Phoenix (火の鳥, Hi no Tori, lit. "Fire Bird") is a manga series by Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka considered Phoenix his "life's work"; it consists of 12 books, each of which tells a separate, self-contained story and takes place in a different era. The plots go back and forth from the remote future (science fiction) to prehistoric times. The cycle remains unfinished after Tezuka's death. Several of the stories have been adapted into anime series' and OVAs, and even a live-action movie. As of 2007, the entire manga series is available in English-language translations.
Phoenix is about reincarnation. Each story generally involves a search for immortality, embodied by the blood of the eponymous bird of fire, which, as drawn by Tezuka, resembles the Fenghuang. The blood is believed to grant eternal life, but immortality in Phoenix is either unobtainable or a terrible curse, whereas Buddhist-style reincarnation is presented as the natural path of life.
The stories spring back and forth through time; the first, Dawn, takes place in ancient times, and the second, Future, takes place in the far future. Subsequent stories alternate between past and future, allowing Tezuka to explore his themes in both historical and science fiction settings. Throughout the stories there are various recurring characters, some from Tezuka's famous star system. A character named Saruta appears repeatedly, for example, in the form of various ancestors and descendants, all of whom endure harsh trials in their respective eras.
Tezuka began work on a preliminary version of Phoenix in 1954, and the series continued in various forms until his death in 1989. As it progresses, the stories seem to be converging on the present day. Scholar and translator Frederik L. Schodt, who knew Tezuka in life, wrote that he fantasized about a secret ending, "waiting in a safe somewhere to be revealed posthumously." This was not the case, and Tezuka's final intentions with Phoenix remain unknown, although its episodic nature leaves each volume highly accessible nonetheless.