It’s been a great year for fans of the Japanese pantheon artist Osamu Tezuka. His “Black Jack” series is a success for Vertical both in hc and sc, and now we get this new monster book of Tezuka’s seinen classic from 1972, “Ayako”, his answer to the gekiga comics of the time. Vertical will continue to publish Tezuka masterpieces as long as you buy the books. They have only scraped the surface, there is loads more waiting to be translated.
Vertical has a long-standing relationship with Tezuka Productions, and has published six Tezuka series: Buddha, Ode to Kirihito, MW, Apollo’s Song, Dororo, and Black Jack. Buddha and Dororo have both won Eisner Awards and Buddha also garnered two Harvey Awards. All of Vertical’s releases of Tezuka’s works are still in print in paperback, with a new two-volume edition of Ode to Kirihito planned for the end of March.
When asked if Vertical planned on releasing more of Tezuka’s work, Marketing Director Ed Chavez said, “These titles are just scraping the surface and we intend to continue to release more Tezuka titles in the future,” however no titles could be confirmed because contracts had not yet been formalized.
Osamu Tezuka (Author)
- Hardcover: 704 pages
- Publisher: Vertical (November 30, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1934287512
- ISBN-13: 978-1934287514
Ayako (1972) is, along with Adolf and MW, and others, one of a number of dramatic social commentaries written later in Tezuka’s career. Containing fewer recurring characters than most Tezuka, and few or no science-fiction or fantasy elements, these dark, real-world stories focus on the evils, both individual and social, generated by the second world war and its aftermath. Ayako specifically treats the social impact of the American occupation of Japan after the conclusion of the war, and the damage done to traditional Japanese families, particularly wealthier families, by the dramatic land redistribution enforced by the government during the last stage of the war and afterward. It examines a single large landholding family of samurai descent, and shows how the war and the American occupation served to foster the seeds of decay and ruin already present in the depths of traditional Japanese family structure.–Ada Palmer
Overflowing with imagery of the cold war seen through Japan’s eyes, Ayako is firmly set in realism taking inspiration from a number of historical events that occurred over the American occupation and the cultural-revolution which soon followed. Believed to be Tezuka’s answer to the gekiga (dramatic comics) movement of the 60’s, Ayako should be considered one of the better early examples of a seinen (young adult) narrative to be published.
Initially set in the aftermath of World War II, Ayako focuses its attention on the Tenge clan, a once powerful family of landowners living in a rural community in northern Japan. From the moment readers are introduced to the extended family, it is apparent that the war and American occupation have begun to erode the fabric that binds them all together. The increasing influence of political, economic and social change begins to tear into the many Tenge siblings, while a strange marriage agreement creates resentment between the eldest son and his sire. And when the family seems to have completely fallen apart, they decide to turn their collective rage on what they believe to be the source of their troubles—the newest member of the Tenge family, the youngest sister Ayako.
Ayako is one of those into-the-void works. It is loaded with excess, but it’s all fearless stuff, and all in the service of a story that looks pitilessly at the way people cling desperately to scraps of power and influence even as it corrupts them from within all the more. No lie is great enough to tell, no sin mortal enough to contemplate, no life sacrosanct in the face of such need. What’s remarkable is how Tezuka’s storytelling makes such dank and horrific things into the stuff of compulsively readable, wide-gauge visual drama. You’re drawn in despite yourself, not just once but many times over. Even if the final product doesn’t quite have the focus and force of his best work in this same category — for me it’s a tossup between MW and Kirihito for such honors — it still deserves to be read by as broad an audience as possible.
Let’s end this presentation with a Japanese cover of Ayako vol.1: