Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: The Three-Eyed One

There's a lot of Osamu Tezuka's manga that hasn't made it to the U.S.  While prominent titles like Buddha, and controversial stories like Adolph, have been released in translated form, the bulk of his 700 books haven't been as visible.  Mitsu Me ga Touru (commonly entitled The Three-Eyed One) is one such series.

(All rights belong to their owners.  Images used here for review purposes only.)

The Three-Eyed One, vol. 1, by Osamu Tzuka, Grade B+.
As decribed in the wiki entry, TTEO ran in Weekly Shonen Magazine from 1974 to 1978, and was collected into 13 volumes.  Kodansha Publishing repackaged many of the manga under the Tezuka Osamu: The Complete Works imprint, and this 466-page volume was printed in 2010 as part of this imprint.  It doesn't cover the entire series, but does include enough of the ground work from the first 13 chapters to set the tone for what comes later.  The artwork is pure Tezuka, with incredibly elaborate backgrounds, and characters selected from his "star system" (basically, Tezuka recycled his character designs as if they were live actors being cast for various roles).  The story is both straightforward and intricate, and revolves around the existance of various "mystery sites" worldwide.


(First appearance of Three-Eyes.)

The book starts out stating that occasionally there are people born with unusual traits, like a woman with four breasts, and a man completely covered in body fur.  One such anomaly is Housuke Sharaku, who has three fully working eyes.  In a later short story, Housuke's mother, who also has three eyes, visits the home of scientist Kenmochi to ask him to care for her son.  It's raining, and as she leaves the house, she's struck by lightning and her head explodes, killing her.  Kenmochi notices that as the boy grows older, he shows supernatural intelligence.  At one point, Housuke made some kind of a machine that was dropped into the public baths and caused the water to superheat.  Scared of the boy's power, he puts a bandage over Housuke's third eye, which causes him to turn into a mumbling idiot, with the admonition to never take the bandage off.


(The Turtle Rock, the Monkey Rock and the Stone Grave, three of the real "mysteries" of Japan.)

Being "the slow kid" in his second year of junior high makes Housuke the target of every bully in the school, and the enemy of every teacher that comes in contact with him.  During one hazing incident, 2nd year female student Chiyoko Wata watches as a bully pulls the bandage off the boy, and his eventual transition into an evil super genius.  Housuke starts drawing Mayan-like figures on the school's roof, and then builds a machine that turns the bullies into mindless zombies.  This would be fine as-is, except that Housuke tells Chiyoko that this is just the first step in his plan for world domination, although since he likes her, he won't turn the ray on her.  Chiyoko puts the bandage back on Housuke's third eye and the boy turns back into an idiot.  Oddly enough, though, since Chiyoko lives in a temple and undergoes a sadistically severe form of training by her father, she finds herself attracted to Housuke partly out of rebellion.


(Using the "sake ship rock" for its true purpose.)

In the second chapter, Chiyoko learns of a spear being kept in the Ueno museum that has characters on it similar to those Housuke had written at the school, and she brings the boy to the museum to have him read the spear.  Naturally, Housuke the idiot has no interest in the item, so she has to take the bandage off, but then Three-Eyes claims the spear as a weapon that drains people of their life energy (Housuke works at a ramen shop part-time, and the cook was bullying him, so the cook and a security guard at the museum become casualties of the spear).  After Three-Eyes is subdued, the spear is returned to the museum by Kenmochi, but it flies to Three-Eyes later on whenever summoned.

A hospital chief doctor decides to automate the pediatric ward in chapter 3, and it's up to Three-Eyes to determine that the computer has turned all the babies into a hive-mind serial killer.  The computer gets destroyed, and the chief doctor decides that the traditional ways of tending babies is the best.

The 2nd year class goes on a field trip to a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), where Jomon-era rock carvings are present (see the Turtle and Monkey Rocks above). Three-Eyes discovers that the Two-Face Rock carving contains instructions for how to use the Sake Ship Rock, and that the Sake Ship Rock is really an ancient device for making a drug that turns people into mindless slaves.  Chiyoko has to kiss Three-Eyes to distract him enough to put the bandage back on before he can use the drug on his classmates.

In chapter 5, Kenmochi tells Chiyoko that he's discovered an ancient Japanese thatch house in the countryside where pictures of the owners depict a family of three-eyes.  Housuke, Chiyoko and the ramen shop owner are directed to visit the house and see what Three-Eyes can learn from the indecipherable writings there.  What he discovers is that a lab filled with deadly war machines lies in a secret underground basement, and he decides to use them to take over the world again.  This time the ramen shop owner and Chiyoko have to tag-team him and destroy the lab.

The basic premise is now set and the primary plot develops in chapter 6.  The teachers revolt against the school principal because Housuke in idiot mode has been disrupting all of their classes.  Meanwhile, three strangers visit the school looking for Three-Eye's help.  We now learn that there are a number of people that have a third eye that is non-functional.  They want to use the ancient secrets of the Maya, the Egyptians, the Indians, or whoever, but none of them can read the ancient texts in their possession, and only Three-Eyes has the mental powers to make the ancient devices run.  In this story, the three strangers want to place mini pyramids around Tokyo and blow up Kenmochi's house, and the Professor along with it.  Three-Eyes hates being used and then discarded, so he withholds the magic keywords that trigger the device, then activates the pyramids himself to blow up the house with the strangers inside.


(If you read One Piece, do you think there are any similarities here?)

In chapter 7, a long-haired rich guy had encountered Three-Eyes before Kenmochi had started requiring the boy to wear the bandage, and had been given a weird schematic to build.  He constructs what looks like a metal spider, but it doesn't do anything.  He asks Three-Eyes to help, and the boy states that the insect is based on the Doctor Jeckel and Mr. Hyde principle.  It attaches itself to the back of the victim's neck and reverts the victim to an unthinking animal state (specifically as a way to eliminate all the teachers on the planet).  The guy had made 100 of the spiders, and he releases them in the school.  Chiyoko ends up raiding one of the teacher's desks for the keys to the lockers in order to shoot Three-Eyes with a rubber-tipped arrow with a bandage attached.  The guy is last seen futilely yelling at the inert spiders to start moving again.



The next 5 chapters are part of one longer story.  Goblin, yet another guy with a nonfunctioning third eye, has found a heavy black metal globe with ancient writing on it, and he sends it to Kenmochi's lab to put it into Three-Eyes' hands.  Goblin then kidnaps Housuke in an attempt to get Three-Eyes on his side.  Unfortunately, Kenmochi has taken to using extra strong glue on the bandages, and they can only be removed with the application of salad oil.  Housuke is returned to Kenmochi's lab, with a note to have the boy look at the globe.  This starts a road trip, with Chiyoko dragging Housuke out to the countryside on a quest to learn more about Three-Eyes' ancestors, with Goblin and his bodyguard in close pursuit.

At a lake shown on a specific map, Chiyoko removes the bandage and Three-Eyes makes a number of discoveries.  First, the globe contains a harpy that he can use to attack his enemies. Second, an ancient ruin lies under the lake in the middle of the mountains.  Third, the main entrance to the ruins is in an onsen (hot spring spa) some distance from the lake. Fourth, that the harpy is the key to entering the labyrinth under the lake and to disable the traps. Fifth, that the main treasure at the bottom of the maze is placed inside a stone sarcophagus, but that it's just a metal tablet with more ancient writing on it.  By opening the sarcophagus, Three-Eyes also opens the door under the lake, flooding the maze; Goblin and the bodyguard, who are on a boat trying to figure out how to open the trapdoor, get sucked into the resulting whirlpool and killed.

Chiyoko brings Housuke back home, but a scientist friend of Kenmochi's insists on reviving Three-Eyes to have him read the metal tablet and reveal its secrets. Three-Eyes sees the tablet and starts crying, then refuses to talk to anyone but Chiyoko.  When they're alone, Three-Eyes states that the tablet is all that remains of a message dedicated to the descendants of the ancient three-eyed race.  Seems that the three-eyes had created a super-advanced civilization, but they'd turned corrupt and brutal with their powers and advanced weapons.  So, their leader, knowing that the human race that would follow them would be just as corrupt, set out to weed out the majority of three-eyes, and wrote the tablet as a warning to whoever survived.  Three-Eyes takes this as an excuse to take over the world again, and summons the spear to start destroying the house.  Chiyoko grabs a bottle of whiskey and pours it down Three-Eyes' throat then follows this up with the bandage over the third eye.  Kenmochi's friend refuses to accept the damage to the house as a warning to stop trying to use Three-Eyes' powers for his own research.

---------------

There are a few common threads in all of the chapters.  In idiot mode, Housuke is picked on by everyone.  Yet, when he becomes Three-Eyes, he's punished for attempting to get revenge on those that ridiculed him.  The idea being that wiping out the human race is just a tad bit extreme. Another thread revolves around the bandage.  Housuke is constantly told to never remove the bandage because he'll be punished for it, yet Chiyoko, Kenmochi, and everyone else trying to decipher the ancient scripts want to use Three-Eyes' powers for themselves, and then discard him when they get what they want.  It's a very one-sided arrangement, and everyone gets upset when Three-Eyes refuses to go along with them.  The third thread is that of "mystery sites".  While the Mayan and Egyptian pyramids are the basis of some of the puzzles, the stories themselves take place at real locations around Japan.  (Later, Chiyoko and Three-Eyes travel to other world sites.)  So, part of the appeal of these stories is being able to see the actual rock formations or carvings from around Japan, and to try to understand what the ancient Jomon or Yayoi people had in mind when they created them.

Summary: Housuke is a junior high student born with three eyes.  When the third one is covered, he acts like a troubled 4-year-old.  When uncovered, he's a force of evil that wants to eliminate the human race.  Together with his adoptive father, his employer at the ramen shop, and his presumptive girlfriend, Chiyoko, he tries to learn more about his ancestors and the ruins that they left behind when they disappeared.  As a romance mystery series, The Three-Eyed One has adventure, puzzle-solving, and the occasional dead bodies.  Recommended for anyone that likes Tezuka's works, or older manga in general.

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