Monday, 19 October 2009

Nervy Encounters

Once in a while you would come across books that unnerved you.

The feeling is akin to being caught in a purportedly haunted house with no way out except going forward despite the trepidations of imagined horrors lurking in shadows and badly lit corners.

Osamu Tezuka’s MW is the first non-horror fiction that has managed to do exactly that to me; joining William Blatty’s The Exorcist and Stephen King’s It.

(There was a third novel tackling the subject of reincarnation which I no longer recall neither the title nor its author. My most vivid recollection of this particular novel was its repeated visions of a young girl's fiery death.)

On the face of it MW has an interesting premise: a young man totally devoid of any sense of morality goes about seeking vengeance against those who perpetrated the crime which led to his being the amoral eunuch that he is.

MW, of which the original Japanese serial ran from 1976 to 1978, refers to a military developed poisonous gas responsible for creating the moral vacuum that is Michio Yuki, one of two boys spared the annihilation of an entire island’s population from an accidental leak.

Most of back stories are told in between the current developments – when Michio goes about his vengeance-seeking business – and the background is spelt out rather clearly, leaving no room for second guessing.

MW is disturbing (or perhaps it’s more a sign of age on my part) in its lurid detailing of mankind’s mortal sins – greed, sexual aberrations, cruelty, murderous intentions; all these pretty much appearing in various degrees within its 600-odd pages.

The other boy – then a hoodlum during the leak – became a priest (Father Garai) and was involved in a sexual relationship with Michio.

Unholy Union"He's lured me into an unholy union ... every now and then he transforms himself into a woman and seeks my flesh ...," was Father Garai’s confession.

That the homo-erotic segment of the Manga being quite heavy and highly explicit is a facet of MW that stopped me from reading it cover to cover in one go.

I had wondered then if I should proceed; concerned with what I might discover the deeper I go into the storyline.

In the end, I braved it and found the tale ending in somewhat an unsatisfactory manner for me with a far too convenient deus ex machina of a twin brother and the death in one of them.

(Sigh… You can guess who it was that bit the dust from a mile away.)

That said, MW is another book which I didn’t re-read a couple of times.

Its books like these which make you think of calls for the banning of books, movies, literatures etc. with the latest salvo coming from Puteri Umno who targeted movies featuring ghosts, superstitions and mysticism.

I suppose MW - had they read it in its entirety - might just be one such to be included in a banned books listing.

Did MW teach me anything? Nope, but then again neither did the hundred of other fictions novels and comic books I had read through the years.

Oh what a waste, eh?

The only exception to this admittedly unfair generalisation would be historical fictions.

Interspersed with nuggets of facts (sometimes twisted, but still factual in a way), these are the tales which often makes you look out for its fact-based counterpart.

Michio Yuki is one very disturb character, but we have our fair share of such sickos in real life that a reminder of the fine line between fact and fiction should be appreciated.

Some fictions are ugly only because they reflect life at its most extreme.

That said, life has shown that in can manage to supersede even our wildest nightmarish visions.

The Holocaust. Pol Pot. Bosnia Herzegovina. Rwanda. Darfur .

To cite but a few such instances.

And we want to ban what again?

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