Osamu Tezuka is perhaps best known for manga like Astro Boy but a recent batch of releases are seeing his works for more mature audiences offered to a new generation of readers. MW is a fine example: an incredibly long and detailed journey into the depraved mind of a serial-killing rapist, that’s every bit as dark as it sounds.
Tezuka stands back from judgement over his character, setting up a series of unfortunate accidents that make him how he is. First he’s abducted as a little boy and sexually abused by one of his captors. Then he’s exposed to a poisonous gas – a military weapon called MW, leaked from a remote compound – which leaves his brain damaged and unable to separate right from wrong.
Working in a bank by day and ruthlessly kidnapping, murdering and raping by night, Michio Yuki finds little interest in anything other than accruing vast quantities of money. Until, that is, he starts having increasingly bad attacks of ill-health and realises that the MW is likely to kill him in the end. At this point he turns his finely-honed seduction and murder techniques to getting hold of some MW so he can analyse and reproduce the gas, taking the rest of the world with him when he goes.
It’s bleak and unforgiving. Tezuka’s characters are almost universally unpleasant, from the businessmen Yuki is successfully ripping off; through the military, its deadly gases and cover-ups; to the police who are failing to catch him. Even his female victims are so wrapped up in his good looks and promising career to notice what a deeply disturbed man he is.
Don’t let that put you off though. If you can stomach the violence it makes for a grim but fascinating thriller as Yuki manipulates his way through his life, second-guessing people’s actions with his ability to bring out the worst in everyone. Tezuka’s art is as taught as his storytelling, leaving any remnants of his cute past behind and focusing on sophisticated, grown-up illustration, without turning it into a gore-fest.
Thriller graphic novels can sometimes seem a little thin on the ground but the relaunch of this classic helps redress the balance.
Other books by Osamu Tezuka:
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