In ancient India, the lives of the people are plagued by drought, famine, constant warfare and the injustices of the strict caste system. The intertwining lives of many unhappy souls are drawn together by the birth of the young prince Siddhartha, who embarks on a spiritual journey, becomes Buddha, "the Enlightened One," and attempts to bring about a spiritual rebirth of the people in this desperate age.
Buddha was published in English by Vertical Inc. in 8 volumes in both hardcover and paperback format. Hardcover was released from October 1, 2003 to December 1, 2005 while paperback was released from May 2, 2006 to July 3, 2007. A complete paperback box set was released on July 1, 2014. It was also published in Brazilian Portuguese by Conrad from February 2005 to March 2006.
Buddha is an epic. And by 'epic', it must not be understood as the term defined by that which appeals to those who want jaw-dropping, blood-pumping battles, or a superhero that can defeat powerful magical beings with a mind of steel. Rather, in this case, it refers to a lengthy work that follows heroic endeavors on a grand scale. As strange as this may seem, Buddha fits that definition, presenting a sublime narrative that blends elements of history, religion, politics, and mythology.
Buddha is a manga written by the famous Osamu Tezuka, and is one of his titles considered to be an epic. As the title
might suggest, it is about Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and his undertaking of ascetic trials, embarking on a spiritual journey in which he eventually attains Enlightenment. Although the manga spans the entirety of his life, it is not just about Siddhartha. In fact, he isn’t even born into the story until late into the first volume. Needless to say, he encounters many people during his journey, ranging from kings who loathe him to slaves who seek his help. Through witnessing the suffering of these characters, Siddhartha begins to discover the facts of life. The way in which he learns about lessons that eventually develop into the religion known as Buddhism contribute to an engrossing experience.
With the characters comes a central part of Buddha’s storytelling and narrative. One of the things that make it an epic is the scope of the story in how it deals with multiple protagonists, rather than simply focusing on Siddhartha. Numerous characters are introduced over the course of the story; which may make it seem confusing to follow at first glance. Fortunately, the narrative never gets overly complicated with its execution beyond the initial hump of having a large cast of characters across multiple plot lines. What is really important with these characters, though, is the surprising amount of depth that they are given despite their number. As more is revealed about each of their motives and goals, their actions become more understandable, to the point of conveying a great deal of sympathy. It is when these developed characters interact with one another that the multiple plot lines begin to intertwine, smoothly putting everything into place and resulting in a graceful narrative that is nothing short of brilliant.
Of course, that is not to forget Siddhartha, the main character of the story who connects the others to one another. It is certainly an interesting choice to base a manga on an important religious and historical figure whose teachings have influenced millions of people. While such an attempt may raise issues for some audiences in regard to the questionable historical accuracy of Siddhartha’s life or the presence of supernatural elements in the story, Tezuka has thoroughly researched the subject. This manga is a clear demonstration that he regards the teachings of Buddha highly. Still, it should not be treated as a religious doctrine of Buddhism or a biography of Siddhartha’s life. Rather, it would be more appropriate to treat it as Tezuka’s own unique interpretations of the Buddhist teachings. Tezuka constructs a religious mythos based off the milestones of Siddhartha’s life, following him on a heroic journey. That is not to say there is nothing to be learned from this manga, because it is certainly possible with an open mindset; for example, the earlier volumes focus on the cruel caste system of ancient India, offering some insight into the theme of social injustice which is further explored in later volumes.
With that said, Buddha is highly philosophical. Not in the sense in that it delves into complex discussions of existentialism or the state of the mind, but in that the central lessons of Buddhism permeate the work. One theme that is handled reverently in this manga is the sanctity and equality of life. Sometimes, the idea is expressed explicitly through the dialogue, where Siddhartha will mention how precious an individual life is. A common trait, however, is how Tezuka expresses his themes with a degree of subtlety. The very first scene in the manga offers the perfect example: An old man, weary from his travels, is starving. He encounters a bear, fox, and rabbit, who attempt to help him find food. The rabbit is the only one to fail, and, in an act of self-sacrifice, offers itself as food by jumping into a fire.
Accordingly, the philosophy in Buddha does not try to be more than what it is. That is to say, it remains thematically focused on the ideas of Buddhism throughout the story, clarifying its themes at the beginning (such as with the above-described scene) and avoiding deviation from those themes. It also does not rely heavily on the use of obscure symbolism that hinges on poignant analysis- a problem that many often have with most philosophical works.
Certainly, it seems as if Buddha is an extremely serious work. Inevitably, those who prefer a more serious approach will find themselves disappointed, as part of Tezuka’s writing style is the inclusion of the sense of humor typically found in his works. Buddha is no exception from this, containing the use of anachronisms, slapstick, references to his other works, and fourth wall breaking. Some audiences will find the humor jarring and unnecessary, while others will find it highly entertaining and refreshing. The humor contrasts with the serious nature of the story, but it does not go so far as to ruin the coherency of the narrative. Ultimately, this is an issue that deals more with personal preferences concerning Tezuka’s writing rather than the content of the narrative.
Likewise, the outdated art may pose another subjective issue for some. Tezuka’s trademark art style places cartoony and stylized character designs against a highly detailed landscape- a type of contrast similar to the juxtaposition between humor and seriousness. Regardless of the designs, however, there is a great deal of realism that is depicted with these characters. In accordance with all the suffering that Siddhartha witnesses, there is a number of graphic scenes and panels that are shown throughout the story, and they are fairly explicit in terms of violence and nudity. It is highly appropriate, though, given the context of the social injustice in relation to the caste system of the time period. Slaves and pariahs, who were on the lowest social status according to the system, were the target of constant humiliation and mistreatment.
Despite the possible preferential differences with the art, the composition of said art remains excellent. The panels are used to great effect via different techniques, such as slowly presenting a scene by splicing it into a series of vertical columns across the page, or by using large panels to effectively convey the scenery in greater detail. These techniques make the transitions clear and present the story in a dynamic manner. Praise can also be given to the remarkable two-page spreads, which serve to emphasize the scale of an event. A noteworthy example of this is when it is used for an image representing the birth of Siddhartha. Returning to the scene with the man, bear, fox, and rabbit, there is an impressive display of the manga’s composition at work. The one aspect that makes this scene noteworthy is actually its execution, in that it is told without a single line of dialogue. The visual narrative is an element that is central to the nature of the medium; this scene is an exemplification of this. With Tezuka having pioneered the medium, it shouldn’t come off as a surprise that his techniques can be seen in most modern manga.
Tezuka is undoubtedly an influential figure in both anime and manga. As Buddha is considered by some to be his magnum opus, it is difficult find reasons to not make a recommendation for this work. If you haven’t read any of Tezuka’s work yet, you cannot go wrong by starting with one that has such a well-crafted story and visuals. The religious narrative it presents is definitely a unique journey in itself.
And at the end of that journey, Buddha is certainly an enlightening experience- perhaps even one beyond that.
Buddha was an odd choice for me at the time because it was against what used to be something I used to hate in choosing Manga; an overhyped series/mangaka and strong religious overtone. But as I wanted to branch out with my choices a little more at the time this seemed a great choice.
Being my first (and only at the time of this review) Osamu Tezuka manga I had at the time I was attempting to go in with as little a critical mind as possible. So in a nutshell I loved this manga but of course no
one reads a review for a nutshell so I'll get into meat of things.
We'll start with the artwork as this is the first thing noticed by most people and I must say that I think it is an excellent example of the style of manga art done during the time it was published. The art is serious when it needs to be and comical when the situation demands. What can be seen often in Manga is that there is such a radical shift between the art of the comedy and drama parts that the can conflict, but Buddha shows an excellent example of the neutral style which allows itself to both without the aforementioned conflict. The content of the art varies from people, animals and landscapes and each is handled in a beautiful style. Unknown to most fans is what is known as establishing shots and these are featured primariy in manga novels and aren't seen as often in western comics. These shots are drawn in such skill that allows the imagery of the world presented to glued into the mind of the reader, with the story following and becoming an equal part of the world.
The story is fantastic following the life of Buddha and the trials he faced aswell as the people around him and the story takes the reader to a India, which is both believable and intriguing, replicating the problems of the day with the story unfolding. The story actually gave me an appreciation of the caste system of India in history and how each caste had their problems. The characters entrall one to an extant that you feel a genuine connection with them and it is sad to see them die or struggle but equally joyous to seem them prevail. What struck me most about reaching the end of the books was the feeling of "wow" I felt as I had a genuine desire to learn more about the original Buddha and see which of the characters were real.
Overall this is a great book, spread over 8 volumes and has fantastic pacing. Osamu Tezuka is hailed as a god for a reason and I would gladly read more of this work.
Thank you for reading and expect more from me in the future.
Buddha is the story of siddhartha, a prince who with days to come become the famous buddha that we all know and talk about until this day.
The thing that great about the story of buddha that it covers a lot of subjects and themes such as war, love, nature, human society and classes, slavery, suffering, fate. And above all-life and death and the connection between them. All of this presented in the manga and the philosophical ideas passed in a very easy to understand way, making the reader learn and think about it.
But not only it's very thought provoking and deep, it's all done in
a very interesting way-we don't just "sit" for a lecture of 66 chapters, we can see the life of many people, slaves and kings, suffering, and learning about life through their hardships. Buddha meets a lot of people, and their stories are all connected in some way, while being very entertaining. Like one of the first stories, of chapra who rose from a slave to a great fighter. The only thing I didn't really liked was the vague sense of time, sometimes years went in a blink of an eye, which was kinda confusing.
The characters are all interesting and human. They suffer, they are afraid from death. Sometimes, they try to fight their fate and sometimes they are accepting it. You wouldn't always agree with the deeds of one character, but they all have reasons for what they do, even if we don't always understand the reasons (because of difference of time and society). A lot of them encounter siddhartha. Some find his teaching meaningful and try to change their ways, not always they can because as I said, they are all human and can't always fight their desires. Sometimes they fight him and try to resist his teaching.
Siddhartha himself is a interesting guy. Born a prince he tried to understand why human suffer, why there are slaves and how they are different from himself. Until the end siddhartha doesn't stop learning. Whether it's from the people around him, or from the nature and the beasts.
The art in the story is your regular osamu tezuka art. I think it's pretty good, but I don't really like his character design, which is rounded in a way (although I did liked the design of adult tatta) I have no complains about it but I can understand why it would turn people off.
In conclusion, buddha is a wonderful manga, one of the best I read. It has great themes and philosophical ideas, while not being very complicated. It does a good job in showing us human nature and teach us about it. Honestly, I didn't even though that I would like this that much, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who want to read good manga.