What I Just Finished Reading: "Ayako" by Osamu Tezuka

Title: Ayako
Artist/Author: Osamu Tezuka
ISBN-10: 1935654780
First Impressions:
Holy crap! This book is thick! It’s starts off as a super cool spy story with horrible artwork and then turns into some hillbilly incest train wreck of the likes of the worst reality television show. There is way too much incest in this manga… ugh… why????  The super spy story portion is quite enjoyable. The hillbilly incest story is … well, if you like this sort of thing it’s good. Personally, I don’t like the subject matter, but it’s told well. However mixing a super spy thriller with an hillbilly incest train wreck drama is like someone taking a crap in my ice cream.
Artwork — B: I do not like Tezuka’s drawing style, but I understand that was the style of the time. I found it confusing because it looks like old Popeye or Disney comics, but the drawings depict serious drama and include sexual situations. It also feels like the character designs are horribly racist.  But again, that’s me imposing my modern sensibilities.  However, the backgrounds are detailed and the pages that narrate the historical context are lovely.
Presentation — A:  It’s a nice looking book even though it’s a tome. The lettering is easy to read and the translation reads well, even though the simulated hillbilly speak was kinda hard to parse at times.  But if you’ve ever been to a town in the deep South, you’d know that it sounds like the townsfolk are speaking a foreign language (first hand experience).
The Story — B:  This is kinda tough because I loved the spy portion of the story, but got tired of the incest hillbilly story. And then combining the two together was almost unbearable for me.  I understand how they tie in, but I think the country part of the story needed to be toned down or maybe less time should have been devoted to it. Either way, it was too much for me.
Overall — B+:  Taking my preferences out of it, this was a nicely drawn expertly spun story. The pacing was good and there was never a time when I was bored.  I also learned a little something about Post War II Japan. Inserting my preferences, I loved the super-spy story and could have done with a lot of less of the stuff that happened in the country. I think it would have been far more interesting to have Ayako arrive in the story without us knowing a thing about her and then having the past events explained in short flashbacks.  Should you buy it?  If you wanna read some classic manga because you’re curious, go for it!  If a spy thriller mixed in with a hillbilly incest drama sounds interesting to you, go for it! If you like your nice and safe shoujo bubble, skip this, put it out of your mind, and go back to your sparkling bishounens. Me? I’ve got one more Tezuka book on my shelf and after I read it, I’m done with Tezuka. I don’t need to read anymore because so far I’ve found Tezuka’s manga to be unpleasant.


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