Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka

I know what you're thinking, "Another Tezuka book?!" Come now, Tezuka's catalog of manga is massive! You didn't really think I was about to just quit on it did you? Some day I will have read everything! Although that is proving difficult since it appears that only a couple of the Phoenix series books are even available currently. Now there's a series I really want to finish!

The Book of Human Insects is actually a book about a book. At least, that is how it starts out. The title gets it's name from the lovely and conniving main character Toshiko Tomura, who through plagiarism of a college roommate, publishes a book called The Book of Human Insects. She receives renown and a prestigious award for her efforts. The scandal just so happens to be completely covered up. It turns out our lady of mimicry has made a long and extensive career of stealing the talents of others. If they happen to give her any grief over it, they are suddenly meet with an untimely demise.

This is a sort of black widow story although, less about marrying a bunch of men and killing them for profit. She gains her success in other ways- by killing off the dreams and goals of others while   stealing their life's work and ambition. She gains success through imitation in the fields of graphic design, acting, directing, writing and finally photography.

This book is intended for a mature audience. As with much of Tezuka's work, there are violent and sexual themes compounded with exploitation. However, it serves the story. It should be mentioned that this is a dramatic thriller and not a comedic piece in any right.

There has been some criticism towards this book regarding misogyny and I'm not altogether sure it's unfounded. I tend to shrink back from anything that is "black widow - like" in books or film. Yet, I sometimes wonder if that is simply because it can be difficult to create a masterful female villain without painting yourself as a misogynist. It's something to think about for certain. I would like to state, that if there are other female characters of creditable merit written into the story, that it would stand to reason misogyny should not be an accusation directed at the author. In the case of The Book of Human Insects Tezuka has worked in other female characters but it does twist in my gut that they are somewhat submissive and demure. Tezuka generally writes a decent female character. Considering the time periods in which he writes, I feel as though he is only portraying the realistic and factual subjugation of women at that time. You can disagree if you want to but honestly, I don't see any overwhelming sense of misogyny there. Feel free to read the book and counter my opinion. It'd be fun.

Alternate Japanese Cover I Found Just For You!
 
In short, I really enjoyed reading this book. It takes place sometime in the early 70's. Women still were not credited with doing a whole lot (especially in Japan). You can imagine how a beautiful young lady with a gift for metamorphosis can direct all the spotlight at the time. Talented and attractive. But let's be sure, she's damaged and hysterically, happens to be a bit of an infantilist. The story ends well I think but on a somber note where Toshiko states "I'm so lonely". I guess it is lonely at the top.