Olympos by Aki

What is the human condition? I feel like it implies something about humans that never changes, like we’re all static creatures, creatures of habit. Are we? Sometimes I tell myself that I’m a creature of habit, and sometimes I think that I’m not.

I read things that mention the “human condition” without defining what it is. Is it a phrase that is merely definable by the very words that makes up the phrase? The condition of humans? Is that mental health or physical health? Or maybe not mental or physical health at all? This lack of a definition leads me into an infernal cycle of question asking, with no apparent answer. Philosophy is like that, I suppose.

The very philosophical manga, Olympos, tells the story of a boy, Ganymede, who is trapped in his own despair. Through the story of the boy is merely a story about a person treated as an object of amusement for the Greek gods, the story becomes a story about how people are played by life, trapped in the abyss of darkness.

The story starts with a boy, Heinz, who is told by a Greek god (Apollo) that Heinz’s wish can be granted if he can help Apollo with something. Heinz agrees and is immediately whisked to a magical world, filled with beauty and with flowers that don’t crush under footsteps. All Heinz has to do is to convince Ganymede that there is an escape from the magical world, by going to the edge of a magical cliff.

Heinz is a terribly optimistic young man/boy and Ganymede is a terribly pessimistic person. Ganymede has been in the magical world for thousands of years and he’s seen everything. The usual. Instead of seeing chaos in the world, he sees patterns at which life operates at. Heinz? He’s incredibly naïve and likes to believe in the good of people. Through this story, life itself is analyzed. Is naivete and innocence a bad trait? Readers come to a similar belief that they've come to after reading Catch-22, cynicism is sometimes so much better than innocence. After all, the innocent ones end up dying for no reason at all, or in this case, losing what they wanted in the first place.

Olympos explores so much of life, the duality of things, the philosophical reasons for everything. It’s so profound, so… deep.  Ganymede is a mere amusement for the gods, but readers can’t help but ask themselves if they’re being played in life. One line is repeated throughout the book, “Gods don’t lie” but if so, why are they still so conniving and deceitful? Life is supposed to operate on a reciprocate basis. You do something good, then something good happens to you in return. You do something bad and something bad happens to you, right?

I bought Olympos on a total whim. I had seen it online at Yen Press (the publisher) website, then I saw it in stores. Without knowing what the story was, nor what the art looked like, I clicked “Add to cart” on Amazon. The day it came, I clenched my hands hoping that my order was not a total mistake.

As much as I talk about higher beings, the reason of why, and life in this post, I’ve come to the singular belief that my purchasing this book was motivated by some unknown force. Yes.

The art is so intricate and it mirrors the delicate subject of this book. I don’t think I’ve read a manga be so philosophical. It provides so much room for thought. The color art is also very pretty and I’m very, very happy that Yen Press publishes the original color inserts in color.

In addition, I’m very happy that the manga was published in a size format that is similar to the original. So many English translations of Asian manga are awkwardly cut off at the sides since the paper sizes and the book sizes are not the same. 

© Crazy Red Pen
Maira Gall