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Direction: Right to Left
by Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: DMP Platinum
Genre: Action, Mystery, Sci-fi, Seinen
Amidst the chaos of World War II, two Japanese soldiers hear of Zephyrus, an utterly captivating woman rumored to exist on an island in the South Pacific. The tales of this bold enchantress seducing men to their dooms are both chilling and fascinating. Over twenty years pass, and Zephyrus resurfaces in Japan, seemingly unchanged, to wield her mysterious power over men once more. The one man immune to Zephyrus' charms is simple drunkard, Gohonmatsu Seki, son of one of the wartime soldiers. Employed to spy on Zephyrus, what will Gohonmatsu uncover about her ultimate plot to create international discord and consume the world of men? What brought this woman to conspire for decades against patriarchal society - against an entire gender - and can anything be done to stop her plans?
There's really only two characters of note in this huge volume, which I found surprising. Gohonmatsu Seki, and Milda.
Gohonmatsu Seki is an unusual character right from the outset. His personality is well defined from the beginning, and while he does not change much over the volume, he does change those around him. In this way he's more of a catalyst character. I love his character design, and the way Tezuka envisioned him. I was also impressed with the way Tezuka is able to keep the design consistent through out the volume.
Milda our heroin of the volume...sort of. She goes through a lot of personality changes over the course of the volume, and I found it fun following her changes. I was especially happy with the way she first experiences love, and has to come to terms with and the repercussions.
Her character design for a huge part of the volume is static and a bit off, but this was deliberate. As a result we tend to focus a lot more on her personality, and building up another image of her in our minds. When her real character design is finally revealed I found I liked it, more so than her original one. Though she does end up reminding me of Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The story is nothing more than a simple quest for revenge. Milda's mother finds out her husband wasn't the nice man she thought he was. He married her just to get to her father's research, which he promptly started to sell to the Nazi's. When he tries to move her father to a Nazi laboratory he kills himself.
She runs off with her children and ends up on a island where they remain the rest of their lives. As she lies dying she begs her daughters to do several things, Destroy the worlds economy, Destroy the Laws, and Destroy Men. What follows are the years of the daughters putting that request into practice.
The actual story takes place in the final stages as things finally come to a head, and then the final culmination.
This was my first Osamu Tezuka title, I have refused to buy any of his works previously for a simple reason, they're to expensive. His works are published by both Digital Manga Publishing, and Vertical, and both publishers give his releases a higher than average price tag.
DMP's release of Swallowing the Earth has a price point of £18.99, which can get you three or four normally priced manga. Vertical's releases have a price point of £14.99 which is double the normal price of manga. Sure you can get the manga cheaper online, but not from your local book stores.
The other reason I did not buy any was that I did not want to take a gamble on an unknown manga-ka that was so expensive to get. What if I had hated it? I would have been stuck with an expensive manga I most likely would never read again.
What a shame I wasted so much time in getting around to reading it!! Thank you to Kim (aka: ShroudDancer and The Kimi-chan Experience) for giving me the push to read it. And a HUGE thank you to DMP for letting me review this title on their eManga site.
I found the initial editorial pages an okay read, and extras like this always show just how much love the editorial team has towards their project. Though I only read stuff like that once, then skip over it from then on.
The manga itself starts off on an interesting turn, setting up the character of Zephyrus. It then fast forwards and picks up at a fairly good point.
The characters we get introduced to from the outset are interesting in several ways. Firstly they look more like olden american comic characters rather than manga characters. In fact if they flipped it and switched a few location names you would most likely never know any difference.
It also starts with the story well underway, and almost completed. This does mean for a bit of pondering as to what's happening at first, but I like the way the back story is revealed.
Seki is an excellent lead character, the way he goes through the story blindly unaware of things was just hilarious. However what was really amazing (for me at least) was the relationship between Milda (Zephyrus) and Seki. When they first meet Milda has nothing but disdain for Seki, but over the course of their interactions she slowly falls in love with him. However at first she's unaware that what she feels is love, and struggles to come to terms with it.
Seki meanwhile does not seem to feel anything towards her, other than that she's a con artist. His only desire is to drink all the liquor in the world. Yet after agreeing to look in Zephyrus for a friend of his fathers, and for 300,000yen. He discovers that things aren't what they appear to be, and ends up being chased not only by Zephyrus, but also the man that hired him.
What follows are a series of adventures (or miss-adventures) that see him ending up travelling world trying to stop what Zephyrus has planed.
As the story progresses Milda is considered a traitor by her sisters for loving Seki, and ends up imprisoned. We last see her lamenting her situation and wanting to be with Seki.
However we get several other mini stories that while on the surface seem unrelated, really set to help reinforce the feelings of the women involved. I really liked the mini that dealt with the oil well, which showed that Milda was not alone among her sisters, others of them could and did fall in love.
I was a bit disappointed with the way Tezuka suddenly brought Milda back into the story. The was no explanation as to how she escapes from a supposedly escape proof prison, on an island in the middle of the sea, and gets to Japan. The sudden from Zephyrus to Milda was also not explained, again a flaw in the story.
However Tezuka does recover fairly quickly for me, with the way the story develops from there. The way the story ends up, with Seki and Milda living together, and getting married was really touching. I especially loved the way the remaining sisters returned. I won't talk about the last part of the manga since it would spoil I :D but I really loved the way the story goes a full circle, and the way it ends made me laugh.
At the end of the volume I realised several things, the volume is a one-shot that's worth every penny it costs to buy; especially when you consider the page count. Also, I had just read an amazing manga that I had not been able to put down once I started reading.
I do not like recommending manga really, since what I like is what I like, and not everyone will like it as well. However if you're looking for a Osamu Tezuka manga to start off with, this is definitely the one you should try.
Like Utena, this is a manga that is ageless, despite having been created in the late sixties, it is still entertaining and enjoyable.
I like the cover design of the volume, considering the age of the manga, it makes sense for it to have an old school feel cover to it, DMP got the design spot on.
The editing of the manga was really well done, with inline notes on cultural or technical terms. The text was easy to read and follow, the font's used were not hard to see, and were of a good size and colour. This was especially true of the out of bubble and thought text, which are usually the bits hard to read.
WW 2 Guadalcanal. An American soldier is being hunted by two Japanese soldiers from the POW camp. His last actions and words of desperation are all about a mysterious beauty named Zephyrus, for whom he is willing to die. Just who is this goddess like woman? Fast forward twenty years in the future and change the scenery to Japan. One of the two soldiers is a wash out of man , living in slumlike conditions, his only achievement in life a son from a wife who left him. The other heads a large company with international business ties and is riding the waves of capitalism that is currently riding at an all time high. That is when Zephyrus makes her appearance again, and things begin to go wrong not only for this company, but business partners across the globe as they fall thrall to the mysteriously still young and bewitchingly beautiful woman known only as Zephyrus. Just what is she plotting and for what reason? With only the drunkard son of the down and out Army buddy on hand to discover her secrets, will the world be safe?
One of the forefathers of modern manga, Osamu Tezuka , brings a story of revenge, lust, and greed set in lush tropical paradises and playgrounds of the rich. Written back in 1968, the style of writing and the accompanying art clearly demonstrate the Japanese manga's early roots with its cross pollination from western comics and animated films. Tezuka has said that he was heavily influenced by the works of Walt Disney, and his earlier work for children, Astro Boy, clearly display this influence (with a taste of Terrytoon's Mighty Mouse on the side). This work however, is not aimed at children, but at an older audience, but the artwork retains its signature innocent style.
With LSD, booze aplenty, scantily clad women, and blow up sex dolls combined with characters and text that are almost, but not quite, like the Archies and TinTin on acid, this is one heck of a romp. Our hero, one young bottomless boozer named Gohonmatsu Seki, is a huge Jughead like character both in personality as well as brains. In fact, his singular redeeming feature (!) is that the ONLY thing he cares about is booze, so when Zephyrus sets out to seduce him, he is the only man in the world who shows ZERO interest. The only thing this man wants to wrap his lips and body around is liquor, and anything else is a bother. This doesn't stop both sides trying to alternatively make use of him or get rid of him, while he obliviously bumbles along knocking back the drinks and dodging aggressive opposition. The fate of the world rests in his dimwitted hands, and unfortunately he not only fails to appreciate it, but he doesn't give a damn as long as no one shuts off his liquid supply.
The simple nature of the drawings and retro feel of the prose and plot with its adventure comic book overtones make this a read that is easy to sink into, providing lots of laughs along the way. This sort of adult humour was perhaps ahead of its time, with gags that would not seem out of place today in animated shows such as Family Guy. Due to its drug references, heavy drinking, and sexual references this does carry a Mature label on it for ages 16+. Truthfully, anyone younger than this may not get what is going on in full. The short preface has an interesting introduction explaining how this work came to be and the historical significance of the time period it was created, so should not be skipped; it has several pieces of culturally significant information that adds to the appreciation of the piece and the motivations of characters, greatly enhancing the reading pleasure. With its free-wheeling humour and often zany situations, this is pure crack and possibly just as addictive.
***I would like to thank Digital Manga Publishing for providing the review copy***