Writer and Artist: Osamu Tezuka
|via Jeffrey M Brackett|
Tezuka is the biggest name in manga, credited by many as the artist who brought the form to the Japanese mainstream. His most famous creation was Astro Boy, which ran from 1952-68. Religious historical fiction would seem an unusual choice for the medium but Tezuka's stunning artwork and masterful storytelling make it work.
Kapilavastu is mostly about characters other than Buddha. Siddharta is not even born until the latter half of Volume 1. The two characters who drive the narrative in the beginning are Chapra, a boy from the slave caste who aspires to a better life, and Tatta, a thief from the very lowest pariah caste who does not. Both are entirely fictional but help to establish the world of Ancient India and its social system. Also Tezuka-invented is the character Naradatta, a monk who is condemned for violating a newly emerging morality. The stage is set for a new spiritualism.
The tone is often different from what one would expect given the subject matter. At least in the early going, story is far more adventure tale than religious fable. But even within that context, Tezuka injects humor at odd moments: cameos for himself and Astro Boy characters as Chapra lies dying in his bed, for instance. Perhaps it is the writer's wink to the readers to let us know that Chapra won't die... yet.
The artwork is outstanding, particularly the landscapes. The very first panel is a breathtaking view of the Himalayas. With strong investment in character and a curiosity to see how the introduction of Buddha is developed, I can definitely see this series holding my long-term interest.