Osamu Tezuka (1928 – 1989) Japanese manga artist and cartoonist

Osamu Tezuka featured image
Osamu Tezuka featured image

Osamu Tezuka (1928 – 1989), who was revered as the “god of manga,” watched Bambi eighty times, until he had memorised every frame, and dreamed of equaling or surpassing Disney realism in his own animation.

Man Responsible for Manga

The man most responsible for the rise of manga to its dominant role in postwar Japanese pop culture is Osamu Tezuka.

Tezuka had an insatiable intellectual curiosity that encompassed science, history, religion, and space exploration.

Instead of stainless superheroes, Tezuka depicted fallible individuals who wrestled with issues of guilt and responsibility, doubt and faith, death and rebirth. In the process, he proved that, through the manga medium, he could handle weighty themes and create complex characters as well as any novelist.

By decompressing story lines, Osamu Tezuka helped change the art of comics in Japan. Tezuka began drawing novelistic manga that were hundreds, even thousands, of pages long, and he incorporated different perspectives and visual effects—what became known as “cinematic techniques.” He was influenced by American animation in particular, and instead of using ten or twenty pages to tell a story as was common before, he began drawing novelistic manga that were hundreds, even thousands, of pages long. Other American artists, such as Will Eisner, had used cameralike effects a decade before, but mixing them with the decompression of story threads was a first.

Astroboy and family
Astroboy and family

Tezuka, however, was not only an uplifter but a populariser. A fan of Walt Disney animation–he saw Snow White fifty times and Bambi eighty times until he had memorised every frame–Tezuka adopted the round, cutesy Disney look for his own creations.

Background

Born in Osaka in 1928, Tezuka came of age in the U.S. – occupied postwar Japan. Raised in Takarazuka, the Hyogo Prefecture city where the famed TAKARAZUKA Revue Company is headquartered, Tezuka was also inspired by the troupe’s gaudy romanticism and spectacular staging. He later said that his Ribbon no Kishi (The Ribbon Knight), a pioneering manga for young girls, “describes my whole experience with Takarazuka.”

Tezuka, a physician from Osaka, published his first cartoon in 1946 while he was a medical student at Osaka University.

New Treasure Island

In 1947, Tezuka illustrated “New Treasure Island,” a story by Sakai Shichima about a boy on a Treasure Hunt. The manga book sold 400,000 copies, helping to spark a boom for the genre in Japan that persists to this day when a third of all books published are manga.

Creator of Astroboy and Kimba the White Lion

First serialised in 1952, Astro Boy, the Pinocchio-like robot is set in the future world of the 21st century. The manga depicts the trials and tribulations of a robot boy, beginning with his creation in the Science Ministry located in Takadanobaba, where Tezuka Productions has been established since 1976. Astroboy attempted to reconcile humans and their warring machines. The animated version was shown on Japanese TV in the 1960s and the 1980s. It was also shown in the United States.

Kimba White Lion Wall Painting
Kimba White Lion Wall Painting

Kimba, the orphaned lion, sought to bring peace between man and the animal world. Jungle Taitei told the story of a young lion named Kimba. He goes into exile after the murder of his Father and later returns to overthrow his Fathers killer, his Uncle. Disney, however, denied ripping off the manga and the TV show, which was broadcast in the United States in 1966. Ironically, Tezuka borrowed heavily from Disney one of his favourites was Disney’s round faces.

Integration between comics and television

Tezuka started experimenting with ongoing integration between comics and television with significant implications for the development of computer animation. He reduced the number of drawings per second to a maximum of five, he both simplified and speeded up the whole montage process, putting for the first time into practice the multi-media approach employed today.

“Tezuka’s philosophy was absolutely expressed in all his works,” “He revered life. Astro Boy always fights for what’s right. Kimba is a lion form of Astro Boy; he’s against the law of the jungle. He says we need to have peace.” A message that is so desperately needed in the world today.

Sources

Schodt, F. L. (2012). Dreamland Japan: Writings on modern manga. Stone Bridge. Retrieved from https://amzn.to/3nxT0wm.

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