Ode to Kirihito Manga

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Kirihito Sanka, “Ode to Kirihito”

• Osamu Tezuka

• Vertical (2006)

• Shogakukan (Big Comic, 1968–1971)

• Seinen, Drama

• 16+ (violence, nudity, rape, adult themes)

Investigating a bizarre disease that turns humans into doglike creatures, Dr. Kirihito Osanai travels to a remote, snowbound Japanese village. There, he’s infected with the “Monmow disease” himself, and Ode to Kirihito Mangaleaves the village with the face of a dog. Met with horror everywhere he goes, Kirihito is sold to a black-market freak show and begins a long journey home by way of Taipei and Syria. Meanwhile, his schizophrenic colleague Dr. Urabi investigates an outbreak of a similar disease in South Africa. He meets a gentle Catholic nun, Helen, who has also been infected. Said to be Tezuka’s favorite of his own works, Ode to Kirihito is part globetrotting adventure, part medical drama, set in a harsh, violent world where humans are only a step away from devolving into brute animals. The feverish narrative builds upon primal fears of atavism, mutation, ostracism, and literally “losing face.” It’s also a Christian story, drawing parallels to the humiliation of Christ on the cross and making numerous references to the Gospels (“Kirihito,” in Japanese, sounds similar to “Kirisuto,” the usual pronunciation of “Christ”). Tezuka’s art here is loose but detailed, with some stunning hallucinatory sequences. The Vertical edition presents the entire saga in a single thick volume.

One comment

  1. Lots of strange diseases roam this world, with scientists attempting to find treatments, but to no avail. In the instance of Ode to Kirihito, a bizarre disorder that turns folks onto doglike creatures, yet keep their human consciousness, is discovered in an isolated hamlet. The physician Osanai is sent to the village to investigate the case, yet everything is not as it seems: be prepared to explore the unknown together with the bureaucratic world of the doctors.

    The premise of Ode to Kirihito may seem nothing outstanding at first glance, yet shines in its demonstration; by introducing the Monmow disease suddenly as most sickness do, it creates a believable setting, while at the exact same time preserving a well paced story. The adversities people need to endure are well exhibited through interactions with characters and events that happen.

    Other excellent aspect of the manga is how it exhibits the universe of scientists/doctors, such as the explanation of medical terms, through the characters and narration of different events that take place, be it a medical conference, or disorders patient suffer.

    There’s however a negative aspect to the narrative; to make it dimmer and cruel, the author introduces episodes that happen to the characters, ranging from unnecessary rape scenes and departures being some examples. This really is not bad alone, yet it really is badly executed consequently having no impact on the narrative, likewise having near to no consequences at all which causes it to be totally redundant to the storyline.

    The characters of Ode to Kirihito are varied, each with its character. Tatsugara the ambitious physician that will not accept a theory that opposes his own or the not so gifted Urabe. Being merely 800 pages long, character development for the characters is rare, Kirihito being the exception. He experiences serious changes to the point of looking like a total distinct character due to all the events that happened to him, starting from chagrin to enslavement. The supporting cast is well done too, yet is challenging to find any attachment to them due to the brief duration of the manga.

    The art style of Ode to Kirihito is at first glance straightforward and offputting, yet its characters design matched well with their styles, as it was making it very easy to carry their beliefs and behaviors. Panel placement is well done too, giving it a “cinematic” feel to it. In addition, the backgrounds are stunningly nicely drawn, matching perfectly with the feeling it tries to portray. On the other hand, the character design is concentration breaking and does not fit the narrative at all: it’s difficult to take the manga seriously, which is a shame, as it would have made this manga better.
    Overall Ode no Kirihito was a very enjoyable read, yet the “edgy” things that happen in conjunction with the characters design, made the story less realistic and less enjoyable than it could have been. Nevertheless, its presentation, narrative, and characters made it a very interesting read that kept me wondering what would happen next. Recommended to anyone with interest in the psychological genre.

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