Today in his House of 1000 Manga column at Anime News Network, Jason Thompson describes Osamu Tezuka‘s epic work, Buddha. As one who rarely watches anime or reads manga created earlier than the 1990s, I know Tezuka only by reputation and not by experiencing any of his works. As such, and I think this may be true for many of us, I didn’t know about this manga. Thompson does a wonderful job of describing it, as usual. The manga sounds very interesting – not what one would expect out of a religious story. I was also pleased to see Thompson’s mention of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha in the column, since I’ve read the novel (though admittedly, I admire it rather than enjoy it).
On thing that catches my attention in the column that, as with his discussion on the manga Jesus, Thompson’s criticisms of the manga come across as criticisms of a religion:
From the perspective of a nonbeliever like myself, it can sometimes seem like a depressing religion; after all, one of the core teachings is that life is suffering (“Kill or be killed! That’s the world! That’s life!” says Devadatta), and that Nirvana isn’t heaven or paradise but nonexistence, an end to it all.
Thompson’s language isn’t offensive – in fact, in both of the columns discussing religious manga, he approached the subjects with tact and respect. But when it comes to faith, one can quickly and easily become defensive (Christians moreso, I think, than Buddhists).
My first reaction was that Thompson should’ve avoided any criticism of religion at all, no matter how mild in tone. But…that would make me a hypocrite. After all, my faith embraces the idea that there is only one God, and that all other gods or faiths are, bluntly put, wrong. When push comes to shove, defending my belief criticizes others.
What do you think? Are you skittish when critizing religion? Are you defensive of your own (or lack of)?
Read the entire column: Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga Episode XXXIX: Buddha