Since Vertical has been doing such a wonderful job repackaging some of Osamu Tezuka's more familiar comics in the last year or so, I decided to give some of their earlier efforts a try. Naturally, I would love to own them all, and wish I had the disposable income to get everything they've released, but for now, I just settled on Apollo's Song, a done-in-one omnibus edition of a strange serial that Tezuka penned in 1970 for the magazine Shonen King.
Over 500-plus pages, we follow the story of a young sociopath called Shogo, whose unhappy upbringing has made him violently enraged by anybody expressing love, and who takes out his wrath on animals. The court sentences him to a facility where he's given electroshock treatment, and hallucinates that he's been sent, helpless, to appear before a love goddess who has her own sentence on him. From there, Shogo drifts to other lives in other pasts or worlds where he can learn a lesson or two about being true to his emotions, and understanding what loss really means.
It's a very strange, but very engrossing story. Somehow, Shogo becomes a sympathetic character despite everything he's done, and the worlds where Tezuka dumps the kid are fascinating. Oddest of all is an island where Shogo and a photographer are stranded, alongside a menagerie of intelligent animals who have their own surprising take on discretion while mating... sort of a reverse elephant's graveyard.
I liked this a lot, and was completely taken by each of the new worlds Shogo is sent. The artwork is terrific and constantly surprising, both in concept and execution - a graveyard in the future story is a complete stunner - and there's so much going on under the surface that any reader will find a great deal of subtext to reconsider. On the other hand, I was displeased that Vertical flipped the artwork to read English-direction. Happily, they've stopped this practice. Although possibly not the very best first choice for your Tezuka library, this comes recommended for older readers.