Blogging seems to be one of the things that goes to the wayside quickest in times of high stress – and with my residency moving into high gear for the beginning of 2012, I doubt that I will be able to get much accomplished in the way of writing as I mentioned late last week. I did find some time to finish up a review that I have had percolating in the background of the site, but I had planned to release this review as part of the Manga Moveable Feast for Osamu Tezuka. As you might have noticed, I missed the release date by a fairly wide margin (seeing as how we are done with the Jiro Taniguchi MMF as well!). That’s the life of a pharmacy resident, and I’m certainly looking forward to having some of my free time back once I finish the residency in June.Tezuka continues to fascinate me with his adult-oriented comics. The Book of Human Insects is a tale similar to other Tezuka fiction (MW) but in this story, the protagonist is a sly and brilliant celebrity named Toshiko Tomura. She is apparently gifted in the worlds of theatre, directing, design, writing, and more. She confounds the media and is a complete starlet and popular darling, all because she is actually most adept at leaching the creative life-force of her mentors and stealing their best works, claiming them all as her own. One of the things I find so interesting about The Book of Human Insects is its female protagonist – in many Tezuka titles, the male gaze is often the only one that matters. Female characters are often characterized as doormats, harpies, the innocent, or the promiscuous. But here, in The Book of Human Insects, Tomura’s decisions are what drive the novel and her power as a character are what make The Book of Human Insects into the work of fiction that it is. It is a stepping point away from the usual Tezuka female, and while Tomura may not be a moral human being, she owns her choices. That’s more than I can say for characters like Ayako in previous Tezuka work. The plot of The Book of Human Insects is essentially a noir tale wrapped around the excesses of a generation. The communist and capitalist sentiments of Tezuka’s time are displayed with gleeful abandon for Tomura to consume and destroy, while Tomura’s excessive childishness dominates the book, punctuating it like the repeated line of a villanelle – gone for a moment, and then back to remind us of what this character is actually like. While no member of the case of The Book of Human Insects is a complete saint, there are those few innocents that do manage to get trampled under foot in this manga, and I think it is interesting that Tomura seems to spend most of her emotional output on one specific man, Ryotaro Mizuno, the one who has the highest capacity for love and grief.This may again be her chameleon-like nature taking over, trying to mimic his high emotional state and perhaps a desire for his love for another woman, I love she will never be able to have because of what she has done to him. Its a very unique relationship that twists the what would otherwise be completely heartless Tomura into something a little more fragile. I wonder what The Book of Human Insects says about Tezuka’s thoughts on the world at the time of this book’s writing. In one distinct passage, Tomura exclaims, almost surprised at Mizuno, “Why don’t you steal too?” After the confrontation, she calls him a coward as he walks away. It’s a very emotional passage, and I think it carries most of the weight of Tezuka’s message – in this world, the just do not always win. The thief can triumph over the lawful. Perhaps, Tezuka is saying, that this is the way that society is forcing people to engage one-another. Tezuka’s penmanship and drafting are, as usual, stellar. He mixes his cartoonish character style with stark realistic backgrounds and does it in a way unlike any other mangaka currently published in English. The style is unmistakable, and while at first I was not attracted to it, I have grown to realize the strength of his craft. His page compositions are ahead of their time, and the pacing of The Book of Human Insects is perfect. Overall, I find The Book Of Human Insects a fascinating read with a unique and singular vision. While this book is not quite as dark as some of Tezuka’s other work, it still asks hard questions about society and the individual’s role in it, and on the surface, is a really interesting noir-thriller. All in all, I am delighted with the book, and recommend it to Tezuka fans and any mature comic book readers looking to give the “god of manga” a go. The Book of Human Insects does not disappoint.