Hey guys, today we’re looking at Olympos a omnibus manga that – I believe encompasses two volumes – written and drawn by Aki. I pondered the story and concepts of this plot line for a really long time which is why it took me so long to figure out what to say about Olympos.
“… Has it not also been told… that the sun god Apollo… is the harbringer of death and disease? And… that he is alsot he god healing and salvation? In short… He is capricious.”
The story follows a young man named Ganymede, taken from the Greek hero by the same name. Both are from Troy and both are beautiful mortals. Whereas in Greek mythology that tells the story of the abduction of Ganymede to be Troy’s cup-bearer in Olympus, Aki creates her own unique story for Ganymede as well as the mythology of the gods. Right before a festival in Troy, Apollo descends upon Ganymede and his brother and kidnaps Ganymede to bring him to a miniature garden. At first, Ganymede doesn’t believe that Apollo is actually a god because he’s so mischievous and childish, quite unlike the image of the gods depicted by the humans who worship them. Sooner or later, Ganymede comes to terms with the fact that he’s stuck in the miniature garden for all eternity just because Apollo wills it for amusement.
Though granted immortality, Ganymede soon starts to ponder the point of life, death, the passage of time and the idea of human nature that over-arches these notions. On one hand, you can argue that there are some profound philosophical concepts, on the other hand you could hate the book because it seems slow paced and aimless after the first little arc with Heinz, a human who was brought to the Miniature Garden to interact with Ganymede for the amusement of Apollo.
“The clear, blue sky spreads far and wide across the heavens… the sun shining gently. Our abundant joy… is only possible through the protection of the gods.”
I found the interlude between Iris and Apollo one of the most fascinating parts of the book. Somehow the humans got it in their heads to sacrifice a beautiful young woman to Apollo so that they may prosper under the god’s blessing. As a result, Iris begins to converse with Apollo. She’s rather dense and shallow but she serves as a counterpart to draw out the contrast between the life of the gods and that of mortals as well as the differences and limits of understanding. You could even think of the manga as a whole like a Socratic dialogue which requires much rereading in order to draw out solid themes and all the characters except Apollo serve as mediums to convey these themes for the sun god to ponder rather than individuals with personalities.
I wish Aki had done a bit more with Artemis’s character because she turned out to be a reflection of Apollo which raises even more questions about the route she wanted to take with the idea of metaphysics and being but she doesn’t touch on that at all after Artemis fades.
Another most interesting character is definitely Hades, the God of the Underworld who appears before Apollo on a whim. With Hades, you see him as whoever or whatever you want so he doesn’t appear to have a real face except for the façade we get from Apollo’s perspective. He really represents the unsolvable mysteries and philosophical questions of the world, often injecting dialogue into the story that offers more questions than answers.Even Zeus is a mystery himself… he’s more of a MASS of energy and sun rather than a persona which baffles me because if he’s all powerful why can’t he turn into human form? We just get to see his face amidst a cluster of wings. Is he just unable to contain his power? The story doesn’t say…
The art is gorgeous. Just passing the cover in the store, you wouldn’t help but stop and flip through the book if you’re a manga fan. I feel like the aesthetic is a big factor in determining the rating for this book because even though the pace is slow and at times a little aimless, you can’t help but keep at it for two reasons. The first is the art. The second is because you keep waiting for some intense godly action to happen… and well, it never really does. At times though, the story does spike your interest because it’s so dialogue driven.
If you prefer a strict plot structure with lots of action and shonen styled art, don’t read book. This book prompts more than one read, that’s for sure. There are a lot of different mini plot lines in the book and although they all lead back to Apollo, you don’t really get a solid answer for the questions that have been raised. In conclusion, if you’re looking for a refreshing change of pace and something that’ll give you a whole lot of food for thought, give this a try.
What are you pondering today?