Direction: Right to Left
by Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: DMP Platinum
Genre: Action, Mystery, Sci-fi, Seinen
Amidst the chaos of World War II, two Japanese soldiers hear of Zephyrus, an utterly captivating woman rumored to exist on an island in the South Pacific. The tales of this bold enchantress seducing men to their dooms are both chilling and fascinating. Over twenty years pass, and Zephyrus resurfaces in Japan, seemingly unchanged, to wield her mysterious power over men once more. The one man immune to Zephyrus’ charms is simple drunkard, Gohonmatsu Seki, son of one of the wartime soldiers. Employed to spy on Zephyrus, what will Gohonmatsu uncover about her ultimate plot to create international discord and consume the world of men? What brought this woman to conspire for decades against patriarchal society – against an entire gender – and can anything be done to stop her plans?
There’s really only two characters of note in this huge volume, which I found surprising. Gohonmatsu Seki, and Milda.
Gohonmatsu Seki is an unusual character right from the outset. His personality is well defined from the beginning, and while he does not change much over the volume, he does change those around him. In this way he’s more of a catalyst character. I love his character design, and the way Tezuka envisioned him. I was also impressed with the way Tezuka is able to keep the design consistent through out the volume.
Milda our heroin of the volume…sort of. She goes through a lot of personality changes over the course of the volume, and I found it fun following her changes. I was especially happy with the way she first experiences love, and has to come to terms with and the repercussions.
Her character design for a huge part of the volume is static and a bit off, but this was deliberate. As a result we tend to focus a lot more on her personality, and building up another image of her in our minds. When her real character design is finally revealed I found I liked it, more so than her original one. Though she does end up reminding me of Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The story is nothing more than a simple quest for revenge. Milda’s mother finds out her husband wasn’t the nice man she thought he was. He married her just to get to her father’s research, which he promptly started to sell to the Nazi’s. When he tries to move her father to a Nazi laboratory he kills himself.
She runs off with her children and ends up on a island where they remain the rest of their lives. As she lies dying she begs her daughters to do several things, Destroy the worlds economy, Destroy the Laws, and Destroy Men. What follows are the years of the daughters putting that request into practice.
The actual story takes place in the final stages as things finally come to a head, and then the final culmination.
This was my first Osamu Tezuka title, I have refused to buy any of his works previously for a simple reason, they’re to expensive. His works are published by both Digital Manga Publishing, and Vertical, and both publishers give his releases a higher than average price tag.
DMP’s release of Swallowing the Earth has a price point of £18.99, which can get you three or four normally priced manga. Vertical’s releases have a price point of £14.99 which is double the normal price of manga. Sure you can get the manga cheaper online, but not from your local book stores.
The other reason I did not buy any was that I did not want to take a gamble on an unknown manga-ka that was so expensive to get. What if I had hated it? I would have been stuck with an expensive manga I most likely would never read again.
What a shame I wasted so much time in getting around to reading it!! Thank you to Kim (aka: ShroudDancer and The Kimi-chan Experience) for giving me the push to read it. And a HUGE thank you to DMP for letting me review this title on their eManga site.
I found the initial editorial pages an okay read, and extras like this always show just how much love the editorial team has towards their project. Though I only read stuff like that once, then skip over it from then on.
The manga itself starts off on an interesting turn, setting up the character of Zephyrus. It then fast forwards and picks up at a fairly good point.
The characters we get introduced to from the outset are interesting in several ways. Firstly they look more like olden american comic characters rather than manga characters. In fact if they flipped it and switched a few location names you would most likely never know any difference.
It also starts with the story well underway, and almost completed. This does mean for a bit of pondering as to what’s happening at first, but I like the way the back story is revealed.
Seki is an excellent lead character, the way he goes through the story blindly unaware of things was just hilarious. However what was really amazing (for me at least) was the relationship between Milda (Zephyrus) and Seki. When they first meet Milda has nothing but disdain for Seki, but over the course of their interactions she slowly falls in love with him. However at first she’s unaware that what she feels is love, and struggles to come to terms with it.
Seki meanwhile does not seem to feel anything towards her, other than that she’s a con artist. His only desire is to drink all the liquor in the world. Yet after agreeing to look in Zephyrus for a friend of his fathers, and for 300,000yen. He discovers that things aren’t what they appear to be, and ends up being chased not only by Zephyrus, but also the man that hired him.
What follows are a series of adventures (or miss-adventures) that see him ending up travelling world trying to stop what Zephyrus has planed.
As the story progresses Milda is considered a traitor by her sisters for loving Seki, and ends up imprisoned. We last see her lamenting her situation and wanting to be with Seki.
However we get several other mini stories that while on the surface seem unrelated, really set to help reinforce the feelings of the women involved. I really liked the mini that dealt with the oil well, which showed that Milda was not alone among her sisters, others of them could and did fall in love.
I was a bit disappointed with the way Tezuka suddenly brought Milda back into the story. The was no explanation as to how she escapes from a supposedly escape proof prison, on an island in the middle of the sea, and gets to Japan. The sudden from Zephyrus to Milda was also not explained, again a flaw in the story.
However Tezuka does recover fairly quickly for me, with the way the story develops from there. The way the story ends up, with Seki and Milda living together, and getting married was really touching. I especially loved the way the remaining sisters returned. I won’t talk about the last part of the manga since it would spoil I 😀 but I really loved the way the story goes a full circle, and the way it ends made me laugh.
At the end of the volume I realised several things, the volume is a one-shot that’s worth every penny it costs to buy; especially when you consider the page count. Also, I had just read an amazing manga that I had not been able to put down once I started reading.
I do not like recommending manga really, since what I like is what I like, and not everyone will like it as well. However if you’re looking for a Osamu Tezuka manga to start off with, this is definitely the one you should try.
Like Utena, this is a manga that is ageless, despite having been created in the late sixties, it is still entertaining and enjoyable.
I like the cover design of the volume, considering the age of the manga, it makes sense for it to have an old school feel cover to it, DMP got the design spot on.
The editing of the manga was really well done, with inline notes on cultural or technical terms. The text was easy to read and follow, the font’s used were not hard to see, and were of a good size and colour. This was especially true of the out of bubble and thought text, which are usually the bits hard to read.