Monday, December 19, 2011

Manga Monday: Book of Human Insects

The Book of Human Insects
Osamu Tezuka

The Book of Human Insects, published in the US by Vertical, is a minor work of Osamu Tezuka's when compared to the staggering amount of fantastic manga out there from the god of manga.  That being said, this is still one of the best manga to come out this year.  Even a minor work from Tezuka is superior to most of the stuff being translated currently.  Princess Knight is a first-rate work from Tezuka, the second volume of which just arrived in comic shops and bookstores a few weeks ago, if you're looking for something to compare it to, or want to experience Tezuka in top form for your first look at the artist.

This graphic novel may have the title of a horror story, but it's really a drama, with thrills, and twists and turns aplenty.  It begins with manga creator Toshiko Tomura winning a prestigious award for her debut manga "The Book of Human Insects" at the same time as her former roommate, another manga artist, commits suicide.  We learn that Tomura stole the work of this artist and had her murdered.  This becomes Tomura's MO throughout this book, as she steals from people to gain fame and happiness.  The title of the book comes from the fact that she mimics people, much like some insects do to lure in prey or escape predators, before utterly destroying their lives.  A lot of this book is about people discovering her secrets, and the ways she thwarts their attempts to expose her, as well as watching her getting elaborate revenge on a few people who slighted her.  She's a smart, cunning woman who knows how to use her assets to get what she wants, but is really just a lost child, with some weird issues.  This is an interesting book, almost like a series of connected stories, some better than others.  It's really neat when we get to see her outwit a cold assassin, but there are times when it gets really bogged down, like when she marries the CEO of a company and it goes into detail about a hostile takeover that goes on for too long.  It also kind of leaves you unsatisfied.  There are a lot of loose ends, and the one romance that carries through the story kind of just dangles and never really comes to anything.  The whole thing sort of led to nowhere, with Tomura learning no lesson whatsoever by its conclusion.  Like I said, this is one of the weaker works of Tezuka, but he cartoons the hell out of it, and it's more compelling that most of what's out there on the shelves alongside it.

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