Page 45 Review by Stephen
From the creator of PLUTO and 20TH CENTURY BOYS, at a guess this contains the first three volumes of the previous series.
Welcome to Altruistic Avenue off Right-Thing Road, paved by Good Intentions Inc.
Hell lies straight ahead.
It's 1986 before the Berlin Wall came down: Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a young Japanese immigrant working as a neurosurgeon in Germany, and very grateful to be doing so. He's a prodigy sponsored by Dr. Heinemann, the Head Director of Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf, and dating his daughter who's all easy smiles and eyebrow pencil.
Oh yes, Kenzo has it made but he's not that kind of guy. He's eager to please - to the extent that he'll write papers outside of his own gruelling operating hours and allow Heinemann to claim them as his own - but he knows right from wrong, and his first lesson in wrong comes in the form of a Turkish woman and child whose husband/father is brought in for surgery before a premier opera singer collapses and Dr. Tenma is directed to divert his attention from the first patient to the more prestigious one. He complies, of course, but the Turk dies without Kenzo's personal touch, leaving his grieving widow to berate him in the corridors and a sympathetic fellow surgeon to warn him about game-plans. At least his fiancée is there to soothe him jauntily with the indisputable truth that "People's lives aren't created equal".
At this point I thought the monsters of the series were actually going to be Dr. Heinemann and his superficial, over-privileged daughter, but no. For Dr. Tenma is offered a chance to redeem himself when a defector from East Germany and his young family are targeted by parties unknown and slaughtered in their residence. Their daughter goes catatonic, while their little boy requires immediate and intricate brain surgery to save him from the bullet in his skull. Kenzo preps himself but at the last minute the local Mayor, a financial supporter of the hospital, collapses and once again our beloved doctor is reassigned to the more politically advantageous operation. With the heart-felt reprimands of the Turkish woman still in his head, does Dr. Kenzo bite the hands that feed him and stab the eyes that seduce him or does he comply once more and live to be promoted yet another day? He does not.
And you cheer, yes you cheer, but everything that follows from demotion to promotion, from police investigation to the most awful revelation, will make you wish that he had.
I'll be back with more, as will Inspector Lunge of the German Federal Crime Unit - he of the clickerty fingers - and none of it will look good for our dear cousin Kenzo.
With a fine line that speaks as much French as it does Japanese with its exaggerated features and arch expressions, Urasawa is very much worth investigating. Same goes for Dr. Tenma, unfortunately.
What I particularly loved about this was the skills of deflection, evidently hereditary, which both the domineering doctor and his debutante of a daughter apply to so successfully scupper any chance young Kenzo seizes to vocalise his misgivings, leaving him... well, not exactly exasperated because he's too much of a puppy... but desperate and deflated with the whole world against him. It's another one of those horror stories that strikes home because the horror is as much about no one taking you seriously, no one believing what you alone have witnessed, because it's so much more credible that you're the guilty party yourself.
If only Inspector Lunge read more manga!