“In The Eye Of The Beholder” – Ode to Kirihito (manga) – 10/10 Black Cats

Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. ~Lao Tzu

Mangaka: Osamu Tszuka

Genre: Drama/Psychological/Thriller

Review Status: Complete (4 Volumes/4 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US

Art: Typical of Tezuka. The characters are far more cartoon-y than what you’ll find in most manga today, with some typical “older” touches to it- think those Mr. Magoo cartoons, and that’s what I’m talking about.

Summary: Kirihito Osanai is a young doctor who’s just been introduced to the Monmow disease, which transforms humans into dog-like beasts and kills them within a month of the metamorphosis. While studying the pathology of the disease Kirihito himself becomes an unknowing guinea pig for his hospital’s research into it. Under the auspices of research, Kirihito is sent to a remote village in the mountains, where he contracts the Monmow disease himself, and through a series of misfortunes, becomes estranged from his beautiful fiancée, Izumi Yoshinaga (the daughter of his hospital’s Director and Chief Physician), and his close friend and rival, Urabe.

As the disease begins to transform Kirihito’s body physically, the sudden metamorphosis impacts his character. Kirihito soon begins to doubt the medical world and after much resistance breaks down to accept his new role as a monster and spiritual figure in the quaint rural village he now lives in. Whether he is able to come to terms with his new life, however, it is certain that society will see him very differently. Quickly it becomes certain that Kirihito’s life will be continuous strife dictated by the hospital that once employed him and is now looking to attain international acclaim by revealing the secrets (albiet incorrect) of Monmow’s Disease.

It quickly becomes the secret mission of Urabe and Yoshinaga to find Kirihito and uncover the conspiracy and mystery behind this medical phenomenon, though Urabe seems to have motives of his own as pertains to the beautiful fiancée. Urabe, however, that is able to link the Monmow disease directly to water that runs from the mountain village where Kirihito is trapped, and the two doctors will independently discover the truth about Monmow. (Amazon.com description)

Review: Sometimes it’s really hard to sum up thoughts on a work. Ode to Kirihito is one of those ones. Kirihito is an honest, driven man, determined to not shake the boat too much. However, his honesty is a two-edged sword: When he goes against the hospital director and feels that he has discovered the true origin of Monmow disease, he is put in the sites of a man that will stop at nothing to support his theory and gain power and prestige from it.

You can tell what era this was written in. Osamu doesn’t shy away from showing the injustices that were perpetrated on people back then. There’s blatant prejudice and racism. At one point a character is nearly killed because she’s white, and (paraphrase) whites couldn’t catch a disease that until then had only been recorded in colored communities. Women are incredibly disenfranchised, with rape occurring several times simply because the man committing them was in love with them and ‘couldn’t control himself’. Sexuality plays a big part, from being used to oppress others to showing that even those who have differences aren’t all bad, as the racism works to show plays of power on the international stage.

It’s against this background that Kirihito must try and find a way to reveal the origins of the disease. He fights against ignorance and misinformation, and sometimes against simple blind hatred towards those who are different. Along the way he deals with the struggle of being considered less than human and the humiliation that comes with it, the question of whether it’s worth trying to survive in such unforgiving conditions, and whether he can actually succeed in his mission to avenge the woman he loved and find a way to right the misinformation the hospital director is trying to pass off as truth.

These questions are asked under the darkest of circumstances, from being used as a sideshow freak for a rich man, to finding a baby dying in the middle of a desert, to one of his companions dying in the dangerous way she lived her life. These events don’t exactly have happy endings. He might find the strength to move on, but they forever weigh heavily on his mind. Kirihito may have a measure of success at the end, but it comes at great cost.

There are definitely good guys and bad guys. Kirihito and most of his friends are sympathetic, dealing with deep flaws but ultimately being good people. The bad guys are mainly flawed, with few redeeming qualities, or what qualities they have dissolving under the need for power or under the pressure they face. It doesn’t make their stories less compelling. Actually, I feel it makes it moreso, as they overcome some obstacles but fail in others. They feel human, and utterly relatable in many ways. They make this story what it is- a brilliant work that showcases the effects of power and prejudice.

Overall, this is a moving manga about differences and revenge, and is a fascinating read.

Recommended: Adults only! People are killed in pretty terrible ways, from bombs and being shot to one instance of being fried alive. There is some gore- you see the wounds, the limbs, the bodies and blood spatter. It isn’t shy about the human body- there are several instances of almost complete nudity. There is also a lot of sexual imagery going on, from scenes of rape, attempted rape, and sex, or forced fellatiato. Thankfully the scenes are never completely graphic and often brief, with blackouts and symbolic pictures instead of being pornographic.

Other titles you might enjoy:

MW (manga)
Monster (anime and manga)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Osamu Tezuka Month « Paper Chimes

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