The twelve self-contained yet interlinked stories that compose Phoenix (Hi no Tori) is considered by many to be the summit of Osamu Tezuka's artistic achievement. Tezuka himself referred to Phoenix as his "life work." Painstakingly composed over a span of decades (initial versions appeared as early as 1954), serialised in a number of venues, and left incomplete with Tezuka's death in 1989, Phoenix represents Tezuka's ambitious attempt to push all he knew about the comics medium to address fundamental questions about existence.
Such is the brief summary that can be found within this manga.
This is the first Tezuka manga I've ever read, moreover it's the oldest manga I've ever read. This volume was published in 1967, and in certain aspects this is quite obviously noticable. Times have changed, and initially I had a hard time getting into the manga. Not due to some translation issues, or because I had to adjust to the classic Tezuka artstyle. Rather, I was constantly caught off guard with the 4th-wall-breaking slapstick comedy. I did not expect that at all, especially considering the amount of violence contained within Phoenix. The plotline basically leads you from one genocide to the other. Thousands upon thousands are murdered, but at the next page there'll be an inane piece of Disney-esque humor waiting for you.
It has even more to offer than that though. This is not just a thriller with some occasional comedy. Phoenix also explores philosophical territory. It poses some hard existential questions and hints you toward answers as well. Phoenix has everything. Well, maybe not everything. There is no moe (thank god.)
The occasional comedy keeps breaking the 4th wall, even when the story is nearing its conclusion. However, you'll get used to this soon enough. It really helps that every volume is a self-contained story. Volume 1 spans over 340 pages, and the pacing is absolutely superb. There is never a dull moment.
I can easily say that this is one of the best manga I've ever read, therefor I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone. Even if you've never read a manga, this is a good place to start. Since the stories are self-contained, you can always use one volume to determine if this manga is your cup of tea. At the last page, the tale has concluded and you're left with a sense of furfillment instead of a nerve racking cliffhanger.
I've not even told you what Phoenix is about yet... It's about mankind's quest for immortality, to put it simply. And, well... There's nothing simple about that.
Now I'm going to post some scans, to illustrate my points. Check out the gallery for high-resolution scans.TYPOGRAPHY
Is Tezuka just experimenting for the heck of it here? Is it 100% intentional? Regardless, it was an annoyance to me.
(HER POWER WAS AWESOME.)GENOCIDE
Hurray! Jolly good fun.YAOI
This has to be the most awkward Yaoi scene I have ever seen. Yes, they're both guys. Yes, one of them was stung by hundreds of hornets.MORE GENOCIDE
This is actually the page right after the Yaoi scene. Yeah...COMEDY
A pack of vicious wolves is attacking the protagonist.
What is this, I don't even...WOMEN AND WORDS OF WISDOM
Heed his words! If your leader is a woman, you will be destroyed.
What? What kind of nonsense...?
No sweat, babe. We'll make more later.
A woman's makeup is not just for making a girl pretty. It can do the opposite too.PHILOSOPHY
All this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much to love! Check it out.