“With the white unicorn across her shoulder, makes you think that she might have been someone who’s older.” – ‘White Unicorn’, Wolfmother
Digital Manga Publishing has been on something of a role with its move to crowdfund some of Osamu Tezuka’s more obscure titles. Their latest one is a charming famiy-friendly story, combining mythology and romance.
Unico begins in a Greek mythological setting. Venus is jealous of the fair and beautiful Psyche because her pet baby unicorn, Unico, is spreading happiness around and making Psyche appear to be more beautiful than her. Venus uses her fellow gods such as Eros to launch a dastardly plan. Unico is kidnapped and taken by the Spirit of the West Wind to various periods of time and space, with his memory wiped clean of the knowledge of his previous owner.
Each chapter of the story sees Unico encountering different people, animals, and mythological beings, in which he spreads his happiness and uses his magical powers to help those that love him. Amongst those he encounters are a Native American boy who falls in love with a white girl, a cat who wishes to belong to a witch, a sphinx who meets Oberon and Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a sickly girl who finds herself being the centre of affections of a polluting factory.
There is much to commend in this collection. For starters it is presented throughout in colour so it really does look as beautiful and happy as it deserves to be. Even in the more tragic and frightening passages you know that you cannot really feel sad reading Unico. The writing is good too, although given that this is a complete collection combining what was originally two volumes of manga, it is probably best not to read the whole book at once.
It will also appeal to fans of Tezuka’s “Star System”, with this series featuring what appear to be two recognisable characters. The Native American chapter features a cameo from the villainous Hamegg, most famous as the circus manager in Astro Boy. Another character from the same series appears, with the big-nosed Prof. Ochanomizu (here named Okuzu) acting as the guardian to the sickly girl in the factory story.
Just about every chapter has something to commend it, and the way the book is presented truly is a joy. It is proof that the public are willing to put money into something so charming. Crowdfunding works. Let us hope that DMP continue to release more titles in a similar fashion.