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Manga / Alabaster

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James Block/Alabaster

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James Block, a young successful athlete, has the hots for Susan Ross, a beautiful movie star. Unfortunately, she doesn't want to marry him due to his appearance (read: black skin). In a fit of rage, James runs over a pedestrian while trying to car-chase her. While serving 5 years in prison, he befriends a scientist who tells him about a ray gun which can make someone invisible. Hoping to get rid of his black skin, James manages to find the ray gun but almost kills himself by exposing his body to it. With his body flayed, James is now "half-invisible" and decides to name himself Alabaster. He is now a twisted vigilante who aims to fix the world of what is beautiful.

Alabaster is one of Osamu Tezuka's lesser known works. According to a commentary of his, it's due to the fact that it was not well-received and that he disliked working on this manga in general, to the point that it was rarely re-printed. Its story, mostly centered around racism and the rejection of what's outside of the beauty norm, and its violent scenes and characters also make it one of the darkest stories by Tezuka.

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Alabaster provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Not Prosecutor Ozawa or even Ami’s biological mother, but Professor F who used his invention on his own daughter while being pregnant with his granddaughter that time. Unintentionally, he may have ruined the latter’s chance at a normal life and turning her into a criminal for this.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Tezuka's Rock character has usually been portrayed as Japanese (real name Rokuro Makube) or non-specific Western (Rock Home), but is specifically represented as Greek here.
  • Adult Fear: The things Ami did throughout the manga like killing innocent people and creating rampages around the world will definitely break a mother’s heart like Prosecutor Ozawa’s; especially since the former ran away from home and into Alabaster’s clutches.
    • Alabaster stalking the Ozawa household, regarding the situation with Ami can’t be a good thing...
  • Angry Black Man: Alabaster used to be a handsome black man, but racism led to him imprisoned, attempting to look different... turned him into a freak... all while with rage in his heart.
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  • Big Beautiful Woman: Parodied. Tonda is confident in her appearance and hopes that Kanihei's camera works makes her look beautiful, despite her gonky appearance.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Kanihei who never gives up trying to get his sister back from Alabaster.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Alabaster's hideout.
  • Birds of a Feather: Alabaster attempts to convince Ami they’re the same as each other towards the end of the manga.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Alabaster is dead, the dangerous Rock Holmes is also no longer a threat, but Gen and his friends died stopping Alabaster and Rock Holmes for good, which leads to Ami committing suicide and Kanihei the Sole Survivor of the manga.
  • Body Horror: Alabaster has translucent skin that shows his inner veins, much to the horror of many.
  • Break the Cutie: Ami... Dear lord, AMI...
  • Character Overlap: Rock also appears in other mangas of Tezuka such as Vampires or Black Jack. He tends to play smug, manipulative villains. Which is also the case here.
  • Commissar Cap: Gen wore one during his youth.
  • Crossdresser: Rock. Thanks to his androgynous appearance, he successfully pretends to be a female model when Alabaster's crew attacks the fashion event.
  • Darker and Edgier: Coming from the creator of Astro Boy or Kimba the White Lion, you wouldn't expect such violence and mature subjects such as racism to be shown. Tezuka himself commented:
    "I was especially uncomfortable with how dark the story turned out. Looking back, I consider it as a failed attempt to emulate a grotesque thriller in the style of Edogawa Rampo's "The Dwarf" or "Beast in the Shadows". I felt that I had once again made the mistake of going too far in creating such a thoroughly nihilistic work."
  • Determinator: Gen and Kanihei are both determined to save Ami from Alabaster’s influence, no matter what’s the cost.
  • Disappeared Dad: The story never revealed what happened to Kanihei’s father or Ami’s biological father or where they went.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: Rock is enamored with his own reflection and rubs the mirror.
  • Dying Declaration of Love
    Gen: Ami... I... I’ll always love you...
  • Facial Horror: Alabaster and the victims of his ray gun.
  • Fallen Hero: James Block was a popular athlete who won multiple olympics medals, before the events which led him to become Alabaster.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Tonda is the only fat female character of the story. She has a gonky face, eats a book, breaks any furniture she sits on, and her appearance is used for an advert about starvation in Africa.
  • Freudian Excuse: Alabaster's hatred for what's considered beautiful is based on how he was treated as a black person before.
  • Gonk: Tonda.
  • Gorgeous Greek: Rock considers the noble Greeks as the only respectable race in this world. He also considers himself as a proud Greek, on top of being a narcissist.
  • Happily Adopted: Despite being from another family, the Ozawas loved Ami as if she was a part of their own. Kanihei even emphasizes to Ami that no matter what people say about Ami’s biological family or her adoption, she’s still his little sister and their mother’s daughter.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gen fought with Rock in order to save Ami, but was shot several times and died from his wounds.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Alabaster fights by... flicking tiny objects, wether it's pellets, beans, or pebbles.
  • Invisibility: One of the key elements of the story revolves around the idea of turning invisible in order to be more accepted in society. And also the advantage of being invisible when you're in a stealth operation.
  • Jerkass: Rock. On top of humiliating Ami by painting her with toxic paint, he also presents himself as an outright racist:
  • Kick the Dog: Rock litteraly does it in the first pages where he appears.
  • The Klutz: Sanjo.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Rock himself ends up disfigured.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Despite being adopted into the Ozawa family, Kanihei treated Ami as if she was his own little sister and was determined to get her back home.
  • Love Martyr: Gen may be a delinquent, but he’s completely loyal to Ami. He’s even determined to save Ami from Alabaster’s influence and fights Rock to save time for Kanihei and Ami to escape.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Granddaughter on Ami’s behalf, but Professor F was Ami’s biological maternal grandfather before being incarcerated by Prosecutor Ozawa.
  • Master Race: Rock thinks the Greeks are the only respectable race in the world because they are the descendants of the gods of Mount Olympus.
  • Narcissist: Rock.
  • One-Word Title
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Rock, outwardly racist.
  • The Professor: Professor F, the scientist who helps Alabaster get his ray gun.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Professor F was only mentioned a few times in the manga, but his influence was what caused the events lead by Alabaster and the former’s invention.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Ami’s mindset after Rock raped and humiliated her.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Ami promises herself to never kill anyone. Eventually, she changes her mind quickly and is willing to kill Rock not matter what.
  • True Companions: Gen's trio of friends is always faithful to him, even in death.
  • Utopia: Alabaster imagines "Alabastopia", his own world of non-beauty.
  • You Are Not Alone: The central theme of the manga, regarding Ami's situation.

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