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Message to Adolf (Manga)

Also known as アドルフに告ぐ (Adolf ni Tsugu)

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Message to Adolf (1983-85)

English Title: Message to Adolf
In English? Yes
Japanese Title: アドルフに告ぐ
[Adolf ni Tsugu]
Type: Ongoing Serial
Original run: 1983/01 – 1985/05
Published in: Weekly Bunshun
[週刊文春]
Published by: Bungeishunju
Volumes: 5

Commissioned at the request of Tezuka’s editor who desired the drawing of a “thoroughly serious drama”, Message to Adolf (1983-85) was originally published in the magazine journal, Weekly Bunshun, between January 1983 and May 1985.  Another of his adult-oriented dramas, it is similar in tone to MW (1979), and is considered Tezuka’s final, completed, epic work.

What it’s about

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Isao Toge is murdered

Set in both Japan and Germany during World War II, the story opens in 1936, as a Japanese reporter named Sohei Toge travels to Germany to cover the Berlin Olympic Games and to visit his younger brother.  His brother, Isao Toge, an international student contacts Sohei and arranges to see him but is murdered before they meet. Afterwards it becomes clear to Sohei that his brother was killed due to his involvement in a conspiracy concerning a secret document regarding the birth of Adolf Hitler.

Meanwhile, Wolfgang Kaufmann, a Nazi working for the German Consulate General in Kobe, Japan, is searching for the document under the orders of the German government. Kauffmann has a son named Adolf, whom he wants to join the Hitler Youth and become a hard-line supporter of Adolf Hitler. However, Adolf Kaufmann has a Jewish friend named Adolf Kamil and does not wish to follow his father’s ideology that approves of the killing of Jews.

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Sohei Toge taken in for questioning

As the events of the story progress, the paths of the three Adolfs intertwine and become more and more twisted as Sohei continues his search for the murderer of his brother and the document.

What you should know

Adolf is a serious and realistic drama that includes scenes of torture, rape and genocide.  These demonstrate how fear, mistrust and corruption can lead to horrific crimes against humanity and abuse of power. However, throughout the story we see how faith in humanity can be rewarded and evil ultimately conquered.

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Nazi pep rally

The character of Adolf Kaufmann continues the theme of the corruption of innocence previously explored in Apollo’s Song (1970) and Ayako (1972-1973).  He starts the story as an innocent young boy, living in Japan, who struggles with his identity due to his mixed German and Japanese blood.  Although, at first, he opposes his father’s Nazi ideals, after having been sent to Germany he begins to adopt the Nazi policies as a result of the massive pressure brought to bear by his teachers and peers.  On his return to Japan, he is a fully fledged Nazi and proceeds to interrogate and abuse his former friends in his quest to find the incriminating document.  After the end of the war he realizes that he has lost all of his colleagues and allies but continues to fight for his beliefs in the face of defeat which leads to a climactic and tragic ending.  By the end of the story, we have witnessed the transformation of an innocent and idealistic boy into a highly destructive and brainwashed enforcer of the Nazi’s.  This change is highly disturbing and prompts the reader to consider how easily people can be manipulated and changed under overwhelming pressure from controlling governments and aggressive ideals.

adolf-manga04As a later adult work, Message to Adolf (1983-85) uses the Tezuka Star System to a lesser extent than his other works.  However, we still see various characters being reused from earlier titles. Acetylene Lamp appears as a member of the Gestapo who pursues Sohei as he attempts to find the document.  He is also the boss of Adolf Kaufmann and entrusts him with the task of retrieving the document.  Hamegg also makes an appearance as a corrupt Japanese inspector who deals with Sohei and is later captured and driven insane.

Tezuka came up with the concept for Adolf after he read that an American scholar had theorized that Hitler’s ancestry had mixed Jewish blood and decided to create a story based on this premise. He also incorporated into his story the real life figure of Richard Sorge, a Soviet military intelligence officer, whom he had always been interested in.

It is also interesting to note that one of the main settings for the story is Kobe – were Tezuka lived as a boy during World War II.  As such, Message to Adolf (1983-85) captures much of the authentic the atmosphere of Kobe at the time.

Finally, during the latter half of the series’ production, Tezuka suffered from hepatitis and was admitted to hospital.  As a consequence, some of the later chapters were cut back but were then revised for the compiled book edition.

Where you can get it

One of the very first Tezuka series to be published in English, VIZ Media decided to release Adolf in 1995 through it’s Cadence Books imprint.  This five-volume (though unnumbered) set used photo-realistic rather than Tezuka-drawn manga covers, and is long out of print.

Luckily, however,Vertical Inc. also released this series in 2012 under the title Message to Adolf in a two-volume hardcover edition.  Completely re-translated, it is arguably much closer to the original Japanese version, incorporating many of the subtle nuances the earlier translation may have glossed over.

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