Religious icons and comics don’t necessarily sit all that happily together – just look at the furore around the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper. Buddhists have less to worry about in this eight-volume epic about the life of their most famous Buddha – Siddhartha Gautama – in this sympathetically told dramatisation of his life.
The first book leads only up to the birth of Siddartha, chronicling the mystic portents that surrounded his mother’s pregnancy – from dreams of white elephants to plagues of locusts – signalling to those around him that the unborn child was something special. We also see the development of some key figures destined to play roles in his life, including Tatta, a street urchin orphaned by war but gifted with a supernatural affinity with animals.
The politics of 6th century India, which played such a pivotal role in influencing Siddartha’s future role in life, are examined in detail through the dramatisation of the all too short life of a boy called Chapra. Born a slave, the lowest of the castes, he spurns his social standing by rescuing a general from a crocodile attack and becoming his son, though we learn as his story progresses that, in Indian society at this time, it’s a difficult task for people of such lowly birth to rise above their predetermined stations.
The manga-style characters are drawn over exquisitely detailed natural vistas, juxtaposing the harsh realities of the caste system with the beautiful scenery that Siddartha will grow up to enjoy. But as the start of an epic dramatisation of the Buddah’s journey through life, this book makes fascinating reading.
Other titles in the Buddha series:
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Other books by Osamu Tezuka:
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