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.
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.
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.