A Tale of the Future: 2 (Phoenix (Viz)) Paperback – 1 Jan 2000
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Phoenix, Vol. 2 - First published in 1967, with installments appearing over the next 21 years. - The stated "life work" of Japan's "God of Manga." - Spawned a movie and several original animated videos by some of Japan's top directors, such as Rintaro (Metropolis, X The Movie) and Tezuka himself. Full description
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In this volume, Tezuka uses his signature cinematic style which is now so often copied that it seems commonplace to the modern reader. Compare anything he draws to the best American comics drawn during the same era, and the difference is staggering- it's like comparing a 3D HDTV set to an old black and white cathode ray tube.
This is the second volume of the lengthy series. It takes place in the distant future, as man destroys himself through world war. The eventual rebirth and the hero Masato underscore themes of pacifism, environmentalism, and buddhist thought for which Tezuka is famous. This is a must read for serious and casual graphic novel fans alike. Even if you've never been a fan of manga before, you are likely to enjoy this serious, thought-provoking, and entertaining work.
The artwork is incredible. It can be glanced over as you fervently read through the engrossing story or you can pour over it, looking at each and ever detail: the faces of each man, beast and machine, the apocalyptic earth, the dazzling sight of the phoenix in all its glory.
I suppose people can say "It's been done" when it comes to the story, but bah to them! The eternal cycle, the bond of love, the danger of freedom, the folly of creation, of power, of ideals and control. Give it to someone young and they can touch on these themes, give it to someone old and they can marvel at the detailed creation of such a frightening world.
It ain't the highest-caliber medium to present these grand ideas, but if any doubt that a graphic novel/comic book/manga can only cover an eensy-weensy niche of cliches and dribble...then I suppose this is one of many that can prove otherwise.
I know so little Japanese that I cannot vouch for its translation (so I suppose I cannot defend it well) but it does not insult the English language or the reader flipping through.
Now enough doom and gloom - whether you wish to be taught some overwhelming moral or not, this manga is definitely enjoyable and should be read just for the story. So run, or click quickly or something, and get this book and immerse yourself in the perennial tale of the Phoenix.
From this review I hope to influence the mainsteam-north-american-comic-book-readers to delve into this masterpiece, as it is pretty much the one and the only manga I pick up, and since then I pick up everything that Tezuka comes out with because he's just that fantasitic. Don't second guess picking up this work, in fact snag anything that says Tezuka on the back cover. Again, I'm not into manga whatsoever, but Tezuka's work on this series is a must have for any serious TPB or Graphic Novel collector, as we label them today.
So why only four stars? Well, Viz has chosen to present this in a Westernized reading order, i.e. left to right instead of the original Japanese reading order, right to left. This subtly changes the artwork (for example, almost everyone is left-handed) and does does not convey the artists original intention.
Oh, well, even with the flipped artwork it's an excellent read. If you read manga at all, and maybe even if you don't, pick this up. You will discover how great manga can be.