Book Review: Buddha Volume 1 Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka (Graphic Novel) (series, #1)
The tale of the Buddha’s life is told peripherally to those of fictional, central characters. There is Tatta, an untouchable who can inhabit the bodies of animals. He is joined by Chapra, a slave who wants to become a warrior. Also there is Chapra’s mother and a young monk. Their lives are impacted by the birth of the Buddha.
I picked this up randomly from the shelf in the library, and I must say I was expecting a bit more focus on the Buddha than is present in the story. Instead this is one of those tales about fictional people living in the shadow of a world-changing person. I honestly was really excited about the idea of the story of the Buddha told in the graphic novel style, so that was a bit of a disappointment to me.
The art style is interesting. Somewhere between manga and more western-style animation. The characters are really easy to tell apart, though, which was a nice change from some manga.
Although the Buddha is mostly gestating and being born during the course of the book, Buddhist ideas are still present periodically in the storyline. One of my favorites is when a saint chastises the monk for how he orders Tatta to use his talents:
To save just one human, you mindlessly harnessed numerous beasts to an impossible task…and killed them one by one! The beasts you bent to your purpose all suffered greatly and died cruelly! You believe that human lives are sacrosanct while animal lives are worthless?!?! You saved [the human], but the beasts that you sacrificed for his sake are now beyond saving. Life is sacred whether or not it is human! (page 350-1)
It was fun to see these sorts of ideals in the context of a story, and I do always enjoy reading a graphic novel. The main story itself fell flat for me though. It mostly focuses in on Chapra attempting to become a great warrior and save his mother from being a slave, which I fail to see how that relates to the Buddha. As I said, though, this book was not what I was expecting, and I don’t tend to really go for warrior/mother tales. Except Oedipus.
Overall, the art is an interesting style and some of the ideas contained within the book are fun to see in fiction, but the main storyline separate from Buddha’s life simply did not resonate with me. Perhaps it will with you.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library