Phoenix Dawn Vol. 1

GameStop, Inc.

Whitney Graceby Whitney Grace
Staff Writer
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The Phoenix Cycle has long been lauded as Osamu Tezuka’s, better known as the god of manga, crowning jewel. He began work in the series as early as 1954 and left it unfinished in 1989 due to his death. Viz published the series in the early 2000s, but it fell out of print and some volumes could fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay due to their limited quantity. It has been curious why Viz hasn’t rereleased the books, perhaps it was due to printing costs and low sales. The problem can now be remedied with Viz’s manga app and the publisher is slowly releasing the digital versions to share with a new generation of manga readers.

Phoenix DawnAll books in The Phoenix Cycle revolve on the mythical bird that is reborn from its fiery corpse. In Tezuka’s version of the myth, the Phoenix’s blood is said to grant immortality and a main plot point in the series is killing the Phoenix. The first book in the series is called Dawn and it is set in Japan’s early days, when it was still divided into warring island kingdoms. The manga has several storylines that interconnect. It begins with Hinaku and Nagi, a brother and sister, mourning the loss of Hinaku’s husband and how Em Dee, a physician, comes to their village. He becomes very well respected, even marrying Hinaku, but really he is a spy and signals to an invading armada. The entire village is slaughtered, except for Nagi, Em Dee, and Hinaku. Nagi is taken prisoner by the leading warrior Surata, who ends up adopting him as a son. Meanwhile Em Dee and Hinaku remain on the island and start a family. The Phoenix flies in and out the story, making comments on life as she avoids hunters. The story culminates with a volcanic eruption and a bloody battle.

Had Dawn not been part of a larger series, it could easily stand on its own as a highly original and classic Tezuka comic. He combines historic references, mythology, and compelling drama into one story. Not only that, but he tosses in some philosophical lessons about life, living, and death. He keeps the pace running smoothly with pauses to enjoy the scenery or to toss in a joke. Characters are more like props in Phoenix. They play out actions that allude to greater whole, unlike other Tezuka dramas where the character is the story-here they’re more like metaphors.

The art has the wacky combination that is Tezuka’s trademark. He combines gorgeous backgrounds and settings with cartoonish character designs that anyone would think belongs in a children’s comic. However, these characters are shown killing and doing other incorrigible deeds. It is a unique style that is entrenched in history and is under represented in modern manga.

After reading this volume, readers will understand why Tezuka is a master storyteller. Thank goodness Viz has rereleased The Phoenix Cycle.

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