MW is a story about morality, government/military genocide via chemical weapon, and homosexuality, as well as a few touches of religious influence and strenuous anarchy. These same themes and observations can be applied to current day as well, although some are certainly more direct than others. Through characters struggling with shadowed guilt and doubt, Osamu Tezuka’s intense, and at times bizarre, manga may very well be his adult masterpiece.
Before this book, my exposure to Tezuka was limited, save for a select few Astro Boy episodes, but mostly from the chapters of Black Jack that were published in Manga Vision. In a way, I think this helped me to analyze MW on its own, rather than compare it to other stories by Tezuka. Readers who are not familiar with Tezuka’s art in combination with his more mature examples of storytelling may find the contrast between the cartoonish faces and heavy themes jarring, but MW might work better this way. The conflicts presented, both political and personal, are certainly rocky territory.
The demonically influential character Yuki manifests at first in the form a sexually abused child, who years later has become a violent, nihilistic sociopath. He rapes and kills women and then dresses up as them to kill more people on his path to kill literally everyone in the world. The way Yuki thinks is fascinating, although at times over-the-top in his motivations, but Tezuka has a a strong enough grip on this plot, which intertwines back and forth through logic and circumstance. Yuki’s sexual abuser Garai became a priest, and he still interacts with Yuki and the twisted monster he has become. From the perspective of Garai, Yuki provides a difficult antagonist, and his disturbing behavior catapults the plot.
As the story goes on, things get more out of control, and as mentioned, Yuki’s goal is seen as someone who wishes to destroy the entire human race. It’s a fairly lofty goal to say the least. Yet, despite the drastic series of events, Tezuka really does a good job containing the scenario in a way that leaves MW reading as a really addictive thriller. The most obvious manga comparison would perhaps be Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, although given the art and grace of the storytelling, Monster will most likely age better than MW by the time it reaches the mileage of years.
Nonetheless, MW is a great book. It’s a twisted story that is said to be Tezuka’s defining response to the gekiga movement that had occurred within the few recent years before MW was made. But despite its importance within the world of manga, even under any other author, the writing for MW provides a really tense page-turner.