Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
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Leviathan: Let's Get Metaphysical

Manga and Anime Reviews

by McCamy Taylor

by Otuska Eiji

Otsuka Eiiji is familiar to U.S. audiences from his manga series “Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” and “MPD Psycho” (the latter already reviewed in this column) both published in this country by Dark Horse. Another of his long works remains unlicensed, though you can read it online. For several years, it was incompletely scanlated (more on that later). However, in July, fans finally finished translating the last installment of  this twelve volume work. Good thing, too, because you can not make sense of it without reading the last part.

If you decide to read Leviathan be sure to start with Chapter 0. It makes the rest of the story much easier to follow. Five friends set out on a dangerous mission. Only one of them, Samizo Kohei returns to Tokyo. However, he is not the Samizo Kohei who left. Pieces of his companions’ bodies---and parts of their minds---have been incorporated into the new Frankenstein’s monster-like hero of this story. For instance, one arm belonged to a woman who insists that he keep her nails manicured. The other belonged to a weight lifter. The new Samizo Kohei shares the memories, talents, prejudices of those from whom he was constructed, but he still retains his love for his old girlfriend. So, when it becomes apparent that he has been chosen to become the Biblical Leviathan----the creature who announces the end of the world---and that Tokyo has been selected to be the final battleground of the forces of light and darkness, he balks at fulfilling his destiny.

Leviathan starts as a series of  paranormal murder mysteries  which Samizo Kohei and his allies in Tokyo must solve.  While the story threads seem loosely connected at first, as the manga progresses the meaning behind the seemingly senseless violence and the role which each  eccentric character plays become clear.  This is a conflict between nondualism and the Judeo-Christian idea that evil can be purged and something good will remain. Samizo Kohei, the Japanese man who is made of three men and two women,  becomes the main proponent of eastern mysticism in opposition to devils, angels and even an Old Testament “God” who looks a lot like George W. Bush. That detail, combined with the fact that Sadaam Hussein is one of the angels of the Apocalypse, may explain why the original translators stopped with two volumes left to go. I guess in the post post 9/11 world, such artistic license  is no longer subversive.

The art is a cross between R. Crumb and Durer. Black and white (of course. This is manga). Some do not like the artistic style. I think it adds to the slice-of-life quality of the stories which make the series work. If this were a more explicitly metaphysical work,  the reader might get bogged down in philosophy and fail to appreciate the various characters and their unusual stories. Since the ultimate message of nondualism---and Samizo Kohei----is accept everything and  be guided by love,  the author makes us love the characters, even when they behave badly.  Or oddly. Or act just plain weird. You get a lot of that, especially in the early volumes. Do not be deterred. The author ties it all together in the end.

© 2009 McCamy Taylor

McCamy Taylor is Aphelion's current Serials and Novellas Editor (if you have a story longer than 7,500 words, or long enough that it would be suitable for publication in two or more installments, she's your girl... er, woman), author of many short stories and longer fiction, here and in other publications, and is now Aphelion torchbearer for the cause of Japanese graphic novels and animation.

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