This week’s Flipped is up. Just out of curiosity, is negatively reviewing a Tezuka comic a mortal sin or just a venal one? I’m guessing it’s mortal, but I also figure it probably doesn’t matter at this point in my distinguished career. I mean, I’d put Blankets and New Frontier on the list of the Best Books of the ’00s I Couldn’t Force Myself to Finish Reading, and I’ll never repent that, so I’ve probably got a one-way ticket straight to comics hell with my name on it.

As windy as this week’s column may seem, know that it’s the result of judicious editing on my part. I had this whole section mapped out about how, even though Swallowing has a lot of problems, you can see a lot of its ideas put to better use in Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, but then I realized that if one started writing about the ways Urasawa repurposes Tezuka (really, really well, I hasten to note), it would be a five-parter.

5 Responses to Glug

  1. lylemasaki says:

    Tezuka has done some amazing stuff but I can see plenty of reasons to be turned off by it. Sometimes Tezuka’s preachiness is beautiful and at others it borders on self-parody (and then there’s the anime adaption of Metropolis which tries to mimic Tezuka and ends up parodying him, it’s just so afterschool special). Also, I can see Tezuka’s use of violence against women and lack of female characters who have a reason to exist beyond the men in their lives (that’s definitely the case with Phoenix and Adolf, at least) really turning off some readers.

  2. I’m still feeling vague pangs of guilt for panning Apollo’s Song, so you’re not alone in wondering if your “blasphemous” opinion will cause you to be struck by a lightning bolt. It never feels good to criticize the god of anything!

    Great, spot-on review, by the way. I had similarly mixed feelings about Swallowing the Earth, in large part because I found the female characters so ridiculous.

  3. davidpwelsh says:

    It’s such a strange experience to be glad I have the opportunity to read a book that fails on so many levels, you know? I think there’s intrinsic value in seeing the way certain essential artists have evolved over the course of their careers, even if that means you get a few dogs along the way. (And I know that the definition of a dog varies from person to person.) And I do think Tezuka is one of those artists.

    But I think it’s essential for us to get our hands on Princess Knight so we can see Tezuka portray a heroic woman. The kick-ass lesbian newspaper editor in MW only goes so far, and don’t even get me started on the issues I repress that allow me to love that book.

  4. Krill says:

    Being critical of and negatively reviewing Tezuka isn’t a sin at all. Being dismissive of Tezuka, on the other hand, I think is certainly a mortal sin. But to be critical is not necessarily to be dismissive, and in fact critical engagement can be quite the opposite. I think plenty can be gained from a critical relationship with Tezuka.

  5. Deb Aoki says:

    I don’t think we should feel afraid of giving Tezuka’s work a critical look. After all, he created hundreds of stories, working on some simultaneously so I seriously doubt that he could maintain consistent quality in all of them.

    I’m glad that Swallowing the Earth is available in English, as I am glad that Metropolis is available in English — not because they’re his best work, but they provide context, and illustrate his evolution as an artist over the course of a 40-year career.

    Even the best baseball player doesn’t hit it out of the park every time, and I think even Tezuka would agree with that. Perhaps the “God of Manga” mantle has made us cautious of expressing our gut reactions and misgivings about his work, perhaps too much so. But I think you gave it a good shot. 🙂

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