I’m fascinated with epic stories tied to different religions.
Although I was familiar with some of principles of Buddhism and knew some details on the story of Gautama Buddha, I didn’t realize how much of the story I was unaware of till I read Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha that is available from the Downtown Library.
This series is also the first Manga I’ve ever read, and it didn’t occur to me until I did some research for this piece, that Osamu Tezuka is considered a god father of manga. He is quite the prolific storyteller who created an extensive body of work before he passed away in 1989. Of all his works, he is probably most known for being the creator of the hugely popular Astro Boy, and Kimba the White Lion, which is said by critics to be the precursor to Disney’s Lion King.
In the 8 volumes of Buddha, Tezuka takes you on an epic journey where you come to realize his understanding of Buddhism.
Tezuka is first and foremost a story teller, so it should not come as a surprise when the first notable character in this tale is one he created and not a figure from history. Thus this story of the Buddha is by no means the definitive story of Buddhism, nor is it an attempt by the author to be. It is still a well told story that portrays one of history’s most important figures while providing wisdom along the way.
Tatta is the name of Tezuka’s created character. He is young boy and a pariah, which means that within the Indian caste system of the day, Tatta belongs to a class that is so low that it barely acknowledged. With Tatta’s tale of suffering leading the story before the introduction of the Buddha, we see a cruel society and harsh desert landscape. Through him we understand the circumstances that contributed to the Buddha’s belief system.
Through this series (Spoiler Warning.) we see the Buddha’s entire life. His birth, his early life, his marriage and birth of his son, his decision to leave it all behind to pursue life as an ascetic, the fall out from that decision, and then his death and aftermath.
Although it is manga, the eight thick volumes seem quite daunting at first. But the story is so well told through the expressiveness of the art style that it is easy to churn through all eight volumes. Tezuka skillfully covers a wide range of characters and interweaving stories. A couple people even disappear for several volumes before coming back into the tale, but their place in the story is no less important.
After reading it, I am going to look into other interpretations of Gautama Buddha’s story, and will also look into Tezuka’s other work. I’m excited that the Astro Boy series is available to read on Hoopla.