The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka
The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka is one of the best collections of his short stories and shows off his mature work. Chloe Metcalf has done an excellent job in the translations, and we have Digital Manga, Inc. to thank for this volume’s availability in the United States. The stories were written from 1972 to 1979, and the collection was released in Japan in 1979. Digital Manga, Inc. released this translation in 2017. I hope there is much more to come from this company.
The five stories in this volume are not for kids. If anybody has been exposed only to Tezuka’s Astro Boy and other works for children, they will be shocked to read these tales. The first story, “The Record of Peter Kurten,” is based on a true story, and Tezuka’s source material is from Shunsuke Tsurumi. Kurten was better known as the Vampire of Dusseldorf, and his story deals with man’s horrendous potential: Kurten was an arsonist, rapist, killer, and necrophiliac. I am shocked by Tezuka’s direct treatment of this subject matter.
In “Senual Nights,” Tezuka writes another harsh story, this time as a critique of the Japanese, in particular those who took American prisoners of war, separating men from their loved ones waiting back home. “Sensual Nights” deals explicitly with a Japanese man’s lust for an American virgin whose husband was a P.O.W., but throughout the story Tezuka critiques those in Japan who view themselves as superior to Americans, particularly in terms of technology (there is mention of Japanese air conditioners and cameras, specifically). This story is a strange one to read from the perspective of an American, because we are reading a Japanese artist’s criticism of aspects of Japanese attitudes toward Americans and foreigners.
“Lord Mogami” deals with revenge. Mogami, paranoid that everyone is out to get him, gets a local villager to act as his double. Unknown to this villager, Mogami has his wife and children killed and his house burned to the ground, thus erasing all memory of the double’s previous existence. Mogami kills everyone who knows that he has a double, so that when the villager finds out what has happened to his family, he is able to seek revenge, taking over the role of “Lord Mogami.” However, even the villager, now posing as the Lord, will find that he, too, is the target of revenge by the one person who loved Lord Mogami and knows of the switch.
“Lady of the Rhine” is about women’s hatred of disloyal men. It is a very short story, and I don’t want to give too much away, but one woman who was betrayed years ago seeks out another woman, the first-person narrator of the current story, who has also had her husband run off with another woman. There’s a twist, and the desire for revenge and the indulgence of hatred is at the thematic heart of this story.
Finally, in “The Mountain of Fire (or The Thief Inoue Akikazu)” is based on the true story of the eruption of a mountain and the earthquakes around it from 1943 to the end of the war in 1945. Mr. Mimatsu is the postmaster of the town, and he records diligently all the changes in the land and terrain, recording the number and magnitude (to the best of his abilities) of the quakes. What gives this story heart is the character of the “thief.” The thief comes to town looking only for money, but after hooking up with a prostitute, he finds himself drawn into working for Mr. Mimatsu. The thief’s better nature takes over, and before long he cares less about money than he does helping Mr. Mimatsu in his task to record the mountain at first and eventually preserve the mountain as a natural preserve.
All these stories are drawn in Tezuka’s mature, more realistic style, and I cannot praise them enough. They are currently available only digitally; however, my understanding is that they will eventually come into print. Until then, it is certainly worth the price to buy this volume digitally, particularly for anyone interested in manga. And it is a must-read for American fans of Tezuka.
that is some dark stuff—thanks for the review!
Thanks for reading it!