Thursday, September 22, 2011

Manga Review: Adolf (volume one)

I was browsing through my (college) library's comic section (the one in the nonfiction, not the one near the kids books) and came across this book and I was wondering if it was the same manga I had heard about online (I had heard that the first volume was really hard to find in English) but didn't think so since it looked like it was a one volume series. I then noticed that it was by Osamu Tezuka and decided to check it out since I need to read more of his work anyway (I believe his only other work I've read is Buddha and I didn't care for it that much). When I got home I found someone else mentioning this title online so I went to amazon, found a cover that matched mine and holy guacamole, it's going for $44 used online! It appears that my library doesn't have the other volumes in this series sadly but thankfully they can all be bought for less than MSRP on Amazon, really wonder why that first one is so limited.

Adolf by Osamu Tezuka
Summary: The story of three Adolfs, it begins during the Berlin Olympics of 1936 when visiting Japanese reporter Sohei Toge gets a mysterious phone call from his brother (who lives in Berlin) and by the time he meets up with him he's been murdered. Toge soon finds his investigation blocked at every possible point and starts to realize that there is something much bigger going on behind the scenes, something that has a connection with the death of a geisha months earlier back in Japan. A couple years later the other two Adolf's are introduced to the story, Adolf K whose German father is a main suspect in the geisha's death and Adolf K who accidentally learns the secret that has set in motion all of these events.

The Good: One thing Tezuka does well is pacing and balancing multiple points of view without every boring the viewer. The first volume focuses on a few, only slightly connected characters but there are already hints about how they will all play an important role later on in the story. The first volume is build up but it's build up done right, never boring enough to make the reader leave and genuinely important to the story, something that many writers today don't seem to grasp.

The Bad: There is a bit of melodrama in this work which made me roll my eyes and didn't seem to fit the more serious mood, such as the typhoon which caused all the dramatic flooding and landslides, and the villains can be a bit over the top as well (such as the associate of Adolf K's father). Honestly, there are a good number of over the top moments in this volume which can be grating on some readers, hopefully they will either become less common as the story goes on or the reader will be able to get more used to them.

The Artwork: As the introduction in the front of the book notes, Tezuka is using a more realistic style than normal in this work (it's also one of his later works) and I enjoyed it more than the art style used in Buddha (I think it was the general lack of over the top, cartoony reactions that many of the character in Buddha had). However, the introduction notes that this art style is still not going to appeal to many, non-manga reading Westners which makes me wonder why they bothered to flip the book (especially since flipping the book does make it a bit harder to follow the panel layout sometimes, plus it's rather insulting to change the artist's vision so that, theoretically, more people can enjoy the work without having to think about it as much).  Overall however I liked the art here, although I am also puzzled why they decided to make a composite image of actual photographs for the cover. 

I really enjoyed this story and I would love a chance to read more. Like I said earlier, the other volumes of the series are avaliable for much more reasonable prices although I think I'll poke around at all my libraries to see if I can read them there first.

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