A graphic-novel treatment of the life and Buddhist teachings of Nichiren, a real-life 13th-century Japanese priest.
In ancient Japan, the inhabitants suffer greatly; alongside natural disasters such as drought and earthquakes, corruption runs rampant. The peaceful priest Nichiren, however, is unafraid to speak his mind against abuses of power and to help the people find hope in an otherwise difficult time. He is revered by the masses but hated by those in power. Other priests and officials continually plot his exile and demise, but Nichiren, with his wisdom and patience, always manages to prevail and garner more followers. Though fictionalized, Murakami and Tanaka’s Nichiren is a fascinating figure; unfortunately, readers are given little background information or supplemental sources for further investigation, save for one website (the publisher’s). His mantra, "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," is repeated often but inadequately explained, offering little to readers at a valuable moment when their attention is rapt. However, Nichiren's life is compelling nonetheless and smartly interpreted by Tanaka with black-and-white manga-style illustrations, which should easily draw an audience to material that they may have otherwise overlooked. Readers unfamiliar with Buddhism who give this a try will be pleasantly surprised—and hopefully piqued enough to do some of their own research into this provocative teacher.
An intriguing imagining that is both edifying and enlightening and that makes an ancient figure easily accessible to a modern audience. (Graphic historical fiction. 13 & up)