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 leaves 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.