I always underestimated Anime/Manga. Thought they were far too simple (as in the drawings) and they were all the same. I could never tell the difference between two characters. All had the same spiky hair style and the pointed nose. There was no way I was going to read Manga.
And that was until I read Apollo's Song by Osamu Tezuka.
Osamu Tezuka is known as the "GodFather of Anime" and rightly so. His contribution to Anime is and will be considered as great a contribution by Disney to Animation. His fans address him as "the father of manga" and "the god of comics" sometimes. The wiki link is quite useful in knowing more about Osamu Tezuka, in case you are interested. Though Apollo is not touted to be his best work, his claim to fame was the "Astro Boy". The story of Astro Boy is uncannily similar to that of Enthiran. :)
Now coming to Apollo's song.
I definitely recommend reading the wiki page before you start reading the comic, if you are the one who wants to read and understand more about the nature of the comic.
Coming back to the comic. The story starts on a serious note - as to why do humans mate. And then the story clips to Shogo Chikaishi,a young boy, who is brought to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist gives him an electric shock and it 'tele'ports him into an imaginary world, where an Athena like goddess goes through his past and declares that
(he) would have to experience love across different time periods for the rest of eternity, dying repeatedly until he can one day understand the true meaning of love.
From that point onwards the story is 'penta'furcated. Each one is a masterpiece by itself.
First part is titled Die Blumen und die Leiche. Meaning Flowers and the Corpse. Shogo is a Nazi soldier on a train that is transporting Jews to a concentration camp. An allied attack forces Shogo to rescue and elope a Jew girl - Elise, who thinks that Shogo was responsible for the attack and shoots at him. As he lays, dying, some German soldiers arrive at the place and try to rape the girl. Shogo using the last of his strength rescues the girl however both die. In each other's arms.
Second Part is No Man' Land. Shogo is a pilot with a young female reporter and the plane crashes onto an island. For his hunger, Shogo kills a rabbit. This was against the law of the Jungle and the rabbits physically hurt Naomi, almost maiming her. Shogo learns the rules of the Jungle and nurses Naomi back to health. Shogo and Naomi both know that they like each other but Naomi has a lot more at stake. Just when they realise that they are in love, comes a ship full of poachers that wants these animals. In the scuffle that ensues Naomi is shot and killed. Shogo dies in the subsequent Volcano explosion.
Third Part actually happens in the real world and is titled "The Coach". Shogo escapes from the psychiatrist asylum after killing a nymphomaniac and another woman. As he runs away from the police he is rescued by a woman, Hiromi who has seen him run and wants to coach him to be Marathon runner so that one day he can run the marathon for her. Naomi's fiance is also a trainer and wants Shogo in his team and tries to lure him into his team, but Shogo refuses. An altercation happens and Shogo is found lying half dead in a valley.
Fourth Part is called Queen Sigma and happens sometime in future. Shogo has reached a world where clones called Synthians have overtaken the world and in-order for humans to survive it is necessary to kill Queen Sigma and Shogo is chosen for the job. Shogo succeeds only to realise that no-matter how many times he eliminates the Queen, she will keep coming back. Finally when he realises that he is in love with Queen Sigma, the Queen's bodyguard (another clone) kills Shogo.
Fifth and final part is titled Lover's Hill. And it continues in reality. Shogo rescues a girl from a double suicide case. When confessing to Hiromi that he had pushed the dead body of the guy off the cliff to infuse some sense into the woman, she overhears it and jumps off from the cliff. Meanwhile the Psychiatrist arrives at Hiromi's place and asks her to become "The Laurel Wreath".
Shogo overhears this and tries to run away from the place. Hiromi and her fiance try to race each other in order to find Shogo and the result is an accident where Hiromi is very badly injured. Shogo picks up her body and walks around the forest only to realise that is surrounded and he is going to be arrested. As a last resort, he dumps Hiromi's body in an oil barrel and challenges the Police to shoot him, which they do.
Shogo once again reaches the abode of Athena where she proclaims judgement that Shogo would have to go through this endless cycle of finding-love and losing it.
The dialogues are crisp. Totally awesome. Black and white imagery is kind of hard-hitting. Expressions are nicely evolved. Shogo's face somehow almost always carries a smile. Could have avoided that. Each and every character has been carefully characterized, giving importance to facial features and language. This is easily one of the best comics I have read till date.
Brilliant would be an understatement.
P.S:- Osamu Tezuka's masterpiece - Buddha - Next Comic Book review.. :)