February 10, 2014
Triton of the Sea
My translation of Osamu Tezuka's Triton of the Sea garnered a decent pair of reviews here and here.
Triton of the Sea is an impressive piece of work, a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions. Two brothers (the orphaned Triton is adopted) set out on missions of revenge and terrible things happen along the way as a result. Not exactly a crowd-pleaser of a plot.
Even so, the story is never depressingly nihilistic, the evil Poseidons get their comeuppance (in a scene straight out of a 1960s Bond flick), and it ends on an up note. The violence is stark at times though never explicit (by the end of the 1970s manga would lose those inhibitions).
The story is leavened by clever social commentary, goofy humor, and in-jokes (that require an understanding of late 1960's Japanese politics). The giant tortoise Ganomoth plays the Yoda to Triton's Luke, warning that destroying Poseidon will exact a steep cost.
Compared to Tezuka, fellow manga pioneer Shigeru Mizuki (who lost an arm in WWII and defined the manga horror genre) is the more exacting artist. Tezuka is revered as the "father of manga," but I think Mizuki deserves credit for the pen & ink look of modern manga.
There's a great scene in NHK's biopic series about Mizuki that has him hunched over a desk creating a full page comic panel in the pointillist style, going dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot with a dip pen and a bottle of India ink for hours.
If Tezuka is the Walt Disney of Japan, Mizuki is Japan's Rod Serling, though he is known mostly for his kid's series, Ge-Ge-Ge no Kitaro. Tezuka remains the master of the epic narrative. As the above reviews note, even at 2000 pages, Triton of the Sea can feel rushed.