Manga Classics: The Book Of Human Insects

by Tito W. James

How do you define a vampire? Osamu Tezuka’s The Book Of Human Insects follows the journey of a woman who has the ability to leach talent from the people she encounters. This woman, Toshiko Tomura, becomes a successful actress, designer and author by mimicking her colleagues and plagiarizing their work. Can a book written in the 70s still surprise today’s readers?

The Bad

Some of the politics in the latter half of the story are Japan and period- centric. This can make parts of the third act a little hard to follow or drag at times.

The Good

Tezuka has a masterful sense of pacing and utilizes creative paneling that trounces many contemporary comics. The chaotic journey of Toshiko Tomura serves as a metaphor for women entering the workforce in the 1970s. Tomura emulates powerful men to survive in a man’s world. Eventually her actions go beyond survival and she becomes an apex predator.

The Verdict

The Book of Human Insects’ story, design and subject matter remain fresh and engaging to this day. Toshiko Tomura is a riveting anti-heroine that had me plow through this 364-page manga in a day. As a self-contained story, The Book of Human Insects is an excellent introduction to the works of Osamu Tezuka and each reader is sure to have their own takeaway.

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