The World is My Burrito Podcast

E13 - Tezuka's Buddha

September 12, 2022 Kory Torjussen Episode 13
E13 - Tezuka's Buddha
The World is My Burrito Podcast
Show Notes Transcript

Leave a little verbal snacky

Sit down and Zen out while we discuss one of Tezuka's magnum opera: Buddha.

Episode 13 

Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha

The Manga

Intro

OMMMMMMM


OMMMMMMM


Today we will relax. *inhale* Listen to the sounds of nature or whatever. *exhale* Empty your already shallow mind. *inhale*  Because I’m about to fill it up with around 3,000 pages of Siddhartha literature. *exhale-cough*


What’s up all you Upasaka and Upasika? Welcome to episode 13 of The World is My Burrito. The most dramatically enlightened podcast connecting all points of time and existence on a single tortilla to provide a better understanding of the universe according to me, your host, Kory.


This is another in my neverending Trail of Tezuka covering his magnum opus: Buddha. Which at this point may as well be my own personal ascetic Trial of Tezuka. Hahaaaa. Jokes!


This was also supposed to be my first ever episode after shelving BioShock. Then at around 1500 pages of manga -the halfway mark- the magnitude of my naïveté was made apparent. Fast forward to this year: Research for this project began in February with a book called The Buddha and his Dhamma. For the Judeo-Christian audience consider it like a bible - all of the collected writings about Siddhartha passionately translated into english by 3 dudes in a garage. Then I jumped into Herman Hesse’s novel “Siddartha” because I already owned it. Followed by the magnum opera in discussion: Buddha. Now Round that out with listening to one of my favourite books on Buddhism named “Don’t Be a Jerk”. Hey you remember all those wack computer troubles AND that BioShock episode I released? Yeah all that happened in the middle of preparing for this.


The original intent was for this episode to be something even greater. My own magnum opus of sorts. We would compare the manga to actual history to actual Buddhist beliefs and so the monster was fed like No-Face from Spirited Away. But the comparative notes never felt right, structure only became more and more tedious and confusing, and this would either be several hours of confusion or several episodes of constant reminders. Well, you’ll be happy to know that while I covered roughly 4,300 pages of content, you are getting the abridged version of cut content. That’s right! You’re only getting a measly 54 pages of notes condensed into 18. Main reasons being: Tezuka’s dramatized work is grandiose enough without any help from historical accuracy or niche religious teachings. 


Now, let's break our fast with some

Kitchenkeeping


My original script right here read “I’m in the process of moving from Brandon to a proper Tampa zip code”. Ahhh How young and hopeful I was back then. Welp, I’ve since completely moved and as you are likely an adult listener, you probably understand how that confounded things. 


Despite the silence on my own podcast I’ve still been active with the Podcasters Assembled squad, submitting to Batman, Jurassic Park, and our upcoming Disassembled episode on the original and newest Predator films.


I also attended MetroCon 2022! And why is that important to the podcast you might ask? I met representatives from two small manga publishers. The first is Star Fruit Books located in nearby Palm Harbor and the second, Glacier Bay Books. Both are doing the lord’s work by bringing manga -old and current- to America that would likely remain unnoticed by bigger companies. With any planning they’ll eventually be on future episodes. But be sure to check out StarFruitBooks dot com and GlacierBayBooks dot com.


Without further ado let’s get it started with

World History


This may be a surprise to some but Siddhartha was a real dude. And as a real dude he has real history. 


First name Siddhartha last name Gautama (gow-tama like “ow”), was Born in either 563 or 480 BCE and died in 483 BCE or 400 BCE depending on which fake ID he's carrying. 


Ha! I’m just kidding. They didn't have IDs! They did have clubs tho. And 80 years is the recurring theme. The lack of accuracy is due to people not keeping records. They were too busy being filthy rich to bother with the future. Side note I recently attended the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg which listed the 563 birthyear. Nothing crazy. Go support your local museums.


His people were called the Shakya of the independent and non-monarchical state of Kapilavastu. This state was run in turns by multiple families. His father, Suddhodana, was one of those rulers and Siddhartha was born during his family’s turn. That's right. Buddha came from royalty and arrived while all eyes were on them. 


For some added drama let's talk about modern discussions. There are some pretty readily available arguments about where Buddha was born because nobody respected cartographers back then either. The two listed birth-locations are Lumbini, Nepal and Piprahwa, India. However, looking up the borders of Kapilavastu adds a third possible location of Tilaurakot, Nepal. There are so many raging arguments about these useless facts and how the one country is clearly trying to steal history from another.


The middle-man solution online is that Siddhartha the man was born in Nepal but became enlightened -aka the “birth” of Buddha- in India.


Does it matter? Hardly. But I love how instantaneous it was to find bickering about the birthplace of a dude who was all about peace AND renounced his own birthplace.



Caste System

Let’s move on to “THE SYSTEM”. The caste system. It's important to note that this area did and still does have a caste system, though the names and meanings may have changed a little over the millennia. Reality offers a whole slew of castes and sub-castes but we’ll stick with the core 5 listed in our material.


Classes: 


  1. Brahmin (priests and teachers)
  2. Kshatriya (soldiers and rulers)
  3. Vaishya (farmers, traders, merchants)
  4. Shudra (labourers/slaves)
  5. Pariah (untouchables) 


There won’t be a quiz on this later. From this point on I’m using those terms freely.


The extra trick about the caste system is that it is permanent. Once Shudra, always Shudra. There’s no way you or your family can ever be anything but. So don’t even think about fighting against the system.


This is where I removed some real-world religious context because this gets very deep very quick because of the battle between culture and actual teachings. Once again: sticking with manga context.


Creator History

As is tradition let’s just touch on necessary details. Tezuka was a humanist. That’s my detail. Because we’ll inevitably do an entire episode on just him. 


Okay there are more details. Tezuka did study Siddhartha’s life story and it really shows. There’s an impressive amount of historically accurate detail. But Tezuka is extremely liberal with most of the characters and events. In the afterword of the final volume of the collected Japanese publication he admits that this was never about accuracy but about the message of “all life is sacred”.


Tezuka was approached by the editor of Kibō no tomo, Osamu Takeo (no relation) and asked Tezuka if he would submit his Phoenix series to the magazine. However, in Tezuka’s words, Phoenix was more experimental and wouldn’t be good for the age group so he decided to tell the story about Buddha to better focus on teaching good ideals. 


Which is a great segue into:

Publication History


Buddha was originally serialized by Ushio Shuppan Co., in a children’s publication that began as Friends of Hope aka Kibō no tomo (希望の友), which was subsequently changed to Shonen World then, ultimately, to Comic Tom over the course of Buddha‘s 11-year run from 1972 to 1983. These name changes were an attempt to update the overall image of the magazine. 


In 2011 Japan saw a re-release across 14 volumes. The front covers are brilliant and offer a great glimpse into the toll life takes as our main character ages.


There’s some slightly conflicting info about the American release but here’s what I landed on: 

Vertical released a hardcover box set in 2003. The spines are done by American graphic designer Chip Kidd and feature 3 stages of the Buddha’s face across the spines.

Once that sold out -proving interest in the story- they released it as a non-collected softcover set between 2006-2007 that only states the series title and volume number in place of Chip’s spine art. 


This is the collection we’re referencing today.



Film History


Is not something I was expecting. There are apparently 2 films, one released in 2011 and another in 2014. Their existence isn’t even surface level, which I feel says a lot in itself. It is unfortunate and strange that these haven’t reached the U.S. audience. Info on them is sparse, so much so that no resource that mentions the films hyperlinks to anything. It has not reached the US Market, is not readily discoverable on Amazon and isn’t even listed on RightStufAnime. I could probably sail the seven seas to find it but that sounds like good material for a shorter episode at another time.


Keep your hands away from the stove because here’s my

Hot Take

This is a children’s manga. That’s not even my hot-take. It’s just fact. There is an absolutely amazing series of tales combined with a admirable message of “all life matters”. This is an epic in the truest sense of the word and honestly the kinda material Game of Thrones is based on. But! Tezuka likes his drama, child-like comedy, and Star System. You cannot miss any of these because they are everywhere all at once. Often as a tag team. To aid the drama and action there is a LOT of blood and gore in this story. Excessive violence is one of his primary vehicles to move things along. That said, this doesn’t always feel like a children’s manga. I can only imagine that as a child the emotional and violent drama feels like it’s interrupting comedy and action, but as an adult it feels like it’s inserting some very displaced “innocent” humor. Like, slap-stick “nyuk nyuk nyuk” comedy in the middle of people getting multiple limbs chopped off or having their skin melt off. It’s jarring. And while the written dialogue of “all life matters” is truly hammered in with great repetition, I still wonder if children will pick up on that through all the noise. Kinda feel like I lost the message as an adult, even though I understand what he’s trying to say.


Lastly, this absolutely did not need to be 3k pages. For as much effort as Tezuka puts into the overarching messages, he also undermines it by forgetting the importance of a few main players, main events, or intentionally not tying them to the message.

If you’re a Tezuka completionist, you know what you have to do. But for me, 3000 pages was a helluva lot for a limited return on investment. If you really want to read some fun Buddhist content I would highly recommend Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. It’s maybe a day or two read and does a much better job getting its message across while retaining some very similar dramatic points, even if it’s extremely historically inaccurate. 


Alternatively if you like epics about classism and betrayal, just read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. THAT is truly life-changing.

Spoiler Warning

If you DO have interest in achieving enlightenment on your own path, now’s the time to put this holy burrito back. But if you’ve chosen the path of a Samanna and are willing to throw away your pride despite the unending pain, let’s get started by abridging the first volume of manga.

Manga

We begin by introducing the Brahmin; creators of the caste system and society as it was known. People loved and worshiped them but eventually grew tired of their shit because when you’re starving it’s hard to give a damn about decadent ceremonies from the guys who are partying when they’re supposed to be seeking oneness with the universe. The Brahmin became their own false leaders.


Hard cut to a tale of an elder man traversing the wilderness. He falls out of exasperation and is approached by a bear, fox, and rabbit that decide to help him recover. The bear grabs fish, the fox grabs berries, but the rabbit is unable to find anything and is judged for it. The man creates a small fire and to everyone’s surprise the rabbit leaps into the fire, sacrificing itself as a meal. The man puts the fire out but alas, it is too late. He cries at the unnecessary loss of life and lifts the body to the heavens. 


Another hard cut and we’re in a group of Brahmin listening to Master Asita, telling the story of his mentor Goshala. After wandering around a bit more and taking to bed for ten days, Goshala reached enlightenment. He told his tale to his disciples, including Asita, but none of them were ever able to understand it. 


And so begins the tale of our first player, Naradatta, whom Asita sent to find someone who will become an enlightened Buddha. 


Naradatta meanders a bit and is told of a Pariah named Tatta who can inhabit the body of any animal. That sure sounds enlightened or something. 


Hardcut next page we meet Tatta who is already doing some shenanigans by stealing fabric from a child Shudra named Chapra.


If Chapra doesn’t return the stolen fabric to his master his mother will be sold to someone else. So Chapra hunts down Tatta. We learn that the very young Tatta is the leader of a tribe of pariah children who mock Chapra’s plight and best him in a fight. Chapra is mad that the urchins win because Shudra are socially better than Pariah.


They eventually set their differences aside then Chapra and Tatta go save Chapra’s mother, where everyone learns that Tatta can not only inhabit an animal’s body, but that he’s basically a disney princess when it comes to animal friendliness. He also states that when you’re as low as he is on the totem pole aren’t we all just beasts anyways? This guy sounds like a future enlightened one, yeah?


With mother saved, they return to the city to find that an enemy army has invaded, set everything ablaze, and killed everyone inside, including Tatta’s mother and grandmother. Tatta is unable to see the irony and plans revenge on the enemy army.


Hard cut to the general of said Army, General Budai, in his personal chambers getting a visit from none other than our Brahmin Naradatta. Budai’s sole purpose is to invade their enemy territory - Kapilavastu. He’s 22 towns deep and only has 2 remaining in his way. Naradatta tells him of a prophesied “king of the world” and if he continues to wield his sword towards Kapilavastu, well, he won’t want to do that.

Stick with me, we’re getting places.


To secure his position and authority against some dumb prophesied king, General Budai plans to kill all survivors of this town.


By some Scooby-Doo level tom-foolery Tatta and a few of his gang end up inside the general’s room and start swinging at people with swords they magically have. Tatta announces himself by name and Naradatta is like “Hey now, I’m lookin’ fer ya”. Tatta obviously doesn’t care, soldiers come in and kill all of his friends, then Naradatta protects Tatta, claiming he is the chosen one.


For his transgression against Budai and willingness to save a Pariah, Tatta and Naradatta are next on the chopping block. But don’t worry, they’re saved when an immense swarm of locusts enters the town and starts eating people. But mostly only the bad or dead people. Either way, unprotected crops and food become almost nonexistent, Budai’s plans to invade are mostly ruined, and our small team are hiding in a shack in the desert. While there, Chapra finds a bag of rice in the shack. In Disney fashion, all the nearby remaining animals visit the shack. To the displeasure of the starving group Tatta takes the rice and distributes it evenly among all animals then the people. Hey this guy seems to exhibit some messianic qualities, amrit? Naradatta digs it. Chapra, not so much.


For no stated reason, Chapra decides he wants to ride into town atop a horse possessed by Tatta. Let’s just assume it’s about food. And to push the plot along, General Budai wants to go take a bath by himself in an alligator-infested river that’s conveniently placed between the shack and the castle. Budai doesn’t fare too well against the gators in their natural habitat and is saved by Chapra from both the gators and the vengeful wrath of horse-Tatta. Chapra then decides that this dude he’s never met will surely let him into his army and tells horse-Tatta -I shit you not- to wait for a few years for him to move up in the army. I’ll send an envoy, buddy.


Let’s just keep in mind real quick: He didn’t say goodbye when he left his mother, and now is now dragging that out for several more years. He left her with a monk and a street urchin.


Drama!


Chapra and Budai make it back and Budai makes him his son.


That, folks, is the first 3 chapters of the first book. Which means it’s a great time to speed this up. 


We come to you live from Kapilavastu where the king and queen learn through feelings and dreams that they will give birth to no ordinary child. 


Cut back. Chapra sucks at military, Budai discovers Chapra’s caste secret, Tatta does more stuff to display an understanding of balance between himself and nature. And a most wack yet kinda important character named Bandaka is introduced.


That’s two more chapters. Don’t sweat much more. We’re almost at the end.


There are two separate public competitions. In the first, Chapra bests the greatest fighters in Budai’s army. In breaking news, the magic child is born in Kapilavastu. Anyways, in the second contest Chapra bests the greatest fighters in the neighboring lands including the traveling warrior Bandaka, who then challenges Chapra 1-v-1 and mortally wounds our boy through DECEPTION. Naradatta, Tatta, and “mums” (Chapra’s mother) are privy to this underhandedness and meet with Budai. Naradatta asks Tatta to use his powers to reach the mountains to deliver a note to Master Asita asking how to save Chapra’s life. For the sake of drama, this dude ain’t on the mountains because he’s visiting the inconveniently birthed wee bebe.


Tatta then possesses a lay horse and rides it to its death, quickly switches to another horse and rides it to its death, then switches to a duck and flies until it’s attacked and killed by a hawk, then possesses the hawk and finally reaches Asita inside the palace of Kapilavastu where the king protects Asita by killing this foul fowl.


Asita is not happy that Naradatta is clearly an idiot and reaches out with psychic powers. First he tells him “You believe that human lives are sacrosanct while animal lives are worthless?!” then punishes him by sending him into the wilderness to live as an animal until he learns his lesson. But first! He’s able to provide instruction that saves Chapra’s life. Now beast mode! Aaaaand he’s gone.


For being a Shudra, Chapra’s mother must die. Chapra busts in, then kills the guards, after which he is taken to trial, judged, and sentenced to be killed. Tatta attempts to save them both but, in a poetic way, Chapra and his mom are speared together and fall off a cliffside. Tatta now has unencumbered revenge to enact.

Book one, mic drop.


Now’s also a good time to say that most of that volume is entirely fiction. Naradatta, Chapra, Tatta, Bandaka, General Budai - they’re all Tezuka’s creations. The events directly surrounding the birth of Siddhartha are all recorded, but that’s it. 


Characters


Rather than continue cruising through this epic like your dad’s mid-life crisis project car still sitting in the garage for a few decades, I think the most effective way to progress is to cover several of the most important characters. From what I can guess it seems like Tezuka is -in the most arduous way possible- trying to comment on the caste system from every fathomable angle; many of which are only slightly different than the next.


Note: while Siddhartha became Buddha, those are basically two different characters and I will use the names within their context.


Let’s get this theatrical role call moving with


Chapra


Because he’s already dead. He was the weak lowlife struggling to obtain a respectable position through mostly honorable means. He did some dumb stuff but in the end he was willing to throw it all away for his beliefs and only family.


Tatta


 is basically just an unguided Buddha. Very unguided. Later in life he kills a lot of people with minimal hesitation. He’s mostly go-with-the-flow when it comes to personal opinions on the caste. His want for revenge against the Kosalans never fully dissipates, but for the sake of his friend Siddhartha he spends a lot of time being a good person which only leads to every level of society abusing him and his eventual wife. In the beginning we see that he not only respects nature but has a deep bond with it. Over time he becomes so lost in his own revenge and despair he is no longer respected by animals and cannot link with their minds. He does reach a point of trying his damndest to be a good disciple but discipleship was never for him, as he eventually reneges on his promise of peace resulting in his life being abruptly squashed out while attempting to save a country that never loved him.


Naradatta 


is an oddly important character. He is the greatest example that the path to enlightenment is not always what one might expect. His was analogous to Sisyphus except instead of pushing a boulder up a hill his punishment is to push others to a better path while he lives as a beast. Some people search for him, hearing his legend, and others happen upon him. All are benefited by these interactions even if they don’t carry the benefits for long. You’ll be happy to know reaches enlightenment but only after a long and onerous life


Bandaka


 is… well, they never actually say what he is. But he must be Kshatriya because if nobody else cares, neither should we. He represents an insatiable hunger for physical strength; the kind of ruthless dude who doesn’t care about any form of life except his. Marriage only exists to move him up the social ladder and any subsequent offspring should exist to advance or maintain that position. The only way he knows to achieve and retain power is… with power. Even if he kinda only runs in place. After Siddhartha sneaks out of the country Bandaka is given control of Kapilavastu when Kosala begins attacking the country. His life is ended by a spear through the mouth in a great series of panels, which seems a fitting end for the big-mouthed character. Outside of hastily inserted drama his only true contribution is his first son who we’ll get to later.


Migaila


 is the boss bitch done dirty throughout every part of the story. She’s another bandit leader who appears right in the knick of narrated warnings, soon falls into a dangerous situation, is saved by a young Siddhartha then immediately falls in love with him as one does. Because of that love she competes in a THIRD contest of power that results in her getting tortured and having both eyes burned out. I completely forgot how many contests there were. This is really some DBZ level stuff. She eventually marries Tatta and much like him phases between continuing to be a bandit leader and being a follower of Buddha, albeit she keeps the path that Tatta abandons. 


King Suddhodana 


is Siddartha’s father and king of Kapilavastu. His mostly peaceful demeanor and strong desire to have someone succeed him causes a lot of problems and costs a lot of lives for which he blames others. Buddha -his son- calls him out on this. He’s the manifestation of Kapilavastu’s health. And because Siddhartha was expected to take his place, Kapilavastu is a repeated struggle. He is so lost in the belief that “the kingdom” has something to do with lineage that he doesn’t even see the kingdom itself.


Devadatta


is a piece of shit. But he sure is an impactful character. Devadatta is the first child of Bandaka. He starts life as a crybaby who ends up murdering a bunch of similarly aged kids for selfish reasons and without any remorse. We’re talking like 4 years old. He eventually becomes a manipulative little shit who not only uses the skills of so many others to improve his social standing but begins undermining Buddha the moment he has anything resembling real religious power. Deva is kinda the opposite side of the coin as Bandaka. Both believe in strength over others as the ultimate way to live, only Devadatta is more into manipulation, which so many people fall victim to in our tale. There are too many examples to list, but he eventually dethrones a king and runs it from the sidelines. Don’t worry, he also dies a very dumb and preventable death.



Yashodara and Rahula


Don’t even worry about these two. They’re nothing important. Only Siddhartha’s wife and son. They only appear in like 2 different parts of the story. Yashodara is basically a forced MacGuffin and Rahula is there for narrative drama. To be fair! They were historically left in the dust, too. 


King Bimbisara


Is the well-meaning king of Magadha and his biggest supporter. We meet him when he’s the age of Siddhartha. He is the one who names Siddhartha “Buddha”, though this is pre-enlightenment. Much later in life he gives Buddha an entire forest in which to teach. When Siddhartha first meets King Bimbisara he is joined by a prophet who tells the king he’s going to die by his son’s hand in 20 years. This weighs heavily on his mind for… y’know, 20 years. The peaceful man who has everything and believes in Siddhartha and Buddha’s message is so inwardly focused that he tries to kill his son at birth, ostracizes him through his life, THEN locks him up like a prisoner under some pretty insane rules for YEARS, effectively conducting his own exile and later demise.


Prince Ajatasattu


Is the son of King Bimbisara. If you haven’t noticed a pattern here, all the princes are -in some way- the downfall of their parents. Ajatasattu is unloved by his father whose attention he desperately seeks. This unrequited pleading causes Ajatasattu to hate Buddha. Even while imprisoned he experiences love of one Shudra. That doesn’t go well as the king has her killed. Through the shifty workings of Devadatta, Ajatasattu gains control of the kingdom and throws his father into prison.



King Prasenajit


is the easily angered king of the neighboring land of Kosala. He creates his own future problem by only teaching his son to be a dick. He’s the king who is always on the verge of destroying everything but also isn’t all that bright. With no other royal singles ready to mingle in his area and a powerful army, he forces the hand of the Shakya into giving him a royal wife. Only they don’t dig the pressure so they instead train up a slave to be his wife. This is found out years later and does not go well for anyone. He is unchecked power. If Bandaka is unchecked want for power, Prasenaijt is what Bandaka could become. Prasenajit’s death may be the best in the story. He betrays then is betrayed by his own son. Being the dick he is, he seeks only revenge and finds no help because all his friends are dead. His end is beautiful. Earlier in the story he was visited by Buddha, finally gets a moment of clarity, throws it away, plans for violence AGAIN, then dies in the mud like a beggar.



Prince Virudhaka


 aka Prince Crystal aka the son of King Prasenajit. He begins his life thinking himself royalty only to discover the shudra blood that pumps through his veins. He’s definitely a hypocrite in that he quote “believes so much in the caste system” unquote that he kicks his own mother out of the castle because she’s a slave. Down the line Virudhaka is tasked with basically torturing the Shakya to death by making them do mundane tasks. He eventually becomes swayed by Buddha’s teachings but almost immediately goes right back to being a dick thanks to his father AND Tatta’s untimely interference.



Dhepa


is both the devil on Siddhartha’s shoulder and a great supporter of Buddha. He was Kshatriya caste but abandoned it to become a Samanna, which is someone who abandons everything regardless of caste to seek a higher meaning. He is a hardcore believer in ascetisism; that the more you suffer in life the more you’ll be requitted in the afterlife. So hardcore that Migaila dares him to burn an eye out for his convictions and he DOES IT. He spends so much time pushing Siddhartha to live the life of an ascetic and mocks him for abandoning those practices. But once the Buddha arrives he is a devout follower until the end of his days - with only one minor hiccup between those two points. 



Yatala! 



Mah boi! He is a tool. That is basically his entire role is to be a tool to display how weak the rulers would be without the lesser caste, and he has a smaller role of trying to remind certain higher caste members . Imagine the Incredible Hulk. But he just lives out in the wilderness. So like a Yeti, or Zack from Neatcast. Yatala’s father was a Shudra who studied nature and the sciences. For that, he and his wife were tortured and eventually -very unceremoniously- executed. Before their execution he created and gave Yatala a concoction that made him impervious to harm and stronger than any ox or elephant. Because he grew up in the woods he isn’t very intelligent, but there is a great kind-heartedness to him. 



Animals



Before we reach the final 3 characters I’m gonna give an honorable mention to all the animals in the story. There. Are. A. Lot. Snakes, hawks, ducks, elephants, horses. So many animals who are forced to tell the same story over and over and over again. Pour one out for the animals who died for Tezuka to get his point across.



Ananda


Is the second son of Bandaka’s former wife - she doesn’t have a name btw. Hey guess what, we have another Buddha-like character. If Tatta is the impulsive, moral dark-grey area Buddha, Ananda is the “what if Buddha were pure evil” definitely bad Buddha. Where Tatta hates Kosala, Ananda hates all of mankind. And where Tatta never quite gets a grip on being peaceful, Anada gets full retribution and becomes Buddha’s right hand man. It’s worth noting that, in infancy, his parents agreed to let a demon possess him in exchange for saving his life. The demon Mara wants to see Siddhartha fail but this is only used when Tezuka remembers and only for minimal dramatic effect. 


Assaji


I saved Assaji for second-to-last because he is one of the most important characters in the series even if he’s pretty short lived. During Siddhartha and Dhepa’s early travels they come across a family in the countryside who have too many kids and shaft their son Assaji onto the duo. Assaji can clearly see into the future without hesitation. He can see his own death and confidently goes through life being the best example Siddhartha could ask for despite being a complete novice.



Siddhartha aka Buddha


Here we are at the final and most important guy - our MC, Siddhartha. He knows what he wants to believe but doesn’t know how to fully embrace it. He had the opportunity to be given the world yet rejects it in order to give a greater gift to a greater crowd down the line. He is imperfect and struggles through many real-world problems. His actions had very real-world consequences but within our own narrative those consequences aren’t strictly his fault and he does accept them and grow as a character.


Earlier I mentioned similarities between Tatta and Siddhartha. Siddhartha accidentally reaches into the minds of animals as a child but learns how to intentionally do it much later. Opposite Tatta who easily connects in childhood then loses it as an adult. 


If this felt like a lot, don’t worry. Not only were these entries extremely abridged, but there were loads more characters of varying depths in the manga.


Likes


I’m gonna do my likes first because… you’ll understand later.

The greatest praise is that Tezuka had the time to just make 3k pages of manga, spanning 11 years. You can’t knock that kind of effort.


Buddha’s halo is made very apparent and that is a great attention to detail. 

As is tradition, the overall art is great. As Buddha gets older you can see the difference. Sick characters look as disgusting as they’re written. The action sequences translate well from panel to panel. There are many amazing nature scenes and money shots of various characters which is consistent with Tezuka’s art style. 

Naradatta’s nigh-bookend tale was as heartwarming as it was sad. King Prasenajit’s end felt great. One of the characters I skipped, Visakha, had yet another great tale wrapped in sadness that ends in salvation. 


For a story containing so many bald people, Tezuka does a great job of having notably identifying characteristics for each person. To compound this comment: there’s barely ever any mention of passing time, yet you can generally tell time has passed based on character traits. Some people get fatter or just less in shape, balder, maybe a little more rugged, wrinkles under the eyes. I wish there were a little more specificity but this was a great exercise in talent.


While the obvious message of “all life is sacred” cannot be missed it’s worth noting that Siddhartha’s struggles with Kapilavastu and the abandonment of his people is also a great message. He was expected to be something he never asked to be, many died as a result -again, not entirely his fault- but he pushed through and ended up spreading his message further.


Dislikes


The dislikes are greater in quantity than usual but hey. 3k pages, okay? So let’s jump right in.


I’m not going to fault this for stretching the truth or not being historically accurate. Once again, this is a children’s manga and its creator admitted that it was never about accuracy.


Nothing seems misogynistic but the greatest utilization of any woman in this story is basically to improve how we feel about a man. Yashodara, Migaila, Sujata, Vishakya, and others all could have had more focus This could be subconsciously due in part to Japanese Buddhism’s view on women. Or maybe he just didn’t think about it. Pretty sure the historical records aren’t any more graceful but it was worth mentioning. 


Personally, the choices made concerning when to use comedy and intense drama or violence were very jarring and insanely overdone. And I guess the real complaint there is that it’s inconsistent. 


Clouds gather and a ray of light pinpoints the place of the child’s birth. All of nature gathers to greet the future saint. Immediately after birth, Maya, Siddhartha’s mother and queen of Kapilavastu, is dying due to blood poisoning. The servants rush her palanquin back home and swim through a lake while singing “Row row row your boat” followed by the king’s servants -one bearing a Hyoutan-tsugi for a face- falling from the sky as they relay the news of her health to the king. Suddodhana jumps and does a split in surprise of her earthly departure, followed by their beautiful parting words and a dramatic panel of the king holding his newborn. 


Now, the “row row row your boat” part may be liberal localization on Vertical’s part, but the panel itself is silly so I’m inclined to believe they’re not far off from the intended effect. Even re-reading this section confuses me. 


This story is as childish as Paw Patrol and instantly graphic as Suicide Club or Battle Royale. Just imagine they’re happening at the same time. It doesn’t feel like this would cater well to either age group outside of nostalgia.


Back in Episode 3 I mentioned Tezuka’s Star System. Quick refresh: he treats his characters like stage actors who make appearances in other content. It’s fun to see someone like Astro Boy “acting” like a small boy with no powers. However, in this manga the Star System is used all the dang time and almost exclusively for single panels. And to further the problem they will make some comment only that character would make. This normally wouldn’t be an issue but combine it with my previous complaint and it feels like someone is constantly nudging you during the most intense parts of a movie to ask if you got the references. I would rather characters have just existed. Let them breathe a little. To my contrary, Rock Holmes plays a young King Bimbisara and Mustachio plays a detective and only the former really feels like it fits.


It’s worth noting that quoted people and various articles praise the series for the humor. Maybe this just wasn’t my style. Maybe they haven’t read the same manga I have, let alone more Tezuka. 


If any of my individual character efforts have paid off you hopefully picked up on the fact that so many characters have very similar stories. Tezuka was asked to display the class discrimination in the prologue. So he took almost 400 pages to tell the story of completely fictional characters just to turn around and use 3600 pages to do it again and again and again. Which leads me to a quote from Tezuka. In that earlier mentioned afterword Tezuka says “If all those fictional characters or elements are removed from the work, you'll notice just a very few parts are left”. But we already know about 400 pages could be removed because most of these characters are an excuse to open doors in the most dramatic way that could absolutely have been opened in quicker and more relevant ways.


So many stories would have been more influential had they been more akin to parables as opposed to retaining a massive cast and fleshing out every single aspect of every single person. This complaint is followed by the cast of characters who did have parabolic lifespans, provided the perfect gateway for some kind of message, but were just there for dramatic effect. There was a minor romance story between Chapra and a neighboring princess that never meant anything in the long run because he’s dead and she is never mentioned again. Even Siddhartha had a love interest of sorts who died and her only reason to exist was for Siddhartha to prove that he could connect with the universe. He literally pulls her spirit back from the dead -pre-enlightenment- and she is NEVER mentioned again. These are just two of many. 


Do you know what else happens with too many characters? Well, both Devadatta and Ananda are royalty. Their mother was a Shakya noble who somehow married both a nobody who became king AND a peasant. But don’t worry. None of that is ever addressed.


 This did not need 3k pages nor did it need so many characters, particularly when that results in losing its own point.

Tezuka has great work thus far but Buddha doesn’t do it for me. A lot of people slap this with a 5-star review but none are very young children so I’m at a loss.


Hey that’s it for negativity let’s move on to

Accolades

I think the most important accolade anyone can ever hope for is to change a culture. In Japan, Buddha was almost exclusively referred to as Shakyamuni (釈迦牟尼) meaning “Sage of the Shakya”. This work was titled “Buda” in katakana, which then became the frequent transcription of the name.


Buddha received the Eisner Award in 2004 (for vols. 1-2) and 2005 (for vols. 3-4) for Best U.S. Edition of International Material, and was also nominated again in 2006.


Won the Harvey award in 2005-2006 Best American Edition of Foreign Material.


Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics raved about it.


The used and unused resources 

Resources


TezukaOsamu.net

TezukaInEnglish.com

Wikipedia

Don't be a Jerk - Brad Warner

The Buddha and his Dhamma - B. R. Ambedkar

Herman Hesse - Siddhartha


But enough about Buddha, it's time for

Nacho Business

C L E A R L Y a lot has happened since the last episode so I’m not gonna bore you with every little thing. But I have been reading and watching a lot.


As for the reading I want to recommend you check out a few books: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. It released a few months ago and is just a plain charming, quick weekend read. Maybe not for young children but easily for teens. Scalzi was already on my list and definitely needs to get moved up.


Next up is A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, particularly the audiobook narrated by Paul Giamatti. Man, not only is this one of the saddest things I’ve ever read but Paul’s performance really knocks it out of the park. The afterword kicks you right square in the gut. I do like me some depressing stuff, particularly when written well.


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by french author Patrick Süskind. This is like “What if Douglas Adams wrote a story about a murderer?” It’s extremely dark humor that, personally, bridges the gaps between what I know of European and Japanese humor. There is a bit of a disturbing part in the middle but I promise it’s there for a reason and the juice is worth the squeeze.


Lastly and certainly not least: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree. I’m about 80% complete at the point of this writing but it has been so damn delightful. Very short read. Nothing too dramatic. If you’re into fantasy, D&D, and chilling at coffee shops, this is perfect for you.


On the watching end I’m gonna recommend Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, NOPE, and Prey (the new Predator film). 

Future content

Halloween is upon the horizon and I intend to have several TWIMB episodes out before the end of October. Some with important guests, some with just my own babbling, but all featuring great content including such terrifying greats as Junji Ito and the return of Clive Barker.


Keep your eyes peeled and slam your face into that subscribe button if you haven't already. 

Plugs

I’m gonna plug whoever listens to my podcast because my weekly download numbers have still been great despite the silence. 


If you’re interested in more of my material, like I said earlier you can find me on Podcasters Assembled and an upcoming episode of Epik Fails of History with Erik Slader. 


You can find me on any social media platform by searching for TWIMB. I’m most active on Twitter.


While we’re here, have you read Buddha before? If so, what are your thoughts? If you have any suggestions, questions, comments, or life advice, just shoot me an email at TWIMBPodcast@gmail.com


Enjoy yet another lack of signoff.