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The Book Of Human Insects s/c

The Book Of Human Insects s/c back

Osamu Tezuka

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Page 45 Review by Jonathan

Translated into English for the first time, this relatively late period work (1970) from Tezuka immediately captivated me, and I have to say I enjoyed this considerably more as a work of fiction than AYAKO, even as good as that was. It's just that this work has far more engaging a premise as we have the story of the ultimate social chameleon, the beautiful Toshiko Tomura, able to observe and then almost instantly imitate the skills of others, be they actors, designers, writers, photographers or indeed even hitmen, then cuckolding them out of their professional positions or plagiarising their work and beating them to prestigious awards.

But that's not our pernicious central character's only talent, as she's also able to make her victims fall hopelessly in love with her, so even though they're all too aware of her parasitic behaviour, they are unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Only one person seems immune to her amorous charms, though he too has suffered professionally at her hands, and given his choice of subsequent spouse, you have to question whether he has managed to completely break the spell he was under. But what drives such an unusual creature, one who seems to pay scant regard to the rules of society? What could they possibly want from life? Or are they driven to flit from character to character like a restless actor, seeking the role that will ultimately define their life?

I must just pass comment upon the art too. Tezuka is clearly at the polished peak of his powers here, employing his regular style which we've come to know and love. But also he does some things stylistically I've never seen him do anywhere else, so far at least. There's a three-page sequence in a jazz club where he illustrates some black musicians (bearing in mind the retrospective slating he gets for his portrayal of black characters in many of his early works) with a realism that captures the soul of the performance. They are some incredible panels, and so utterly, utterly un-Tezuka-like I could scarcely believe my eyes. It's a shame he didn't let himself go beyond the boundaries of his usual style more often if that's what he was capable of, though that rarely seems to be the Japanese mangaka way, particular with that generation. Such touches only add to the appeal of this work for me, and it's certainly another essential addition to the Tezuka canon now available in English.
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