July Books 14) Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu

14) Buddha, Volume 1: Kapilavastu, by Osamu Tezuka

Another one of Time‘s top 25 and the first graphic novel I’ve read in almost six months. Originally published in 1974, this is the first of eight volumes retelling the life of the Buddha by one of Japan’s greatest manga artists, known as the “Walt Disney of Japan” because of his involvement in anime (he invented the “large eyes” style).

I’m therefore rather sorry to report that this didn’t do much for me. The Buddha himself barely appears in this first volume (born about two-thirds of the way through, still a baby at the end); the other characters seemed to me never to move much beyond going trhough the mythic motions, in a way that reminded me of why I am ususally left unsatisfied with books retelling the Cuchullain or other Irish legends. The female characters were difficult to tell apart, apart from the (unnamed) mother of the central character, Chapra, who can be distinguished from other women in that she is permanently topless for some reason. The one intriguing character, a child thief called Tatta, was also somewhat infuriating in that he had the magical power to transfer his consciuousness into animals – a pretty effective mystical trick that didn’t really seem to fit with the otherwise rather gritty and realistic setting of the story.

I did like the fight scenes, though, which are not easy to draw effectively. But unless you guys can convince me otherwise, I’m not going to invest in the other seven books of the series.

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