Warning: This manga contains themes of sexual violence.
“Ode to Kirihito” is a manga that delves deep into the world of medical drama, exploring the mysterious ‘Monmow’ disease that transforms its victims into beast-like creatures. Written and illustrated by the legendary Tezuka Osamu, the manga was serialized in Big Comic and ran from 1970 to 1971 — quite old. That’s 50 years ago.
Yep, we’re reviewing a 50-year-old Manga here on LAN! Thanks MyAnimeList, for having this recommended to me.
The story revolves around two doctors, the young and passionate Osanai and the stubborn veteran doctor Tatsugaura. While Osanai is sent to a remote village to investigate the Monmow disease, Tatsugaura has ulterior motives, plotting against Osanai to further his own career. He aims to get Osanai infected with Monmow disease in order to fabricate proof that it is a viral infection, rather that a fungal one or one cause by certain metals in the water.
The treatment of some characters, particularly women, is deeply problematic. Izumi, Kirihito’s fiancée, is subjected to a series of traumatic events, including sexual assault by Kirihito’s coworker, Urabe — multiple times. Disturbingly, the manga attempts to downplay Urabe’s actions, portraying him as a man blinded by love. This portrayal is not only offensive but also dangerous, as it trivializes the serious issue of assault. And worst of all, it’s not even necessary to the plot of the story. Why did they even show it to begin with?
Urabe is a horribly written character as well. Later, he forces himself onto another woman — this one, afflicted with Monmow disease — and the author decided that having her fall in love with him after this assault was sensical. Truly, only a man who lives under a rock could’ve penned something that idiotic.
Furthermore, Kirihito’s character is hard to root for. Despite being the protagonist, he cheats on Izumi without any apparent remorse, further adding to the trauma she experiences. The manga’s portrayal of Izumi as an emotional and hysterical woman, especially after all she endures, feels outdated and insensitive.
The manga’s art and characterization, while reflective of its time, can be jarring for contemporary readers. There’s a noticeable use of derogatory language (racial slurs) and extremely questionable depictions of various races (namely Chinese, Taiwanese and Africans). While it’s essential to consider the era in which the manga was created, it’s equally crucial to approach it with a critical eye.
On a brighter note, the ending does provide some semblance of justice. The conspiracies surrounding Kirihito are unveiled, and he emerges as a renowned doctor, choosing to serve in a small Middle Eastern village. This decision, a bit out of left-field, showcases a desire to make amends and serve those in need. Also, the annoying stubborn doctor gets turned into a dog in the end.
In conclusion, “Kirihito Sanka” is a mixed bag. While it offers a gripping medical drama and showcases Tezuka’s storytelling prowess, it’s marred by problematic themes and character portrayals. I’d rate it a 6.5/10 – it’s above average, but certain aspects of the story are hard to reconcile with. Readers should approach this manga with caution, keeping its historical context in mind.
What do you all think? Check out our coverage of some more modern manga:
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