Friday, December 31, 2010
From CNN Go:
Standing in front of previous incarnations, HRP-2 and HRP-3, the 151-centimeter, 39-kilo HRP-4 robot is part of a line of new working humanoids being developed to ease a looming labor shortage in the rapidly greying nation of Japan.
With 34 degrees of freedom in movement, including full arm articulation and simple hand moves including grasping capabilities, HRP-4 could be handy for all kinds of home jobs or factory work. He also seems light on his feet without the battery pack that Honda's Asimo needs to carry.
HRP-4 uses standard parts with a Linux core. It uses AIST's own proprietary control software on an Intel Pentium M CPU.
And here's a video of it in action.
We're getting closer!
Saturday, December 25, 2010
I was asked by Astro mega-fan Lisa to share this with everyone for Christmas, and I am happy to oblige. It's an illustration by Japanese artist named でんのく (Dennoku?), but an English translation and accompanying poem have also been added. A small version can be seen by clicking the image on the right. You can see it full size here, and it's a large file.
You can check out the artist's website here and see more Christmas cheer on the Astroboy-Online forums.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thought I would share this great classic opening couch gag from The Simpsons, featuring each member of the family as a famous Japanese character. Homer is Ultraman, Marge is Jun from Gatchaman, Lisa is Sailor Moon, Maggie is Pikachu, and of course, Bart is Astro Boy.
This originally aired on December 14, 2003 as part of the show's 15th season. It was a Christmas themed episode too.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Check out this cool little guy. Maybe it's just me, but I think he looks a little familiar.
It's pretty clear from the big saucer-like eyes, the fins on the head, and the thick proportions that Astro Boy must have been an influence. However, this is actually not a Japanese-built robot at all. It was created through partnerships with a number of US universities and Korean robotics company Robotis.
Find out more information, including a video of it in action, here.
I want one.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Japanese jazz singer Reiko Oshibuchi, who suffers from breast cancer, has released a CD of jazz covers of classic anime songs. Each CD costs 2,800 yen (about US$33), of which 800 yen (US$10) is donated to the Childhood Cancer Association of Japan. The CD includes songs from Gegege no Kitarō, Astro Boy (Mighty Atom), Space Battleship Yamato, and Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.
Oshibuchi first arranged the themes into jazz form for a 2006 concert event titled "Anime Jazz." The following year, Oshibuchi was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She resumed her live performances in 2008, and the second Anime Jazz event was a success. Oshibuchi had decided to release a CD before her third live performance when she discovered that she had relapsed with cancer in October. She decided to continue singing despite the infirmity.
The CD is on sale in Japan right now. I'm really interested in hearing it!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Found these interesting looking early toys for very young kids featuring Astro Boy. These kinds of "Roly-Poly" toys always stay upright, and these seem to make a jingling sound.
Not sure about the validity of these toys, which raises not only legal issues but safety concerns as well. At any rate, I found them, and a bunch more Astro stuff, here on Dino-Direct.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Let's dig into the archives and take a look at this classic Astro Boy oddity, the Mighty Gun!
Yeah, basically it's just a standard sci-fi-esque plastic suction cup dart gun with an Astro Boy sticker on it. Real original. But what is quite interesting is the young Atlas target it comes with. Because we all remember the time when Astro shot Atlas with a gun, right?
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Check out this cool artwork that has hit the Internet in a big way. Created by M7781 on deviantART, this piece brings together Iron Man and Astro Boy to explore what would have happened if Astro was built by Stark Industries.
stark industries x astroboy by *m7781 on deviantART
See more from this artist at his website.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Check out this poster by Osamu Tezuka from 1979 featuring Astro Boy and Uran in an illustration depicting fire safety around children.
Check out Pink Tentacle for more of these fire safety illustrations with Tezuka characters. Some of them are actually pretty funny.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
But all that changes in December! Shogakukan Creative has announced the publication of "Tezuka Osamu Sōsaku Note to Shoki Sakuhin-Shū", a collection of material taken from pages of 10 of these 75 notebooks. It will be released in Japan on December 24th.
For Tezuka fans, this is a huge announcement. It's a rare glimpse into the creative process of a cultural icon. I'll be keeping an eye on how this turns out.
Source: Anime News Network
Friday, October 29, 2010
I am somewhat disturbed by this artwork, but it's too funny not to share. From Scott Pilgrim comic book creator Bryan Lee O'Mally comes this drawing of Wallace in his Halloween costume. We are asked to guess who he's dressed up as.
Halloween Wallace by *radiomaru on deviantART
If you've read the comics then you'll know that, somehow, this costume does actually suit him.
The amazing movie Scott Pilgrim vs The World comes out on DVD and Blu Ray in North America on November 9th. If you missed it in theaters you have to check it out when it reaches home, because it's totally incredible and one of the best films of the year. There is even an Astro Boy reference, so you can't go wrong there.
There are some really fascinating specimens in here, like this this somewhat creepy female android and the bartender robot pictured here. Really this is just a fun way of looking at how robots have advanced and become more human-like in their interactions.
Maybe some of you might think a few of them are cute, I don't know. But the article comes with the caveat that just because one could date a robot, doesn't mean it's a very good idea. But hey, maybe someday these robots will be able to date each other.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Clearly, the theatrical release of this movie didn't exactly set the box office on fire, but I know for a fact that the film has won people over and built up a respectable fanbase in the time since. It's a good film, and it's a shame that so many people missed out on it at first. But now, thanks in good part to the release of the Astro Boy movie, many more people have become familiar with the character and his story, and the works of Osamu Tezuka continue to flourish around the world. No matter what the numbers say, I count that as a win.
I think this movie holds up pretty well to repeat viewings. There are a lot of fun Easter-eggs and Tezuka-esque gags throughout the movie that you might have missed the first time. So, take some time out at some point this weekend and watch the Astro Boy movie again, then post a comment below and talk about your experience. Get your friends and family involved too. If you haven't seen it in awhile, I think you might like it even better now than you did when you first saw it. And if you've never seen it, there is no better time than right now to give it a chance and see what this future cult classic is all about.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
It was over one year ago when the possibility of a Pluto movie was last brought up. But now it seems that the project has gotten some major forward momentum, as the rights to Pluto have been purchased by Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures.
It is planed to be a live action/CG hybrid film. Chris Meledandri of Illumination Entertainment had this to say:
"With Pluto, Naoki Urasawa has defined an imaginative world full of inventive action and adventure but it was his characters and heartfelt story that compelled me towards acquiring these rights."You can read more about the announcement on Deadline.com and on Anime News Network.
Now, before everyone gets too excited, does this mean that a Pluto movie is 100% being made? Not necessarily. It just means that there is an intention to make a Pluto movie, and a studio now has the rights to make it. Whether it actually materializes is another matter, but there is at least a chance. Let's hope that a faithful adaptation of this incredible version of the Astro Boy mythos will find its way to the silver screen in the future!
You can buy all 8 volumes of Pluto here and help support AstroBoyWorld in the process.
UPDATE: Read the official press release here.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Here's an article from TechEYE.net with some interesting discussion on Japanese robots.
Scientists in Japan are at last changing focus in robotics - increasingly working on practical machines instead of creating all-singing, all-dancing, all-creepy humanoid robots. Japan has for a while now been at the forefront of releasing robots which invoke some sort of terrible uncanny valley experience.Not sure how factually accurate this article is, but I think that less practical robots are still important. The advances in technology that are made during the process of creating them can potentially be used in other ways. Plus, these more whimsical robots can capture the imagination of the public, building more interest in the subject and in science and technology in general. I do feel, however, that time and effort is better spent in ways other than making robots appear and behave like humans at this time. I think that anime like Astro Boy and movies like Star Wars have made people accepting of robots that look like robots.
A report in Nikkei (subscription) suggests that Japan is taking its cue from the West and now focusing on developing robotics that have direct, practical applications. Shinichiro Sanji, researcher at Mitsubishi Research Institute, told the paper: "Japanese engineers have tried to create robots like popular comic heroes Astro Boy and Gundam in a short period of time." Another expert said "A bubble in robot research has burst."
Money being spent on research at the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, or NEDO, has declined too. The biped, human lookalikes have no space in development anymore - and Japan must look to areas where there are labor shortages like fishing, farming and cleaning, suggests Sanji.
It seems companies are doing just that. Fuji Heavy Industries is still putting its yen into robot development and has recently been working on a farming robot able to inject pesticide into the ground. Automation is the way forward, says a farmer: It would "help reduce the burden on workers." Until now, says Nikkei, pumping pesticide deep into the earth is a manual task that needs a lot of careful labor - including full protection outfits from the chemicals.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is working on a robot which will be able to comb the ocean for rare earth metals, as well as a car which may be able to drive itself. And the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization has created an automated system which can handle time intensive farm work such as planting rice seedlings. It uses GPS technology to know where it is and what it's doing.
It's good then that scientists are beginning to put away the anime. A real life Metal Gear would be a site to behold but we can't think of any applications other than World Wars 3 through 10.
Besides, who doesn't like to watch a robot get down and boogie?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Here's what TezukaOsamu.net has to say about the title.
"Human Metamorphosis," a satirical Manga depicting human society compared to the insect world, focuses on the life of a devious woman. Tomura Toshiko, who is said to be a genius, is a rising star writer. Her novel wins the Akutagawa Prize for the best novel of the year. While she attends the award ceremony, another woman named Usuba Kageri commits suicide in another place. It turns out that Kageri and Toshiko used to live together, and the awarded novel was copied from Kageri's transcript. Toshiko is like a parasite: approaching talented people one after another, squeezing everything out of them and stealing their works for her own fame. Behind her success story, she has her secrets.Look forward to this unique manga release next year!
Monday, October 4, 2010
I'm not really sure what to classify this under, but this is some incredibly unique Astro Boy inspired imagery and pattern design from the "Astroboy by ohya" collection. It seems to be officially licensed by Tezuka Productions for some kind of exhibition a few years ago.
Here a few samples.
Many more images are available here. There is some weird stuff, but still kind of cool. I have no idea how much of this, if any, was available for sale. If anyone has more information about this particular event, please respond by posting a comment.
Monday, September 27, 2010
In the underrated 2009 film, Dr. Tenma turns against his creation, Astro Boy — but later has a second change of heart. Dr. Tenma creates Astro Boy as a robot duplicate of his dead son. But when he realizes that the robot copy can never replace the flesh-and-blood boy, he rejects the kid. (In the original Tezuka manga, Tenma rejects the boy when he realizes the boy can never grow up, and sells him to the circus.) In the movie, Dr. Tenma finally embraces his robot son after Astro Boy sacrifices himself to save everyone from an evil giant robot — and Dr. Tenma manages to bring Astro Boy back to life.You can read about all "20 mad scientists who turned against their creations" on io9.
A framed wooden ceiling panel sits in the press club inside the Metropolitan Police Department's Ikebukuro Police Station in Tokyo's Toshima Ward.
It shows a sketch of the heroine of Osamu Tezuka's manga "Ribon no Kishi" (Princess Knight), and a self-portrait of the artist in his inimitable style.
As the anecdote goes, Tezuka (1928-1989) drew the pictures on the panel, which measures roughly 70 centimeters by 30 cm, after removing it himself from the legendary Tokiwa-so apartment building, where he and other manga artists had once lived.
The building was torn down 28 years ago. The artist managed to rescue the board thanks to the help of club reporters.
In the top right of the panel, the artist wrote a special dedication: "For the reporters at the Gohomen Kisha Club (the press club for district 5)."
An Asahi Shimbun article on the demolition said: "(Tezuka), wearing his trademark beret, was surrounded by fans who had heard about the demolition and went upstairs to revisit Room 14, which held so many memories. As he had requested, he received wooden panels from the ceiling, which were richly imbued with the smoke from all the cooking that had gone on in that room."
The press club is one of the seven at major police stations in Tokyo. The rooms serve as bases for crime reporters.
How did a panel from Tokiwa-so end up in the press club on the seventh floor of the Ikebukuro Police Station?
Shigeyuki Koide, 59, senior staff writer at the Yomiuri Shimbun, happily recounted the events that took place on Nov. 30, 1982.
"We just happened to drop in at a ramen shop near Tokiwa-so that day," he said.
Koide was 31 and in his first year on the city news beat. After covering a fire in the morning, reporters from the press club went to the Chinese restaurant Matsuba for lunch.
After their meal, the reporters noticed Tokiwa-so covered with scaffolding, with the window frames already gone. They heard that the building was about to be demolished.
The reporters sprang into action, calling up manga artists who used to live in the apartment to get their reactions.
One reporter called Tezuka, creator of "Tetsuwan Atomu" (Astro Boy), who had lived in Room 14 of Tokiwa-so.
Tezuka said he would come down to get some of the ceiling boards. He promised to meet the reporters in front of the apartment late in the afternoon the next day.
On Dec. 1, at his office in Shinjuku Ward, Tezuka handed in 20 manuscript sheets for the manga "Hidamari no Ki" (Trees in the sun) to his editor from Big Comic magazine.
He was two days late for his deadline, and due dates for other serials were fast approaching.
But Tokiwa-so couldn't wait. Tezuka headed off to his rendezvous.
"As I waited for (Tezuka) to return, I was surrounded by angry editors," recalled Takayuki Matsutani, 65, president of Tezuka Productions Co. "I didn't want him to leave the office. Still, I wanted him to take a breather."
The manga king was about an hour late when he arrived at Tokiwa-so. He immediately went upstairs, even though the apartment was dark because the lights were removed.
In Room 14, he got on a stepladder to get at the ceiling, while reporters shone flashlights.
One asked, "Are you sure you can just tear it up like that?"
An unfazed Tezuka replied: "Don't worry. I've talked with the landlord."
He soon ripped several boards out of the ceiling.
When Koide handed Tezuka a felt-tipped pen, the artist drew the dashing Princess Sapphire, who in his famous tale pretends she is a prince to inherit the throne.
Saying, "And me," Tezuka added a self-portrait.
It was Tezuka's way of thanking the young reporters who alerted him about the demise of his special place. The reporters carried the panel back to their press club and displayed it on the locker.
The board has since witnessed more than 200 reporters at the Gohomen Kisha Club come and go, chasing down stories and learning their trade.
Shinichi Suzuki, 76, an anime artist who also lived at Tokiwa-so, compares the press club to Tokiwa-so.
"I look at it this way: Anyplace, be it a school or a company, becomes a Tokiwa-so to the people who grow up there and are successful in the future."
Monday, September 20, 2010
I can't believe I'm typing this (actually this is Japan we're talking about so nothing is truly unbelievable) but there's an event happening right now that combines the famous works of Osamu Tezuka with the modern day cute fad of "moe". The "Osamu Moet Moso" exhibition is being held at the Tokyo Anime Center in Akihabara. It opened on September 18 and runs until October 11.
Upon viewing the images above, my guttural reaction would be "Is nothing sacred?", but upon reading more, there is some reason to suggest that the concept of moe can directly trace its roots to Tezuka's influence on manga culture. It's an interesting topic at any rate, though there's something kind of creepy to me about that Astro artwork. The Princess Knight one is HAWT though.
See more pictures and information at Otaku2 and AnimeKon.
Monday, September 13, 2010
This is an actual thing, found on eBay.
Needless to say, this is probably not a licensed product. D'oh!
This bizarre and unholy fusion of Astro Boy and Homer Simpson originates in Mexico, a haven of bootlegged weirdness. There seem to be several other Homers like this, including Flash Homer, Punisher Homer, and Hellboy Homer.
Warning: May contain traces of Mexican cheese.
Anime News Network brings us another new installment of The Mike Toole Show. This column features a look at The Astonishing Work of Osamu Tezuka DVD and a complete, detailed look at all of the Osamu Tezuka anime properties that have been translated into English. Definitely an informative article and another entertaining read from Mike Toole.
Here's a sample that I particularly agree with.
Tezuka Productions would go back to the well and remake Astro Boy in 2003, commemorating both the 40th anniversary of the cartoon and the fictional "birthdate" of Astro himself. The company spared no expense in revitalizing their flagship hero; the TV series was bankrolled by Sony, and directed and scripted by the famous (and somewhat infamous) Konaka brothers.Make sure you read the whole thing right here.
Unfortunately, its western release was badly, badly bungled, featuring a gutted musical score, extensively rewritten scripts, and some episodes either omitted or shown out of sequence; the show was irregularly bounced between Kids WB and Cartoon Network before being canceled. Its broadcast run was never properly finished, although Sony did see fit to throw out a dub-only, poor-quality DVD box. Astro Boy 2003's handling by Sony is a compelling model of how not to release an anime series in the west, which is pretty frustrating in retrospect.
If you ask me, any time is Tezuka time!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The amazing book dedicated to the life and work of the God of Manga, The Art of Osamu Tezuka by Helen McCarthy, has been awarded with the Harvey Award for "Best American Edition of Foreign Material". Congratulations for this well deserved honor. Check out the post on Anime News Network for all the information.
In some recent happenings, Helen McCarthy's blog has a post regarding foreign language editions of the book.
Also, Brain Diving from Anime News Network has a new column that explores the book in great detail.
If you don't have this book yet, it's a must read, and you can help support ABW by purchasing it here.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
But Fred had some pretty major conspirators in his corner, starting with the “God of Manga” himself, Osamu Tezuka. After briefly meeting each other in 1977, Tezuka would come to rely on Fred and the small circle of fans that he belonged to (the LA branch of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, AKA the C/FO) to show him around the SoCal area, and supply information about the burgeoning popularity of anime and manga outside of Japan. Says Patten in his book, “(Tezuka) was bewildered but flattered that so many Americans, who did not understand the Japanese language, had taken the trouble to figure out the plots of his manga from the pictures alone.”You can read "2010 is 1980: Fred Patten and Osamu Tezuka" at OtakuUSAMagazine.com.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
"Scott Pilgrim VS The World" has been released this week in the UK. So, here's an image from the movie, found through this official remix video, that clearly shows an Astro Boy T-Shirt, just like he wears in the comic.
I have to reiterate just how amazing this movie is. It's the best movie I've seen in a long time and it's an absolute crime that it hasn't made more money at the box office in North America. Do yourself a favor and see this movie in theaters if you haven't done so already. If you have, go see it again! I've seen it twice thus far and that just wasn't enough for me. Please go watch it and help support innovative films!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
A new Astro Boy video game is set for release on the iPhone. This is a colaboration between Tezuka Productions, Widefos, and SJgames. It's a side scrolling action game that seems akin in many ways to the GameBoy Advance classic Astro Boy Omega Factor. It has a unique art style and looks to feature battles with both Atlas and Pluto. Other famous characters like Dr. Ochanomizu and Inspector Tawashi also make an appearance.
Check out some gameplay footage below!
The game is set for release in 2011 for what will be the 60th anniversary of Astro Boy. It is be available in Korea and Japan first, but other regions including North America and Europe will follow. Stay tuned to ABW for more information on this exciting new game as it develops.
Source: GamePron - ThisIsGame.com
Friday, August 13, 2010
The new movie Scott Pilgrim vs The World opens in the US and Canada today! Go see it!
To celebrate, here's an image from the second volume of the Scott Pilgrim comic series that features Scott wearing an awesome and familiar shirt.
Creator Bryan Lee O’Malley is a noted Osamu Tezuka follower and the influence certainly shows in his work. This is a very cool tribute to the master.
UPDATE: An Astro Boy T-Shirt appears in the movie, in pretty much the exact same scene as it does in the comic. Now that's attention to detail! Also, the movie rocks!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Check out more Japanese posters made to promote subway manners at Pink Tentacle, featuring Superman, Santa Claus, Doraemon, John Wayne, and more. It's some crazy stuff!
Friday, August 6, 2010
What I thought was going to be an epic encounter wasn't quite as epic as one would think. Here is the extended version of the previously reported commercial featuring famous TV doctor House and Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack.
I was expecting more from this, honestly. It's not as cool as I thought it would be. Existing Footage from the House TV show was cut together with footage of Black Jack. The only really notable thing about it that gives it any sort of authenticity is that the Japanese voice actors are used. In the end we can see that this is not just a promotional tool for the Japanese DVD release of House season 4, but also for the Black Jack OVA.
More info can be found here on Anime News Network.
No matter what happened, I still say Black Jack is cooler.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Check out this Robot Wrestling from Japan!
This tumultuous sequence of battles took place at a robotics event called Robotech (no relation to the cartoon) at the Tokyo Big Site last month. Clearly these bots have taken some major influence from the famous mecha of anime.
As cool as this is, one has to wonder, is it right to force robots to fight each other? Will they become angry and turn against humans someday? Ah, who cares? Robot wrestling rules!
Find out more info at Gizmag.com!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Take a look at this.
Yes, this is a real thing! Sort of.
To promote the Japanese DVD release of House season 4, Dr. House (actor Hugh Laurie) will appear in a commercial with an animated version of Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack. We will see which bad-ass doctor has the best skills!
More find more information on this epic crossover on Anime News Network.
Peter had an incredibly long and fruitful career in show-business that began when he was 7 years old. He was in film, radio, and on Broadway, but he is probably best known today for his work in bringing adaptations of Japanese animation to the rest of the world. He worked on titles like the original Astro Boy and Gigantor as well as the live action Ultraman, and his directorial leadership on Speed Racer clearly crafted a pop-culture legacy that endures to this day.
He was a great guy who never looked down on the work that he did. We will all miss him, but his legacy will likely live on for decades to come. I highly recomend everyone read Mike Toole's "Voice of Many Generations" on ANN as a great way of understanding the scope of his life's work.
More information can be found here:
New York Times
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
You can read "Osamu Tezuka: Father of manga and scourge of the medical establishment" on the Guardian Science Blog or by clicking the link below for an archived version.
Osamu Tezuka: Father of manga and scourge of the medical establishment
Tezuka inspired a generation of manga artists and shaped the national debate about medical reform in Japan
Black Jack cartoon by Osamu TezukaView larger picture In one episode Tekuka's superhuman surgeon Black Jack operates on himself without an anaesthetic. Image: Osamu Tezuka
So far in this blog series on graphic medicine I've been looking at medical comics in the west. Now I look east to the work of the "Father of manga" (Japanese comics) Osamu Tezuka. A talented writer, artist and animator, Tezuka used his medical education to inform his anatomically accurate depictions of surgery.
Tezuka was born in Toyanaka City, Osaka, in 1928. Though he attended medical school and became a licensed physician, he chose not to work as a doctor and instead devoted himself to writing and drawing manga and making animated films.
Over the course of his long career Tezuka became a defining force in shaping the genre, publishing more than 700 manga running to more than 150,000 pages. Early Tezuka characters had large eyes, inspired by their American counterparts Betty Boop and Disney's Bambi. Large eyes have since become a stylistic hallmark of the whole genre.
As well as countless other titles including the world famous Astro Boy, Tezuka produced three notable medical manga: Black Jack, Ode to Kirihito, and Tezuka's Ancestor, Dr. Ryoan.
The latter is the story of Tezuka's grandfather, doctor to a samurai warrior during Japan's Meiji period. The other two works, fiercely critical of the Japanese medical establishment, have inspired a generation of manga artists (mangaka) as well as shaping the national debate about medical reform in Japan.
Ode to Kirihito was originally published in Japan as a series in the twice-monthly manga magazine Big Comic from 1970 to 1971. The story follows Dr Kirihito Osanai as he seeks a cure for the life-threatening (and thankfully fictional) Monmow disease which transforms people into dog-like creatures. When Kirihito himself becomes infected, he travels the world reflecting on his alienation and searching for a cure. In this 832-page epic, Tezuka deals with the anguish and moral dilemmas of both doctors and patients with piercing insight.
"For Tezuka, a doctor is not just someone who heals the body, but someone who appreciates the value of life, and inspires others to value it as well," said Ada Palmer, a historian at A&M University Texas and manga scholar. "In Tezuka's Buddhist cosmology all life is sacred and nothing is more valuable than creating or continuing life."
Ode to Kirihito expresses Tezuka's frustration at what he saw as an ineffectual medical establishment. It is one of a number of later social critique stories written by Tezuka that had only a limited impact in the context of his general body of work.
By contrast, Tezuka's medical manga Black Jack has been hugely successful since its original run in Weekly Shonen Champion from 1973 to 1984. In Black Jack, Tezuka depicted the physician he would like to have been had he continued with his medical career. An extremely gifted but unlicensed surgeon, Black Jack performs complicated operations on humans and animals and charges extortionate prices for his services.
Black Jack manga comic, cover image Black Jack, cover image
"The outrageous fees he charges are a test to make sure his patients truly appreciate that life itself is more valuable than any amount of money," said Palmer. Rejected by the medical community, he mostly provides his services to criminals and outlaws on the fringes of society. The series ran for more than 230 episodes.
Tezuka used his experience as a physician to draw anatomically accurate surgical scenes in Black Jack. His highly stylised cartoon figures were set against realistic landscapes and medically accurate depictions of the tissues of the human body. This attention to detail set the book apart from what had come before, and inspired many more mangaka to follow his lead.
"Many of the operations which Black Jack performs are astounding, sometimes impossible, but Tezuka's grounding in medicine means they are almost always convincingly portrayed," said Paul Gravett, comics historian and author of Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics.
Indeed there are several points in Black Jack where Tezuka chose to reject medical plausibility. The superhuman surgeon can perform complex surgical operations from memory in complete darkness, for example. In one episode Black Jack operates on himself without anaesthetic. Despite this degree of poetic licence the manga has been enormously influential.
Black Jack remains one of the most popular manga of all time in Japan. "I have never met a Japanese person who wasn't familiar with Black Jack, even those who don't usually read manga," said Palmer. "If Astro Boy is the Japanese Superman, Black Jack is the Japanese Batman. Everyone knows him, even far outside the comics world, and when people think of him people think of his fierce critique of the medical world."
Palmer told me the character is often brought up in debates about medical reform. The Hitachi medical group used Black Jack's image in their advertisement in 2006, for example, because his image is synonymous with good medical care.
However, Tezuka's message was not always welcome. "There were a number of Black Jack episodes which drew complaints from the medical establishment in Japan and which Tezuka agreed to suppress and not allow to be reprinted in book form," said Gravett. Two of these three "sealed issues", issue 41 Vegetable and issue 58 Seat of Pleasure, which deal with the vegetative state and lobotomy respectively, were considered politically sensitive and never re-published.
Gravett said it was significant that Tezuka agreed to suppress this work. "Despite some ill-informed, scaremongering headlines here in the UK trying to panic the public about imported Japanese comics, manga does not operate with an anarchic, unregulated, 'anything-goes' licence," he said.
Palmer cited Naoki Urasawa's Monster and Chiho Saito's Say Hello to Black Jack as examples of manga inspired by the Black Jack series. The latter is a gritty, realistic portrait of corruption and incompetence in the Japanese medical school internship process.
"The subject of the manga is literally that every medical student in Japan starts medical school wanting to be Dr Black Jack, and then has to face the trauma of discovering that isn't possible in the real world," said Palmer. The comic is beautifully illustrated with a detailed medical realism in tribute to Tezuka.
Team Medical Dragon by Akira Nagai and Taro Nogizaka Team Medical Dragon by Akira Nagai and Taro Nogizaka
In a similar vein, Team Medical Dragon by Akira Nagai and Taro Nogizaka attacks corruption and petty politics within the Japanese healthcare system. Serialised in Japan in the manga magazine Big Comic Superior since 2002, the comic combines explanatory medical diagrams with graphic depictions of surgery. The idea was so successful it was made into the television drama Iryu which enjoyed critical acclaim when it aired in Japan between 2006 and 2007.
It is not unusual in Japan for a manga on a seemingly niche topic to gain enormous readership and become serialised on television or turned into films. "Manga covers an enormous range of topics, genres and styles of story, far more diverse than one finds in western comics, or on the animated side western television," said Palmer. "There are manga about gender-switching princes, children raised by pigeons, the bombing of Hiroshima, international competitive baking and the French Revolution."
Palmer told me that because of Tezuka's Black Jack, people in Japan are much more aware of the issue of medical corruption than in most other countries.
"Imagine if Batman were about medical corruption," said Palmer. "When a new movie comes out, the whole nation talks about it. That has had a vast impact on how the Japanese nation thinks about doctors."
Would we have manga without Tezuka? According to Gravett, the question "is rather like asking if we would have French-language comics without Hergé, or American comic books without Jack Kirby. Tezuka was pivotal and a huge inspiration [for manga artists]."
Dr Osamu Tezuka died at the age of 60 in 1989. His legacy lives on in the work of mangaka who continue to tell medical stories. The Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum in Takarazuka showcases the life work of this prolific and talented artist.
Cian O'Luanaigh is a graphic artist and science writer based in London. He has a masters in science communication from Imperial College London
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Pretty busy with some non-Astro related stuff right now, hence the infrequent posts recently. Things will pick back up later.
As insensitive as it might be, one of my most favorite things in the universe is Engrish; Amusingly sincere mutations of the English language which usually originate from Asian countries. What can I say? I just find it funny. Here is a bizarre piece of Astro Boy related Engrish I just stumbled upon. This "Tokyo Atom" T-shirt may or may not be an official product but is officially awesome in the Engrish department.
ASTRO BOY is a miraculous snncr(?) rober(!) with the worlds! Wow! I though I knew a lot about anime, but that's a new one to me. A provocative message, to be sure.
Source: Alexis Mall.
The first entry in the trilogy, "Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha -The Red Desert! It’s Beautiful-", is still set for Japanese release on May 28th, 2011. It's budgeted at 1 billion yen and is being produced by both Toei Animation and Tezuka Productions. You can read more about this exciting project, including staff and voice cast on Anime News Network.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
There have been some rumblings about this in the past, but now we know that it's true. The Astro Boy movie will be released in 3D!
If you have the special glasses, you can watch a trailer on YouTube. Notice the "Coming Soon in 3D" text that sets this trailer apart from previous ones.
You can read more about the 3D version of Astro Boy here and download the trailer for yourself (3D video player required). Informatuion about 3D Blu Ray home theaters can be found here. Big time thanks to Lisa Sapphire for sending me these links!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I get the feeling that it's not an official product, but hey, points for trying.
Source: ChiniTech - Shanzhaiji
The features seem to be exactly the same as the North American release, but I must say that I like the cover artwork much better. It's more based on the final movie poster and really has that great classic Astro Boy look to it with all the other characters and funny robots around him. The composition works suprisingly well and the critic's quote isn't nearly as obtrusive.
You can see a listing for it on Play.com UK.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Anime North was great this past weekend. My panels were well attended and went smoothly. But one of the highlights for me was seeing this youngster cosplaying as Astro Boy. He's 3 years old and was quite enthusiastic to show his lasers. Pew Pew Pew! Too cute.
I think it's amazing that the first important anime character for everyone can be, even all these decades later, the first important anime character for anyone.
I asked his family if it would be OK to show pictures here on ABW so hopefully they will be happy to see this. This is one awesome kid who has an awesome family too.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I will be there and will be participating in a number of panels. Here's my schedule.
FRIDAYYou are definitley going to want to check out that classic anime panel on Sunday, it's going to be huge, with tons of awesome video clips focusing on how classic anime has been made available in North America. Expect some rare stuff courtesy of Let's Anime's own Dave Merril. I'll be there talking about Tezuka and some of my other favorite classics, and I promise I won't make anything up unless it's funny.
Sheraton Hotel - Muskoka room
10pm: Super Mario Bros
Doubletree - Toronto B room
11am: Classic Anime
12pm: The Mecha Panel
10pm: Live Action Heroes
Doubletree - Toronto A room
1pm: Anime Wannabes
Doubletree - Main Plaza Ballroom
2pm: Classic Anime with Dave Merril
To make my mysterious self more slightly recongizable, I will be wearing this shirt from deviantArt on Saturday with a green camo bandanna and probably a Gatchaman shirt on Sunday. It would be great to see you there, so come say hi and tell me that you read the site!
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Scott clearly did a lot of work for Astro and you can see more on his blog. I'll post further entires here later. Thanks again to Felix Ip!