Saturday, March 1, 2008

About Osamu Tezuka.

You might not realize this, but if you enjoy anime and manga, and would go so far as to label yourself a fan, then there is one man who you would have to thank for that. Osamu Tezuka is The God of Manga, and so much of the Japanese landscape encompassing animation, comic books, and all of popular culture, was built upon his legacy.

Born in 1928, Tezuka took to drawing manga at a very young age. His first published works caused a sensation in post World War II Japanese society. Taking influence from European films that he enjoyed and American cartoons including Felix the Cat, Tezuka's works revolutionized the way manga should look. Not only does much of what people consider to be a manga-style looking artwork originate from his drawings, but also the dynamic and cinematic nature of manga storytelling. He didn't talk down to his audience and endowed his manga with richly developed characters in complex situations.

Over the course of his career, Tezuka drew comics from every conceivable genre. From science fiction, historical drama, mysteries, romance, stories for kids, stories for adults, and stories for everyone. Besides AstroBoy, some of his most popular and well known works include the renegade surgeon Black Jack, the female super hero Princess Knight, Kimba the White Lion, and the epic Phoenix, to name but a few. His work was so prolific and expansive that every manga artist that has come since has been influenced by Tezuka in some way. All told, his life's work is comprised of over 700 manga and 150,000 pages. Plus, even with all of that on his plate, he also worked extensively on anime, did public speaking, and made experimental short animated films.

Yet, even taking into account the quality, creativity, influence, diversity, and sheer volume of his work, if you ask me, the most amazing thing about Osamu Tezuka is that he was a fully licensed doctor! He went to medical school and graduated, but by that time he was already succsessful as a manga artist, so he never actually practiced medicine. Instead he made the choice to concentrate on his career in manga. To make such a decision at that time was unheard of. As an artist myself, this means the world to me, because it shows how drawing comic books can be just as valid of a profession as any other. Tezuka loved the Earth, and used the art of manga as a way of understanding humanity and expressing how he felt people should live. With that in mind, it doesn't take a very large stretch of the imagination to see how he touched the lives of far more people in a positive way as an artist than he ever would have had he worked full time as a doctor.

Osamu Tezuka passed away in 1989, but his work will live forever. There will always be new adaptations of his classic stories, new artists continuing his tradition, and new fans discovering Tezuka for the first time. As manga, anime, and other aspects of Japan's pop culture continue to gain awareness and popularity around the globe, let's not forget about the man who started it all, because without him, it just wouldn't be the same.

Besides, even after all these years, his stuff is still awesome! Luckily, it's much easier for English speakers to get a hold of his work nowadays, and AstroBoy World is going to be a big part of that. So give it a try, you won't be sorry!

Here are some links to more info about Tezuka.

- Wikipedia Entry
- Entry
- Anime Encyclopedia Entry
- Japan Zone Entry
- Anime News Network Entry
- Osamu Tezuka World
- Tezuka in English