At the beginning of his career, Osamu Tezuka was specialised in comics for kids, with well-known works such as King Leo, Metropolis or Astro Boy, all of them with a deep influence by Walt Disney. But, from the late 50s, a new kind of manga, the "gegika" (or "dramatic pictures"), more adult-oriented, began to have much success, lead by the great Yoshihiro Tatsumi (whose autobiographical A Drifting life was released in 2009 by Drawn and Quarterly). Tezuka could have been overwhelmed by this new kind of comics. But he reacted with all his talent and published stories for a more mature audience, with more complex plots, more violence, some sex, etc. All this with as much, if not more, commercial and artistic success than before.
Nonetheless, two things did not change in Tezuka's latter works: their very high quality and their underlying philosophy. Tezuka combines a deep faith in humanity, stressing out in all his works the importance of the necessary respect due to any living being, and the frightful conviction that men can be extrememy harmful for the people and the environment around them.
Among the (numerous) masterpieces of this second part of Tezuka's career, Message to Adolf may be, with Black Jack, one of the most easily accessible to Western readers. Firstly it is deeply rooted in historical events well known to Europeans or North-Americans: it takes place mostly during the 2nd World War, beginning in Germany during the Berlin Olympic Games and ending in Israël, some time after the creation of this State. There is a single hero, whom we follow during the whole story, Sōhei Tōge. The plot is relatively simple, compared with many characters, places and times of Phoenix; there is not as much Oriental metaphysics as in Buddha.
Message to Adolf was one of the first works by Osamu Tezuka to be published in English, in the mid 90s (in 5 volumes). It is published once again, in two volumes.
For those who have not read this masterpiece yet, this new publication (even though the new cover is rather badly chosen, in my humble opinion) could be (must be, should I say) a good opportunity to discover this book. Even if Adolf may be less idiosyncrasic for Tezuka than Phoenix, for instance, it includes all of the main qualities of Tezuka's works: great storytelling, very innovative layouts, strong humanism, very good insertion of fictional characters and events into important historical facts, etc.