A friend who wanted to get me into manga master Tezuka’s work gave the first two volumes of the Buddha biography to me as a birthday gift. I read each thick volume in one or two sittings.
Tezuka uses two styles to tell the Buddha’s story—a finely detailed, naturalistic style to show the lush Indian backgrounds, architectural edifices and certain animals and a big-eyed cartoon-y style for the characters in the story. It was the latter that distracted me from the story. The character treatment, while it works in the action sequences that are shoehorned in to fill out the Buddha’s world, distanced me from the characters. I felt little investment in their fates. Also, the female characters look very much alike. Tezuka depicts many of the characters topless for much of the time. Strangely, he only draws nipples for them part of the time. I can’t explain why this bugged me so much, but it did.
The dialogue is childish and stilted, which may because of the translation, but seems to be a result of trying to put modern idioms in the mouths of centuries-old characters. The relationships between the characters, especially the romantic ones are equally superficial and don’t really create any tension.
While I enjoyed the books as a way to pass time on the train and waiting in waiting rooms, I didn’t feel the urge to go out and buy the rest of the volumes. Partly this is a reaction to the price of each, even the Strand’s discount didn’t bring them under ten dollars. Ultimately, though, it was a matter of Tezuka’s lackluster character design and writing.
Tezuka is considered a master of the form and I respect that. I guess I’ll just have to see more of his work before I can decide what I think of his stuff.