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the Complete Review
the complete review - comic book


Apollo's Song

Tezuka Osamu

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Apollo's Song

Title: Apollo's Song
Author: Tezuka Osamu
Genre: Comic book
Written: 1970 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 541 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Apollo's Song - US
Apollo's Song - UK
Apollo's Song - Canada
Apollo's Song - India
Le Chant d'Apollon - France
  • Japanese title: アポロの歌
  • Translated by Camellia Nieh

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Our Assessment:

B : a wild and creative ride

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Los Angeles Times . 9/9/2007 Ed Park

  From the Reviews:
  • "The paradox is that what's essentially the same story, filtered through various historic and fantastic milieus, not only holds our interest but also sparks a satisfaction deeper than the sum of its episodes. We know what's going to happen, but Tezuka's shamelessly entertaining storytelling and versatile art make repetition a giddy and even profound pleasure." - Ed Park, The Los Angeles Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Apollo's Song begins spectacularly enough, with a flood of semen, the spermatozoa in a mad dash to be the chosen one. "All but one lucky winner will perish !" one of the anthropomorphised sperm reminds a sea of hairy little heads, and off they go. This quest to be the one to reach the queen -- and not be rejected -- is a theme that is repeated in the book, as is the procreation-issue itself.
       That's in the Prologue; then comes 'Apollo's Song' proper, which centres around Shogo Chikaishi, a troubled young man in for psychiatric treatment. Violent, used to getting his own way -- but also sexually inexperienced -- he has big trust issues; the doctor thinks: "the window to your heart is blocked somehow". They get right to the electroshock, too, and that sends him on a wild ride, reliving his own past and, in these and additional visionary trials, others as well. So, for example, he finds himself a Nazi guard overseeing a prisoner transport, while later, under hypnosis, he finds himself on a desert island, an animal-idyll "untainted by war, slaughter and invasion". In each case there is a love-object for him -- one who suffers at the hands (and paws) of others, whom he helps, but who also turns on him.
       Escaping from the mental institution he is saved by a woman who takes him to a remote house and, almost convincingly, explains that she wants to turn him into a marathon runner -- which at least keeps him occupied. It is another uneasy relationship -- she has a fiancé, and the boy isn't exactly sure where he stands with her (and, as always, he's very quick to react to things). A head injury leaves him in yet another new world, a future (2030) where so-called synthians have pretty much taken over: created by humans they began replicating themselves and now control most of the world. They are clones, making them both sexless (their female bodies come without the necessary female parts for procreation) and, in a sense, immortal -- if one dies, they just need a piece of the body to recreate the whole thing.
       Shogo is supposed to kill their queen -- which doesn't prove to be much of a plan, considering the synthians' resurrective abilities -- but matters get more complicated when the queen takes a shine to the boy and wants to learn about human love -- and sex. Given that's she's not equipped to engage in sex this would seem to be yet another exercise in futility, but Tezuka is fairly creative in spinning this out.
       The cycles repeat themselves almost ad absurdum, and Tezuka's point is a bit muddled ("The embryo: the mark of sincere love" ?), but how he goes about telling the story is pretty fantastic. Some of the twists are ridiculous, but at least you never know what's coming (well, beyond that it's pretty hard to permanently rid yourself of those clones ...). Apollo's Song is loony fantasy -- write it out without the pictures and it would be practically unreadable -- but, by and large, compelling nonetheless. The visual -- Tezuka's striking images and sequences -- pull you along and, by making the ridiculous tangible, give it all sufficient coherence. It's very bizarre mythmaking, with the male-female relationships as cartoonish as one could imagine, and the story goes in some strange directions, but especially in the fantasy-sequences Tezuka has some good ideas and lets them unfold nicely enough. It doesn't all fit very neatly (or, in part, even crudely) together, but it still packs quite a punch.
        Apollo's Song is a great example of the best and worst of the graphic-genre: visually expertly presented -- not just the individual drawings, but also the sequences and how they are presented -- it's an eye-catching, gripping read, but the story itself is consistently rushed and the dialogue and events (especially the 'real-world' events) often simply ridiculous, sustained entirely by the accompanying drawings.
        Apollo's Song is an impressive creative outburst: it feels like Tezuka had more ideas than he knew what to do with, and still tried to force them all into this one book. It doesn't withstand much scrutiny, but there is certainly a 'wow'-effect to it. Worth a look.

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Apollo's Song: Reviews: Tezuka Osamu: Other books by Tezuka Osamu under review: Books about Tezuka Osamu under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Prolific Japanese cartoonist Tezuka Osamu (手塚治虫) lived 1928 to 1989.

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© 2007-2016 the complete review

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