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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:

  • 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.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Alabaster's hideout.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Alabaster and his crew are dead, the dangerous Rock Holmes is also no longer a threat, but Kanihei loses her sister who probably died of a long fall.
  • Body Horror
  • Break the Cutie: Ami.
  • Character Overlap: Rock also appears in other mangas of Tezuka such as Vampires or Black Jack.
  • Commissar Cap: Gen wore one during his youth.
  • Creator Backlash: In an afterword, Tezuka talks in great length about how he didn't like working on this manga, to the point that he also disliked drawing characters such as Rock and Gen. He also explains that the failure of the manga is due to the fact that he drew it at a low point in his life.
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  • Creator Breakdown: Tezuka commented that some mangas, including Alabaster, were made during a low point of his life.
  • Crossdresser: Rock. Thanks to his androgynous appearance, he pretends to be a 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."
  • 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.
  • 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:
    "Don't get me wrong, it's not just japanese faces I hate. I also detest anglo-saxons, italians and slavs. Of course, the same applies for africans, indians, and arabs."
  • Kick the Dog: Rock litteraly does it in the first pages where he appears.
  • The Klutz: Sanjo.
  • Mad Scientist: Professor F.
  • 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.
  • The Professor: Professor F, the scientist who helps Alabaster get his ray gun.
  • 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.
  • Utopia: Alabaster imagines "Alabastopia", his own world of non-beauty.
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