MINI-REVIEWS: The 14th Dalai Lama and Gandhi manga biographies

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MINI-REVIEWS: The 14th Dalai Lama and Gandhi manga biographiesThe 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography by Tetsu Saiwai
Published: Penguin (Non-Classics) (2010), Paperback, 208pg
Source: Publisher
Genres: Non-Fiction, Biography, Graphic Novel

A new way of getting to know one of the world's most beloved spiritual leaders. Featuring a charmingly illustrated format that will appeal to readers of all ages, this unique biography is an ideal introduction to the leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Born in 1935 to a peasant family in a small village, Tenzin Gyatso was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. In 1950, His Holiness assumed full political power when China invade Tibet-a tragedy that forever changed him and shaped his efforts on behalf of world peace, for which he was award the Nobel Peace Prize. This graphic novel is an appealing and approachable depiction of the life and personality of an iconic figure.

It’s always difficult to compress a person’s life story into a book that’s less than 200 pages, but The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography made a decent effort. It highlights the important parts of the Dalai Lama’s life, from childhood to adulthood, and it gives a good overview of the situation with Tibet and China. The art was nice, if not overly detailed, and the writing was pretty compelling. Maybe some scenes were a little melodramatic, but they kept the story from getting boring.

I do have some issues with other aspects of the book, though. There’s no info on who translated the book, there are no page numbers, and the pages have been flipped. I’m guessing the flipping happened because it’s easier for people who aren’t familiar with manga to read, but why the exclusion of the page numbers? Why no translator info? It’s just weird.

Read: September 29, 2011

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MINI-REVIEWS: The 14th Dalai Lama and Gandhi manga biographiesGandhi: A Manga Biography by Kazuki Ebine
Published: Penguin (Non-Classics) (2011), Paperback, 192pg
Source: Publisher
Genres: Non-Fiction, Biography, Graphic Novel

The life of a true twentieth-century hero told in a vibrant graphic novel format.

Through his quietly powerful leadership and influential use of nonviolent resistance in India's struggle against the British Raj, Mahatma Gandhi became one of the most revered figures of the modern era. While history has recorded Gandhi's words and deeds, the man himself has been eclipsed by maxims of virtuosity that seem to have little resonance in our everyday lives. In Gandhi, the third volume in our exciting new manga biography series, created in conjunction with Emotional Content, Kazuki Ebine combines a gripping narrative with stunning illustrations to share Gandhi's inspiring and deeply human story with a whole new generation of readers.
Developed in conjunction with Emotional Content.

Since I enjoyed The 14th Dalai Lama I was hoping for something similar with this one, but unfortunately it’s not that good. There’s still the same issue with compressing 70 or so years into less than 200 pages, but I think The 14th Dalai Lama‘s author did a better job at doing it. Gandhi‘s author put emphasis on the world-changing parts of Gandhi’s life, sure, but he skipped over a lot of the personally important parts. The 14th Dalai Lama has bits with the Dalai Lama’s family, and his friends, etc., and it makes for a more compelling story. With Gandhi, almost all that personal stuff is either skipped over or visualized with maybe one page, and it made his story feel very cold. I don’t think the stilted dialogue helped, either.

Like The 14th Dalai Lama, there are no page numbers or info about the translator, and the pages are flipped. Even worse, however, are the multiple errors in the text, including a misspelling of “perhaps.” There also isn’t any punctuation except for exclamation and question marks, which makes reading it pretty terrible. The art is also less interesting than in The 14th Dalai Lama, which, considering how light on the details that one was, is saying something.

Read: September 29, 2011

4 thoughts on “MINI-REVIEWS: The 14th Dalai Lama and Gandhi manga biographies”

  1. The no page numbers thing drives me crazy with manga. I think it happens because of flipping and resizing–the page numbers are cut off and they really don’t care to reinsert them.

    I’m also quite touchy about flipping. It takes some of the fun out of it, yanno?

    1. It just seems weird, though, because if they’re editing the text/image anyway, how much harder is it to add page numbers, too?

      And yeah, I’m touchy about it because I think it messes with the integrity of the original art. Although it DOES make it easier to read for people who aren’t familiar with manga, but know how to read Western comics. Eh.

  2. Hmm, sounds like both of these had potential but ended up falling flat. That’s too bad. I’m interested in trying more graphic books/manga and am always looking for recs, but it doesn’t sound like I’d love these ones.

    1. If you were completely new to manga and wanted to dip your toe in something, I MIGHT say to try the 14th Dalai Lama one. If only because it’s more familiar to Westerners than maybe an unflipped manga would be. Maybe.

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