“Left In The Past” – MW (manga) – 10/10 Atoms

“Revenge is a dish best served cold” ~Proverb

Mangaka: Osamu Tezuka

Genre: Action/Thriller/Psychological/Drama/Seinen

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US.

Art: It’s Tezuka, with cartoonish characters, great shading, and fantastic panel work. There’s also some terrific detail in some of his scenes.

Summary: Michio Yuki has it all: looks, intelligence, a pedigree as the scion of a famous Kabuki family, a promising career at a major bank, legions of female admirers. But underneath the sheen of perfection lurks a secret with the power to shake the world to its foundations.

During a boyhood excursion to one of the southern archipelagos near Okinawa, Yuki barely survived exposure to a poison gas stored at a foreign military facility. The leakage annihilated all of the island’s inhabitants but was promptly covered up by the authorities, leaving Yuki as an unacknowledged witness–one whose sense of right and wrong, however, the potent nerve agent managed to obliterate. Now, fifteen years later, Yuki is a social climber of Balzacian proportions, infiltrating the worlds of finance and politics by day while brutally murdering children and women by night–perversely using his Kabuki-honed skills as a female impersonator to pass himself off as the women he’s killed. His drive, however, will not be satiated with a promotion here and a rape there. Michio Yuki has a far more ominous objective: obtaining MW, the ultimate weapon that spared his life but robbed him of all conscience.

There are only two men with any hope of stopping him: one, a brilliant public prosecutor who struggles to build a case against the psychopath; the other, a tormented Catholic priest, Iwao Garai, who shares Yuki’ls past–and frequently his bed. (Amazon.com)

Review: MW is one of the best manga I’ve read. Hands-down. I have to state that at the beginning so we can all be clear on my fangirlism. This was the first ‘serious’ manga I read, as well as the first Tezuka manga I read, and my recent re-read of it only raised my opinion.

MW has many layered themes. Loyalty- whether the priest should betray his lover to the police, or whether he should stick to his vows with the Church to never tell what someone confesses. Love – Does he love Yuki, or is it a horrible lust that drives him to keep Yuki safe? Insanity – Is Yuki’s driving force the insanity caused by the MW, or is it mere revenge and hatred for what he saw that day, a hatred when mixed with the effects of the MW has created a psychotic monster?

Tezuka goes about it with a fascinating cast. Yuki is the most horrific, unfeeling antagonist I’ve come across since Johan in Monster. While Johan still manages to beat him out, I can defintiely see his roots in Yuki. He kills without mercy, but not without a plan, with almost every move cooly calculated to give him the best advantage. He’s out for something simple: Revenge. And he seeks it out with some love and thought for Garai, the man who helped him when they were children, faced with the horrific consequences of military incompetence. Garai is as interesting as Yuki, in his own way, torn by duty to his priesthood and love for Yuki. He tries to do what he can when he can, but the restrictions he holds himself make him powerless in Yuki’s machinations. His growth through the series shows how powerful bonds between people can be, and when love is there, it takes a soul of steel to be able to betray them.

The whole story revolves around the interplay of these two – merciless killer and merciful priest – and the plot drives their interactions. Yuki’s need for revenge drives him into the depths of givernment and ever-closer to his ultimate goal: MW, and the ability to use it as he pleases, to make others suffer as he and Garai did. In turn, Yuki’s plans eventually bring Garai around to the idea that he needs to do something to stop him, breaking free of the guilt that Yuki forces on him and the emotional manipulation that is played around with, and bringing the story to a rather chilling conclusion.

There is no happy ending, no end to the suffering caused by the MW and by Yuki, and things can never be ‘normal’ after all that happens. It’s one of the more brutal endings that I’ve seen, but at the same time, fits the story. Anything else would seem to convenient and fake.

It does occasionally show it’s age, in how rape is treated – though a little more sympathetic than usual since Yuki manipulates her emotionally before and after it happens – and the depiction of the struggle Garai goes through about telling people about Yuki (the Church has since relazed laws and encourages priests to report crimes that have been confessed to them), but still remains a brilliant story.

Overall, it’s one of the darkest manga I’ve read, and definitely something that lingers in the imagination.

Recommended: 18+. This is for adults! There’s sex (homosexual and heterosexual), and rape. There is the cold-blooded murder of both children and adults, sometimes in implicitly gruesome ways, as well as the depiction of an entire family committing suicide.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Ode to Kirihito (manga)

Monster (manga or anime)

Ayako (manga)

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