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  • Wolf Head in Phoenix
  • Ueno Toshiya (bio)

Tezuka Osamu's daughter Rumiko, as producer of the record label Music Robita, once recommended to the U.K.-based techno artists System 7 that they read some of the English editions of the manga Phoenix (1954-88), given she felt their music perfectly matched the manga's content. After reading them, Steve and Miquette of System 7 were completely "blown away" and decided to produce some tracks and even make an entire concept album inspired by Tezuka's Phoenix.

"Wolf-Head" is one of the tracks in System 7's Phoenix album. Each track draws inspiration from the characters, episodes, and narrative setting of the Phoenix saga. Although it is neither the title track nor a special tune on the album, it is interesting to note that they composed and made this track after their reading of the volume Phoenix: Sun. In the album's liner notes, Steve and Miquette insist that the volume Sun is the most complex and radical among the series. For System 7, the volume's narrative focus on state power and the abuse of religion in human history enhanced their creative imagination as musicians.1 Amino Yoshihiko's historiographical approach comes from a detailed rereading of the essay "On the Relationship between Shrine-Temple and Society in the Medieval Age" (1926), which was written during [End Page 322] the Fifteen-Year War. During the postwar period, due to the widespread influence of orthodox Marxism among Japanese intellectuals, the essay was banned within academia.

Nobody can deny the varied influences of Amino's historicism on Japanese anime and manga, particularly in such works as Princess Mononoke, in which it is quite clear that both main characters were inspired by Amino's theory of historicism. The two characters are San, a girl who was fostered by a wolf and can communicate with the natural spirits in animals, and Lady Eboshi, who uses a secret technology and has ambitions to sacrifice the Deer God, Shishi Gami, in order to obtain its spiritual power.2 The inhabitants of Lady Eboshi's village, who represent a variety of groups socially-discriminated against within medieval Japan, also engage in the production of musket guns. While there was no technology for muskets in medieval Japan, the narrative setting of Lady Eboshi's village, with its assortment of social outcasts, suggests an attempt by Miyazaki to draw attention to marginal parts of actual Japanese history. Both the character San and Eboshi are closely associated with a kind of asylum or enclave within the historical space of medieval Japanese society: the divine forest and secret community.

Tezuka's Phoenix was his life work and is considered by readers to be one of the best Japanese manga ever published. Having spent more than thirty years in serialization, the Phoenix manga has presented readers with a range of characters and themes, both fictional and historical, which have shed much light on various aspects of medieval Japanese society. Throughout this saga, some of Tezuka's well-known characters from his other work are also featured in different contexts; this is usually referred to as Tezuka's Hollywood-like star system.

The protagonist of Phoenix: Sun, Harima, who is a descendant of the Baekje (Kudara) dynasty, gets involved in the war between the Tang Dynasty and the Shinra during the seventh century. His allied army of Japan is defeated (in what is historically known as the battle of Baekgang, or Hakusukinoe in Japanese), and he is then caught by cruel soldiers of the Tang armies, who cut off his face and skin and replace it with that of a dog. Strangely the dog skin fits seamlessly onto his face and body. A shamanistic old woman then cures his wounds. This divine mother, who is also a sorceress, accompanies him almost [End Page 323] until the end of the story. By the end of this episode, his peeled-off face acts as a kind of "quasi-cause" in the sense of the Stoics' philosophy, because his wound as such precedes his identity as a dog-man or wolf-head. This event of literally "losing face," and the resulting shift in identity...


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pp. 322-335
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