By Osamu Tezuka
Vertical, Paperback, 9781934287514, 704pp.
Publication Date: November 30, 2010
Long considered as one of Osamu Tezuka’s most political narratives, Ayako is also considered to be one of his most challenging as it defies the conventions of his manga by utilizing a completely original cast and relying solely on historical drama to drive the plot. Ayako, pulls no punches, and does not allow for gimmicks as science-fiction or fantasy may. Instead Tezuka weaves together a tale which its core simply focuses on a single family, a family that could be considered a metaphor for a rapidly developing superpower.
Overflowing with imagery of the cold war seen through Japan’s eyes, Ayako is firmly set in realism taking inspiration from a number of historical events that occurred over the American occupation and the cultural-revolution which soon followed. Believed to be Tezuka’s answer to the gekiga (dramatic comics) movement of the 60’s, Ayako should be considered one of the better early examples of a seinen (young adult) narrative to be published.
Initially set in the aftermath of World War II, Ayako focuses its attention on the Tenge clan, a once powerful family of landowners living in a rural community in northern Japan. From the moment readers are introduced to the extended family, it is apparent that the war and American occupation have begun to erode the fabric that binds them all together. The increasing influence of political, economic and social change begins to tear into the many Tenge siblings, while a strange marriage agreement creates resentment between the eldest son and his sire. And when the family seems to have completely fallen apart, they decide to turn their collective rage on what they believe to be the source of their troubles—the newest member of the Tenge family, the youngest sister Ayako.
A 2010 About.com Best Manga of the Year Selection
“Best New Seinen/Josei Manga of 2010—Drama
Ayako depicts horrifying events, but it is beautifully presented. Connoisseurs of comics craft will find much to admire in Tezuka’s cinematic approach to paneling, pacing, and illustration. Peter Mendelsund’s striking design gives this 1970’s story a modern mood to attract mature readers.”—About.com
“Panel after panel flows effortlessly, composed in such a way that it draws you in, despite the cartoonish characters that Tezuka is so well known for. His scenery and backgrounds show a vibrant land slowly weighed down by filth and corruption… While I have been dismissive of Tezuka’s work in the past, I am fully convinced by Ayako… This book is one of Vertical’s finer achievements and a must-have for any Tezuka or intelligent comics fan. 9.5/10” —Comics Village
“It is a portrait of humanity’s dark side on par with Dante’s Inferno… With so many interlocking storylines, all meticulously charted up to the final page, this drama plays out on a stage so grand that only Tezuka could have conceived it. Even the artwork reaches heights that are yet to be surpassed today… For pure story and visual impact, one of the best ever. A-” —Anime News Network
“Like some of Vertical’s previous long-form Tezuka releases—MW and Ode to Kirihito in particular—Ayako isn’t afraid to get dark and dreary. In fact, Ayako may be one of the bleakest yet. That is, of course, said as a term of endearment; this nearly 700-page work sucks you into its twisted narrative from the very first chapter, and its grip only gets icier as the pages turn… From Peter Mendelsund’s elegant cover design to Mari Morimoto’s dialect-infused translation, this is another must for fans of Osamu Tezuka and comics in general.” —Otaku USA
“It’s all fearless stuff, and all in the service of a story that looks pitilessly at the way people cling desperately to scraps of power and influence even as it corrupts them from within all the more. No lie is great enough to tell, no sin mortal enough to contemplate, no life sacrosanct in the face of such need. What’s remarkable is how Tezuka’s storytelling makes such dank and horrific things into the stuff of compulsively readable, wide-gauge visual drama. You’re drawn in despite yourself, not just once but many times over.” —Genji Press