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In the year 3034, Yamanobe, a space patrolman, is granted eternal life in the midst of a nuclear winter, and over millions of years watches evolution unfold, never letting go of the love he had for a shape-changing alien.
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Chances are readers have never seen anything like this, and not just because it's only now being published in English. Tezuka (1928-1989), known for his manga innovations, considered this series of interlocking stories to be his masterpiece. Viz excellently contextualizes it with essays and an interview with and brief statement by Tezuka. This work, the second of Tezuka's 12 Phoenix books, starts off conventionally enough in the year 3034. Humans have been forced underground by a series of wars, and the remaining population lives in five cities ruled by infallible computers. Young space patrolman Yamanobe is in love with a Moopie (a shape-changing alien) who's taken on the form of a beautiful young woman. When ordered to kill her-Moopies are being exterminated because of their ability to induce hallucinogenic fantasies-Yamanobe flees to the Earth's ravaged surface instead. The cities subsequently blow each other up, and in the ensuing nuclear winter, Yamanobe finds that he's been granted eternal life by the mysterious Phoenix. The story then shifts into high gear: the rest of the book covers not centuries or millennia, but millions of years, as Yamanobe, unable to die and totally alone, watches evolution unfold, from primordial soup to evolved, thinking life forms. Throughout, Tezuka's visual imagination is as stunning as his narrative is ambitious. If readers can get beyond the retro-cute look-the artwork's bold, simple lines might seem overly cartoony given the serious, even metaphysical nature of the story-this is a work guaranteed to blow their minds.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Adult/High School-Part of a 12-volume masterwork, Phoenix appeared in Japan in 1969. Each volume can stand alone, and this one is the first to appear in English in its entirety. In 3404, Earth is nearly dead. Everyone lives underground in one of five capitals. Space patrolman Masato lives with his Moopie, a creature that can assume any form (in this case, a beautiful woman), and with whom he has fallen in love. As all Moopies are to be destroyed, he takes her and escapes aboveground, where he crash-lands in a lab. Throughout his adventure, a vision of a phoenix appears and tells Masato that it is up to him to re-create mankind after its impending destruction. He also learns that he has been made immortal, and then lives alone for thousands of years until human civilization can be created anew. This future world, with its weapons of mass destruction and cities full of upwardly mobile trendsetters, brings to mind contemporary society so strongly that teens will immediately be able to relate to the story (and have a hard time believing that it's more than 30 years old). The eternally optimistic phoenix shares its hope for the nature of humanity, and it is drawn with sparks of light surrounding it. The illustrations are reminiscent of those in Tezuka's "Astro Boy" series (Dark Horse). This moving masterpiece is a must for most graphic-novel collections.
Jamie Watson, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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