Osamu Tezuka’s ‘The Book of Human Insects’ Will Creep You Out And Draw You In
It's sometimes stunning exactly how diverse of a body of work Osamu Tezuka created before he died. Astro Boy and Black Jack are fine adventure comics, but Tezuka also created works like Phoenix, which deals with the question of immortality, and Ode to Kirihito, a book about ambition, disease, sadism, and faith. The Book of Human Insects adds another layer onto his bibliography: an exploration of sociopathy with a genuinely surprising ending and some pretty stunning artwork. Below, we've got a brief look at the book and an exclusive preview from the first chapter!There's one thing that always happens when I read non-all ages Tezuka manga. He exists first and foremost in my mind as the creator of Astro Boy and not just the godfather of manga, but the father of a certain style of manga, too. So the adult content in his books--and in The Book of Human Insects that includes murder, rape, nudity, sex, and slapping--always come with a brief flash of surprise. Tezuka is bigger than the box I've put him in, and I think if you check out The Book of Human Insects, you'll find out exactly why.
The best description for Tezuka's style is "eminently readable." You won't ever pick up a Tezuka novel and be confused about how to read the page. He knows how to push and pull the reader around the page, and when to speed up or slow down the action. Sometimes a page will have two panels set in one scene, with one panel taking up 80% of the page, and others will have a fistful of panels, with each panel being a different location or motion. When a character hits the streets to find someone, the panel of him walking is bordered by a halo of panels full of stepping feet. The metaphor is instantly clear: he's traveling all over.
When Tezuka decided to get really flashy, rather than straightforward, he could really knock your socks off. A man is shot, killed, and dumped into a pile driver. The majority of the panels from the shooting onward are skinny vertical ones that you read from top to bottom--just like the motion of a pile driver. Your eyes flip up and down the panels for a few pages, and then Tezuka gives you a brief break before returning to the vertical panels, just in time for the pile driver to slam down with murderous finality.
Tezuka was extremely good at his craft, whether writing or drawing, and this is a book about one of the nastiest people you'll meet. Toshiko Tomura is a young lady who is an award-winning designer, novelist, actress, and more. She's also a human parasite, a leech, and a fake. People aren't people to her. They're a means to an end. She'll get close to you, study you, and then become you, and in the process of doing so, destroy you. Leaving behind a trail of broken hearts are the least of her sins, and she never met a solution to a problem, or person, that was too immoral to pull off. She lives life with no rules and no limits. And then one day, she meets a man who may well be her match.
The Book of Human Insects is, as usual for Tezuka, a treat. His cartooning is wonderful, his writing relentlessly focused, and his plotting just that right balance of creepy and exciting. You don't cheer for Tomura, not by any means, but you definitely spend the book's 368 pages eager to see what she manages to do next. With a plot that pulls in romance, organized crime, political intrigue, war-time atrocities, exploitative sex (on the part of Tomura, at least), and some seriously creepy wax doll suckling, The Book of Human Insects is a wild read. Check out twenty-six spectacularly creepy preview pages below. While we have to blur the nudity, the print edition of the book is available without any censorship at all. Sorry!