The late Tezuka Osamu is often hailed as the “God of Manga”, and with good reason. His impact on
manga and anime is impossible to measure. It was his work that changed the evolutionary path of Japanese animation that today sets it apart from all else. Born Tezuka Shigeru on November 3rd, 1928 in Tonoyona, Osaka, Tezuka Osamu was raised in the city of Takarazuka. Since he was a child, he developed an interest for drawing and collecting insects. After he found an insect named Osamushi (carabus) in a book, he decided to adopt it as his pseudonym. The nickname Tezuka Osamu was thus created.
Tezuka Osamu was studying in Osaka University Medical School when he made his debut as a manga-ka in 1946 at the age of eighteen. His first work was a four-panel manga called Ha-chan’s Diary in the children’s magazine Mainichi Shogakusei Shinbun. A year later, he became nationally famous with his manga The New Treasure Island (Shin Takarajima). The New Treasure Island was an akahon (red book, a type of cheap children’s book), called that way because of the red ink used in the covers. Akahon were a niche market at the time, mainly due to the dire postwar economic problems in Japan. Nevertheless, it sold 400,000 copies… an unthinkable figure at the time. This success was nearly equaled by his following works, Lost World and Next World.
Despite having graduated as a physician, Dr. Tezuka pursued a career in anime and manga instead of medicine. Thanks to his innovative style, which drew freely from French and German cinema, Walt Disney films and his studies, Tezuka Osamu became the leader in the manga industry in 1950, with the serialized Kimba the White Lion (Jungle Taitei) manga in the magazine Manga Shonen. In 1952, Tezuka published the first issue of what would arguably become his most popular creation ever: Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atom).
Tezuka joined with Toei Douga and produced Toei’s first full-length film, Tale of the White Serpent, which would become the inspiration for Dragonball. By 1961, he had left Toei and started Mushi Studios. It was at this time that he made the anime version of Astro Boy, which failed to be the first anime television show in Japan by just a couple of months (Otagi Manga Calendar was the first); however, it was the first anime television series with recurring characters. Later, he would again break the mold with the animated version of Kimba the White Lion, which became the first color anime on the small screen in October 6th, 1965.
Tezuka’s creations were always defined by themes relevant to the real world, ranging from ecology to
war. Unlike previous manga which were simple in storytelling and character emotions, Tezuka’s work was defined by complexity; he used many camera angles and close-ups, several panels for the same action in order to catch facial expressions and used panels of different sizes. With this, he was able to give the characters a larger range of emotions than previous manga could. His stories had an unusually high number of pages, like Tell to Adolf (Adolf ni Tsugu), his 1000+ page World War II epic. He commented in his autobiography, “The potential of manga was more than humor; using themes of tears, sorrow, anger and hatred, I made stories that did not always have happy endings”.
He was a fan of Walt Disney’s animation, Bambi being his favorite; he admitted to seeing it over eighty times. Tezuka noted how the childish attributes such as the big eyes and head were not only appealing to kids (one of his main audiences), but also made it possible to convey complex emotions. The eyes are a window to the soul, after all.
As time passed, Tezuka’s work only improved, always maintaining his characteristic freshness. Ode to Kihirito in 1970, A Hundred Tales in 1971, Black Jack in 1973, MW in 1976, A Tree in the Sun in 1981, Adolph ni Tsugu in 1983, Ludwig B. in 1987 are among his most famous manga creations. Black Jack is special in a way; it’s the story of a doctor with a huge respect for life. In this manga, Dr. Tezuka made full use of his medical knowledge and is probably the only Japanese animated medical drama. Like Black Jack, Tezuka always had an immense respect for life, which became a recurring theme in his creations, most notably in Phoenix (1967), which he considered his life’s project.
Tezuka Osamu died of stomach cancer on February 2nd, 1989 at the age of sixty. His legacy in anime
and manga history is exorbitant: more than 150,000 strips of manga are reported as his, and that number doesn’t count animated features. However, that isn’t what made him the “God of Manga”. The Japanese newspaper Asahi on February 10th, 1989 wrote about the real importance of Dr. Tezuka: “Foreign visitors to Japan often find it difficult to understand why Japanese people like comics so much. One explanation for the popularity of comics in Japan, however, is that Japan had Tezuka Osamu, whereas other nations did not. Without Dr. Tezuka, the postwar explosion in comics in Japan would have been inconceivable.”
As a memorial, the city of Takarazuka opened the Tezuka Osamu Museum of Comic Art in 1994, and in 1997 stamps were issued with Tezuka’s artwork.
Adachi ga Hara
Alakazam the Great
Arabian Nights: Sinbad’s Adventures
Astro Boy: Hero of Space
Astro Boy: Shinsen-gumi
Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature
Bander Book: One Million-Year Trip
Black Jack: A Surgeon with the Hands of God
Broken Down Film
Cigarettes and Ashes
Fushigi na Merumo
Galaxy Investigation 2100: Border Planet
Gokuu no Daibooken
Here Comes Three Eyes
Hokkyoku no Muushika Miishika
In the Beginning
Jungle Emporer Leo
Jungle Emporer Leo: The Movie
Kimba the White Lion
Legend of the Forest
Misuke in the Land of Ice
Misuke in Southern
My Son Goku
The New Adventures of Kimba The White Lion
New Jungle Emperor, Go Ahead Leo!
New Treasure Island
Okazaki City in 70 Years
Once Upon a Time
One Thousand and One Arabian Nights
Phoenix 2772: Cosmo Song of Love
Phoenix: Dawn Chapter
Phoenix: Karma Chapter
Pïctures at an Exhibition
Ribbon no Kishi
Song of the Dodoro
Space Journey: The First Dream of Wonder-kun
The Story of a Certain Street Corner
Tale of the White Serpent
Tenguri, the Boy of the Plains
A Time Slip of 10,000 Years: Prime Rose
Tree in the Sun
Tezuka Osamu Story: I Am Son-Goku
Tezuka’s Ancestor Dr. Ryoan
Three-Eyed One: Prince in the Devil Island
Till a City Beneath the Sea Is Built
Triton of the Sea
Unico: To the Magic Island
Unico: Cloud and White Feather
Unico: Saving Our Fragile Earth
World’s Famous Stories for Children: Thumb Princess