“Trials and Tribulations” – Buddha (manga) – 10/10 Atoms

A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing. ~Martin Luther

Mangaka: Osamu Tezuka

Genre: Historical/Drama/Spiritual

Review Status: Complete (8 Volumes/8 Volumes)

Licensed: This is licensed by Vertical in the US

Art: Very Tezuka. Honestly, this is where I think his art really shines, able to show the comedy and flow easily into the dark and dramatic. All the characters are easily recognizeable and memorable.

Summary: In ancient India, the lives of the people are plagued by drought, famine, constant warfare and the injustices of the strict caste system. The intertwining lives of many unhappy souls are drawn together by the birth of the young prince Siddhartha, who embarks on a spiritual journey, becomes Buddha, “the Enlightened One,” and attempts to bring about a spiritual rebirth of the people in this desperate age. (ANN.com)

Review: This is the Tezuka manga that will make me downgrade my opinion of all other Tezuka manga. This manages to approach a story that seems very simple, and turns it into an epic of many layers, from the enormous but fully fleshed-out cast, to the political intrigues, to the sprawling timeline that this takes place over. This is no simple tale, this is an in-depth look at a man who’s life and teaching has touched and influenced millions.

Buddha does not start out with Siddartha’s birth. The events that helped shaped his life start out before that, revolving around the unfairness of the caste system and a character that is wracked with hatred for what happened to him. Soon after, Siddartha’s birth is depicted, but while interesting, it’s far from the central story. His life becomes entwined with that of the monsks. He seeks reasons for suffering and why life is the way it is the way it is, and looks for wisdom wherever he can find it. He meets others who help him- and hinder him- along his path. There are still more stories to be told of the trials and tribulations of those who would be his disciples. All suffer terribly, from one who save and then loses the love of his life. Another helps him learn and deal with fate. Still another becomes opposition, always wondering if he is right until he finally sees Buddha’s sermons and widom at work. The aesthetics of India fight against Buddha, since their teachings are so set, and are always trying to sully his name.

All the while, political tension builds. Buddha was the son of a king, and witnesses the fall of his kingdom. the political melds into the spiritual as he tries to save his people through sharing his wisdom, and to spiritually heal those who persecuted and enslaved them. And all the while, some of his disciples undermine everything he does, seeking power for themselves or are unable to bring themselves to forgive as Buddha asks them to. Others, driven to evil deeds in fear of Buddha and misunderstandings they have of him, are driven to terrible things in their rage. The politics behind these events are driven by thousands of years of tradition and the unwillingness to give up the ideas that some are superior to others – that slaves can only ever be slaves, and nobility only nobility. Watching Buddha’s teachings working against this is brutally real, because some people are unable to be swayed, and not everyone is willing to work for the better good. It’s the bad things that happen as he tries to help others make the good things that happen all the sweeter (and sometimes, bittersweet).

The way that these all come together over the course of Buddha’s lifetime is just astounding in how it’s told. This really is a masterpiece in how it’s told and paced, how characters are fleshed out and plot threads tied together so neatly, no matter how complex it can be in places. Nothing is forgotten. Not only is Buddha an incredibly sympathetic character, but even for those who disobey, and even some that turn to evil, their motives are understandable and even pitiable. I am so impressed by how skillfully all this is written, and it definitely made a deep impression on me.

Overall, this is definitely one of the best manga I have read, point-blank. I have to downgrade some of my other ratings because of how wonderful this is.

Recommended: 18+. This aims to be historically correct, and that means people die by being beaten, starved, plague, fire, war, and outight cruety. These deaths can be brutal, you wil see bodies and bood, but they aren’t lingered on, or there to be there. They aren’t pointless or meaningless deaths- they emphasize how terrible the caste system is and how cruel some people were. There is also some nudity/partial nudity. This aims for realism, and in that culture at that time, people of lower castes often had no clothes, and people from higher castes, even women, didn’t cover themselves fully. There is also some implied sexual situations.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Historie (manga)

Phoenix (manga)

Vinland Saga (manga)

Vagabond (manga)

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Christian Manga for Earthquake Victims, Free Will in Mirai Nikki, and Happy Science Anime! «
  2. Selvinas
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 15:20:54

    If you like this then you should also watch the anime. There will will three movies. Part one has already been finished and broadcasted. Maybe you’ll like it. I thought it was a bit superficial and clichéd ;p


    • sweetpea616
      Jul 22, 2012 @ 11:51:11

      I forgot about that! When I first found out about the manga, I’d heard that an anime was being made, but that was two years ago ^.^” I’ve heard it’s not as good as the manga, though. I will definitely be checking it out, since I’m a fan, but I hope the next two will come out soon!


  3. Selvinas
    Jul 23, 2012 @ 05:57:27

    I thought it was alright but some parts are so exaggerated!


    • sweetpea616
      Jul 23, 2012 @ 06:47:30

      Which parts?


      • Selvinas
        Jul 23, 2012 @ 07:03:11

        Pff don’t remember exactly. It’s been too long ago since I watched it. But mostly the emotional reactions and magic from what I remember.

      • sweetpea616
        Jul 23, 2012 @ 07:11:12

        Ah xD Well, the thing about stories like this is that it’s up there with any other myth or legend – it’s about people doing things that normal people can’t. Most things involving people that have supernatural or otherworldly knowledge or powers tends to be ‘overdone’, almost by simple fact that it’s dealing with mystical and otherworldly knowledge. Thankfully, the manga kept it pretty toned-down – I’ve seen less realistic reactions in most Biblical replays I’ve done – so I’m still interested in seeing how they compare.

      • Selvinas
        Jul 23, 2012 @ 22:56:33

        Haha, yeah you really should watch it. I always like comparing books and movies too! Really fun to notice the differences!

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