Monday, March 11, 2013


by Osamu Tezuka

I wish I knew more about the history of comics in Japan.  I would be particularly interested in knowing how MW, a twenty-six chapter story originally serialized between 1976 and 1978, was received by the public.  In this book, by the universally acclaimed master of Japanese comics, Osamu Tezuka, we are given a story that involves gay sex, child molestation, sexual torture, and images of corrupted members of the clergy.

I know that these days, all bets are off in terms of what can be depicted in Japanese comics, but I figure this must have caused a stir at the time, being written and drawn by the man who created Astro Boy.

MW tells the story of Michio Yuki, a beautiful and feminine young man who was kidnapped and molested by a group of thugs at the age of twelve.  While being held captive by one of the thugs on a remote island, Yuki was exposed to MW, a deadly nerve toxin being stored at an American military base.  He and his captor are the only people to survive the attack, but Yuki's brain is forever altered, making him an inhuman sociopath.

When the book opens, Yuki has achieved a position of some prominence at an important bank, a position he uses to blackmail clients for his own gains.  In short order, we see him seduce and kill the bank's manager, and then impersonate her to rob the bank on his own.  Yuki is working towards his grand plan, which is to find the location of the remaining stores of MW, and then use them to kill all life on the planet.

The young gangster who first kidnapped Yuki has, in an attempt to atone for his sinful ways, become a priest.  That doesn't stop Father Garai from keeping Yuki's murderous secrets, and having regular assignations with him.

This story is as much about Garai's wrestling with his own guilt as it is about Yuki's evil deeds.  I was surprised by how dark this story got, and how sexual, without being completely explicit (at least in its visuals - Tezuka tends to blur the lower half of his couplings, but he also suggests that Yuki makes love to his dog).

This is a very compelling read, and quite liberal for its time.  When a lowlife photographer tries to sell compromising photos of Garai to a muck-racking newspaper, they refuse to run them because the city editor is herself a closeted lesbian.

One thing I didn't understand was why the United States was constantly referred to as Nation X, despite the fact that we knew one Lt. General who falls afoul of Yuki's charms is from Kentucky.  Perhaps some explanatory notes would have been helpful...

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