few years in the future, to follow another young boy (Tezuka gravitates, again and again, to smart but unruly boys) from Siddhartha's home. This boy, Devadatta, is driven away from his home and raised by wolves (and then by a monk-turned-wild-man), and then the narrative leaves him to go back to Siddhartha. (Devadatta will apparently come back into Siddhartha's story in future volumes -- as many of the characters keep coming back, even if I'm having trouble remembering who they all were.)

Buddha is generally considered Tezuka's masterwork, but I'm finding it less focused than a book like Ode to Kirihito. Yes, Buddha shows more of Tezuka's range in the space of a single work, but that's not necessarily a good thing -- the goofy and serious elements here don't always mesh well. (As with a wrapped-up, literally snot-nosed kid with a big bandage "X" on his forehead who also can prophecy when anyone will die.)

I've got volume 4 on hand, and I'll probably dig up the second half from the library, as well. But this is a seriously oddball comics series.

(And here's what I wrote when I read the first volume.)

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