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Book Review: Buddha Volume Two The Four Encounters by Osamu Tezuka (Series, #2) (Graphic Novel)

November 16, 2011 1 comment

Image of a mountainSummary:
The second entry in the novelization of the Buddha’s life takes us through Siddhartha’s youth spent as a prince.  He meets a mysterious Brahmin who tells him he is destined to help the whole world, not rule a single kingdom.  Siddhartha is weak, frequently sleeps, and has visions.  He is discontent as a prince yet reluctant to abandon his people.  On an adventure outside the castle walls he meets a grown-up Tatta and falls for a slave woman, Migaila.  Conflict between what he believes and his duties as a prince seem central to the plot, yet in fact it is Siddhartha’s reluctance to follow his calling and leave the castle to be a monk that is at the core of the conflict.

Review:
I was pleased to see this entry in the series jump right into Siddhartha’s life instead of those on the periphery, yet Tezuka also brings in the major characters from the first book as minor characters in this one.  It works well, definitely better than the first book.  However, I am left wondering if the love between Siddhartha and a slave woman was based at all on fact or hearsay or purely came out of Tezuka’s mind.  It would definitely give a new perspective on Siddhartha to know he once had an ill-fated love affair.

Although it’s important to know where the Buddha came from, it is difficult and not particularly enjoyable to read about the time in his life when he was a spoiled brat.  Siddhartha does not treat his wife or his father well.  Although he has natural talents with meditation and visions, he surprisingly lacks compassion for others.  One of the things I like, of course, about the Buddha is that he did start out this way.  He’s not perfect; he just learned and worked toward Nirvana.  So it’s important to see this part of his life, even if it is uncomfortable to read.

I again felt distracted by the characters Tezuka made up though.  I wish he had stuck to a straight-forward graphic novelization of Siddhartha or the legends of the Buddha at least.  The weakest points of the book are the parts including characters Tezuka made up purely on his own.

The art is again enjoyable but not amazing.  The pictures show the story but do not suck you in.  They give the feeling of being there to do a job, not necessarily to provide a memorable visual experience to the reader.

Overall, it’s an interesting new way to explore the life of the Buddha, but I would not recommend it to someone completely new to Siddhartha.  It is an improvement over the first entry, and hopefully they will continue to improve, but an idea that could have been great is simply average.  That’s disappointing.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series:
Buddha, Volume 1: Kapilavastu (review)

Book Review: Buddha Volume 1 Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka (Graphic Novel) (series, #1)

November 9, 2011 1 comment

Man holding rabbit up to the sky.Summary:
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.

Review:
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

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