Book Review: The 14th Dalai Lama, A Manga Biography

“The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography”
by Tetsu Saiwai
Published by Penguin Books

A while back, I reviewed another manga/ graphic novel about Je Tsongkhapa. I was excited to read one day on The Worst Horse about a manga that had been done about His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Manga is the Japanese word for comics. Summed up, mangas can come in a variety of forms. Whether it’s a serial comic, or like this book, done as a complete work, a graphic novel.

The artist behind “The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography” is none other than Tetsu Saiwai. With a body of work spanning 20 years, Tetsu’s main interests as far as topics for his mangas go are human rights and environmental issues.

Tetsu took his inspiration for the storyline from Scorsese’s “Kundun” and His Holiness’ book “Freedom In Exile.” If you’ve seen and or read the two titles, you will see where the similarities are. Heinrich Harrer, the main focus of the movie “Seven Years In Tibet”, makes an appearance in the manga as well.

For those that are looking for a cut through the bull, and brief, explanation of how His Holiness was found, and what he went through as a child, than “The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography” will definitely do so. It also boils down the brutal takeover of Tibet by the Chinese Communist machine. I enjoyed how Tetsu was able to create certain emotions in his characters, which followed the storyline very well.

I am grateful that Testu has written/ created such a graphic novel. I think this manga may help people truly understand what Tibetans have been fighting for, and what was taken away from them. I believe “The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography” is an enlightening, yet fun, biography about one of the most important people of our time.

We all know his name, but how many of us really know who the Dalai Lama is? Do we all know where he came from, and how he came to be what he is today? No, I don’t think everyone does. So again, I applaud Tetsu for taking this story on and making His Holiness accessible to everyone.

“The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography” is a quick, yet enjoyable read. I’d recommend it to anyone who is curious about His Holiness and Tibet, for those that are fans of non-fiction mangas or for anyone who truly enjoys graphic artistry. Highly recommended!

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