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Bandhaka, Siddhartha’s mentor

From Warner Bros. Studios Japan

In Tezuka’s original manga, Bandhaka’s role is little more than that of a minor villain, a contemptible rival to Siddhartha for Yasodhar?’s affections. In this adaptation his importance is elevated tremendously, his ugly, pupil-less looks abandoned for a virile, typical Indo-Aryan mercenary (his long black hair remains). His entire background is also changed: rather than being of similar age to Siddhartha, he is already a young man by the time the Prince is ten.He serves throughout the film not as a rival, but as the bloodthirsty mentor Siddhartha resents and fears, 

therefore appearing much earlier than in the manga timeline. His personality becomes a multifaceted one, unlike manga Bandhaka: he genuinely tries to train Siddhartha into a warrior, for it is through power and not compassion that kingdoms are protected, and leads numerous battles against the Kosalans, in which he shines as a champion of the ??kyas. He is also the one who sets the scene for the slave Chapra’s downfall. 

It is only in the final couple of scenes that Bandhaka, by this time an older man (and who never indicates any interest in Yasodhar?), forces ?uddhodhana to concede the throne for his continued service (which from his mercenary perspective makes plenty of sense). But throughout the film there is a subtext of tense recognition between Siddhartha and Bandhaka that is completely absent in the manga. Indeed, whereas manga Bandhaka’s death is not known to Siddhartha and is ceremoniously cremated by the ??kyas, this adaptation has Bandhaka die an otherwise nameless death, with only the newly shaven and robed Siddhartha coming to him, and tenderly closing his gaping eyes.

Yet for all his complexity, Bandhaka is easily the most evil of the cast. On many occasions when the Iago-like mentor “teaches” Siddhartha, he is also trying to break the Prince’s spirit (for example, his brutal training of a ten-year old Siddhartha and his insistence that the latter should man up and shoot animals). His violence and heartlessness is the opposite of everything Siddhartha hopes to be – their struggle against each other’s wills provides an almost philosophical dimension to their relationship. Most devastatingly, and this is not in the manga, he is the sadist who captures Migaila to hold Siddhartha hostage to ?uddhodhana’s will.

He also is the one, crucially, who brands Migaila’s eyes and denies her and the Prince their ill-fated love, cementing his narrative function as everything Siddhartha stands against: the brutality of the warriors, the prejudices of the caste system, and the contempt of the powerful for the marginalized. Manga Bandhaka does not come close to such evil. He is contemptible and lecherous and nothing more, a man who seems more interested in seducing Yasodhar? than anything else, but in the anime his role is drastically elevated to the point that he becomes an almost dualistic opposite to Siddhartha, the darkest force in the entire anime.

Click here to go to Chapra’s profile.
Click here to go to Migaila’s profile.
Click here to go to Tata’s profile.
Click here to go to the main review.

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