REVIEW: Wonder 3 (1965)

A Manga by Osamu Tezuka

While not the creator of manga (Japanese comic books) by any means, Osamu Tezuka can definitely be seen as one of the forefathers of the genre, and perhaps the person that made it what it has been for the last eighty or so years. Even anime, animation from Japan, can trace its popularity back to the works of Tezuka. In recent years, a lot of western manga publishers have been releasing classic manga that was once deemed “unpublishable” in the West, and many fans are finally getting a taste of the origins of such a popular entertainment medium.

Wonder 3, for all intents and purposes, is a superhero team book with some definite vibes from many Tokusatsu properties that popped up a decade later. I’m not sure if one could call it “Super Sentai” in the same way that Champagne can only be called Champagne if it’s from that one area of France, but it basically is pretty similar to what would eventually mutate into “Power Rangers” in The West. Just replace guys in suits with aliens turned into animals, and it’s all there.

“A classic Osamu Tezuka work! Three extraterrestrials are on a mission to see if Earth qualifies to be part of the Galactic Control. The Galactic Control is a select order of planets with strict admissions requirements. If Earth doesn’t qualify, then the planet will be destroyed. To make progress in their mission, the three aliens abduct three earth animals as disguises for themselves. With their extraordinary powers, these aliens in animal skins are best known as the Wonder 3.”

As with any manga from 1965, there is a HUGE stylistic and pacing difference between this and what would come later. I can imagine that fans of your typical modern Shonen manga MIGHT have trouble getting into this one for that very reason. Truthfully, I actually prefer manga and anime from the 1970’s and 1980’s over the 1960’s because everything was solidified at the time, but I appreciate this for what it is. Truthfully, this is one of the better Tezuka comics I’ve read that was specifically marketed to children, despite the fact that the plot sometimes goes in wild tangents. For example, about halfway through the book shifts to being spy thriller for a while. The characters can be kind of annoying (especially the duck), but I have to keep in mind the timeframe and market of this book.

I don’t feel like I can do a review of this without addressing the HUGE elephant in the room – The ridiculous business practices of the company that released this – Digital Manga Publishing. For years, they were basically the sole company releasing old Tezuka books via popular Kickstarter campaigns. Usually there would be one “main” book and add-ons to release extra books at the same time. It seemed that this campaign, in particular, was the straw that broke the camel’s back in revealing the company was basically running a ponzi scheme. They would run multiple Kickstarter campaigns at once and use the proceeds from one to finish another and so-on. It’s basically the same thing that happened to Loot Crate about 5-6 years ago.

After this campaign ended in 2017, backers had to wait another four years for their products with no assurances that anything would ever be sent out. Every side-item was cancelled, and the book was released on their website for regular sale LONG before any Kickstarter backer received it. I will hand it to them, I did get a refund for my missing items, and I eventually got my copy of Wonder 3, albeit in 2021. It is because of this that my opinion on the book is somewhat soured, as well as my view of the company as a whole. I see that all of the extra books are about to be released soon, so hopefully whatever business struggles they had will be behind them, and hopefully they don’t venture back into borderline scam territory.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but with most 60’s manga I appreciate it a lot more than I like it, if that makes sense. To me, it’s almost like reading archaically written classical literature – the act of actually reading the media and seeing where it came from and what it influenced is sometimes better than the actual reading experience. I have more Tezuka Manga that I have yet to crack open that I definitely need to get caught up with – if this is any indication, DMP does a great job with production and translations, no matter how terrible their marketing and shipping departments are. If you like the classics, this is a good one to take a spin with.

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