In an out-of-the-way Japanese village, there is an illness known as Monmow Disease. Its symptoms are a wide variety of very bad things: the bones begin to atrophy, the patient exhibits an extraordinarily high fever, and eventually even loses the ability to breathe. But the most curious part of Monmow Disease is its visual symptoms: the patient begins to turn into what looks like a humanoid fox. The patient's bones deform into a dog-like shape, even forming a snout, while hair starts growing all over the body, and the patient loses the ability to digest nearly anything except raw meat.
Young aspiring doctor Kirihito volunteers to go into Tokushima village to investigate this disease and, he hopes, come up with an explanation for its origin. But it turns out that he's in for an experience which is most certainly not what he was expecting.
Ode to Kirihito is a work by Osamu Tezuka with a genre bent that's rather difficult to describe. It's psychologically complex, dealing not just with Kirihito's experience with Monmow Disease, but also his friend Doctor Urabe's psychosis and deterioration without Kirihito around to help keep him grounded. It deals heavily with medical politics and intrigue as Tatsagura, their boss, tries to work his way into being elected president of the Japanese Medical Association. There's a deep religious angle as Helen Friese, a nun, is struck with the disease and must come to terms with her identity before God when she appears to the world as a monster. And Sexual Harassment and Rape Tropes? Prepare to be shocked by how many are used here.
Suffice to say, there's a lot of stuff going on here. Ode to Kirihito is one of those "artsy" manga, dealing heavily with substantive issues in a medium where even today this kind of introspection is unusual. Suggest it to friends who dismiss comics as all being something for kids. And don't forget to tell them it was written by the same guy who made Astro Boy.
Provides Examples Of:
- Affectionate/Embarrassing Nickname: The residents of the Syrian village Kirihito finally settles down in almost unanimously call him Dr. Dog—not out of any disrespect, but because they find "Dr. Osanai Kirihito" a bit too much of a mouthful.
- All for Nothing: After every horrible thing Tatsugaura did for a chance to be elected as the head of the Japanese Medical Association, he actually does get it but he immediately catches Monmow, gets booted from the position as a result, and dies soon after.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: Kirihito feels that he has lost the right to even bear a name after having been raped by a dog.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Don't piss Kirihito off.
- Break the Cutie: How much pain and humiliation can Kirihito go through before he snaps? It is also implied it happened to child Reika. Neither Helen nor Izumi have a particularly good time either.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Reika getting deep-fried when her "human tempura" stunt goes horribly wrong.
- Cute Monster Girl: Helen looks more like a furry dog-girl in her Monmow-infected form.
- Death of a Child: Mahn has a human baby getting eaten by a snake just for entertainment. The baby that Kirihito and co. find in the desert doesn't make it either.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The racism of the white upper class in South Africa and the racial divide propogated by it at the time of the story are depicted prominently and plays heavily into Helen's subplot, as many people aware of her condition try to keep it secret so they can uphold the facade that Monmow only effects non-whites.
- Despair Event Horizon: Urabe is finally Driven to Suicide after Tatsuagara betrays/disowns him and he realizes his violent impulses are now completely out of control.
- Devolution Device / Evolutionary Levels: Played slightly realistically. Monmow Disease is described as an atavistic disorder that causes the expression of genes left over in the human genome from a dog-like early mammal.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Played straight with Tazu, whom Kirihito eventually comes to love despite the circumstances surrounding their wedding. But it's subverted with Reika, whom Kirihito eventually forgives. Let's also not forget that he also gets raped by a literal bitch and that the manga makes it very clear that Reika and the she-dog nearly degrade him into a shell of his former self.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Helen and Kirihito have to go through hell for it, but they do finally receive closure and community that accepts them despite their appearance.
- Fakeout Makeout: Well, not a makeout, but Tazu and Kirihito establish an alibi by removing their clothes just before they're found and insisting that they were having sex when the tobacconistnote died.
- First Girl Wins: See Maybe Ever After.
- Freudian Excuse: Mahn pursues extremely sadistic and degrading entertainments because he used to be a starving child who watched powerlessly as his parents died. In other words, his motivation is self-hatred, or rather hatred for the pauper he used to be.
- Gambit Pileup: The war for information and manipulation involves Tatsugaura, Kirihito, Urabe, Izumi, Manheim, Mahn and his entourage, the mayor... phew.
- The Grotesque: Both Helen and Kirihito. They turn into odd, hairy dog-people, treated as humiliated freaks.
- Heroic BSoD: After failing to save a patient, killing two men in self-defense, and watching helplessly as the child he found in the desert dies of hunger and dehydration, Kirihito just about loses it.
- Horror Hunger: One early symptom of Monmow is an insatiable craving for raw meat, something observers and even some victims of the disease are understandably horrified by when it comes time to feed.
- I Am a Monster: Urabe is fully aware how wrong and depraved his behavior is—he just doesn't think he can control himself, which is why he finally throws himself in front of a truck. Kirihito also tends to think like this.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Kirihito decides not to kill Tazu's murderer in the end. He does kill in self-defense, but chooses not to kill in retaliation or in despair.
- I Love Nuclear Power: The true cause of Monmow Disease is contaminated drinking water drawn from places that contained deposits of a rare radioactive isotope. Played somewhat more realistically than most, considering the gradual, painful, and usually fatal nature of the mutations, but the dog-face thing is still really pushing it.
- Karmic Transformation: Both Mahn and Tatsugaura contract (and eventually die from) Monmow Disease. Tatsugaura's is particularly karmic as it happens right after he wins the position as head of the Japanese Medical Association that he did all manner of underhanded thing to obtain, and he lives just long enough to find out he got booted from the position the moment the Association heard about his condition.
- Maybe Ever After: The series ends with Izumi, knowing both of Kirihito's deformity and the wife he took, flying off to look for him in hopes that she can repair their relationship.
- Meaningful Name: Kirihito sounds like the Japanese pronunciation of "Christ": Kirisuto.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Reika has a huge turn-on towards misshapen freaks and has restrained and raped several of them in the past, including a dwarf and a rubber-man.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: If you look over Tezuka's body of work you'll see he was quite fond of the trope. Kirihito is probably the most "realistic" interpretation out of them all, indeed perhaps in all of fiction.
- Painful Transformation: Monmow causes a great deal of physical trauma to its victims as it takes its course.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: The board of the Japanese Medical Association could certainly be considered corrupt given that they elect Tatsugaura as their head despite Kirihito telling them in full all the horrible things he did to get the position, but they also immediately can Tatsugaura from the position once they hear he caught Monmow, despite knowing it's not necessarily fatal and perhaps believing it isn't contagious.
- Rape as Drama: Oddly enough, the focus is just as much on the deterioration of Urabe's mental faculties as it is on the women he rapes.
- Red Herring: The elements that seem to indicate that Monmow is contagious, especially the scratches Kirihito inflicted on Mahn's neck. Medical Red Herrings, baby!
- Sacrificial Lamb: Tazu and Reika die so that Kirihito can live on and be psychologically reborn. At a more metaphorical level, Kirihito himself.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Usually indicates Urabe's off his kilter.
- Shout-Out: Some of the hallucination scenes seem to allude to surrealism (more specifically, to Magritte) and to Pink Floyd's The Wall. There are also clear graphic references to Picasso and to film noir—a real potpourri of allusions, really.
- Stripperiffic: Reika.
- Sunk Cost Fallacy: Tatsugara spends so much time trying to prove that Monmow is contagious that he will listen to no counterargument.
- Tragic Hero: Kirihito Osanai. He actually has two tragic flaws, his naivete at the beginning and his (very understandable) anger management issues which nearly turn him into a monster.
- Undying Loyalty: Izumi never gives up on the hope of reuniting with Kirihito.
- Would Hurt a Child: Mahn has a live human baby eaten by a snake for entertainment. It fails to impress his friends, because... each can easily be gotten with money.
- Yandere: A possible interpretation for Urabe. Also, Kirihito makes for a pretty decent Yangire.