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Director: Hitoshi Iwamoto
Screenplay: Haruo Kimura, Tetsuya Oishi, from Osamu Tezuka
Cast: Hiroshi Tamaki, Takayuki Yamada
Producers: Shinzo Matsuhashi
A decade and a half ago, a tragic disaster occurred on Okinomabune Island near Okinawa, one that was immediately covered up by the authorities. A foreign military base there housed storage facilities for a classified chemical weapon called MW, until an accidental leak killed all the island’s inhabitants—except two young boys. Today, years later, the two lads have followed different—indeed, exactly opposite—paths in life. Yutaro Garai is now a Catholic priest dedicated to peace, justice and righteousness. The handsome and brilliant Michio Yuki, however, has had his conscience dissolved by the toxic gas to which he was exposed. A big-time player in high finance and politics, he moonlights as a kidnapper and mass murderer. This isn’t unknown to Yutaro, for he is Michio’s confessor and must struggle with the torture of this knowledge he is forbidden by his vows to reveal. That struggle will only intensify as Michio descends further into sociopathic madness, plotting a crime exponentially more heinous than any he has perpetrated before.
Eighty years after the birth in 1928 (and two decades following the passing) of Osamu Tezuka, Nippon Television Network set out to salute the towering titan of manga and anime with a live-action adaptation of one of his most surprising works. With a couple of technical tricks borrowed from Disney and an ability to breathe substance and character into big-eyed cutie-pie creatures, Tezuka jumpstarted the post-war comics and animation industries of Japan, going on to create some of the nation’s most important works, including the iconic TETSUWAN ATOMU, aka ASTRO BOY, and JUNGLE TATEI, aka KIMBA THE WHITE LION. Later works like DORORO and BUDDHA showed Tezuka stretching out thematically and philosophically, but with the 1976 debut of his manga M.W., the master stunned his massive following. Paranoid, spiritually intense, violent and disturbingly dark, M.W. incisively addressed governmental deceit, religious dogma, environmental catastrophe and the very essence of good and evil. M.W. is hardly representative of Tezuka’s body of work—in fact, it’s a piercing counterpoint to the rest—but it revealed the depth of the manga master’s moral and artistic vision, and as such is a worthy platform for this heartfelt celebration of his memory.