July 14, 2009
Osamu Tezuka – Digital Manga Publishing – 2009 – 1 volume
I reviewed this Tezuka omnibus for Manga Recon, so you can check out the lengthy, in-depth review over there.
In short, I liked it. I liked it a lot. It’s got a lot to it, and is something of a cross between a story that you would find in Phoenix, with its serious and rambling themes, and something like MW and Ode to Kirihito, which pares the themes down and puts them in a more entertaining story (not to knock Phoenix too badly, but those two are a little more fun to read, at least for me). The themes aren’t nearly as heavy-handed here as they are in some of his other works. The thing about Swallowing the Earth, however, is that it hides its serious nature in what can only be described as insane details. Not often very important things, but all the same, details where you have to sit and stare for a minute, and then move on because you will never be able to comprehend why. The plot kind of rambles to places you don’t think it will go as a result, and towards the end, I was begging the story to narrow its focus so I could understand where the story was going to end up. It did make sense, and was a pretty awesome resolution, but the way it got there still has me scratching my head.
I love that sort of thing, especially since you would never see something like this today because an editor would get to it first, but all the same, there’s a reason that nobody but Tezuka can write stories like this. There’s a fine balance that it walks between sense and nonsense. Again, I love seeing stories that push the limits like this, but I can imagine it not really being to a lot of other people’s taste.
I also feel the need to reiterate my love for Gohanmatsu. I talk about him a lot in the regular review, but he really was a great main character. I loved that a story about the downfall of humanity featured a hero that was drunk and didn’t care, but somehow still loveable.
And because I have a fierce love for Tezuka’s Star System, let me talk about it here. My friends Lamp and Hamegg both appear, which is normally all I ask of a volume of Tezuka manga. True to form, Lamp is the evil bad guy that is the cause of all the madness, in a sense (he’s basically a jerk to his wife and daughters, causing them to flee to a South Pacific island and engineer the downfall of man). He’s also working with the Nazis again here, something else that just seems to suit his evil role. Hamegg, also true to form, appears briefly at the end of the story as something of an apologetic, cowardly thief. Duke Red appears briefly as… I don’t quite remember, a guy in charge of repossessing a character’s stuff, or something, which also suits his “bad guy but in a sympathetic sense” role. And Zephyrus, the girl that’s so beautiful she drives men mad, looks a lot like the “Black Queen” doctor that’s appeared in a pair of Black Jack stories. It’s possible they are not supposed to be the same “person,” but both characters have a beehive-looking hairdo that you just don’t see to often, so I’m going to go ahead and say that they are. James Moar helped me out with this in the comments, they are the same person and “Zephyrus” is what the character goes by. Thanks!
In case you were curious, the title comes from Gohanmatsu telling Zephyrus when they first meet that he’d like to drink enough alcohol to feel like he’s swallowing the earth. The title sticks when Zephyrus’ plans do just that in the end.