"All things are born and all things die. That is the law of heaven." According to legend, the Bird of Fire called the Phoenix is the eternal spirit of life, death and rebirth. She oversees the cycle of reincarnation and the rising and falling of civilizations and species. Those who can obtain her blood will be granted eternal life, while to others she can grant infinite wisdom, or eternal suffering. Throughout history, from the dawn of civilization to the extinction of the human race, those human souls touched by the Phoenix have hunted her over and over in multiple reincarnations, and their actions in one life determine or reflect the sins and sufferings of other lifetimes.
Note: This is an incomplete series due to Tezuka's death.
Hi no Tori was published in English as Phoenix in 11 volumes by VIZ Media under the VIZ Signature imprint from March 12, 2003 to September 18, 2007. Previous to this, it had had a brief run in the educational publication Mangajin, from May to July, 1992 (issues #17 - #19).
Phoenix. It’s a 10. Let’s get that out of the way first. Moving on, Phoenix is a work written by the God of Manga, Osamu Tezuka, over a span of 20+ years. It was regarded by him as his life’s work. And having read it, I can attest to it. I have had the privilege of reading many mangas from the master over his nearly 40 year career and was eagerly anticipating to have a go at this one. And boy it sure delivered. From start to finish, it was one of the most ambitious works I have had the pleasure to experience.
a timeframe between the 3rd Century AD to the 35th century, the story consists of self-contained events in different periods of the timeframe. All of them are linked to each other through the Phoenix, a bird whose blood grants immortality. Several individuals over the years have tried to acquire the blood of this legendary bird to escape the cycle of life and death. An interesting premise, as we get to see different individuals trying to obtain the blood for different reasons. And this journey transforms them in ways they did not anticipate at the start.
Moving on to the world itself, most of the historical stories take place in Japan, with other parts of East Asia showing time and again. Stories here have some historical or mythological references to it and having a basic understanding of them might give you a clear sense of what is happening. This however is not a mandatory requirement and is only meant to help with getting a sense of the political and social makeup of Japanese society at that point in time. His futuristic stories on the other hand take place in the vast canvas of space. And it is here that we are fully exposed to the creative genius of Tezuka. Although, I am not a big fan of the Sci-Fi genre, his stories were some of the best I’ve experienced, from what I’ve read. The ease with which he weaves back and forth between the future and present is truly phenomenal, with certain reincarnations of characters serving as guideposts in our journey.
The characters of Tezuka, while definitely not his greatest strength, are perfect for the world and themes he tries to bring out in his stories. You will not be blown over by the personality of his characters, but rather learn to empathise with their struggles to find meaning in their lives. And although it does suffer from one dimensional characters at times, Tezuka invests sufficient time to help us understand their motivations. Also, hat’s off to Saruta and his reincarnations. Seeing the different personalities in his reincarnations and his struggles in general were a treat for the eyes. And I am not meaning it in a sadistic way.
The art of the series might put off potential readers due to its very dated style. Character designs at the start often remind you of the influence Disney had on him. But the fact that this was written over a 25 year span, enables us to see the growth he underwent as an artist. Some of his background art in later years were great to behold and really enhanced the immersion in the story. Another interesting thing that I noticed, was how the approach to panelling evolved over the years. It really gives you a sense of what worked in the industry at that time and how it adapted to demographic situation in Japan.
Now, to the juiciest part of the work, the themes. At its most fundamental level, Phoenix deals with themes of life, death and immortality. Characters try to break from the cycle of life and death through obtaining the blood of the Phoenix, only to realise the futility of it. Armed with this knowledge, they try to ensure their immortality’s through their deeds. This reminded me of the EPIC OF GILGAMESH (another fabulous work of fiction), which drives in the same themes. As in Buddha, Tezuka’s projection of the Karmic way of life and death struck a chord with me, as it is something that I find interesting to think about. Other dharmic concepts such as time and space, the illusion of the world only enhanced my immersion and love work this already great work. The statement, “In all ages, the deeds of men remain the same.”, reminded me of another one of my favourites. His handling of time and space especially is absolutely mind-boggling. People more used to linear progression of time might find themselves overwhelmed by his absolute disregard for it in Phoenix. Due to the fact that this does take over a large timeframe, we also get to observe Tezuka’s mastery of several genres like horror, sci-fi, history, romance, etc. His endings are appropriate for the stories, once again driving in the themes, rather than focusing on happy endings for his characters. I could keep on talking about this on and on, but that would end up sacrificing readability of this review.
It is also a great shame that the work was unfinished. Tezuka died before completing this work and therefore we have no idea how it might have ended. But judging from what we got, it is possible to assume the ending being somewhere in the 20th century AD. Despite this, it doesn’t take anything away from the work, since his stories are self-contained.
I highly recommend this work. It is a display about what makes the Manga medium so great through the hands of one of its, if not biggest contributor. If you are looking for a work which combines the themes of the EPIC OF GILGAMESH, with MUSHISHI’s atmosphere and GINGA EIYUU DENSETSU’s ambitions, look no further.
Phoenix by the god of manga himself Osamu Tezuka is more than a masterpiece. It is a piece of art that everyone should read. Even people who don't read manga should read these stories because they deserve so much more praise than what they have now and should be know as one of the greatest series of all time
Story:10. this manga is split into many different stories in various settings switching back and forth between the past and the future but all the stories have the Phoenix present in some way, shape or form. Each story
has a underlying theme in them which include absolute power corrupts absolutely, love can make people do terrible things and people wanting religious freedom just to name a few. Each story is told beautifully from the setup all the way to the conclusion each story brings something new to the table and don't feel like a rehash of other stories in the series
Art: 8. not much to say about the art. It does its job well is consistent throughout the manga but the backgrounds in the manga look amazing so does the design of the Phoenix
Characters: 9. each main character in each story are written very well there was no character in any of the stories that I didn't like (expect for the villains) while not all of them were written all well as other characters (such as benta who I think is the weakest written main character in the series but he does serve his purpose in the story) each one is unique and different from the other main characters. My favorite character is inugami from the sun story his character is written extremely well showing his struggles in his life and how he overcomes them. Other main characters that are very well written are Gao from the karma story and Masato from the Future story
Enjoyment: 10. I enjoyed every story in this series some were written better than others I still love what each story had to offer with it's deep themes and characters every story kept me engaged and wanting to know what happened next
Overall: 10. this manga is the closest thing I've seen to a perfect story that I have ever read it's a true masterpiece no other story that I have read has come close to the storytelling of Phoenix everyone who is reading this I beg of you read this manga this is one of the most important manga in history and more people need to read it if you can't afford the actual volumes (because some of them are crazy expensive) don't worry mangafox has the whole thing but if you can buy a volume or two because you seriously won't regret it
The god of manga, Osamu Tezuka, is rightfully considered the greatest mangaka to ever live. The likes of Hirohiko Araki, Naoki Urasawa, Kentarou Miura, and Yoshihiro Togashi would presumably never have ascended to the status they engross without his venerable craft. Indeed, the notion of anime and manga themselves have been drastically altered due to his illustrious presence within the industry. Tezuka is not solely a man who revolutionized two of the three predominant mediums of Japanese storytelling, but also a bastion of morale, who imbued his crumbling nation with a newfound zeal following the second world war. Out of the myriad manga he created,
several have been more influential, but none more prestigious and expertly written than his bonafide masterpiece Pheonix.
Phoenix is not a traditional narrative transpiring in a singular temporal realm; rather, Pheonix follows the rise and fall of nations, great paragons, reincarnations of said paragons, and ideals throughout the past in the present, all revolving around the pursuit of a great phoenix, in possession of the oracular knowledge sleeping behind the illusory veneer of the human condition. It follows several key actors as, transcending time and space much akin to the Phoenix itself, they attempt to achieve eternal life and satisfy the human longing for the divine. Its a story of religious customs eradicated and rationalization's reification. Its a story about the decline of the human heart set to the backdrop of precocious technological innovation. Its story is not just poignant; it's timeless. It bespeaks itself of a particular quality that solely a storytelling savant could weave.
Many are understandably apprehensive about reading this work, due to Tezuka-san's unfortunate demise leaving the narrative "unfinished". However, I fervently, and perhaps presumptuously, posit that this state of eternal incompletion is what indeed completes the narrative. The purpose of Pheonix is not to delineate the crusade of humanity's perfervid champions, who, after transcending the notions of space and time, captured the Pheonix and pillaged its arcane secrets. The purpose of Pheonix bespeaks why the Pheonix will forever elude humanity. The Pheonix is a metaphor for Aletheia, always fleeting, always spurious. The Pheonix does not exist, has never existed, and never will exist. The Pheonix is humanity's cultivator, destroyer. The Pheonix is nothing but an abstraction of an ideal of pertaining to the sustainment and comprehension of the human condition. In order to make sense of the world, humans break each other's hearts. In order to satisfy our longing for immortalize ourselves, we kill each other. And that is why we are exiled from paradise. That is why Aletheia eludes us. That is why the Pheonix will no longer share its wisdom.
Simply, the Pheonix remarks upon a paradox; humanity's eradicating of itself in pursuit of eternal life. A complete "Pheonix" would simply be nothing more than an incomplete "Pheonix".
Pheonix does not possess the greatest storytelling you will ever see. Nor does it possess the greatest characters. Other comics - JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Berserk, Watchmen, Monster, to name but a few - have achieved much higher dramatic heights. However, the Dostoyevskian and Homerian prowess of Tezuka's ability to glance at the heart of the human condition and construct such a bittersweet eulogy to times long past, to epochs never known, to human longing, in the parturition of a machine doctrine of thought and life, is unrivaled by all to ever contemplate engaging in the art of comic. A frenetic, laconic magnum opus crafted by one of the greatest literary minds in history, Pheonix is perhaps one of the greatest literary works to emerge from Japan.
It's been a while since I read this story (I believe it was four years ago, but I may be wrong), so I may forget some things. It is that way because just recently I have decided to make some reviews on MAL.
I intend to reread it, though, for this manga is simply astonishing.
Although people have already said it in the other reviews, Hi no Tori is composed of several different stories. To be precise, each volume presents us a different set with different stories. In some rare occasions, the same character appears in two different volumes, but it's not common. It is not uncommon
though to see the same characters reborn hundreds of years later. Death and rebirth is a recurring point in Tezuka's work.
The story is just great. In some cases it is also a History class. Tezuka seemed to be pretty well-versed in the History of Japan and its surrounding regions. I don't remeber which volume (LOL), but one of them depicts with great accuracy the Japanese invasion of the Korean Peninsula during the Baekje reign. Tezuka also put in the stories a lot of philosophy, existentialism, the importance of nature, the preciousness of life, the meaning of life, and what it is to be human. You can feel that some of these moments are very personal: Tezuka really put his deep thoughts on Hi no Tori. Although having declared himself as agnostic, he had a great sense of spirituality.
The volumes go back and forth in time. It is worth of note that a final volume was intended to be written, but Tezuka died before concluding it. Thus Hi no Tori is an unfinished work. This undone volume is maybe one of the greatest losses in the history of manga. Tezuka left behind a synopsis for a story called "Earth", which takes place in the 1930's and it would be set in Shanghai, when Japan have defeated the Chinese forces in their war with China.
Also, don't expect the whole volumes to be all serious and stern. Tezuka puts a lot of jokes and anachronic puns during the most unexpected situations. The most heart-breaking tragedy can be easily succeeded by a funny scene. That's just the crazy way Tezuka writes. If you have already read something from him, you will not be surprised.
The characters are deep. Real deep. They have all the anguishes, regrets, guilts, feelings of compassion and contempt, moments of anger, love, narcisism, selfishness and redemption. To be put simply, they are truly human. Tezuka did a great work on them.
All in all, Hi no Tori is just one of the best manga I have ever read. Please give it a try. You can just read the first volume and if you don't like it (which is going to be hard), you can drop it (which I don't recommend lol), because every story has a main arc that is always finished with the end of the volume.