Panels To The Soul
April 2, 2007
Johanna Darper Carlson noted an interesting criticism of Osamu Tezuka’s more adult works, that Tezuka’s cute, cartoony style detracts from the serious tone and events of the story. But for me it wasn’t something that threw me out of the story of Ode to Kirihito, or the Buddha series. The big, sparkling eyes, I always thought, were a way to greater show emotion and work up sympathy for the character. Especially for the dog-disease afflicted people of Kirihito, the eyes are a crucial connection back to their humanity, needing to express a lot of emotion and sympathy. The sparkling can signify vulnerability or a great welling of emotion (sadness or otherwise), so I think that was especially true for Helen, the nun struck by the disease and suffering a true test of her faith. For Buddha I think it really works, since it functions as a sort of myth/folk tale, and so cute funny animals aren’t that ill-fitting. Carlson expects some anthropomorphizing, and I think that’s what Tezuka was going for, since one of the messages he’s trying to get across is the interconnectedness of everything, and the all-encompassing suffering of the material world. A lot of the Buddhist lessons are derived from the nature, so, like how folk and fairy tales humanize animals for people to identify with, Tezuka is with his cartoony animals.
That said, it still ought to be interesting to see how Apollo’s Song turns out, with its extreme subject matter. Kirihito, I think, showed Tezuka exploring some tension with his cartoony style and dark subjects – certainly experimenting with breaking apart his stylized figures into abstract sequences, but also, I think, Reika shifting from the sparking eyes to sharp, flat eyes when she goes from a loving, sympathetic figure to a more hard-edged, darker one.