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Weekly Recon: Special MW Edition

Posted by: Katherine Dacey on October 29, 2007 at 3:01 pm

Have we got a Halloween treat for you! In lieu of candy corn and chocolate bars (or raisins—we’re not killjoys here at PopCultureShock), we’re giving away brand new copies of MW, the latest Tezuka offering Vertical, Inc. But buckle those seatbelts, gentle readers, because MW won’t be confused with Buddha or Princess Knight any time soon:

Steering clear of the supernatural as well as the cuddly designs and slapstick humor that enliven many of Tezuka’s better-known works, MW explores a stark modern reality where neither divine nor secular justice seems to prevail. This willfully “anti-Tezuka” achievement from the master’s own pen nevertheless pulsates with his unique genius… Serialized beginning in 1976 in Big Comic magazine, where Tezuka’s trailblazing medical thriller Ode to Kirihito had appeared a few years earlier, MW probes the complexities of homoeroticism as well as the reality of extensive U.S. military presence in Japan. The result is as bracing today as it was thirty years ago.

Want a free copy? Then send your name and mailing address to kate@popcultureshock.com with the subject line “MW Giveaway.” Four lucky winners will be chosen by lottery; winners will be announced in the 11/4/07 Weekly Recon column.

But wait—there’s one more chance to win! Be the first person to answer the following trivia question correctly, and you’ll also receive a copy:

How does Michio Yuki give the police the slip after confessing his crimes to Father
Garai? (A hint: read the preview!)


  • One entry per person. Anyone who submits an answer to the trivia question will automatically be entered in the drawing.
  • Entries must be received no later than Saturday, November 3rd at 11:59 PM (EST).
  • You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
  • The contest is only open to residents of the United States.

As a special bonus, this week’s column features an in-depth review of MW. But before we explore the dark side of Tezuka’s imagination, let’s take a quick glimpse at this week’s shipping list:

  • Alive: The Final Evolution, Vol. 2 (Del Rey; click here for a review of volume 1)
  • Baby & Me, Vol. 5 (Viz)
  • Black Cat, Vol. 11 (Viz)
  • Boy Princess, Vol. 9 (NETCOMICS; click here for a review of volume 1)
  • Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword, Vol. 3 (DrMaster)
  • Click, Vol. 4 (NETCOMICS)
  • D. Gray-Man, Vol. 7 (Viz)
  • Gin Tama, Vol. 3 (Viz; click here for a review of volume 1)
  • Godchild, Vol. 7 (Viz; click here for a review of volume 3)
  • Gold Digger, #89 (Antarctic Press)
  • Gold Digger Sourcebook: The Official Guide to the Gold Digger Universe, #10 (Antarctic Press)
  • Gon, Vol. 2 (CMX)
  • Hunter X Hunter, Vol. 17 (Viz)
  • Kaze Hikaru, Vol. 7 (Viz; click here for a review of volume 5)
  • Kitchen Princess, Vol. 4 (Del Rey)
  • Kurohime, Vol. 2 (Viz; click here for a review of volume 1)
  • Land of Silver Rain, Vol. 7 (NETCOMICS)
  • Let Dai, Vol. 9 (NETCOMICS)
  • Love*Com, Vol. 3 (Viz; click here for reviews of volumes 1 and 2)
  • Manga Sisters (Manga University)
  • Naruto, Vol. 22 (Viz)
  • Naruto, Vol. 23 (Viz)
  • Naruto, Vol. 24 (Viz)
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Watercolor Impressions (Viz)
  • NewType USA, November 2007
  • Ninja High School, #154 (Antarctic Press)
  • Nodame Cantabile, Vol. 11 (Del Rey)
  • One Piece, Vol. 16 (Viz)
  • Operation Liberate Men, Vol. 1 (NETCOMICS)
  • Parasyte, Vol. 2 (Del Rey)
  • Pichi Pichi Pitch, Vol. 7 (Del Rey)
  • Pirates vs. Ninjas II: Up the Ante, #4 (Antarctic Press)
  • Prince of Tennis, Vol. 22 (Viz)
  • Psycho Busters, Vol. 1 (Del Rey)
  • SA, Vol. 1 (Viz)
  • Samurai Commando: Mission 1549, Vol. 2 (CMX; click here for a review of volume 1)
  • Shonen Jump, December 2007
  • Skip-Beat, Vol. 9 (Viz)
  • Sky Sharks, #3 (Antarctic Press)
  • Tezuka’s MW (Vertical, Inc.)
  • Translucent, Vol. 2 (Dark Horse)
  • Tsubasa, Vol. 15 (Del Rey)
  • Ultimate Muscle, Vol. 18 (Viz)
  • Yagyu Ninja Scrolls, Vol. 1 (Del Rey)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh GX, Vol. 1 (Viz)


By Osamu Tezuka
Vertical, Inc., 582 pp.
Rating: 16+

book_MWcover.jpgInvoke Tezuka’s name, and most readers immediately think of Astro Boy, Buddha, and Princess Knight. But there’s a darker side to Tezuka’s oeuvre that dates back to 1953, the year in which he brought Dostoevsky’s tormented Raskolnikov to life in a manga-fied version of Crime and Punishment. It’s this side of Tezuka—the side that acknowledges the human capacity for violence, greed, and deception—that’s on display in MW, a twisty thriller about a sociopath and the priest who loves him.

The central event of MW is a military cover-up. “Nation X,” which maintains a base on Okinawa Mafune, has been stockpiling a top-secret chemical weapon known as MW.1 An explosion releases a poisonous cloud, killing everyone on the island except for two visitors, Iwao Garai and Michio Yuki. Though Garai and Yuki are equally traumatized by this holocaust, their lives diverge wildly over the next fifteen years. Garai embraces the light, becoming a Roman Catholic priest, while Yuki embraces the darkness, embarking on a spree of kidnappings, murders, and extortion schemes meant to punish the politicians, businessmen, and military officials who profited from the subsequent cover-up.

Superficially, Yuki’s plans might be understood as an eye for an eye. But Yuki is no righteous avenger. He’s a serial killer who relishes torturing his victims, who exploits the secrecy of the confessional to torment Garai with details of his crimes, who uses his androgynous sex appeal to seduce both men and women, and who impersonates his female victims with the skill of a kabuki actor. (And just in case we haven’t yet grasped the true extent of Yuki’s depravity, Tezuka suggests that Yuki has a rather intimate bond with his dog Tomoe.) Even Yuki’s motivation for exposing the MW scandal is purely selfish: Yuki is dying from its lingering effects, and wishes to take millions of people with him to the grave. Though Father Garai hopes to redeem Yuki, he lacks Yuki’s certitude, instead violating his priestly vows (especially that pesky oath of celibacy) as he tries to prevent Yuki from harming anyone else.

MW can certainly be enjoyed as a political potboiler. Tezuka spins an entertaining, slightly preposterous yarn, serving up more plot twists, car chases, and gender-bending costume changes than Dressed to Kill and The Manchurian Candidate combined. But it’s also very talky. Characters frequently describe their plans at length instead of just carrying them out; voice-overs interrupt the action to educate us on the history of chemical warfare; and thought balloons reveal little about the interior lives of the characters that couldn’t be inferred from their actions.

MW can be more profitably understood as a meditation on US-Japanese relations during the Vietnam War. The gas attack takes place around 1960, the year the Japanese Diet ratified the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security2, while most of the action takes place in the 1970s, as left-wing student groups were taking to the streets to protest American military presence in Japan. Though MW does include a few demonstrations, Tezuka doesn’t try to dramatize the left wing’s activities so much as the spirit of the movement: “Debunk false democracy!” The politicians in MW are greedy, foolish, and entirely too cozy with “Nation X” military brass. Yet the student radicals don’t fare so well, either; Tezuka renders them as an ineffectual lot whose agenda is riddled with inconsistencies. Only in the ambivalent Father Garai, who desperately wishes to enlighten the public about MW, does Tezuka present a decent, sympathetic figure, someone struggling mightily against hypocrisy and deceit, even as he succumbs to his own demons.

Of course, there’s another level on which MW can be appreciated: the artwork. MW is Tezuka at his most restrained; there are no doe-eyed critters, no slapstick, no characters breaking the fourth wall to crack wise about cartooning conventions. There are a few moments of playfulness. In one memorable sequence (reminiscent of the grand parade in Cleopatra), Yuki impersonates the great gorgons of Aubrey Beardsley’s work: Salome admiring the head of John the Baptist, the Lady in the Peacock Skirt. But most of the pages are much more direct and less cartoonishly exuberant. Those moments when Tezuka thinks outside the grid are extraordinary, however. He never shows us the initial catastrophe as it happens; he shows us only what Garai and Yuki see after the cloud has dissipated: a mosaic of faces, each contorted into a grotesque death-mask and framed in a small, oddly-shaped panel. It’s a potent, haunting moment that forces the reader to ask herself, what would I do if confronted by such devastation?

Fans of Apollo’s Song, Buddha, and Ode to Kirihito won’t be surprised to learn that Vertical has done a fine job of showcasing Tezuka’s work with a crisp translation, quality binding, and signature Chip Kidd dustjacket. MW won’t be everyone’s cup of green tea, but if the thought of Tezuka channeling Brian DePalma and John Frankenheimer sounds appealing, you’ll want to add it to your library.

1 MW is pronounced “moo.”
2 The treaty reaffirmed the US military’s commitment to defending Japan against hostile forces, pledged to return captured territories, and extended the US occupation of Okinawa for an additional ten years.

MW will be available on October 30, 2007.

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10 Responses to "Weekly Recon: Special MW Edition"

1 | Rena

October 30th, 2007 at 12:00 pm


Maybe I’ve glossed over it, but how exactly are we supposed to enter into the giveaway? There’s no trivia question listed and there’s no way to enter, i.e., no e-mail address to send an entry to…

2 | Jessica

October 30th, 2007 at 12:40 pm


Rena- apparently this is missing from the text above. I have contacted PopCultureShock and they will fix it soon, until then this is what it should read:

Want a free copy? Then send your name and mailing address to kate@popcultureshock.com with the subject line “MW Giveaway.” Four lucky winners will be chosen by lottery; winners will be announced
in the 11/4/07 Weekly Recon column. But wait—there’s one more chance to win! Be the first person to answer the following trivia
question correctly, and you’ll also receive a copy:

How does Michio Yuki give the police the slip after confessing his crimes to Father
Garai? (A hint: read the preview!)

Sorry for the mix up- Jess at Vertical inc.

3 | Katherine Dacey-Tsuei

October 30th, 2007 at 2:46 pm


Rena: If you’re still interested in the giveaway, please send me your name and address. My email is kate@popcultureshock.com. I’m sorry for the technical glitch.

4 | Rena

October 30th, 2007 at 4:08 pm


Kate: No worries–I seriously thought I had missed something!

Also, I sent you an e-mail (twice, in fact), but I just got a delivery failure message…Looks like the technical glitch is affecting your e-mail system, too.

Is there another e-mail address I can send my information to?

5 | Katherine Dacey-Tsuei

October 30th, 2007 at 4:41 pm


Rena: Thanks for being such a trouper! Send your entry to kod1@columbia.edu and I’ll make sure it’s entered in the drawing.

6 | Rena

October 30th, 2007 at 4:52 pm


Kate: Thanks for putting up with me! XD

I sent in an entry, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Thanks for doing the giveaway–I love what Vertical’s done with “Apollo’s Song,” so I’m sure I won’t be disappointed with “MW”!

7 | phoenixfirev

October 30th, 2007 at 5:04 pm


Looking over this week’s list, I’ve only got another 7, and two to buy. My kids want Gon, and I’ve got to read the second volume of Samurai Commando. I’ve got to see how they handle it. It’s got to either be really rushed or missing lots of plot points made in volume one.

8 | Johnathan Ender

November 2nd, 2007 at 1:52 pm


Excellent review. ^_^

I have been praying for MW to be released in America for years. When it was announced that Vertical was releasing it, I almost died. I pre-ordered my copy a few months ago and picked it up yesterday.

Swanky. Absolutely swanky.

I wish more American manga publishers would print and advertise magnificent works like this. Truly awesome.

9 | mack

November 2nd, 2007 at 10:32 pm


moo? I think I like some of the concepts of MW but not all. I would have to look at it before I decide to try it or buy it. It is a great review. I like the two footnotes.

10 | Katherine Dacey-Tsuei

November 3rd, 2007 at 10:16 am


Phoenixfirev: Only seven? Girl, you’re slacking off!

Jonathan: Thanks for the feedback! I think you’ll be extra happy to hear that Vertical has just landed the license to Black Jack. I think it’s a great pair, and I know they’ll do a sensational job. They do come up with great ways for me to part with my money!

Mack: There’s a preview posted at the Vertical site (there are links above). That will give you a pretty good feel for the story. And if it isn’t your cup of tea, I’d highly recommend Tezuka’s Buddha and Phoenix, both of which are beautifully illustrated and a little more uplifting than MW.

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