March 8, 2005
I really, really love this series. Last volume was a little iffy, but looking back on it, I think the planet of eternal punishment was awesome, and so was the historical manga first part. This one switches back to the historical manga setting, still fairly far back in Japan’s history. The event that takes place, the building of Japan’s giant Buddha statue, was something I’d actually heard of before, so that made it even better. Technically there’s two main characters and a handful of others that come in and out, and the two main characters are absolutely wonderful.
The story opens with a father and his newborn son, who he tries to carry up the mountain to get a blessing, but unfortunately he falls to his death and drops the baby along the way. Later, when he’s a teenager, it turns out that the boy’s mother had died fairly early in his life too, leaving him orphaned, and when his father dropped him down the mountain he lost a limb and one of his eyes and gained a large scar on his face, making him horribly disfigured and crippled. The town is very unkind to him, and after taking abuse from them he snaps and turns into a murderer and flees the villiage. At this point, he runs into the second main character, a kind sculptor, and he stabs him in the arm, severing his tendon and making him lose use of it.
Eventually, as the story unfolds, the two encounter each other a few other times, and it follows both their paths, which wind up running fairly close together. There’s also a lot of Buddhist themes in it, mainly that of karmic rewards through rebirth, where you will be reborn as other forms based on how well you’ve lived your life. I’m going to have a hard time reviewing Phoenix, because it’s just such a good series, and I can’t quite explain why.
I need to make note of a few errors I’ve been picking up along the way… There were a lot in this one, misspelling “Saruta” as “Sarvta,” a misstep in the dialogue when he’s talking about what hand he can use versus what hand he used to use (I think this was an issue of the translation not jiving with the flipped art), and there was a “d” missing from the word “disaster” at one point. There were some errors in the other volumes as well… number three I think had a blank speech balloon at one point, and two and three both might have had one spelling or other small error like that each. Just so I’ll remember later.
On another note, a friend of mine who absolutely hates manga (and most other things) read volume one of this series and loved it. I can’t quite explain how full of hate his is for the world, but this was quite an accomplishment on Phoenix’s part.