I love surprises -- things that seem to have no particular bearing on what went before or came after -- but I have to say that receiving a pre-publication verson of "The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography" by Tetsu Saiwai was pretty much off my charts.
The volume is a comic-book version of the Dalai Lama's life. Its unnumbered pages seem to be about 200 and its publisher -- a publisher I used to take seriously -- is Penguin Books. The retail price is set at $15. It's in English.
Its mediocrity of intent and execution leave me asking myself, "What's the matter with me?" "What cultural wave has passed me by while I was busy doing something else?" and "To whom would such a book be useful or informative?" "What would make a publisher gamble the time, energy and money on a 200-page comic?"
No matter how I twist the matter, I just can't figure it out. Would someone interested in the Dalai Lama want a 200-page comic? A kid? An adult? High-falutin' propaganda? Is someone at the publishing house sleeping with someone else?
Very peculiar in my mind and the more I concede the peculiarity, the more I struggle to see what I must have overlooked -- some segment of the human race that sees things in a wholly different light.
Well, it was a surprise all right. The only difference with other surprise moments is that I imagine I have an explanation and meaning that I can ascribe to them and thus put them out of my mind ... "I know that!"
Between knowing and not knowing, my guess is that knowing is more dangerous.
You probably aren't in the intended audience.
It appears that like for those of us who read the Classics Illustrated comics version of "classic literature" years ago, today's young ones (and this include some high school and community college level students) now have "Graphic Biographies."
I check Amazon and there are other graphic biographies as well.
As for this book the publisher is hopeful. Amazon:
A new way of getting to know one of the world's most beloved spiritual leaders.
Featuring a charmingly illustrated format that will appeal to readers of all ages, this unique biography is an ideal introduction to the leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Born in 1935 to a peasant family in a small village, Tenzin Gyatso was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. In 1950, His Holiness assumed full political power when China invade Tibet-a tragedy that forever changed him and shaped his efforts on behalf of world peace, for which he was award the Nobel Peace Prize. This graphic novel is an appealing and approachable depiction of the life and personality of an iconic figure.
About the Author
Tetsu Saiwai is a manga artist from Japan, where he lives with his wife and dogs.
I'm not sure what the author or publisher had in mind, but, yes, there is a propaganda aspect to any popularization piece.
Think about what will get reinforced and ingrained even from a young age.
Metaphysical Views: E. g.
Tenzin Gyatso was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.
Political Views: E. g.
In 1950, His Holiness assumed full political power when China invade Tibet-a tragedy that forever changed him and shaped his efforts on behalf of world peace, for which he was award the Nobel Peace Prize.
My 50+ year old self might be embarrassed to read the Classics Illustrated versions or the Cliff Notes version of books just as you found this Graphic Biography mediocre reading, but my 13-19 self was overjoyed to find that I didn't have to read long and boring books I had no interest in.
Question: Is this book at all similar to
So I guess you aren't going to share the book with the kids, eh?
Well I don't know what type of comic it is but I think reducing HH life to a comic is derogatory and the only people I know out to defame HH are the Chinese who frequently make attempts at just that . AnitaReplyDelete
Have you read the book?
Is this what you get out of it?
I haven't read it.
I didn't get the sense that it is derogatory or critical either from Genkaku's observations or the promo material on Amazon.
I get the sense that it is simplistic and aimed at a youth market but not as an attempt to somehow demean the DL or the notion of the DL. I'm quite sure I'd agreed with Genkaku that it isn't well written.
I have seen the Catholic hierarchy approve comics about Christ. I recall a great deal of Jewish biblical writings reduced to a puppet show on TV. I think I've even seen comics from the Mormons. I have even seen Buddhism in picture book form in book stores mostly depicting the life of Gautama Shakyamuni and his very basic teaching. So why not a superficial but not grossly inaccurate biography in graphic novel form?
Now I'm going to have to park myself in Barnes and Nobles and check it out when the book is released.
- Same Anon as August 28, 2010 2:09 PM
No I have not read it nor do I know the intention behind it but the very fact that it is in comic book form would seem to me an attempt at deminish-ment . I live in Canada and the Chinese authority's go to great extremes to diminish HH or discredit him here . I made my comment with a keen eye on keeping all possibility's in mind and in response to Genkaku saying ...ReplyDelete
(No matter how I twist the matter, I just can't figure it out. Would someone interested in the Dali Lama want a 200-page comic? A kid? An adult? High-falutin' propaganda? Is someone at the publishing house sleeping with someone else?)
Similar to the subject of your post, I bought and read the first three books of Osamu Tezuka's 'Buddha', a manga style depiction of the Buddha's life and teachings. I have to say that I was not a fan (and so I didn't buy the other four in the series) but, according to reviews on Amazon, other people absolutely loved it.ReplyDelete
Of course manga is extremely popular in Japan where the cartoon style is taken very seriously. Manga is also quite popular in the west too now, judging from the shelves at my local bookstore.
So if manga is seen by many as a serious and valued form of media, equal to the written word, then perhaps the manga style biography of the Dalai Lama isn't so questionable? Just a thought.
Given that some group managed to finance, build and open what appears to be a magnificent traditional Tibetan Buddhist monastery (Kagyu LIneage) in the Vancouver area, it's not surprising that the Chinese Communists recently turned up the anti-Tibetan Buddhism & anti-DL heat.
You might like to see the pdf of the full color brochure on the history of the monastery:
@Genkaku -- There are many comic books based on the Bible produced by Christians with the intent of proselytizing to children, so I doubt that this is much different.ReplyDelete
Comic books in general are even more popular in Asia than in the Americas, and while any mass-media adaptation of Buddhist teachings is necessarily a simplification, I wouldn't consider them any more demeaning than film or television.
In addition, this is not the only comic book about Buddhist teachings published in Japan... to take just one translated example: http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Through-Comics-Mitsutoshi-Furuya/dp/0984204407
Apparently the author, a former artist of humor comics, found Buddhism and devoted his career to drawing comics about Buddhism, rather than his former topics.
@Anita -- I'm aware that of the Chinese government's persecution, but honestly, I can't believe you would even suggest this is part of a propaganda campaign to discredit Buddhism. o_0 What an off-the-cuff, sweeping generalization, what a blanket judgment! Frankly, what a conspiracy theory! How can you say such a thing without having seen the book! Are Christian comic books evidence of an anti-Christian conspiracy? Please!
@Genkaku -- You may be right about the execution, though. ;) But I'll hold my final judgment till I've read it.ReplyDelete
Having read this biography, I can say it's best for readers who know very little about the Dalai Lama. The complexity of the Tibet-China relationship is lost in the rush to cover the major events of the Dalai Lama's young life, and no space is devoted to the Dalai Lama's fifty years in exile. If anything, The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography strongly resembles Martin Scorsese's Kundun, which is listed as one of the author's sources. (Does make you wish he'd dug just a little deeper; surely someone could have pointed him to the scholarly literature on Tibetan history.) I can't say it was a great comic -- the art, in particular, is pretty pedestrian -- but I understand the rationale for its existence.ReplyDelete
One more thing: the manga is unabashedly pro-Tibet. The Chinese are portrayed as a hostile occupational force, intent on destroying all forms of Tibetan culture, from the indigenous language to the indigenous form of agriculture. No one in the Chinese government would have sanctioned such an unflattering depiction of its involvement in Tibet; if the Chinese wanted to discredit the Dalai Lama, or argue that Tibet was never a sovereign nation, they could easily point to the circumstances around the creation of the Dalai Lama's position. The mere fact this biography is presented in comics form says nothing about the intent.ReplyDelete
And really, if the medium was supposed to discredit the message -- which I think is what Anita is arguing above -- why have other Communist regimes used comics to help legitimize their authority (e.g. The Great General Mighty Wing, from North Korea, which celebrates Kim Jong Il's ascension to power)?