Gandhi: A Manga Biography (Penguin)

gandhi-headerA primer for those whose knowledge of the legendary Indian political figure begins and ends with Ben Kingsley.



192 pgs., B&W; $15.00

(W / A: Kazuki Ebine)


I’m a basically lazy person who has always taken solace in a quote, whose author I can never seem to recall, about how the best general is both smart and lazy because he will find a way to do what needs to be done with the minimum amount of effort. For this reason, there’s nothing I like better than a comic which teaches me something, so I can get a little painless education along with my recreation.


gandhiGandhi: A Manga Biography is right in my wheelhouse. I probably know as much about Gandhi as the average American with an average interest in world affairs, which is to say that Richard Attenborough and Ben Kingsley play much too large a role in my mental picture of Gandhi, and of India in general. Kazuki Ebine’s manga biography of Gandhi fills in some gaps in my knowledge because more than half of the book is devoted to Gandhi’s life before he became a famous leader in India. I will grant you that a comic book is not a source you should quote in a term paper, but here are a few things I learned from Gandhi: A Manga Biography:


  • Gandhi was extremely shy as a child, and remained so as a young adult, to the point where it hampered his law career
  • He met his wife at age 13, and when he departed for England at age 18 was already a father
  • Discrimination against Indians was legal in late 19th-century South Africa, and in 1906 a law in the Transvaal required “Asiatics” to register with the government and carry a certificate of registration with them at all times (this law was abolished in 1914, due in part of Gandhi’s influence)


OK, I apologize for my ignorance. Gandhi’s return to India (at age 45, giving hope to late bloomers everywhere) and his work toward Indian independence, are also covered, and the book ends with his assassination. These parts of Gandhi’s life story are more familiar to most Americans, but they’re worth telling again, and Gandhi: A Manga Biography would provide a good introduction to the man, and to colonial history, for an interested school kid.


Kazuki Ebine’s art is realistic in a simplified sort of way and he’s in love with the aspect-to-aspect transition. At times it feels like he’s there on location with a still camera, changing his position and focal length for almost every shot in order to explore different aspects of each scene. The result is a bit choppy but effective, and gives him a chance to exploit different frame sizes and layouts. The main criticism I have of this book is that the dialogue is full of misspelling and awkward phrasings, so that reading it sometimes feels like reading the subtitles of a badly translated chop-socky movie. That’s not the best example to set for kids, although as adults we should have no problem reading through the errors. | Sarah Boslaugh


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