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4.2 out of 5 stars
Kapilavastu (Buddha, Book 1)
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VINE VOICEon 6 March 2008
This book was mentioned in a recent newspaper article about Manga as being a good pace to start and having started there, I would have to agree. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I already knew the traditional story of Buddha and have read a few of the more popular western graphic novels; Tezuka's 'Buddha' is very different from both.

The bulk of this novel deals not with the Buddha, but with the story of the Pariah Natta and a slave boy Chapra. Embedded deep within the tale is the birth of Siddharta but this forms no more than 10% of the book's 300 odd pages. The story that Tezuka builds around it however, is an extension of a powerful Hindu fable; a fable which forms the prologue of this book. In essence 'Kapilavastu' is about the power of love and sacrifice over tyranny and greed.

The drawings in the book range from the incredibly detailed to the sparse and spartan and some are almost childlike in places. This helps focus the mind and eyes on the important panels, which are loaded with nuance and meaning. The text I found peculiar and entertaining; There are a number of twentieth century references and expressions used which jar slightly against such an ancient story but they are also amusing and this approach is justified.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the first of eight and look forward to reading the others in due course.
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on 28 February 2015
AMAZING! One of my fav comics of my life.
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on 24 September 2014
Purchased as a gift, very well recieved
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on 12 July 2017
Great manga from a classic artist - big love to Osamu Tezuka
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VINE VOICEon 13 February 2009
Beautifully drawn and although a little confusing to begin with entrancing and a great introduction to the life of Bhudda
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on 22 November 2011
After reading this series I became a die-hard fan of Tezuka. Nothing I've read by him has matched the sheer beauty and emotion of Buddha except a few of the earlier volumes of Phoenix, but Buddha is a continuing narrative sustained over eight volumes and I don't think Tezuka ever beat it. I don't know how much of Buddha is ornamentation and how much is based on existing literature and myth (it's difficult to talk of fact or even history in this instance) but it makes for a breathtaking tale.
I struggle to find a comparison in the world of European comics. It's really a bucket list kind of work.
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on 8 January 2013
I admit I'm not the most enlightened (rim shot - thank you!) guy when it comes to Buddhism, or religion in general for that matter, in knowing its origins, tenets, and so on. But I do have a rudimentary understanding of Buddhism and the Buddha having read Hermann Hesse's "Siddhartha" a few years ago, and because of osmosis through pop culture. Buddhists believe all life is sacred, something about existence being suffering, and reincarnation, with the Buddha as an enlightened chap who figured out everything while sat under a special tree and now lives in space.

I thought reading a book, or the first volume anyway of a series, celebrating and informing readers of the life of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, would leave me somewhat more knowledgeable about the guy and the religion. It turns out that "Volume 1: Kapilavastu", has surprisingly very little to do with the Buddha, with a brief segment of its 400 pages dedicated to the Buddha's birth before turning focus back to the main story...

... which is about a young slave call Chapra who is determined to overcome the caste system into which he was born and become a nobleman. Accompanying Chapra is a kind of wild child called Tatta who doesn't wear clothes and has a weird superpower which enables him to transfer his consciousness into any animal he wishes. There's also a monk called Narradatta who is looking for the "Chosen One" and we see the tenets of Buddhism being formed by his master, the wise saint Asita.

The other big surprise in this book is how nutty the tone of the story is. I expected it to be somber and reverential but Osamu Tezuka isn't afraid to throw in slapstick humour or fantastical flights of fancy, or include action fight sequences. It's a very anachronistic take on this story with the characters all speaking in modern-day vernacular ("bro", "hey, ya" and "honey" all feature frequently) and possessed of 20th century sensibilities despite this story being set in c.560 BCE! Early on he even draws a packet of cigarettes and a pocket watch falling out of a monk's robes! But I like that Tezuka's playing fast and loose with the storytelling - he's not being disrespectful but giving this story his own spin on it.

Tezuka's drawing style also compliments his storytelling approach perfectly. The characters look very manga-esque with big eyes, hair - Chapra looks like a million manga leading guy characters while Tatta looks (deliberately?) like Tezuka's most famous creation, Astro Boy. Female readers might be put off by his portrayal of women in this book who all, strangely, look the same - a very idealised beauty with almost every woman going topless throughout. And despite being malnourished, etc. they all have large, perfectly round breasts! And then there are side-characters that look really cartoonish with exaggerated features like foreheads or mouths or eyes or body shapes that don't even try to resemble reality. He even draws himself into the comic, giving himself cameos at random points for no real reason other than he was bored! Awesome.

So for those readers put off of this book by thinking it would be a boring religious tract or straightforward biography, think again! This first volume at least is a rollicking adventure set in "ancient times" written and drawn by a master comics storyteller who's clearly having fun with the material and who knows when to scale back the ribaldry and bombast to emphasise important points about the story of the Buddha. It's a very fast paced, enjoyable and funny book with some excellent scenes, great characters, and a riveting story that'll keep you entertained from the first page to the last.
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on 22 January 2012
A few details that I feel other reviews have not covered:

The hardcovers, published by Vertical, when put together on the bookshelf, combine spines to create a really cool image of the Buddha as a young man, as a middle aged man and then as an old man. Inside, the paper is bright and this means that the drawings are pleasing to the eye and easy to read. They have a wrap-around dust jacket that is made to cover only the bottom section of the book. I find these dust jackets extremely irritating, like the publishers couldn't make up their mind.

The paperbacks published by Vertical have the word BUDDHA on the spines in different colours but do not create a composite picture of the Buddha.

The paperbacks published by Harper Collins do create a composite image of the 'three Buddhas' but it does not look as elegant as the one on the hardcovers. Inside, the paper is a little dull (printed on cheaper paper than the hardcovers), but they are fit for purpose.

As a person who is interested in Buddhism, I found this series to be a lovely example of what Buddhists call 'skillful means'. Yes, the story is strongly embellished with Tezuka's own characters and humour, but to say that you learn nothing about Buddhism is simply wrong. In fact, everything in the story lends itself subtly to the explanation of core Buddhist ideas. Tezuka was obviously aiming at the spirit and not the letter of Buddhism and by doing so brings it alive, relating it (despite the many fantastical feats in the storyline) to real human experience.
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on 6 June 2007
It took me some time to get used to the Japanese sense of humor in this telling of Buddha and his life. At times it is downright awkward when a character from one of Ozamu Tezukas previous works pops up in the tale, or different characters from other eras of history. Once in awhile his own character will walk into the story, as if he were taking a break from drawing to comment as if he were having a conversation with you.

I am puzzled about this translation as well. I feel it leaves out much of the beauty within the Japanese language. I am sure Ozamu Tezuka did not write this coarse. I have other Ozamu Tezuka texts to compare with - and many times I felt there were words and thoughts missing. What helps out is that you are pleasantly distracted by the drawings when you hit the rough spots, where the dialogue doesn't exactly match the images.

I have read many Buddhist texts and if you wanted a basic understanding of some principles of the belief system - then Ozamu Tezuka does hand you some of these precious gems within his unique gift of visual communication. I loved how he did not hide the issues of the real world but used many of obstacles people face in a context that a modern reader could relate to.

I appreciated how Ozamu Tezuka treated Animal life as a part of our life. This was hard at times to deal with. If the death of Bambi's Mother upset you when you were a kid - then expect to be upset again. In this tale you get a harsher take on Animal self-sacrifice; it is hard to accept but it is another way to think about life and death.

There are moments in this graphic novel series where it did give me a chance to just appreciate life. Ozamu Tezuka was a perceptive writer ahead of his time. I just thought this was a surprising take on Buddha and his life; not all of it historically accurate but Vertical does put a disclaimer in the book to this regard. It is a fictional way to covey some principles without becoming too much of a moralist tale. You can just enjoy reading it for light entertainment, or ponder the many ideas that are brought up within the story.

I thought this was one of the best Illustrated Graphic Novels I bought this year. I have the complete set of Hardbacks - Volumes 1 to 8. The sides of the volumes when lined up on the shelf show a combined black and white 3-face portrait of Buddha from different phases in his life. You can leave the color wraparound paper on the volumes and still see the portraits. The paperback editions do not have this, nor do they have the same covers as the hardbacks. The Black and White covers for the Hardback edition are stunning when you take the color paper wraparound off.

I recommend you get the first or second run printings. Vertigo put in these print runs a special end paper Graphic Print that is different for each volume. They are enlarged comic panels that tie-in with the story - with different graphic images for each the front and back piece of each Buddha book of the series. This makes the hardback editions a feast for the eyes. Personally I am glad Vertical Publishing took the time to create the style of the Buddha book series. This hardback series shows what a Manga could be like, if publishers made an effort to print the Artwork in a modern graphic style.
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on 27 February 2017
Perpetuates a misguided and disproved notion of 'invading aryans' arriving from somewhere 1500 BC to 'spread' a culture that would later become India. Historically inaccurate in several respects. Enjoyable as a fictional account, and that alone.
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