Gurai is a Japanese Catholic Priest, who is unable to give up his lifelong sexual relationship with Yuki, a beautiful and sadistic young master criminal. Yuki's malicious crimes have become more and more extreme over the years, claiming many innocent lives, and Gurai is tormented by guilt at his inability to stop them...
While seemingly a commentary about the American military presence in Japan, Tezuka's MW is a rather silly thriller, although refreshing in its unromantic focus on the sociopathic Yuki Michio. The principle influence behind the infamous Johan from "Monster", Yuki is a troubled but seemingly emotionless killer and manipulator. He seems to have only one real human connection, to Father Garai, a Catholic priest who tries in vain to resist his forbidden relationship with our pro/antagonist. The frank depictions of homosexuality (and sex in general) are refreshing, providing character development without seeming over-the-top.
What I found wonderful about MW was its lack of preachy
morality. Every character is as they are, and there are no tiresome monologues. Garai, the closest thing to a "hero" in the manga, lies to himself and seeks solace in a God that doesn't seem to care. Yuki seems charming and kind for pages at a time, before reminding you again of his true face. Is there a greater purpose behind the crimes he commits? Although not entirely surprising, the path he takes is interesting enough.
While an interesting character sketch, I cannot say much for the story itself. Machinations and dramatic events often seem forced and unrealistic, compared to the more carefully plotted mysteries of "Monster".
The art is obviously delicious, with the breathtaking hatching on cityscapes being my favourite. Although decades old, the style serves its purpose.
I would recommend this work chiefly to anyone interested in where Monster got its inspiration. I bought this manga for that reason, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.
I was certainly shocked upon reading MW. Reading Manga doesn't ussually disturb me, but MW did.
So whats it all about? MW tells the story of Father Garai a catholic preist, and Yuki a serial murderer. Their fate was intertwined the day they first met. Both are the survivors of the MW incident. The time when an entire Island was wiped out by a poisinous gas.
After the incident Yuki was driven insane and soon becomes a murderer. Father Garai tries to cleanse Yuki of his sins. In doing so he eventually has homosexual relationship with him. And thats only the first 30 pages of a 600
page book. There's lots of charachters, like the brillaint detective who is investigating Yuki (and has alot of similarities to Death Note's L) As well as the reporter trying to spread the word of the MW incident.
Of all the Tezuka manga I've read this is the most polished. The charachters are, maybe with the exception of Yuki, all realistic and there motivations well stated. The art work, while not as experimental as Ode to Kirihito, neither are the backgrounds as lush as Buddha, is still nice and more realistic than the average Tezuka manga.
The story itself hits on alot of important isues of the time. The MW incident in which nation X spilled a poisinous gas on the island, is an obvious meaphor for the American millitary bases stationed at Japan. Also the protests against MW was probably inspired by the student protests at the time. Despite this however, I still think the story is just as relevant today, even if you don't know exactly what was going on at the time.
Despite occaional cartoonish art, and the fact this is written by the same man who wrote Astro Boy, MW is certianly not for children. The violence and sex scenes can get pretty graphic. Along with ode to Kirihito this is probably the darkest and and one of the best works of Tezuka's work you can find in english.
Still, despite how much I enjoyed this Manga I can't wholehaertedly reccomend this. Alot of the subject matter is bound to offend people, but if your fan of Tezuka and want to read something which will keep you guessing, makes you care about the charachters while giving you a satisfying beggining middle and end, MW is the manga for you.
Perhaps the Penultimate Sequel to the Exorcist, .REC or any of Stephen King's classics.
Perhaps the Penultimate Prequel to Death Note.
The hallmark of a true heavyweight manga is to leave the reader out of breath before they finish it.
For MW to do this before hitting it's 3rd volume just speaks volumes for how good Tezuka really is.
Don't get me wrong, depending on what movie, book, synopsis, genre you associate with this book prior to reading the first panel will decide how high or low you consider this manga to be but considering how MW matches up to the above titles - it's safe to
say that even modern day manga readers will find something that will shock them once they are done with this series.
Shock is the key word here.
I think it's hard to find someone who doesn't know the name Osamu Tezuka but I was one of those people.
Most of my Tezuka knowledge comes from Paul Gravett's Manga: 60 years of Japanese Comics.
The rest came from the more childish Astro Boy that is strongly associated with him and even then it could be said that I've learned more of Astro Boy because of the gba treasure game Astro Boy: The Omega Factor in which I have a first glimpse of Tezuka's ability to portray mature themes from the secret ending since I never followed any of the other Astro Boy anime/manga/merchandise.
Whether otakus consider this sacrilege or not, the reality is that Tezuka's art doesn't appeal to me very much and the fact that he is often highly praised gave me an impression that he was more of a "sweet" Hayao Miyazaki mature theme writer rather than the more vicious gekiga artists. (Where I had the assumption, Black Jack is the most mature themed manga he's ever made)
This is why it took spotting an omnibus of MW that got me to consider acquiring this manga and at the time it was mostly so that I can say to myself that I checked out the "classics". (The fact that I never knew Tezuka wrote a horror manga also helped and the other fact that I couldn't afford many manga series and this was 3 volume cemented my decision)
It is safe to say that from the way I'm writing this review that I've been humbled but let me just help better contextify my humility.
There are always the top names in any type of storytelling genre but they aren't always cut out from how they are hyped.
For every Citizen Kanes that may be "great" if the modern audience isn't bored by the premise, there will always be those certain over-hyped entities that do not "wow" a person either because it doesn't age well, it's too mainstream, it's just flashy, it's just lengthy...blah blah blah other reasons but nonetheless whether you approach it from lack of hype or approach it due to the hype...it's always at best "ok to great" but rarely shockingly "...wow" including the aforementioned Citizen Kane.
This was how I see many of Kubrick's movies, King's books, Miyazaki's animes...I just didn't really feel "impacted" by many of their works even if I try to come at them with lowered expectations. I'm not saying their works are "bad" - just not something I would rate highly of.
MW is an exception to that because in the context of many of the above series, it managed to exceed my expectations beyond what I consider the genre of thrillers or horrors in general can reach.
The closest analogy to any modern mainstream manga series that I can think of remains Death Note.
However where this manga separates itself from that series (going as far as being a series I wouldn't submit as a recommendation for Death Note despite it's structure being perfectly good enough to do so) is the lack of..."rule of cool". Obviously there's still elements of exaggerations in here and there's no convenient book murdering tool but the prime reason why this is more down to earth is because of the lack of "invincible bishounens" in it.
Don't get me wrong, there's a hard to beat antagonist/protagonist/anti-hero here but call it preachiness or some other flaw but the layers of the scenes are very society-connected rather than combat or institution competing. Think of it as more TinTin than Shonen.
If this were it's only qualities though, I would assume many would just claim this is textbook Tezuka but it's really when you consider it from a horror or thriller manga perspective that you may start to appreciate why this book is a 10. (and not a 10 because it's a masterpiece but a 10 because it's outstanding)
Here's another classic I feel is overrated: The Exorcist.
Again, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who feel that the Exorcism of Emily Rose is way better just because the technology got better and is able to produce scarier effects.
Not aging well is but a part of why I consider The Exorcist overrated. The main reason though was that the height of it's "horror" was less due to how the film is made but how people feared "the devil" during those periods when it was first showing.
This is why I feel MW is a penultimate sequel. (Setting aside both the dates they were released since I never check those)
This manga didn't just become a worthy associate of that film - It managed to bring that dread back even if you're a modern reader who may not believe in Christianity or demonic possession.
...and in many ways, it brought that back while having events that are the lengths of a King novel.
...and having the premise and staying around the premise of the original .REC (not the poorer sequel)
No shaky cam though but lots of dread.
That said, this manga is still a Tezuka manga and whether you consider that a pro or a con, the bottomline here is that you're not getting several of these:
-the hot blooded eruption of shonen (or cold blooded if you are thinking of Death Note's Yagami Light)
-the willow mystery of shojo
-the boyish feel of seinen (despite the tag)
-the depths of mysteries in thrillers
-nor the psychological nor disgusting bits of horror
...yet many of those elements are still packaged into this series and the combination of it all is what makes it a 10. It would be like enjoying a Golgo 13 except dealing with demonic possession. (Don't let the premise of a schizophrenic monster fool you - unless you're one of those who fear Hannibal Lecter because you think he mimics a serial killer semi-accurately especially the Hopkins version - this is as close to a down to earth semi-realistic demonic possession portrayal you can get from a horror manga)
P.S. Sci-fi fans (those who are less into spaceships but monsters) will also be pleasantly surprised by this manga. I haven't read any quality sci-fi books or manga that deals with this subject matter so let's just say this is like the Outer Limits TV show (the classic as far as consequences go with mixes of the more modern version as far as the horror goes)
MW by Osamu Tezuka
Long-Winded Review #5 [Immoral Edition]
Tezuka's 1976 manga MW follows the story of Yuki, a sadistic criminal mastermind, and Father Garai, a Japanese Catholic priest. They are the sole survivors of a poison gas leak that killed off an entire island's population. They also share a complicated relationship. They are lovers of sorts. Essentially, while hiding away during the MW gas leak incident, a 20-something Garai (not yet a priest) took advantage of a young Yuki thinking he looked quite gentle and feminine. After the incident, Yuki suffered some brain damage due to slight exposure to the MW gas that caused him
to lose all sense of morality and started committing atrocious crimes. Garai, feeling guilt over the MW incident and what he had done, became a priest to repent for his sins and attempt to cleanse Yuki and redeem him. As adults, despite Father Garai's resistance, Yuki constantly seduces him and uses him, taking advantage of his good nature and guilt. Over the course of the story, Yuki commits a chain of seemingly unrelated crimes towards a specific goal, while Garai tries to keep him in check or stop him. This forms a very interesting dynamic, as they go back and forth between lovers, adversaries, and collaborators, usually all at once, all the while getting to the bottom of the MW conspiracy.
Tezuka's writing here is more accessible than in Ayako, which is his only other work that I've read. In Ayako, the story developed on many fronts and spanned decades. In contrast, MW has a much more linear story focused on the two main characters. Much like Ayako, Tezuka touches on some important historical issues of the time, in this case the American military bases stationed in Japan at the time and the fear of weapons of mass destruction.
It also casually features many homosexual and bisexual characters, with Yuki himself constantly cross-dressing to commit crimes or seduce important people of both genders, and Father Garai liking both men and women despite his priesthood. I found this to be very progressive for the time, even by today's standards. Not much commentary is made about it, instead it's just casually there. Same goes for its depictions of sex, both hetero and homosexual. From what I understand, at the time, especially in Japan, sex in general was a point of controversy, in sequential comics or otherwise. In contrast, much like in Ayako, female characters are mostly there to be victims to be killed or used (not that the males in the story have it much better, but it's worth noting). Compared to Western Comics and other media in the '70s, I still feel Tezuka was way ahead of his time in both social issues and writing conventions.
The main appeal of the story is watching the dynamic between Yuki and Garai, and seeing Yuki's plans play out in clever and interesting ways, while Garai struggles with his faith and values. Sometimes there are cliches and contrivances, but for the most part it was satisfying to see the plot develop. It's also worth noting that Tezuka does this in only 26 chapters, all while not being reliant on heavy text like some other works of the time, manga or western.
The artwork in MW is quite good, and a slight but noticeable improvement from Ayako, which was released about 4 years prior. Tezuka's style is fairly simple, with clear line work and only a slight use of shading when necessary. Sometimes it can be a little cartoony, even cheesy, but that's a product of the time and it generally doesn't impair the serious tone of the story. His drawing prowess really comes out when he draws detailed cityscapes and natural landscapes. I was especially impressed by his various depictions of Yuki, who seamlessly transforms from a suave business guy at work to a convincing woman in disguise, or from a burly macho man in the streets to an effeminate sensual man in the sheets. He is a very well designed character whose appearance works for nearly any disguise without altering his body type or facial features, and it takes a real master to come up with and draw a character like that.
As for Tezuka's paneling style, it is very dense, usually having from 6 to 8 panels in a page. This allows him to meticulously pace the story, while showing more moment to moment actions and reactions than a modern manga might. Despite having so many panels per page, for the most part he goes light on the text, instead opting to depict characters' expressions, body language, actions, and reactions to get the point across. Very good use of "show, don't tell", which is refreshing especially when compared to Western Comics of the time. I find Tezuka to be a masterful sequential artist for these reasons, and along with his easy to parse style, it makes this a very smooth read.
As a word of warning: if violence, sex, emotional and sexual abuse, torture, manipulation, and various other despicable acts offend you, steer away from this book. This is a story about a man that embodies true evil, after all.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable manga. It's not perfect, suffering from some cliches and contrivances and a few predictable twists. But regardless of that, the plot was interesting enough, the pacing was great, the art impressive, and the main characters absolutely incredible. I would highly recommend this if you're at all interested in '70s manga.