When an island falls prey to the toxic gas experiments of Japan and Nation X, the entire population of the island is killed in a matter of minutes. However, a young teenager, Iwao Garai and a younger boy, Michio Yuki, survive the dreadful event, but both walk away with different lessons. Fifteen years later, Yuki is ruthlessly working his way through his organization, seeking down those who created the deadly MW gas that killed the inhabitants of the island. His methods are fierce, productive, and deadly, and his ultimate goal is more catastrophic than the annihilation he witnessed. Garai, now a Catholic priest, fights constantly for the salvation of Yuki’s soul as well as his own, protecting Yuki from police investigation. Besides hiding Yuki’s crimes, Garai has also succumbed to his lustful desires, which Yuki doesn’t hesitate to fuel and take full advantage of.
As Yuki grows closer to the answers he seeks, Garai realizes that Yuki has more devious plans for the MW gas. With their fates inexorably tied, Garai works hard to prevent Yuki from gaining control, but his efforts may prove ineffectual. In his sweeping epic-style narrative, Tezuka interweaves a variety of plots and events that go beyond just Yuki and Garai but, in the end, culminate in Garai clearly severing himself from the seductive and manipulative Yuki.
Though written in the mid-1970s, Tezuka’s MW still holds relevance today. Between the representation of partisan politics, ineffectual media, deadly biological attacks, and government violence upon its own people, Tezuka’s critique of the modern world still remains relevant and haunting. MW certainly plays with some interesting themes and maintains a solemn and intense tone that Tezuka doesn’t always strictly enforce in his other works. Here, side comments and jokes are nowhere to be found while the narrative drive continues to compel the story without distraction.
Tezuka’s most striking ideas in this graphic novel explore the fluidity of sex and gender. In particular, Yuki’s sexual pursuits include both males and females, though Tezuka never clarifies whether this is part of who Yuki is or if the actions are merely purpose-driven to achieve his goals. Additionally, Yuki often disguises himself as a woman for a variety of reasons, though usually to conceal himself or deceive someone. While his motivations in dressing as a female are more obvious, taken into consideration with his sexuality makes for an interesting character—especially for a story from thirty years ago. But Garai, too, shows elements of a more fluid sexuality than typically presented in most comics, never mind mainstream fiction. Probably most intriguing of all is that Tezuka does not seem to overtly judge the acts themselves but more or less the environment which produces them.
Overall, Tezuka provides an engaging tale of passion, love, politics, and revenge that will pull readers in and take them for a 600+ page journey. Though some elements of the tale will prove controversial or strike negative chords within readers, they will still be overwhelmed the by sheer skill of Tezuka who put it all together.