Buddha Vol. #04 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Thursday, July 28, 2005
Release Date: Monday, November 01, 2004

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Tezuka Osamu
Translated by:N/A
Adapted by:

What They Say
All life is sacred...

Awake under the Pippala tree...

The Review
Osamu Tezuka's masterpiece takes readers through the painful ordeals the Buddha lived through. But it also shows the ordeals that humanity goes through on a regular basis - discrimination, disease, war, famine and death. This is life; Buddha is about to solve its mysteries.

It is easy to say that Vertical has done a fantastic job with the presentation of this manga classic. First off, this series is printed in a hardbound A5 sized book. On the front cover is a wonderful black/white image of Siddhartha kneeling before a dark sun. It is a powerful image, which is very relevant to what occurs in this volume. The spine is done in a way as to upon collecting the entire series an image is created. This one has a piece the profile of Siddhartha soon after he has transcended to the Buddha. The opposite cover has five character images framed in a row to the left of the volume blurb and a few reader comments. This beautiful book is wrapped with a green and yellow obi, which holds the title in English and Japanese.

The GN is printed on quality paper and is bound nicely giving the GN a very unique look with my other manga. There are no alignment issues and the weight of the paper feels good and does not bleed. I will say the paper is not as bright as those from other publishers but it is much easier on the eyes and in my opinion just the right color for manga. The printing is perfect. Blacks are solid and the screen tone is very clean. Vertical also includes a map of the Himalayan Plateau detailing historical locals where Siddhartha/Buddha resided and studied. At the end of the GN, there is a preview blurb for volume six. Simple but sweet.

Tezuka's art reminds me so much of old Disney designs its scary. Thick strong lines help create a very comical collection of caricatures many of which seem to be rehashes of his designs from his decades of work in the manga profession. While traditionally, Tezuka tends to be a minimalist in regards to detailing, in Buddha he uses line work to create emphasis on the withering bodies and the worn faces of these characters. There is a huge range of emotion and that comes out quite well even without that much depth. Tezuka also humanizes animals quite a bit. They play important roles in this story and because of that, he gives them human traits (as Disney has done) for comical purposes and at times to illustrate the struggle that all living things go through.

Tezuka's backgrounds are stunning. Not only are they very aesthetically pleasing but also knowing that Tezuka does not use screen tone makes them even more impressive. Each detailed background could have hundreds of strokes working together to create simple things like skies, roads, trees and that does not even begin to cover architecture, costumes and manpu. Tezuka's characters might look simplistic but the rest of his world is far from it.

The translation for Buddha sounds really good and reads very well. Actually the pacing is very good and best of all Tezuka's little in jokes and references to his other works come through quite well.

Tezuka does not use a lot of SFX in his manga; he leaves that up to the manpu he uses. The few that he does use are translated and overlaid. The retouch is very clean and looks great, as it never compromises art.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For most of his life, Siddhartha feared but one thing - death.

He was able to accept the meaning of what an individual is in this universe. In many ways, the individual is nothing. The fears, the history, and the suffering might seem significant to some but are nothing to so many. In the end, life is death and if death is nothingness life meant moving towards that from birth.

He was able to free himself of the body's vulgarity. He punished the body, refusing to let it partake on food and sex. He damaged the body through meditation. He tested his body through ordeals and trails. He let his body decay and weaken. He suffered and flirted with death, all while maintaining that fear of death which had him questioning why humans must pass on.

He discovered that suffering was nothing. The body was only a shell, and with time, everyone will leave that shell. However, his contemporaries could not get past the shell. The caste system forced some to extraordinary suffering. The caste system created to remove the burden from the top and divert it to the bottom did not exist in death. All life - every blade of grass, every insect, every deer, elephant or human - lives equally in this universe. It is humanity that puts labels and categorizes by class and race. Humanity believes it is above the animals. Humanity through its "intelligence" also distinguishes between slave and monk and even mother and son. However, the universe that creates all life does not discriminate. When every living thing goes back to the universe a moth is equal to a king, and those two eventually combine to continue create life.

Siddhartha's true trail was to live with the suffering. He lived with the young man who foresaw his own death. He lived with the man whose wife was dying from disease. He lived with those who only saw salvation through their own death. He saw how suffering was as part of life, and because life is fleeting, it is so precious. Everyone should be given an equal life, as everyone is equal in death. However, he must begin to work towards breaking the barriers that mankind has created amongst themselves. Many people have suffered because of this, and more will continue to suffer unless people realize the value of all life on this Earth.

Life is so valuable, but throughout its history, humanity has had difficulty prioritizing life. Instead, humans tend to want to separate themselves from the rest of our neighbors. Whether those neighbors are our forests and nature reserves or they are the people living next door. Instead of expressing tolerance, we are often prejudiced. Instead of giving everyone the same rights, we often discriminate. Instead of creating a commonwealth, we often work on our own wealth.

So when Siddhartha experienced the discrimination, the disease, the destruction and death, life seemed to mean so much more. Life is a constant struggle, it is a lot of work and many people take all of that for granted. Moreover, when that struggle ends we all go to the same place and we are all one. Wealth, youth, strength, power - all of that meant nothing in the end, yet during life, they determine so much of our lives.

The story that Tezuka is telling is one that has as much meaning now as it did thousands of years ago. Actually, life might be a little easier now, but people are still suffering just as much. Tezuka’s honesty does not shy away from the suffering. Tezuka is also able to equally add his traditional sense of humor to what is a serious story of growth and selflessness. The story of Siddhartha has lasted for centuries. It has motivated people to work to end the cycle of suffering to achieve nirvana, and now it can be shared in manga form for people to enjoy (and maybe even learn from). For those reasons and so much more, this is a story that must be shared.

Mania Grade: A+
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: All
Released By: Vertical, Inc.
MSRP: 24.95
ISBN: 1-932234-46-2
Size: A5 Hardcover
Orientation: Left to Right