Two doctors, the young, passionate and well-liked Osanai and the veteran, ambitious Tatsugaura, are both investigating the mysterious 'Monmow' diesease, found only in one remote village, which causes bizarre bone deformation, making its victims take on a beastlike appearance before their deaths.
Osanai is sent to the village by Tatsugaura to see if he can find a cause for the disease while also treating the victims to the best of his ability. But in reality, Tatsugaura is scheming against Osanai and intends to infect him with the disease in order to clear the way of any obstacles of presenting his own research, and thus gaining high prestige and rank in the medical world.
Kirihito Sanka was published in English as Ode to Kirihito by Vertical Inc. in a single volume on October 24, 2006 and in two volumes on March 30, 2010. It was published in Spanish as Oda a Kirihito by ECC Comics from September 30 to October 29, 2015.
It isn’t difficult to see why Osamu Tezuka is considered to be the godfather of manga. With extremely influential titles like Astro Boy/Tetsuwan Atom, Black Jack, and Buddha to his name, there should be no doubt that the man had an extraordinary talent for delivering quality storytelling in comic form. Ode to Kirihito is no exception.
What begins as a story about a bizarre disease that results in horrid deformations turns into an intense psychological journey through the paranoid and the depraved, journeying deep into the mind and adventures of a man whose mutation has turned him into something that is both inhuman yet
beyond the definitions of a beast. Coupled with the unfortunate absurdity of Doctor Osanai’s twisting reality is the story of his colleagues, the psychotic-yet-well-intentioned Doctor Urabe, and their boss, the overly ambitious Doctor Tatsugaura, as each of them strives to find an explanation and cure for the disfiguring Monmow disease.
Although the content of the story is quite important and noteworthy, it is the way in which it is presented that makes the story most worthwhile. Tezuka’s penchant for juxtaposing cartoonish caricatures against starkly realistic backgrounds with heavily-nuanced moods and atmospheres is as eerie and unsettling as it is well orchestrated. Yet paradoxically, this ‘realism’ also contains strange proportions that identify it thoroughly as an unrealistic work, and as such, the world depicted in Ode to Kirihito is very effectively revealed to be as surreal as the plot demands.
Even beyond these aesthetics, the layout of the frames on the page demonstrates a highly intriguing use of space and movement that parallels, but does not imitate, a rather cinematic form that his work is known for. It wouldn’t be hard to see much of this comic adapted into a film, for instance, but it would be nigh-impossible to merely use the comic as a storyboard due to how thoroughly the man understands how the reader’s eye moves about the page—something that is best demonstrated through how he manages action, manipulates tension, and creates emphasis through techniques as varied as they are effective.
This book is not without its flaws, however. Ode to Kirhito is noticeably heavy handed in the depiction of many of its core themes, but there are plenty of subtleties to be found by anyone willing to look further than some of the more the exaggerated melodrama. The level of cruelty portrayed also may seem to lack a certain shock value or power that many modern readers have come to expect, but I do not believe this lessons the impact of the story in the slightest—if anything, it is the masterful execution of these acts that makes the comic all the more powerful an experience. The thing to keep in mind is that the story is not one whose story revolves solely around the depiction of cruelty; it is a hardboiled romp through the psychosis of insurmountable stresses and anxieties, coupled with the often-bittersweet nature of real life, that makes this story what it is.
Recommended to any fan of the printed medium, be it comic books, manga, or prose, as well as any fans of film noir, psychological and/or hardboiled fiction, or readers just looking for philosophical undertones in their entertainment.
A lot of strange diseases roam this world, with scientists trying to find remedies, but to no avail. In the case of Ode to Kirihito, a bizarre disease that turns people onto dog-like creatures, yet retain their human consciousness, is found in an isolated village. The doctor Osanai is sent to the village to investigate the case, yet everything is not as it seems: be prepared to explore the unknown as well as the bureaucratic world of the doctors.
The premise of Ode to Kirihito may seem nothing outstanding at first glance, yet shines in its presentation; by introducing the Monmow disease suddenly as most illness
do, it creates a believable setting, while at the same time maintaining a well paced story. Needless to mention, Monmow degrades people's life gradually worsening to the point of causing the death of the affected. The hardships people have to endure are well displayed through interactions with characters and events that happen.
Other great aspect of the manga is how it displays the world of scientists/doctors, including the explanation of medical terms, through the characters and narration of the different events that take place, be it a medical conference, or diseases patient suffer.
There is however a negative aspect to the story; to make it darker and cruel, the author introduces incidents that happen to the characters, ranging from unnecessary rape scenes and deaths being some examples. This is not bad on its own, yet it is badly executed thus having no impact on the story, likewise having near to no consequences at all which makes it totally redundant to the storyline.
The characters of Ode to Kirihito are varied, each with its own personality. Tatsugara the ambitious doctor that refuses to accept a theory that opposes his own or the not so talented Urabe. Being merely 800 pages long, character development for the characters is scarce, Kirihito being the exception. He undergoes serious changes to the point of looking like a total different character due to all the events that happened to him, ranging from humiliation to enslavement. The supporting cast is well done too, yet is difficult to find any attachment to them due to the short duration of the manga.
The art style of Ode to Kirihito is at first glance simple and off-putting, yet its characters design fitted well with their personalities, as it was making it very easy to convey their beliefs and behaviours. Panel placement is well done too, giving it a "cinematic" feel to it. In addition, the backgrounds are stunningly well drawn, matching perfectly with the atmosphere it tries to portray. However, the character design is immersion breaking and doesn't fit the story at all: it is difficult to take the manga seriously, which is a shame, as it would have made this manga better.
Overall Ode no Kirihito was a very enjoyable read, yet the "edgy" things that happen in conjunction with the characters design, made the story less realistic and less enjoyable than it could have been. Nevertheless, its presentation, narrative, and characters made it a very interesting read that kept me wondering what would happen next. Recommended to anyone with interest in the psychological genre.
First off, the description here seems way off to me. Dr. Osanai is the one researching the newly discovered "Monmo" disease and Dr. Urabe writes up reports and stuff based on Dr. Osanai's findings. Tatsugaura, who appears to be the hospital director, sends Osanai off to a remote village to find out more about the unusual people there and the origins of the disease. Osanai accepts and ends up diseased, mutating his face and changing his life from that point on.
The art and story were pretty good. The story seemed simple enough at first, but spiraled way beyond what I thought it'd be. On
one hand, it feels farfetched that Osanai had to face such hardships from having a dog face, but it was all explained in a pretty elaborate way that made the events more than a series of horrible luck.
My main complaint about this manga is the sexual content. There was one moment where it was necessary for the story - when Tazu pretended to be having sex with Osanai as an alibi for his murder. Every other instance of rape or other sexual themes felt completely unnecessary to me. If you leave your girlfriend alone with your colleague for 5 minutes, she's gonna get raped? Then she's gonna keep quiet about it, act like it never happened, and still associate with the rapist? Everything about that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes me feel a little sick. "Ode to Kirihito" didn't need to do this to me. It had no relevance to the story whatsoever.
Other than that, not bad. The ending ties up all loose ends in a satisfactory way.
When faced with a strange new illness that seems to turn people into beasts, Ode to Kirihito follows the titular character as he tries to solve the mysteries surrounding the disease. Under a fashion similar to North by Northwest, Kirihito is thrown into a series of bizarre and extreme circumstances which he becomes inevitably involved despite his innocence, giving a whole new meaning to “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” While the manga is often considered a precursor to another one of Tezuka's great works, Black Jack, they really share very little beyond featuring doctors in the story. While still feeling like classic
Tezuka, Ode to Kirihito is really another great manga to add to his repertoire that stands well on its own.
If you have read any of Tezuka's other works, then the artwork will come as no surprise. The Disney influences are as apparent as ever, with cartoony characters that are often drawn with long and exaggerated body parts. However, there are times when the mangaka goes for shocking realism, which really adds to many of the scenes. Tezuka takes more risks in this work, going for a darker, almost film-noir feel with overwhelming shadows and interesting uses of lighting. Characters are even sometimes drawn in a sketchy style, lending significantly to the manga's dark and uncertain feel.
And it is not just the art: the entire graphic novel is one of the darkest pieces that Tezuka has ever written. Like with The Book of Human Insects, Osamu Tezuka has seemed to check his humor at the door. I noticed only two instances of gags in the whole work, despite the fact that Tezuka is well known, and often criticized, for his all too frequent use of jokes, especially at inappropriate times. This is probably for the better since Ode to Kirihito deals with some heavy themes such as persecution, rape, isolation, psychological damage, slavery, and humanity to name a few.
Characters are interesting and varied, with most given enough time to grow and become fully fleshed out. They can be far more complex than they first seem, with even the most vile of characters given human emotion and a chance for redemption. Tezuka really uses the entire cast to his full advantage, blurring the lines between beast and man and making each person feel important to the story as a whole. Unfortunately, with such a strong overall cast, it does sometimes feel like there are some missed opportunities with Kirihito, who does not even feel present for a large part of the manga. We often see him jump between many stages of his life but not the actual transitions. However, this is a minor point in category that Tezuka excels in.
When Tezuka is at the top of his game, he can forge together a story that interesting, poetic, poignant, important, and imaginative. In Ode to Kirihito, Tezuka is undoubtedly at the top of his game. The story follows many different story lines, all of which take interesting turns and all contribute to what Tezuka has to say about what it really means to be human. Without spoiling too much, you can rest assured that the actual plot is on par with Tezuka's most revered works, such as Phoenix. Sometimes the situations can seem a little too extreme, but that's also part of the fun.
Tezuka's story-telling is extremely experimental, with panels that spiral in or explode out of the page. Some pages seem to mimic a film strip, emphasizing the progression of character expressions. When done well, his style really pays off, though sometimes the overemphasis on certain scenes can mess up the pacing a bit. Furthermore, the experimental style, though interesting, can take readers out of the experience and make them all too aware that they are reading a manga, which is not generally desired. The manga is also filled with Christian imagery, which unlike in Neon Genesis Evangelion, feels important without being overbearing.
With Ode to Kirihito, Tezuka beautifully weaves together a fascinating drama that is fantastic in almost every aspect. His medical background often makes it difficult to separate fact and fiction, and indeed, the manga shapes up to be one Tezuka's most realistic works, both in story and in style. Tezuka is one of the few artists who seems to be able to seamlessly blend art and entertainment, creating one of his finest tales with Ode to Kirihito.