A young man named Heinz bows his head in prayer, hoping for his wish to be granted. But he isn’t expecting a beautiful redhead to whisk him away to a garden suspended in time and space. Heinz has promised to return a “shut-in” back to the outside world, in order to win the heart of the woman he loves. But this shut-in turns out to be Ganymede, a prince of Troy, who’s been locked away in this garden for hundreds of years by the god Apollo. It is Apollo who brought Heinz here, but the sun god has also told Ganymede that there is no escape from the garden. Is there a way out for the prince, or is he doomed to spend eternity in a never-ending field of flowers?
Olympos borrows from Greek mythology, revising the tale of Ganymede’s abduction by Zeus. Originally divided into two books, it tells the story of Heinz’s unsuccessful attempt to rescue Ganymede. It then shifts perspectives from Heinz and Ganymede to Apollo, exploring his background and growing awareness of mortals and their relationships with the gods. While Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and Artemis all make appearances, fans of Greek mythology may be disappointed with their portrayals.
Aki’s characters are far from the traditional depictions of Greek gods, often questioning why mortals always depict them as “macho” or what they even expect from the gods. Poseidon is a schemer; Artemis serves as a mirror to Apollo and is dull and vacant when he loses interest in her; Zeus rarely appears and does not interact with others; Hades speaks in vague, philosophical riddles. Apollo, our main character, is flat and does little in the way of development. Because time is so fluid in Olympos, it’s hard to tell where in the plot we’re seeing Apollo, undoing any understanding of character development.
Aside from Heinz (who’s based on archeologist Heinrich Schliemann) Ganymede is perhaps the most intriguing character, having been granted immortality only to spend it in a “miniature garden” that hovers in space. His forms of entertainment include searching for an escape or speaking with Apollo, his tormentor. Readers who appreciate philosophical discussions may enjoy the interactions between Apollo, Ganymede, and Hades. Others may find it tedious. Combining the ambiguous dialogue with the manga techniques of voicing narrative, thoughts, and spoken word all on the same page without much to differentiate them makes for a confusing read. Aki has to break down a sentence at one point because the phrasing is so awkward, taking several panels to explain the references. Stilted writing and inconsistent characters make for a plot that’s difficult to follow.
The artwork for Olympos is gorgeous. Aki’s depictions of the gods and Ganymede are breathtaking and unique. Ganymede and Apollo are covered in intricate jewelry and flowing robes and have hair that any cosplayer would envy. Zeus is a collection of wings, feathers, and eyes, while Hades has a satyr-ish quality to him. All of the characters are very feminine in appearance, something that is commented on from time to time.
While this manga is beautiful to look at, there’s not much meat to the story. The pacing, writing style, and character development do little to grab a reader’s interest. It’s hard to say who the intended audience would be for this title, since it varies so widely from traditional Greek myth and only really takes a philosophical focus in the last third of the book. Violence is rarely depicted on the page, though Ganymede talks of committing suicide and a woman is apparently sacrificed to Apollo (off page). The gods are generally indifferent to humans, though at times they try to make things difficult for them and Apollo appears to murder Ganymede’s brother in a blinding light. Readers will most likely be unsatisfied with this story, though the artwork is enjoyable.
Yen Press, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen