Genre(s): Drama, Thriller, Political
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Number of Volumes: 1
Licensed? Yes (Vertical)
Uncovering the ultimate motivations and true history behind Yuki, MW’s antagonist, is entertaining in a sadistic, morbid way. His goal is horrifying, and how he gets there is equally disturbing, but seeing it play out is like watching the most beautiful train wreck play out in slow motion. Osamu Tezuka’s brilliant presentation in the darkest, most racy story written across his entire career is unsettling, sickening, and truly one of the most fantastically told tales ever created.
It was also, for me, a hell of an introduction to the man’s work.
Jeez, even the cover will make you uneasy. The hardcover-slip screams “panic,” while the spine-image hints at (falsely, I’ll point out) bestiality. Beneath it, a black and white gas mask screams of fear, while the inner covers contain images of homosexuality at its most intimate. This isn’t exactly the kind of manga you’d want your mother to find, no matter how smart and well done it is. If your poor maternal-figure/guardian were to open to any page, they’d be privy to any number of unsettling things; rape, murder, cross-dressing, spousal abuse and vivid sexual activities, to name a few.
Yet these things are integral to the story. Everything that makes you feel sick or disgusted should, as it isn’t there to be glorified in any way. Tezuka’s portrayal of evil incarnate is the perfect contrast to protagonist Father Garai, a priest whose beliefs are questioned and morality is challenged. His lifelong relationship with the tricky but still-loyal Yuki is a constant issue for Garai as he struggles between helping his “sinful” lover and doing the right thing, which causes some of the most intense narrative tension in the entire 582 pages, with a crescendo to a climactic finale that pays off in spades.
I’ve yet to mention any specific details about the story, but that’s not an oversight. The detailed plot is so intricate and full of life that to spoil it would ruin what MW is all about. With such a heavy focus on story, it relies on your naiveté to its direction to succeed, which it absolutely will if you opt to avoid any details.
The character evolution of Garai and the inversed progression of Yuki clash in a dramatic story of lifelong revenge against humanity in what is without a doubt Tezuka’s most politically charged and mature story. The design is simplistically classic and what we’ve come to expect from the artist/author, but specific detailed imagery throughout brings forth a more daunting atmosphere in an already completely-grim thriller.
MW is a must-read for anyone with an open mind. The ultra-serious overtone is something that’ll catch fans of most of Tezuka’s work – even more so than Ode to Kirihito – totally off guard. I can’t emphasize enough how messed up everything is in this single stack of hardcover excellence, but everything becomes clear as the stunning narrative advances, builds up, and comes completely crashing down on itself in the best way.
Release Quality: 4.0