You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Osamu Tezuka published this in 1970, shortly after Japan authorized sex education for teenagers. Much of what seems peculiar about the story today was therefore taboo-busting when it originally came out. In the prologue, 500 million anthropomorphic sperm race for a single egg, personified as a queen in a diaphanous gown. (Try to read this without thinking of Woody Allen.) The single winner loses his tail and disappears with the queen into the womb to create an embryo, defined by Tezuka as "...the mark of love, truth, and sincerity between man and woman, male and female."

This arch tone makes the occasional reappearance in the next 500 pages, but the story comes down to earth with the introduction of Shogo, a typically androgynous hero (I'm not androgynous, I'm just drawn that way.) Shogo has landed in the psych ward for torturing animals. Because of his bar hostess mother, he associates love with violence. The story will combine his real life adventures with dreams induced by shock therapy, hypnosis, or a serious crack on the head received when the angry boyfriend of a woman training Shogo to compete in marathons runs him off a mountain road. If you can make sense of that last bit, it accurately describes an incident in Apollo's Song.

Osamu Tezuka is commonly referred to as the God of Manga, and that he may be. His drawing style, however, is a period piece by more contemporary standards. His secondary characters are cartoons with funny faces. HIs sophistication shows only in his page construction and the wildness of his narratives. This edition comes with a quote from Publishers Weekly: "His work deals with the most profound questions of human existence." I suspect that statement was written to accompany his series on Buddha and not something like Apollo's Song.

Osamu Tezuka 1970
Woody Allen 1972
I'm not androgynous. I'm just drawn that way

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