This is a story about three Adolfs. Sohei Toge, a Japanese reporter for 1936 Berlin Olympics was surprised that his younger brother, an international student in Germany, was mysteriously murdered right after informing him about an important document. To add more confusion to his sadness, all information regarding his younger brother as a student in Germany have been erased systematically, as if he never existed. Meanwhile in Japan, a half-German, half-Japanese boy named Adolf Kauffmann and his best friend, a Jewish-German boy named Adolf Kamil, were accidentally involved in this incident. Their lives and fates are now inevitably interwoven around the biggest secret of the third Adolf—Adolf Hitler.
Adolf ni Tsugu was first published in English as Adolf by Cadence Books and VIZ Media from March 22, 1996 to February 22, 1997. Vertical Inc. republished the series as Message to Adolf in 2 omnibus volumes from August 28, 2012 to December 18, 2012. The series has been published in Brazil by Conrad Editora, in France by Tonkam, in Germany by Carlsen Verlag, in Italy by Hazard, in Spain by Planeta DeAgostini and in the Netherlands by Xtra.
Adolf is one of Osamu Tezuka's later works and acclaimed as one of his best. Since it deals with Jews and Nazi's, comparisons to the masterpiece Maus, published around the same time, are bound to happen. But the works are incomparable since they deal with different parts of the Holocaust. Adolf, unlike Maus, focuses more on the mental state of one particular SS officer rather then the Jews themselves and what they go through.
Simply said, it is a very well crafted WWII spy story. Unlike most spy stories, it is fairly realistic in the timeframe of the story since it is told of the span of 9 years (excluding the very end) starting at the 1036 Berlin Olympics and mostly ending at the end of the war. The pacing is done very well as it alternates. The slower parts are used for two things, setting up for what is later to happen and character development. Even between events, years sometimes pass and some contains some of the rare instances where narration is used in manga to explain how the war is unfolding. Though mostly in-directly affecting to the characters, it is still helpful to show how the world is developing around them.
Though the story starts off and with the plot revolving around the missing documents of Hitler's origin, that is not the focus. In essence, it is a tragedy of the irreversible effects of brainwashing and blind devotion have on a person's psyche and their relationships. Though overarching theme is Adolf Kaufmann's mental state, the other characters also have problems large and small to make them feel real, but the focus isn't on their mental state so the story doesn't explore their psyche so much. There of course is the ever-present theme of racism, but that is quite self-explanatory.
I have only completed two of Tezuka's works, this and Metropolis. Since the two are on the opposite sides of his career, I can say that he has improved immensely as an artist with a profound influence from Gekiga. I have quiet a bit of Gekiga and I can say that the art is even superior to the majority of Yoshiro Tatsumi's (judgeing him by what has been published by Drawn & Quarterly) but falls short of Lone Wolf and Cub, Screw-Style, and Red Color Elegy (of what I've seen that is). The most impressive scenes are the narrative ones. Those scenes are visually-staggering, vividly-haunting (though it doesn't contain the alienating feel of Tsuge's works) and comparable to the austere beauty of the Himalayas in Buddha (though they do have a different feel). What is most impressive to me is the character designs. Tezuka easily has one of the most varied character designs that I have seen. Unlike many different designs, the design isn't dependent upon the upon the hair nor clothes, but rather the face of the person. Due to the old art, quite a few will be turned away, especially some of the people who are quite new to anime and manga.
Overall: It meets its potential. My only complaint is that there is not an extensive usage of symbolism and literary techniques to add depth, nor is it highly experimental. It is as I would define as a "progressive" comic. Separating the medium from other ones (animation most particularly), but in a more conservative way rather then the ground-breaking and experimental works of many of the works of underground and art comics (see Maus for that). A hugely enjoyable work that doesn't require much require intense thought. Lastly, there are mature themes (such as rape) presented, so this is definitely not for kids.
Availability: Despite only being 5 volumes, it is quite a scare manga to find with volume 1 going for even more then volume 4 of Phoenix. Since it was Tezuka's first work published in its entirety in English, it has been out of print for quite a while (started in 1995 and continued for only a few years). But for some reason all other volumes have been quite easy to find. With the exception of the first volume, I haven't really been able to find any scans. Since this is Tezuka that were talking about, there has to be scans of them out there, but I am at a lose to explain why all of them are so hard to find. In the past couple of years, there has been an immense surge in an interest of his works with the publication of Black Jack, Buddha, Phoenix, and MW (to name a few). So it is only a matter of time before it is republished in the US. But when is still iffy.
EDIT: It is currently being scanned, check for a comment by Curropt ID in the The Tokusyu Manga Club.
P.S.: Feedback is most welcome.read more
"Adolf" is another great work of Osamu Tezuka or so called the "God of manga".I could say this work is really a hidden gem.
Story: The manga is telling the story of three men called Adolf.It's following their lifes and shows how they change as a human beings through the years - psychologically and psysically.The story ,doesn't sound like something "new" or "original",but really once you start reading the manga you could not possibly leave it until you understand what happens.The story develops before and during the period of Hitler's ruling of Germany.So everything is resolving and starts from his character.He changes the lives of the main characters even with his existence.Every character in a different way,as you could see later in the manga.The story may seem a little slow at times ,but sooner after that you understand why the mangaka meant by slowing it down.
Art: The art is old,but as we can see the year of the releаsement of the series,we could not expect much more.The art won't bother you,it may be bad at times,but as you follow the story you would not even notice it.If you are all about the art you may not like it,but it's your decision.
The characters: This is probably the best part of the so called manga "Adolf".The characters even the minor one's develop through the whole story.We see that people who have totally different opinion,change their mind and actions under the influence of people and their surroundings.Some become cruel,some keep following their dreams through their whole life,some are brave even facing the death.Definitely you won't be disappointed by this part of the manga.
Enjoyment: I really enjoyed this manga and I hope you will too.Maybe you won't enjoy it if you have different opinion from the mangaka for Hitler and the Second World war at all.Tezuka is showing his thoughts of the Hitler's character and they could offend some people.
Overall the manga is really interesting and you won't be disappointed if you read it.It's one of the good Tezuka reads.I recommend it to you,I enjoyed it a lot and I didn't felt like I have wasted my time.read more
This is the story of three men named Adolf. It is a story with the grand sweep of myth, something that seems to rise from the unconsciousness, as told through a Japanese observer. At the opening of this story, in the early 1930's, it was a popular given name. Two Adolfs lived in Kobe, as part of the German expat community: one the son of a Jewish baker, and one the son of a Nazi diplomat. The coincidences interweaving their lives are so profound they should seem contrived, but they play out organically in the cadence of tragedy.
This is more painful to read the second (third, etc) time. The suspense is still there, but it is tinged with the tragedy of inevitability. That, I hold, is a hallmark of truly great storytelling. It is compelling no matter how many times you read it, and you realize different things each time you do. The dramatic irony that comes of the reader knowing history is brilliantly rendered. This is a masterwork of literature, skillfully plotted, driven by a vague sense of futility. And I am struck, each time, by the clarity of perspective with which Tezuka writes. It is a stunningly anti-war work, ruthlessly critical of the Japanese military state and the Nazi regime, but the atrocities of each country are laid bare. They are all guilty of unimaginable violence. The Manchurian campaign is to this day glossed over in Japanese textbooks (America is no less guilty of this sort of censorship of its history), but discussed openly in the story. The American firebombing of Kobe (recall most Japanese buildings were woodframe at this time) was an attack of equal cruelty as the Blitz and the atomic bombings. The Pearl Harbor ships were essentially dragged out as bait, the seamen left to die. The Russian army raped and pillaged Berlin with impunity, taking revenge, as is so often the case in war, on those who had no control over the situation from the beginning, many of whom were just quietly trying to survive. The Jews were ruthlessly persecuted by the Nazis, but then persecuted the Palestinians with equal ruthlessness, and the Palestinians responded equally heartlessly against Israeli citizens.
I am taken by the honesty with which Tezuka portrays a person's awareness of his own malleability, foreshadowed by a young Adolf Kaufmann not wanting to go to a Hitler Youth school, because he knows it will brainwash him to hate Jews--even though his best friend is Jewish. Even knowing this, he does indeed become a Nazi ideologue. This is one of the most stunning aspects of the story, not often explored honestly in literature, anymore. Usually, we assume awareness of the effect ideology will have on us is portrayed as sufficient to prevent its effects. It is so often not so.
Sexism and racism aside (of which there is plenty in his works), Tezuka was a man leagues ahead of his time and place. I ask the reader to keep this in mind with any of his works, and I am glad they were reproduced accurately. If we censor the casual prejudices of brilliant writers in hindsight, to make their works more palatable to contemporary audiences, we erase a record of how pervasive these prejudices actually were, to be entrenched even in people who truly believed in egalitarianism. It still took courage to write this stuff, even as late as the 1980's. As recently as this year, Miyazaki Hayao was catching heat for anti-imperialist themes in his latest movie, which takes place during the war. That's 2013.
I find it interesting Tezuka implies Hitler was a man who abstained from all forms of stimulants, as shown in a brief dinner scene. The pop culture version I had always heard here in the US was that he was a vegetarian, but a meth addict in his later years. I do not know if that was the Japanese version of Hitler that existed in the public mind back in the 80's. Maybe Tezuka was illustrating his hypocrisy.
Overall, I most highly recommend Message to Adolf, even if you don't normally read manga or comics at all. It is just a damn good story, and an illustration of the potential of graphic novels to portray stories of equal nuance and power as prose.read more
Historical fiction is a tricky genre, in my opinion. The ability to weave a tale set in the past while engaging a present audience that isn’t just filled with historical fiction buffs is quite the talent. Keeping it authentic and yet fresh is quite the feat as well. With Adolf, Tezuka Osamu excels at both, once again proving that historical fiction is one of his many fortes.
Breaking it down, Adolf tells the story of 3 Adolfs: Adolf Hitler (yes, that Adolf), Adolf Kamil (a Jew living in Kobe), and Adolf Kaufmann (German-Japanese growing up in Kobe). Additionally, the story is frequently told through the eyes of Toge, a journalist set on fulfilling the final wish of his murdered brother. Toge ends up being the most developed character in the series. His perseverance is motivating, his kindhearted nature is endearing, and his haplessness just makes you want to cheer him on to succeed.
The plot has a little of everything: friendship, betrayal, romance, madness, cruelty, heartbreak, love, loss, torture, action…There’s not much it doesn’t have, and yet, it doesn’t feel like there is too much of everything. Each storyline flows together, rushing through emotions like any person might feel on a given day.
One thing that I greatly appreciated was the lack of gags. Tezuka’s Buddha, while it was a marvelous epic,had a few too many moments of really mistimed comedy that hurt the flow. In Adolf, however, those moments are essentially gone. A few chase scenes have a cartoonish feel to them, but there aren’t true gags. Given the extremely serious nature of WWII and the Holocaust, this lack of injected levity is gratifying.
Tezuka's portrayal of Nazism was also rather intriguing. It really felt that Nazism and the hatred it encourages were shown as being forms of mental illness. Anyone who was a Nazi was utterly obsessed and insane. Adolf Kaufmann’s fall from grace was particularly noticeable, given his status as a key figure in the story, but all of the Nazi characters seem to have the same mental and emotional instabilities in the long run.
Additionally, Tezuka’s decision to conclude the series with a story based in Palestine/Israel involving the PLO was a surprising and yet well-placed move. Hatred and suffering didn’t end with World War II, it continues, and by choosing to show this, Tezuka says a lot more about the point of this series than anything else really could. It wasn’t about World War II. It wasn’t about moments of revisionism. It wasn’t even about the Germans, Japanese, and Jews. What it was about was human nature and the love and hatred that can spring up and become overpowering, driving us to unbelievable madness. That is the story that Tezuka tells, and he tells it masterfully.read more
The Jewish population in Japan may be tiny (IT'S UNDER 9000!), but there's a long history of exchange between Jewish and Japanese culture. Here's some historical background and a list of stand-out Jewish characters in anime, manga, and light novels.