Thursday, October 27, 2011

To Love a Bandit: A Review of Osamu Tezuka’s “Buddha: the Great Departure"

New Lotus
Raymond Lam

It is not often that a Buddhist can give an extended review of an animated epic about the Buddha, because as far as my inexperience knows there have been no animated films to begin with that enjoy the same financial backing and sheer effort as Osamu Tezuka’s “Buddha”, which will be presented in three films. “The Great Departure” is the first movie in this manga-to-silver screen trilogy, which I watched in Amsterdam on the first night of the sixth Buddhist Film Festival Europe (October 1st – 3rd, 2011). It is a visually sumptuous and artistically awe-inspiring film, with intriguing reinterpretations and some regrettable omissions that differ from both its manga original and the canonical accounts of the Buddha’s early life. It offers sprawling, scenic panoramas of northern India and the Himalayas, and a gritty and gory panorama of war, violent deaths and eviscerated corpses. It utilizes the latest in animation to show off the miracles of young Siddhartha, from the opening where the bodhisattva hare throws its own body into the fire to the white, six-tusked elephant that (mystically, mind you, not sexually) enters the stunningly drawn Queen Māyā....

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