This is the story of three men named Adolf. Each one lived a very different life, but they were bound together by a single twist of fate...
An epic story of war, friendship and betrayal from the God Of Manga himself
. Spanning approximately half a century, from the Berlin Olympics to the then-present of The Eighties
, focusing primarily on the years leading up to World War II
is by turns a Coming-of-Age Story
, Spy Fiction
, Romance and a fairly well-done Author Tract
about the evils of war and racism.
One thing that makes Adolf
fairly unique is that, despite having only one name in the title, it has three title characters
. They are Adolf Kaufman, the son of a German diplomat and his Japanese wife; Adolf Kamil, the Japanese-born son of a pair of Jewish German expat bakers; and some art school reject
What's also interesting is that unlike most WWII stories you're probably familiar with, it gives an intimate look into the daily lives of people in the Axis Powers. Tezuka himself lived through the war and many of the later chapters were based on his own experiences with dodging American incendiaries as a lad.
It was published in English by Cadence Books and Viz for a time, but was out of print for a while. There is also an English Scanlation
floating around on the internet, though of questionable quality. Vertical released a new translation in August 2012 under the title Message to Adolf
Adolf provides examples of:
- Bad Ass: Both Toge and Lampe, appropriate considering their brutal feud drives a lot of the book's action set-pieces.
- Berserk Button: Adolf Kaufman hates when others refer to his Japanese mother as a geisha. Even if it is Hitler himself saying it.
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Yukie is rendered a vegetable in an air raid, but lives long enough to give birth to her and Toge's daughter.
- Black and Grey Morality: Rather unusual for a WWII story, though not exactly surprising, considering where it came from. Though the forces of Japanese militarism and Nazism are unquestionably vile, the Allies don't come off too well, either. FDR knowingly sends hundreds of sailors to their deaths as part of a Batman Gambit and after that we only see the Americans as the Japanese civilians did: a faceless boogeyman periodically raining firey death on the heads of soldiers and civilians alike. And then there's the whole Arab-Israeli Conflict bit at the end...
- Toge is probably the character the reader most likely relates to, however he did rape Lampe's daughter in retaliation to his brother's murder.
- Black Bead Eyes: Ms. Ogi, the schoolteacher. This is curious in that she's not a background character, indeed she's very important to the plot, and then her fairly simple design contrasts with the other more realistically drawn characters.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: During Adolf Kaufman's first date with Elisa, a couple of his Hitlerjugend fellows secretly follow him with a camera. One of them complains that they can't tell what Adolf was saying to Elisa because speech bubbles don't appear in pictures!
- But Not Too Foreign: Adolf Kaufman. Elisa is also part Asian, having some Chinese ancestry.
- Chekhov's Skill: The fact Toge was a star athlete in college comes in quite handy considering he spends about half the manga running away from spies who are trying to kill him.
- Chick Magnet: Toge runs into a lot of potential love interests before settling down at the end of book three.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Toge, Ms. Ogi and many others experience it. Well, it's Nazis we're talking about.
- Complexity Addiction: During the confrontation with Toge on an island, Lampe could easily have shot him, but he wanted him alive to torture him and perform horrible experiments on him. Lampe then gets startled by a flock of seagulls, allowing Toge to shoot him instead (he gets better however).
- Conspiracy Theory: Much of the plot revolves around the largely discredited notion that Hitler's grandfather was a Jew. Also, the old chestnut about Roosevelt knowing about Pearl Harbor in advance makes an appearance.
- While the "advance knowledge" conspiracy theory has been pretty thoroughly debunked (American authorities were aware a Japanese attack was imminent, but the precise location was unknown. And they certainly did not want to be defeated, let alone suffer the near annihilation of the Pacific Fleet. The Americans had ignorantly and sloppily expected that all their bases were on high alert and ready to repulse an attack.), the Jewish ancestry of Hitler is now considered a total fringe theory. While Hitler having Jewish ancestry was possible, many historians regard it as unlikely, though as of 2010, a study revealed that Hitler's haplogroup is of a kind commonly found in Africans and Jews, though many historians have pointed it out that it does not necessarily mean Hitler was of Jewish descent, African descent, or any combination of the two.
- Also, in 1945 after Hitler's death, the documents are handed over to Adolf Kamil so he can give them to the Jews... and are never heard of again.
- Creative Sterility: Hitler believes the Japanese have this problem and they can only progress by aping "Aryan" culture.
- Creator Cameo: Osamu Tezuka as taxi driver.
- Death Bed Confession: Herr Kaufmann, Adolf's father, confesses to his wife of having murdered a geisha carrying the documents about Hitler's Jewish ancestry, right before dying.
- Defecting for Love: Subverted massively with Adolf Kaufman and Elisa's relationship. Elisa thinks he's horrible for wanting to destroy her race and only wanting to save her because he has a hard-on for her. She only goes along with it at the insistance of her scheming father who thinks having a Nazi in the family will keep the Gestapo from rounding them up. Things go even worse when they meet up again later on...
- Determinator: Again, Toge and Lampe.
- Dirty Cop: Inspector Akabane, who tortures Toge while interrogating him, makes sure he can't get work or shelter and sets fire to a junkyard all so he can get his hands on Toge's proof of Hitler's ancestry.
- The Dragon: Lampe to Hitler. Albeit he kills Hitler at the end.
- Dramatic Irony: Sure, Kaufmann was brainwashed by the Nazis into believing in the ideals of pure race, but Kamil does the same after World War II, becoming a soldier for Israel and starting to kill Palestinian people during the Arab-Israeli Conflict. He even kills his former friend's daughter and wife, but it is unclear if he already knew that his father was Kaufmann's first victim.
- He did know it, in the manga, from a Biography book about Kauffman. It is the first thing Kamil mentioned to Kaufmann when they met again for the finale.
- The biggest example is, of course, Hitler being murdered by Lampe for being of Jewish descent.
- Driven to Suicide: It's not too clear whether Rosa kills herself out of guilt over selling out her boyfriend to the Nazis or due to the trauma of being raped by his brother for it, but she's just as dead either way.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: After everything he went through, Adolf Kamil is unceremoniously killed off-screen by a random suicide bomber in a shopping district not long after he retired from the Israeli army.
- Ear Worm: In universe - Adolf Kaufman is tormented by the final song of a Jewish violinist he murdered.
- Face-Heel Turn: Adolf Kaufman used to be such a sweet kid...
- Kamil may or may not have pulled one as well. According to the PLO he was directly responsible for several massacres, but the only time we actually see him after war's end is during his duel with Kaufman, so it's hard to tell.
- Foregone Conclusion: We know from the prologue that Toge will survive the war and that Adolf Kamil will be the last of the three Adolfs to die, which takes a lot of dramatic tension out of his climactic duel to the death with Adolf Kaufman.
- Genre-Busting: Spanning approximately half a century, from the Berlin Olympics to the then-present of The Eighties, focusing primarily on the years leading up to World War Two, it is by turns a Coming-of-Age Story, Spy Fiction, Romance & a fairly well-done Author Tract about the evils of war and racism.
- Greedy Jew: While most of the Jewish characters are decent people, Elisa's father plays the part of the greedy, scheming old Yid to the hilt. The man sells out his own people by having business dealings with Nazi-affiliated companies, encourages his daughter to get into a relationship with a psychotic Hitler Youth she doesn't even like because a party member marrying into the family would give him even more connections & eventually gets himself and most of his family killed because he didn't want to leave his cash behind when he fled the country.
- Groin Attack: How Toge usually deals with Akabane.
- Hitler Cam: Exaggerated to surreal effect during his big Nuremberg speech.
- I Will Wait for You
- Ineffectual Loner: Toge insists on handling the case himself and so refuses to give the information to any of the spies, who would perhaps make it, you know, really work. Highlighted by the fact that later he does decide to hand it over to a Soviet spy network anyway - but all too late.
- Karma Houdini: Lampe just walks away after carrying out his final mission. Considering where he was, he was probably caught by the Allies soon after, but who knows...
- Large Ham: Hitler, of course. Tezuka often draws his facial expressions and body language in a rubbery, cartoonishly exaggerated manner to satirize his bombastic public speaking style.
- MacGuffin: Hitler's birth certificate and the Wagner statue it was hidden in. They never really explain how it wound up in there in the first place.
- Mighty Whitey: Adolf Kaufman fulfills this trope on many levels. He rises quickly through the SS despite being Half-Japanese. Tezuka attempts to justify this by having Hitler take a personal interest in him as a way of trying to learn about Japan from him so he can understand his Japanese allies better. After the war, he takes refuge with a group of Palestinian fighters and ends up becoming one of their top men, though this does make a bit of sense considering his extensive military training. The fact that the man is a Nazi may or may not make this a very twisted, circuitous Lampshade Hanging...
- The Palestinian leader points out the irony of an ex-Nazi helping them in freeing Israel from the Jews.
- Milking the Giant Cow: Hitler's performance at the Nuremberg rally was already an example of this, but the goofy Art Shift Tezuka uses for this scene turns it Up to Eleven.
- Million Mook March: The original Nuremberg Rally features prominently in the first volume.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Kaufmann receives one from Toge after threatening him with a gun. At this point Kaufmann's really slipped into Smug Snake territory as a character and watching him get his ass kicked is tremendously satisfying.
- Less satisfying is the beating that Kamil receives from Kaufmann. Kamil confronts his former friend after finding out about his wife's rape. Kaufmann retaliates by beating Kamil unconscious with a club, further cementing his Face-Heel Turn.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Toge gets shot in the shoulder, but never rests afterwards: the wound becomes infected and he loses the nerves in his left arm, rendering it useless. One should remember that Tezuka graduated in Medicine.
- Perpetual Frowner: Lampe.
- Red Scare: Another underlying theme, for example when Ms. Ogi's brother faked having her killed, because of rumors that she's a Communist, which could have all of the family expelled from the village and supposedly lynched.
- Reused Character Design: Like most of Tezuka's more "serious" works, very few of them are featured, though Lamp's performance here is widely considered his definitive role. Ham Egg also plays a fairly major role as the sinister Inspector Akabane, Duke Red is a Hungarian smuggler, Tawashi appears briefly as an icecream shop owner and Marukabi Boon makes a rapid cameo as an old friend of Toge.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Inspector Yoneyama's. He hasn't got anything evil about him, though, he's just doing his duty.
- Seppuku: Col. Honda does an interesting solo variation on it, shooting himself in the head with his sidearm after making the cut rather than relying on a kaishaku to behead him.
- Steel Ear Drums: Subverted. Toge goes deaf after nearly getting blown up during an allied bombing raid. He cries...happily because he considers himself lucky compared to others who have lives and limbs.
- Those Wacky Nazis in several forms (well they have to be there).
- Too Dumb to Live: Herr Gutheimer not only thinks his previous collusion with the Nazis will save him once The Holocaust really gets underway, after Adolf Kaufman tries to get him and his family out of the country, the greedy moron comes back after he realizes he left all his money at home! Shame his idiocy got his entire family, save his daughter who went on ahead sent up the chimneys with him...
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Kaufmann when he becomes a nazi.
- Tragic Villain: Adolf Kaufmann.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Kaufmann.
- Villainous Breakdown: Guess who.
- Adolf Kaufman also gets a big one. He starts hallucinating during his U-Boat trip, thinking the ghosts of all the Jews he killed have come after him. He gets better though.
- He gets a bigger one in the end, when he eventually gets his hands on the secret documents proving Hitler's ancestry. Just before he's going to destroy them, he's informed of Germany's defeat and Hitler's death, which means that he basically wasted his life in going after useless trash. He starts laughing and then cries.
- Yakuza present as the important meaning behind a tattoo