I'm sure you've all heard of the extremely famous Astro Boy series by Osamu Tezuka. Well believe it or not, he also made an eight volume biography of the life of Buddha!
At first I thought it would be boring. I already knew the stories, how he was a Hindu prince and he sat in front of a cobra without being bitten. It was old news. But these books turned out to be a lot more interesting and entertaining than I ever could have imagined. I'm sure that some parts and characters are fictional, but that doesn't make them any less great. I love the evolution of the characters, specifically Buddha. I love how he doesn't just go from being an inexperienced teenager to being the all knowing and enlightened founder of Buddhism overnight. It takes him four entire volumes to become enlightened and three more to become the droopy eared icon we all know today.
A scene I really like is in Book Three when Buddha/Siddhartha,who has just become a Hindu monk, meets a well trained young monk named Dhepa who has an obsession with undergoing ordeals. (Hindu monks would cause intense pain to their bodies for long sessions because they believed that lives greatest secrets are discovered while suffering. These sessions would be called ordeals). One of the first ordeals that Dhepa underwent with Buddha was walking through a field of thorns. Dhepa is able to walk through the thorns like they are nothing, but Buddha buckles over in pain after each step. This foreshadows Buddha making sure that the religion that bears his name has nothing to do with extreme physical ordeals, and I'm a big fan of foreshadowing.
The art in Buddha is very beautiful. It looks like a less cartoony version of the style Tezuka uses in Astro Boy. Buddha’s appearance is always changing as he ages from child to young man to middle aged man to old man. Other characters evolve visually too, like his first disciple, Tata or Naradatta, a monk who was condemned to roam the world as a beast. I love the way the animals are drawn, specifically elephants. There are a ton of elephants featured throughout the story, and each one looks different.
The eight book Buddha series is not appropriate for all ages. There is quite a bit of nudity and heavy violence. There are no sex scenes, but I think that if you are a parent you should read it over to determine whether or not you want your children reading it. I was hooked on Buddha from the first chapter on. It is definitely my favorite series I've read all year. I would give Buddha 10 Brahmins out of 10.
If you are interested, there was a movie adapted from the series. You can watch it free at this link.