Jan 13, 2015

For the Love of Unico

For the Love of Unico
by Tanya Lindquist

Unico, by Osamu Tezuka, follows the story of a tiny unicorn who is banished to the ends of the earth. What possible sin should such an adorable creature commit? Bringing happiness and joy to everyone he meets. Unico is the embodiment of selfless love. If you love him he will transform into a grown up unicorn and make your dreams come true.

The two chapters that stand out are "Buffalo Hill" and "Cat on the Broomstick." In "Buffalo Hill," Unico befriends a young Native American boy named Tip. Tip asks Unico to take him into the forest, so he can explore. There he comes upon a girl named Mary and they become friends. He asks Unico to transform them into adults, and they fall in love. Their parents, on the other hand, warn the children that there is no way their love can last. They are from two different worlds, and the reality of their situation will tear them apart. Tip does make a choice that leads to tragic consequences for him and his tribe. This is the only story that Tezuka leaves on an ambiguous note. All of the others are wrapped up and have a definitive ending. You are not sure what fate lies ahead for the two lovers.

The next one, "Cat on the Broomstick," is about a cat who befriends Unico. This chapter and "Unico and Solitude" were combined and featured in the anime, The Fantastic Adventures of Unico. The cat, named Chow, reveals that she would like to be a human girl and learn magic. They end up living with an old woman, who Chow believes to be a witch. At this point, the manga and anime start to veer away from each other. In the anime, the villain feels more like a vampire. He has long flowing locks and a seductive personality. You feel like it’s a date rape situation waiting to happen when he invites her to his castle and offers her a drink. In the manga, he is a psychopath who enjoys hunting animals for sport and mounting them on his wall. He imprisons Chow in his castle, demands that she sing or he will kill her if it doesn’t please him.

Reading through of the stories, I found several commonalities. One, Tezuka draws the villains in a certain way. The shape of their eyes is meant to show that they are mischievous and untrustworthy. There is also a difference between adults and young characters. Adults have big noses, while young people have petite ones. The entire manga is in full color with bright blues, yellows, and greens probably to entice children to read it. Reflecting on the other Tezuka works aimed at children, the underlying theme that connects them is harmony between humans and other worlds. In Astro Boy, harmony in the future between humans and robots. In Kimba, the White Lion, that the animal world and humans can coexist. In Unico, the mythical realm of gods, goddesses and unicorns can aide others in finding happiness.

Overall, the Unico manga is an interesting read and definitely one for any Osamu Tezuka completist. The colorful illustrations will delight readers young and old. The manga also contains messages about harmony, love, and working together to resolve problems. In addition, the two anime films Fantastic Adventures of Unico and Unico and the Island of Magic are great companion pieces.

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