Phoenix Vol. 2: Future

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I have only a few heroes in this world, and one of them is OSAMU TEZUKA. Who is Mr. Tezuka? Well I’m glad you asked. He is often called the “Walt Disney of Japan” and “the father of manga,” and both are good descriptors. He’s most well known for creating Astro Boy, but he was SUPER prolific. He produced over 700 volumes of manga, which equals to more than 150,000 pages of material, and that isn’t counting his multitude of films, television anime and experimental films. His writing is striking, his art style unique (with a level of detail not seen much even decades after he was actively producing work), and he balances writing adult work with writing children’s work in a way rarely seen. For example, one storyline in Astro Boy involved the boy robot coming face-to-face with the atrocity of genocide. One of the reasons Tezuka is a hero of mine is his intense work ethic. As I mentioned, he produced an INSANE amount of work during his life, but that hasn’t taken into account the fact that he actually went through medical school to become a doctor, but never practiced medicine because he wanted to make comics. I find that remarkable and personally inspiring. Not to mention the fact that it gave him an intimate knowledge of human anatomy that he put to use in his medical works such as his Black Jack series.

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There are a number of his works available in English, but I’m going to specifically recommend one volume of one series, Volume 2 of his unfinished magnum opus Phoenix, entitled “Future.” Phoenix was to be life work but he died before he could finish it. The idea behind the series is that each volume would be more or less self contained, following a different cast of characters in a different time period dealing with issues of mortality and the meaning of life. In each volume, someone comes in contact with or is searching for the titular Phoenix, whose blood will grant you eternal life. What would you do for a chance to live forever? In many volumes, the greed and hubris of man is displayed front and center, as this question can bring out the worst in people.


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Phoenix’s second volume takes place in the far future of 3404AD where humanity has gotten about as far as it can go, so where do you go from the peak of society? Well, you start to decline. The protagonist, Masato, and his girlfriend Tamami, a shapeshifting alien, get wrapped up into a larger conspiracy and eventually nuclear war breaks out and humanity destroys itself. Now, this may sound like a spoiler, but this is actually when things start to get really interesting. Masato is, if memory serves, the only character in the Phoenix saga that actually manages to drink the mythical bird’s blood, so he lives forever and sees what happens after humanity wipes itself out.


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The story becomes this larger, meta statement about the nature of life and its tendency toward self-destruction. Tezuka often incorporates Buddhist concepts (especially the cyclical nature of life) into his work, even famously adapting the life of Buddha into a multi-volume epic story. Future is a story that will make you question your place in the universe. I am willing to say make the bold statement that this book is, hands down, the best comic I have ever read. It has certainly affected my life more than any other.

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If you do read this and are inspired, Tezuka has had a number of his adult-oriented books published in English. His Buddha series is something you can’t go wrong with, and his Message To Adolf, about a pair of boys named Adolf, one Jewish and one German, living in World War II Germany, are very much worth seeking out.

 

You can get Phoenix Vol. 2: Future as a Kindle book for about $10 here, or as a used paperback for a little more around the internet.

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Theme for the week of 2/9/15: Turning The Tables

This week, we’re doing something different. Each of our contributors will be writing about something one of the others usually writes about.
Brandon will be writing about comics.
Jeddy will be writing about TV.
Katy will be writing about music.

This should be fun!

Stormy Weather

In thinking about music that relates to weather, the work that came to mind primarily fell into three camps: summer, storms/rain, and winter weather. Summer because it seems easy to write a pop song about the fun, lazy days of summer, winter because we have such a connection to holiday music, but storms because they are often used as a metaphor for something else.

Case in point: Stormy Weather by Lena Horne. This song is a standard for a reason. It is beautiful and it lilts right into that reminiscent part your heart. The lyrical imagery and music evoke a quiet, somber rainy day, but this song’s heart is in the question of what one does when their love leaves them. The pining that comes with the absence of your partner is felt through every line of this song. When this loss happens to you, it does indeed feel like a pall is cast over your life. When the clouds are grey and rain blankets your day, things feel heavier and more sorrowful. We all know the sensation. This is the kind of song that is vague enough in lyrical description that you can’t help but insert yourself and your own feelings into the story. Come for the sorrowful song, stay for the reminiscence.

Skipping ahead a few decades, Joshua James’ Winter Storm is tonally similar to Stormy Weather. Instead of referring specifically to the loss of a relationship, however, storms represent pain in general. Pain is part of life. The difference here is that James accepts this pain and actually chooses to embrace it. In this case, the imagery is purposefully limited so that you can apply it to whatever life experience you choose. This song is significant for me because it reminds me of a time when things were very difficult in my personal life and I just wanted to run away from it all, but when I began to embrace what was making me feel this pain, I was able to deal with it.


And I would be remiss if I didn’t write about I Can’t Stand The Rain by Ann Peebles in a conversation about storm-related music. So here you go. If you haven’t heard this song, jump on it. Look, I could write about how it, too, uses a storm as a metaphor for a past relationship, but man… this tune is just so good all I can do is say you should listen to it yourself.

I could write more (for one, I didn’t even touch on Charles Bradley’s storm song or Purple Rain for that matter), but I think you get the idea here. Weather is an evocative metaphor in songs. When played effectively, storms can recall to us love, loss, pain and sorrow. What are your favorite stormy songs?

 -Brandon Telg-

Five Music Tweets

Natalie-Prass

If you’re like me, really good pop music gets played on loop all day when you find it.
Loop it up with Natalie Prass:
http://bit.ly/1GiihQD

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Hundred Waters makes intricate music. Remixes of them tend to miss the point to me.
Except for here. Mesmerizing:
http://bit.ly/1yKMpzk

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Who would have thought a song about a professional wrestler would be this poignant, let alone good?
https://soundcloud.com/mergerecords/the-mountain-goats-the-legend-of-chavo-guerrero

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There’s fewer than 40 words in this song, but good frickin luck getting this out of your head for the rest of the day
http://youtu.be/bsOTCoJfYcg

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This cover of the theme song to the children’s show Arthur actually made me cry when I listened to it once.
No joke.
https://soundcloud.com/chancetherapper/everyday-wonderful-arthur

-Brandon Telg-

Father John Misty

The artist that I have to recommend for “Feel Good Music” may seem like an odd choice given that lyrically, he’s often someone that uses his platform to cynically describe the foibles of our society, but he always does it both with a smile and in a way that makes me smile, and that’s Father John Misty.

Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

Father John Misty is the stage name of Josh Tillman. The narrative about him reads: indie singer/songwriter J. Tillman… was drummer of Fleet Foxes… blah blah. None of the backstory matters unless you care. Father John Misty is, tonally, miles away from his previous work. I like to imagine that his work just appeared out of the void. The man just appeared with this finely honed craft for songwriting. His songs feel that way. Nobody else that I know of combines sardonic humor with country folk sensibilities in quite the way that Papa Juan does.

I’m Writing A Novel

I can pop on his album Fear Fun at pretty much any time in any circumstance and I know I’m going to go for a nice ride. Its fun and thoughtprovoking, and dude, the tunes just kill. From the first time I heard Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings, I was like, “this guy is something else” and I listened to it non-stop. And then, months after, I actually got what the song is about: having a “good time” in a cemetery. Thats one of the great quality of this guy’s songs. They unfold for you if you want them to. They are great songs on their own, but then when you dig a little deeper, there’s always something there to unpack. Check out Now I’m Learning To Love The War for another example of this.

Bored In The USA (Live On David Letterman)

His new album, I Love You, Honeybear (out February 10) promises to be every bit as good as Fear Fun. His leadoff single Bored in The USA is another grower whose resonance grows the longer it sits with you. And the second single Chateau Lobby #4 is just a catchy freaking tune.

Only Son of the Ladiesman (Live on David Letterman)

In conclusion, I can’t write an article about this guy and not mention his persona. His on-stage antics are amazing to watch (see the Letterman performance of Only Son Of The Ladiesman) and his banter (unfortunately not shown here) in interviews and between songs: hilarious.

Check this guy out if you haven’t. You’ll be glad you did.

-Brandon Telg-