Most people are at least familiar with the name Confucius, although in America he’s primarily known for being the namesake of the “Confucius say” jokes. The real Confucius lived from some time around 551 BCE to 479 BCE. According to the wiki entry, his father died when he was 2 years old, and his mother became a temple priestess to support the both of them, although she also died relatively young. Being raised around a temple gave him the rare opportunity to learn to read and write. At the time, China was a collection of warring states, and the one he lived in, Lu, was headed by a ruling feudal house. Confucius worked a series of jobs with the intent of climbing up through Lu’s bureaucratic system. One goal was to establish himself as a philosopher, promoting a more peaceful environment for the common people affected by the fighting. However, he butted heads against a few of the more influential local leaders and found himself being ostracized. In part, this was because his philosophy included displaying respect to others, justice, sincerity and governmental morality (which were counter to the behavior of the day). He left Lu and spent 14 years with his followers wandering from state to state, looking for a place to settle down. Finally, on returning to Lu at age 68, he was accepted due to the groundwork laid by a few of his students. He then continued teaching from a newly established school until his death at age 78.
His philosophy revolves around the concept of respect for authority. You do what you are told by the people above you, and the people below you follow your orders. To ensure that people will follow you, you need to be gracious, polite and morally upstanding. You should also be skilled in the 6 arts, which include writing, archery, music and horseback riding. The idea of hierarchy extends to the family, where the sons must follow the will of their father, and the women are obedient to the men. This philosophy made its way to Japan several hundred years ago, and formed the basis of study for anyone wanting to enter government work. In Japan, Confucius is known as “Koushi”.
In the intro manga, Ken Oogami (Ken Wolf) is trying to find ways to pay back Mrs. Makiba for letting him stay at her house. But, Merrino prevents him from doing housekeeping or cooking, because the Sheep Prince does those in order to get Mrs. Makiba to give him more free cookies. Actually, Merrino’s butler, Angora, does the real work, while quoting from Confucius to explain his role as a servant. Ken is impressed and begs Angora to teach him the way of butlering. In the wrap up, Ken now looks like a respectable, upstanding young man. The girls (Mami and Mohea) ask him to design new outfits for them, but Merrino interrupts and demands that he get a makeover first. Youichi leaps forward, announcing that he also graduated from Angora’s class. Youichi turns Merrino into a clown, while Angora tries to sell the reader on his line of serialized “Famous Butler” magazine books.
Ryou Mitsuya (Haraguro Maiko-san no Takao Katsu, Soyokaze Soyo-san, Wan Pagu!) is the main artist. In this story, there’s almost no backgrounds, and the story is a mix of narrated poses, combined with occasional short conversations between two characters. All of the character designs are standard manga fare, and Confucius looks nothing like the statues portraying him. In fact, Mitsuya has him as some kind of starved bean pole with a fake-looking glue-on beard, rather than the big laughing fat guy from the statues.
The story starts out with an old Confucius giving a lecture in his hometown while a group of farm kids fight the crowds in order to get a glimpse of him. Most of the kids fall asleep in the middle of the lecture, complaining that it’s too difficult for commoners to follow, and Kangai, one of Confucius’ main disciples rewords things to make them easier to comprehend. The scene then switches to when Confucius was raised by his mother after she became a temple priestess, and shows how he continued to study philosophy and government operations as an adult. Most scenes serve as a backdrop for the artist to reprint one of Confucius’ quotes from “Analects”, and then reword it in more modern Japanese. At one point, Confucius runs afoul of a competing court adviser for the lord of a neighboring province, and that lord sends a bunch of loose women to Confucius’ state to seduce his own lord. The result being that Confucius can no longer work under these conditions and he takes his students out on a self-imposed 14-year exile. When he comes back to the state of Lu at age 68, he discovers that one of his disciples had stayed behind and built up his reputation so that he receives a positive reception now. The story ends with the author advising readers to follow Confucius’ teachings on how to live a righteous life.
The textbook section has a fair amount of information on Confucius’ early life and the state of affairs during the warring states period of the time, which is remarkable in that the events took place close to 2500 years ago. There are a few paintings of Confucius teaching some disciples and photos of statues of him and his key disciples. The magazine makes a point of Confucius having had 3,000 students. The last two pages attempt to explain 4 of his key teachings: Study history to find new ideas; All things in moderation (trying too hard is just as useless as not trying at all); Do what you know is the right thing; Treat other people like you want to be treated.
Comment: Generally, the main manga is just an attempt to “put a face to the name”. A lot of the drama is manufactured specifically for the story, and that’s really obvious this time. And, I dislike manufactured drama. I usually prefer the textbook sections, and I like this one specifically for the paintings and statues at the back of the magazine. If you like old paintings, get this issue. If you want a biography on Confucius, find something written in English.