Phoenix (火の鳥) is a manga series by Osamu Tezuka that ran from 1954 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:
- A Tale of the Future/Future
- Civil War (Part One)
- Civil War (Part Two)
- Strange Beings/Life
- Sun (Part One)
- Sun (Part Two)
- 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 Australian police mini-series, the Phoenix air-to-air missile, or Phoenix, Arizona.
See The Phoenix for the mythological creature Phoenix.
Phoenix provides examples of:
- Anachronism Stew: As in his other works, Tezuka works in a lot of quick and mostly insignificant gags involving absurd anachronisms.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Or rather, a real human is a killer. Lamp's robot servant Robita says that he is human; he finds this concept ridiculous and offensive and convinces him that if he considers himself human, he should attempt to kill him as revenge for all his mistreatment. Robita ends up doing just that, indirectly.
- Ascended Extra: Resurrection is an entire volume devoted to the complex and tragic backstory of Dr. Saruta's Robot Buddy from volume 2.
- Back from the Dead: In a sci-fi example, happens in Resurrection to the main character.
- Bifauxnen: Sakon No Suke in Strange Beings at first looks like an effeminate young samurai, but as he undresses to bath, reveals he is actually a young woman.
- 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).
- 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.
- Brain Uploading: Leon ends up having the content of his brain uploaded inside Chihiro's robot memories by Doctor Weekday. However, he transplants the whole circuits inside a new robot body: Robita.
- 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.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Phoenix's punishment on Nakamura in Space. Nakamura thinks of it as A Fate Worse Than Death.
- Continuity Cavalcade: Nostalgia prominently features elements of every sci-fi chapter that came before it, such as the shapeshifting Moopies from Future, Makimura the astronaut from Space and a member of the same series of mass-produced industrial androids as Chihiro from Resurrection.
- 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.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: An odd version of this. Lamp has convinced Robita that he should kill him as revenge for mistreatment if he considers himself human... so Robita deliberately charges Lamp's sexbot Fanny insufficiently so that, when they have their romantic time together in a remote star base, she shuts down as she is hugging him, imprisoning him until he dies of lack of air.
- 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.
- Expendable Clone: In Life, clones are made so they can be hunted and killed for a gameshow.
- 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 Future, 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.
- 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, as well as several between humans and the shapeshifting alien blobs known as Moopies.
- 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.
- Messy Pig: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stable Time Loop: One feudal story involves a young lady murdering a nun with miraculous healing powers to prevent her from treating her tyrannical father's infected injury so that he will die, freeing the land (and herself) from his cruelty. The Phoenix then traps her on the mountain where the nun's temple is located, and she is forced to disguise herself as the nun to cover up the crime, and uses the nun's sacred relic made from one of the Phoenix's tail feathers to heal the ailments of visiting supplicants as the nun herself had. After a time, she is told that the local lord has received an heir, who has her name. Then she realizes that she's in her own past, that she is the nun she killed, and one day, when her past self is grown, she will be called on to treat the lord's infection, which his heir will seek to prevent by means of murder...
- 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.
- 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 Future 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. The last arc covered in the anime has this hit particularly hard, as the person the Phoenix grants immortality to is given it in the middle of an apocalyptic war. When the dust settles, the only other survivors are some robots that break down after a few centuries, leaving him completely alone for billions of years.