This is the first, last and only novel you will ever find by John Okada, and that fact made me seethe with sadness. There was another John Okada book, almost finished when he died of heart failure at the far-too-young age of forty-seven, but his wife could find no one to take an interest in it, and when she moved from Seattle she burned that second manuscript along with all of Okada’s other personal effects. Those who encountered No-No Boy decades after its original publication — it was picked up by none other than Charles Tuttle, and promptly sank from sight after one printing — took an interest in its unknown author, tracked down his wife, and were divided between hating her and pitying her. Pity won out, because in the end she was a human being trying to put the death of her husband behind her, and to carry that manuscript around would have been like holding a stone in her throat. Better to just spit it out and move on. Blaming her would be sadism. Read more
Osamu Tezuka is routinely called “the god of manga”, not just because of the sheer size of his lifetime output but its breadth and depth. He drew hundreds of thousands of pages in his lifetime, and did everything from simple children’s stories (Unico) to cosmic odysseys that spanned millennia and civilizations (Phoenix, Buddha). At one Japanese bookstore in New York City, an entire shelf over six feet high and three feet wide was packed top-to-bottom with nothing but his work — in very small volumes — the vast majority of which has never been published in any other language except Japanese. Imagine if all of Walt Disney’s work — not just the movies but everything else that took inspiration from all his creations — had never been seen outside the United States, or even outside of California, until decades after his death. The hole left behind would be about as big.
Now, gradually and to great acclaim, Tezuka’s work is being released in English thanks to the efforts of a number of different publishers, and people are discovering decades after the fact that Japan had a talent who not only took his inspiration from Disney himself but whose work was a whole order of magnitude more ambitious. He was not simply telling stories about friendship and adventure, but morality and humanity, life and death itself. He played for keeps. Read more