Manga / Phoenix

Phoenix (火の鳥) is a manga series by Osamu Tezuka that ran from 1967 to 1988, and is considered by the man himself to be his greatest work.

The series is focused on the Phoenix, a cosmic entity that looks like a peacock and whose blood grants immortality towards whoever drinks it.

The volumes take place either far in The Future or in Feudal Japan. As the series progress, the timelines grow closer. Typically, the story contains much more humor in the feudal Japan stories while the science-fiction stories are more dramatic.

The Viz edition has edited the following volumes:
  • 1- Dawn
  • 2- Universe
  • 3- Yamato/Space
  • 4- Karma
  • 5- Resurrection
  • 6- Nostalgia
  • 7- Civil War (Part One)
  • 8- Civil War (Part Two)
  • 9- Strange Beings/Life
  • 10- Sun (Part One)
  • 11- Sun (Part Two)
  • 12- Early Works

There have been two OVAs, two animated movies, a live-action movie, and a TV series.

Not to be confused with Phoenix Wright, the French band Phoenix, the (unrelated to each other) coin-op video games Phoenix or Space Firebirds, The '90s Australian police mini-series, the Phoenix air-to-air missile, or Phoenix, Arizona.

See The Phoenix for the mythological creature Phoenix.

Tropes in this manga series include:

  • Action Girl: Kajika in Yamato.
  • Anachronism Stew: As in his other works, Tezuka works in a lot of quick and mostly insignificant gags involving absurd anachronisms.
  • Back from the Dead: In a sci-fi example, happens in Ressurection to the main character.
  • Bifauxnen: Sakon No Suke in Strange Beings.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Mostly grays, but you're more likely to find a totally evil character than a perfectly good character. Gao, for instance, is one of the more purely good protagonists... if not for his start as an indiscriminate thief and mass murderer. It is notable that killing seems to be considered acceptable if one does it to survive, as it is no different than hunting (one of the themes, especially in Gao's book Karma, is that all life is equal).
    • Benta and Obu from Civil War could qualify as purely good characters since the worst thing Benta ever does is steal an unclaimed but precious comb, and Obu never commits any crime whatsoever.
      • Well Benta did kill Minamoto Yoshitsune, but he had very a good reason for it.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Phoenix herself is all over the place in some of the books. In some she's a benevolent goddess guiding and protecting creation. Others she's a fierce guardian who will uphold a greater cosmic balance, and crush you like a bug if you dare interfere in her work. Sometimes she's a cruel mistress of dispensing punishment, sometimes called, and uncalled for.
  • Canon Immigrant: Robita the robot reappears in the 2003 Astro Boy animated series, recolored yellow, becoming a Robot Maid to Astro's family. He/she is not part of Tezuka's Star System, though.
  • Cloning Blues: In Life, clones are made so they can be hunted and killed for a gameshow.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Phoenix's punishment on Nakamura in Space. Nakamura thinks of it as A Fate Worse Than Death.
  • Convenient Eclipse: Subverted, as it is quite inconvenient to Queen Himiko in Dawn.
  • De Mythification: Most of the historical chapters (immortal bird goddess aside), apart from Sun (though the past bits of that may or may not have been hallucinated by a guy living in 2008). Sun also retroactively inverts this for Strange Beings. The earlier story had implied that the monsters Yaobikuni treats are aliens but Sun features actually Youkais going to her after being wounded in battle against Indian Boddhisatvas.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In Strange Beings, Akon no Suke and her completely innocent retainer are sentenced to several decades of imprisonment in an inescapable mountain temple adrift in time and space, caring for sick and injured humans and monsters for killing an elderly nun who... wait for it... is the future version of the Samurai after spending decades of imprisonment for killing her older self, essentially committing suicide. Furthering the Moral Dissonance is that her younger self did so to avoid her future nun-self from saving the life of her Evil Overlord father so he would cease his warring and murdering. So basically the Family-Unfriendly Aesop is suicide is wrong, even if it saves countless lives, and decades of forced penance is not necessarily enough to balance your karma. The icing on this cake is that she came to realize her younger self would come and kill her, and was powerless to stop her.
    • It's not so warped if you consider that the Yaobikuni was a healer, and she was willing to kill her - even though the Yaobikuni had saved many lives and would no doubt have gone on to save many more - in order to ensure that her father would die. She did the equivalent of blowing up a hospital to kill a single petty tyrant. So no, it's not disproportionate at all.
      • Other characters performed their fair share of atrocities, yet Akon no Suke is the only one we know of who is forced to live through something on the the level of the loop of coming to the temple, killing herself, becoming the healer, realizing the truth, and wait to be killed by her past self. The situation does indeed come off as being a tract against suicide that ended up being Disproportionate Retribution.
    • This also occurs with Saruta, where it's implied that everyone bad that happens to Saruta and his incarnations is because of Karma (which flows in both directions, past and future incarnations affect the present incarnation.) What was Saruta's horrendous crime? When confronting the Phoenix in "Space", he willingly and with malice aforethought... kills a plant.
      • Well, a plant that used to be human. It's... complicated. There was also the time he killed almost everybody in Nagi's village. And the time he was a bandit and killed a bunch of people.
  • Doing In the Scientist: Earlier stories implied that most supernatural phenomena and creatures seem by people were merely exotic or extraterrestrial beings that humans wrongly assumpted to be supernatural. Later stories, however, presented actual youkai.
  • Everything's Messier with Pigs: With a potion made from pig's excrement, you can turn a whole alien race even more corrupt than the humans! This happens in the end of Nostalgia.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The Phoenix is continually reincarnating the Universe in the hopes mankind will finally be harmonious with itself and nature. She hopes mankind will use the life he is given wisely, and even more, eventually, returning to her/becoming part of her. She never succeeds and never quits.
  • A God Am I: Subverted with Masato in Universe, who is forced to become the god of the new world, against his will.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Himiko from Dawn.
  • Gonk: The king in Yamato is meant to be ugly.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Nakamura meets a race of bird people, and gets engaged to an attractive bird-woman (though he makes fun of her legs). It ends poorly with him eating her legs for dinner.
  • Heel–Face Turn: While he doesn't have any sides to switch between, Gao in Karma more or less goes from villain to Messianic Archetype.
  • Hollywood Evolution: In Nostalgia, the two genders of an alien race evolve to be part of the "same body" and rock evolves to be alive, becoming the dominant predators.
  • Humans Are Bastards: All over the place, it being one of Tezuka's favorite themes.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In Life, is created such a game show using clones to be hunted.
  • Hyperlink Story
  • In-Name-Only: The plot of Yamato has very little to do with the actual legend of Yamato Takeru that it's based on apart from the characters' names and the bit where the prince kills Chief Takeru and earns his title. The original was mostly a conventional fairytale about a prince fighting a dragon, whereas Tezuka's version is a more political story about learning about other cultures, the conflict between duty to one's family and one's personal beliefs and the hubris of the ruling class where instead of a dragon Yamato Takeru faces off against his father over the issue of banning human sacrifice.
  • Interspecies Romance: Between a cyborg and a robot, an alien bird-woman and a human, a human and a wolf spirit.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the fittingly named Karma, Smug Snake Akanemaru is killed in a fire just after exposing Gao's past, which led to Gao's remaining arm being chopped off. The kicker is that Akanemaru will never again be reborn as a human.
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor Weekday in Resurrection.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The Phoenix's blood seems to work differently each time it is used on a character. Drinking it is meant to make the subject immortal, but Masato in Universe still grows old until his body is destroyed but his mind lives on and Nakamura in Space grows younger until he is a baby and then grows old again and so on.
  • Mayincatec: In Life, the Incas in Peru have come in contact with the Phoenix.
  • Mood Whiplash
  • Perspective Reversal: Karma, the artisan Akanemaru, first meets Gao as a fugitive and offers him his fire; Gao, disfigured from birth, rewards Akanemaru for his kindness by maiming him out of spite. By the end of the story, Gao has redeemed himself and become a master artisan in his own right, while Akanemaru has let his success get to his head and become a cold, heartless bastard: when Gao bests him in a competition, Akanemaru reveals Gao's sordid past, resulting in him losing his one good arm.
  • Reused Character Design: Recurring characters who appear are Saruta (almost the hero of the series), Rock, Acetylene Lamp, Duke Red and even Black Jack.
  • Robot Girl: Chihiro in Resurrection, although she actually looks like a very unattractive insect-like robot and Leon sees her as a pretty girl due to his artificial brain cells.
    • Also Olga in Hi No Tori 2772 aka Space Firebird, a 1980 animated movie that is only partially linked to the manga series.
  • Robot Maid: Shiva in Nostalgia.
  • Scenery Porn: This being Osamu Tezuka, there are tons of splash pages devoted to showing off gorgeously rendered landscapes and architecture. Note that his humans are always simple and cartoony despite backgrounds that range from simplified props to photorealistic environments.
  • Sexbot: Fanny in Resurrection.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Although the interplay of events from previous and future volumes give it purpose, when taken on its own Yamato is a good example of this.
  • Smug Snake: Karma follows Akanemaru's transformation into one even though he starts out as a nice guy.
  • Society Is to Blame: Gao in Karma says "Society made me who I am!" about why he had become a nihilistic mass murderer. The priest he says this to partially agrees, saying that reincarnation and karma are what put him in those circumstances to begin with.
  • Starfish Aliens: Some extra-terrestrial life forms are quite weird, such as living stones, trees with mammaries and spider-plants.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Kajika dresses as a boy to be employed as a worker in Yamato and get close to Oguna.
  • The Caligula: Queen Himiko
  • The Phoenix
  • Tin Man: Robot Chihiro in Nostalgia says that it has "no heart" and does not feel any emotions. Despite this, it helps the protagonists accomplish their missions and Com asks Roomi how a supposedly heartless robot could be so kind to them while most of the humans they have met were mean.
  • We Are as Mayflies: How 99% of humanity sees itself, thus pursues the Phoenix for her fiery blood to cheat death.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Masato in Universe is very displeased that the new leading animals in the future are slugs, and has little sympathy for the last living one as it struggles for survival.
    • Though this lack of sympathy probably has more to do with the fact that those damn stupid slugs went and wiped themselves out by having a world war.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: In Life, a TV producer decides that in order for human clones to be hunted and killed without remorse, they'd have to be so misshapen as to not be considered human anymore.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Obviously a recurring theme.