Manga in Minutes: Unico
The lastest book from DMP’s Kickstart projects is the adorable, all ages tale, Unico! Created by Osamu Tezuka. Unico tells the tale of an adorable little unicorn who incurs the ire of Venus, the Greek goddess of love. The jealous goddess banishes him, and has the North Wind carry him from time to time, and place to place.
The story is pretty simple and straight forward. We follow Unico as he’s tossed about various places in the world at various points of time. In each place a formula is repeated, he doesn’t remember anything but his name, and he ends up making friends and helping people find love or happiness while overcoming hardships in their own lives. Sadly it’s an short lived and bittersweet victory as he’s always whisked away and sent to another place after helping the people he encounters. At times it almost feels like Tezuka is attempting to address some real world issues with the manga, things like racism, poverty and the like, but given the short nature of each chapter this rarely amounts to much beyond some very basic moral lessons about being nice to each other. There are a few heart breaking moments, such as Unico’s brief reunion with his family, and the first few times he’s pulled from his newfound home, but since this happens constantly it quickly loses its impact.
Unico looks lovely. Tezuka’s art is deceptively simple and cartoony, but incredibly expressive and enjoyable to look at. Scattered throughout are some lovely visual puns that can only be done in the sequential art medium. This is something that Tezuka’s done in a few of his other works, and sometimes they work and sometimes they stick out like a sore thumb, but in Unico they feel right at home with the tale. In addition, the entire book is in full color, which only helps adds to its visual impact and adds a little oomph to some of the gorgeous vistas that appear throughout the volume.
Out of the various Osamu Tezuka books that have come out over the years, Unico occupies an odd place in my heart. It’s incredibly adorable and endearing at first, but after a while the repetitive stories and simplistic nature of the characters wears thin and it ends up feeling like a bit of a slog towards the end. Still, there’s an undeniable charm to the first half or so of the book, and the all ages nature of the volume means that it could make a nice gift for the youngsters in your in life.