Mateki: The Magic Flute


Share this review

  • Button Delicious
  • Bttn Digg
  • Bttn Facebook
  • Bttn Ff
  • Bttn Myspace
  • Bttn Stumble
  • Bttn Twitter
  • Bttn Reddit

Mateki: The Magic Flute


  • Words: Yoshitaka Amano, Edmund Shern & Jane Fong
  • Art: Yoshitaka Amano
  • Inks: Yoshitaka Amano
  • Colors: Yoshitaka Amano
  • Story Title: n/a
  • Publisher: Radical Books
  • Price: $29.95
  • Release Date: Jun 18, 2008

The story is as old as time. It is one of those timeless tales retold every few generations. A young flute player awakens a god through his flute playing. When the god can not get the flute, he takes the man’s new found love. However, love can not be caged and it finds away.

Yoshitaka Amano is an incredible artist. His work has graced the Boom! Studios book Hero and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: The Dream Hunters. However, his most popular work in America has probably got to be the design work he did for the Anime version of the Vampire Hunter D novels. Here he takes Mozart’s Magic Flute and transforms the tale into a Japanese fable.

The tale opens with Yasha, who is a Buddhist deity known as the guardian of the righteous. It is an odd name for the being who is in effect the villain of the story, but much of the first quarter of the book is concerned with creation (headed by Yasha) and the Japanese concept of Taiji (common referred to as the yen and yang). It is through this sense of balance that the story unfolds.

It is obvious upon reading the book that it is poetic. The title of the piece, Mateki, is a poetic word in and of itself. A mateki (or "magic flute) is a particular kind of flute in Japan. It is said to be very responsive to the style of play of the artist who uses it. When the instrument is wielded as a weapon in the late part of the book, it is through the deliberate title of the piece that one is meant to understand what is happening. Beyond just that simple device though, the language is lyrical yet concise and rich in meaning. There is no doubt that Edmund Shern and Amano worked extensively through Jane Fong’s translation assistance to choose the English words and phrases that would appropriately convey the mystical nature of the story and still retain some lyrical quality. It is probably why there are a couple of places where the text is clunky and almost impossible to understand with out the art.

Or it could be that because Amano is primarily a visual artist that he was deliberate in his using pictures to convey the meaning of the simple words on the pages. There are even great expanses where the story is told exclusively in graphics. The words are almost an after thought all together. Part of this is that the piece was born through an idea the artist had for an animated film. He drew up many story boards for the piece, but through one thing or another ended up not getting around to it just yet. They lay cluttering his desk so he produced this book. On the Radical Comics website they mention that he is still committed to directing the film himself. Hopefully, this book will be successful enough to make that happen as I can not wait to see these pictures in motion.

The pictures in the book vary wildly from the fully rendered painting of the cover to the more story board like colored sketch seen in this article. It is easy to believe that these where just pages laying about his studio. However, the design work is so elaborate and the images so striking that even in this rough stage, they speak volumes. Amano is the kind of artist that all aspire to be. Here he takes his rough pieces and combines them with finished pieces to create a work unlike any other that also shows as much about the concept of balance as the thematics of the words do.

Technically, Radical is calling this an Art Book. Which invokes the giant book that resides on a coffee table. I guess that is what it really is, however the story is so profound and touching that it defies categorization as comic or art book or poem. This is something new and all together wonderful.

Related content

Related Headlines

Related Lowdowns

Related Reviews


There are no comments yet.

In order to post a comment you have to be logged in. Don't have a profile yet? Register now!

Latest headlines


Latest comments
Comics Discussion
Broken Frontier on Facebook