The best literature serves to open your eyes to something new, to reveal something you haven’t seen before. Books that meet this test are few and far between — and Message to Adolf by manga master Osamu Tezuka is firmly one of them.
It’s all the more surprising through Western eyes because we just don’t expect to come across idea shaking literature in graphic form — manga, comic, or graphic novel. Message to Adolf shows we probably should.
So often the story of Hitler and the Jews has been played out in a European context -- here it is fascinating to see it played out against a Japanese backdrop.
Message to Adolf brings together a number of story lines in a compelling tale of race, cultures, and war in a way I had never considered before. Part of the genus is the blurring of race lines — with each of the three Adolfs of the book:
1. half-Jewish half-Japanese Adolf Kaufmann who ends up following his German blood into the Hitler youth
2. Ashkenazi Jew living in Japan Adolf Kamil who considers himself to be Japanese - and his wartime struggles
3. The rise of German dictator Adolf Hitler.
What’s clear from all three stories is that race can be twisted and warped until it destroys us and those around us.
Also it is interesting to see a little bit about Jewish life in Japan during the war - something I knew nothing of before these books.