Shougo is a young man who has a problem with love, not just in humans be even with animals. He is even compelled to kill animals that show each other affection, which lands him in a mental hospital. Where during therapy he has a vision where he meets a goddess that dooms him to fall in love with the same girl over and over again, but one of them will always die before they can truly be together.
Apollo no Uta was published in English as Apollo's Song by Vertical Inc. in 2 volumes on August 31, 2010, in Spanish as La canción de Apolo by ECC Comics in May 2014, and in Polish as Pieśń Apolla by J.P.Fantastica from December 2015 to January 2016.
Osamu Tezuka truly is the god of manga. The attention to detail is simply staggering, and he produced his hundreds of thousands of pages of manga over the decades the long, hard way. Sometimes, when reading his work, one simply must stop and marvel at the art, even during the most engrossing of tales.
Apollo's Song, given to me by a friend, is quite epic, whether examined alone or alongside Tezuka's other works. It features, of course, Tezuka's unmistakable comic drawing style, combined with a dark, deep story about eternal punishment. The contrast in the story and its presentation is itself something truly amazing, and it
must be seen to be fully appreciated.
What happens to a man who hates the very concept of love? What must he endure in order to open up to the idea that even a troubled, abused fellow such as he can learn to truly love someone? What happens to our tortured anti-hero is nothing short of brutal, and never-ending. How he wound up being the sort of person he became can't truly be blamed on him, yet he receives retribution everlasting for rejecting love itself.
Shogo's journey is at times sweet, at times violent, and at times even peppered with hope, but is always a struggle. This story is a tragedy on a truly epic scale, stretching from the past well into the future, with the only constants being his name, his appearance, his punishment... and the face of one specific woman. The remaining details all change, yet his travels are very much a spiral, leading him downward into the bottomless.
This manga was made during a time when sex education was no longer taboo in Japan, and is not hesitant to take advantage of the new freedom this allowed the medium. This isn't one of Tezuka's family-friendly works. There's blood, there's nudity and enough else you don't want the young 'uns seeing. It's filled with plenty of immensely unlikeable characters supporting two very flawed, but ultimately likable people whose sad story has backdrops as brutal as the Holocaust.
Apollo's Song isn't for everybody. But for those who like solid story and the inimitable crafting and style of Osamu Tezuka, it's a must-read.
Apollo's Song is an interesting manga by the God of Manga himself, Osamu Tezuka. It starts out by introducing Shogo, a kid that hates love so much that kill animals that show any signs of affection. Because of this habit, Shogo is sent to a mental hospital where he goes through electroshock therapy (it was written in 1970 after all). During one of his sessions, Shogo has a vision of him talking with a Greek goddess who then curses him for committing crimes against love. Shogo is sentenced to love a woman again and again but one of then will always tragically die. And that's
exactly what happens for the rest of the book. The comic is like a short story anthology filled with tragic love stories. All these sections are tied together by the theme of romantic love and how it can depressing it can be. The story is great for a comic but pretty mediocre for Tezuka. As good as it is, I'd recommend you read Phoenix or some other Tezuka manga before you Apollo's Song.
By all appearances, Osamu Tezuka worked himself into an early grave. His last recorded words were a plea to a nurse, who attempted to take his pen, to let him work. Even so, he left behind a significant body of unfinished material, and it's tempting to suggest that he should have paced himself a little more, and that to do so would've made for a happier life. But there is at least one particular reason why he had to rush: he was elevating his medium. He and some of his contemporaries saved manga from being restricted to the narrow subject matter and audience ranges that
western comics and cartoons are stuck with.
In that light, Apollo's Song can be described as "literary - for manga." It's an examination of such themes as love, tragedy, and trauma, but it's tonally rather cartoony. Tezuka's art style is cutesy and low-detailed, and the characters act in the style of a comedy or a melodrama. Immediately upon meeting him, the trustworthy doctor figure straps Shogo down and administers electro-shock therapy. The scene clearly plays out this way not because it's the most artistically accurate or believable thing, but because Tezuka wants to get the introduction out of the way as quickly as possible.
And to give credit to his writing, he does convey information in an efficient, fast-paced way. It's never slow or dull to read. When combined with the short length, it's easy to imagine a lot of readers finishing the manga in a single sitting.
Tezuka certainly did have a genius for narrative structure. Shogo's curse causes him to experience an infinity of lives defined by tragic love. These stories fade in and out as his true life progresses, transcending time and nationality. And it's not just a framing device for an essentially episodic series: Shogo really experiences - and remembers - these extra lives, and their relevance to the plot runs deeper than you may initially think.
But they also serve to examine the theme - love - from different angles. There isn't much consideration for genre and Tezuka examines not only human love but that between animals and even robots. Fittingly for a story like this, Tezuka makes liberal use of nudity in his artwork. Of course, given Tezuka's sensibilities and art style, it remains mostly tame. One might even call it tasteful. Certainly it has relevance to the stories: Shogo and his lover wear fig-leaves, like Adam and Eve, in one story, and in another the mechanization of the future reduces his body itself to a physical, reproducible commodity unworthy of considerations such as privacy.
One particular attribute which defines character writing in "literary" work is that malice and evil are used very carefully - they require a precise psychological explanation. With some exceptions, Tezuka manages that here: Shogo's violence in reaction to love comes from deep negative associations with his mother's meaningless romantic endeavors - and her cruelty toward her son. That's enough to make him an engaging protagonist, and the emotional heart of a series of effective little stories, one of which in particular is strong and memorable. Although the ending is a bit unduly pessimistic and it's over the top - even contrived - at times, there's enough depth and entertainment value in this manga for it to stand beside the glory of its creator.