The Mainichi Daily News has a new article about how famous manga characters, including Astro Boy and Tetsujin 28, were inspired by the events of World War II but have become symbols of peace and are now recognized as such, as evident in the giant Tetsujin 28 statue pictured to the right.
It's a great look at how characters like this are so much more than just simple cartoons, and have so much to tell us about the past and future of humanity, and how they can be discussed academically. Here's a sample, which relates these two Japanese icons to the story of Frankenstein.
In "Astro Boy," there is psychological conflict between the father (correlating to the professor in "Frankenstein") and the son (correlating to the monster). But in "Tetsujin 28-go," elements of the strange nature of Frankenstein's monster emerge, and at first a strong impression is created that the robot is an embodiment of evil. In this respect, the robot contrasts strongly with the adorable Astro Boy. A feeling of fear from the war is added to this.You can read "Manga's military machines rebranded as images of peace" on The Mainichi Daily News website or by clicking the link below for an archived version.
Manga's military machines rebranded as images of peace
Manga reflect the times, and the shadow of wartime memories has been cast on many manga titles. One well-known example is Osamu Tezuka's "Astro Boy," which depicts the namesake hero being caught up in trouble between humans and robots. This was apparently inspired by the author's experience of being knocked to the ground by an American soldier soon after the end of the war.
In the magazine "Shonen," which featured "Astro Boy," another robot manga also rose to popularity: Mitsuteru Yokoyama's "Tetsujin 28-go," whose publication began in 1956. This work also has strong overtones of war. In the story, Tetsujin was originally developed secretly as a weapon for Japan during the war, but the war ends and the robot is instead used to maintain peace.
The naming of the robot, Tetsujin 28-go (literally, "Iron Man No. 28"), is said to have partly been inspired by the destructive B-29 bombers of World War II. The early published stories, in particular, placed a strong emphasis on fear, and the robot's image as a weapon of war was strong.
"Tetsujin 28-go" starts from wartime portrayals. Development of a robot is progressing at the request of the military, but the first through 26th attempts fail. The 27th robot is workable, but after that a stronger weapon is born: Tetsujin 28-go.
In the story, various spies are engaged in secret activities in Japan after the war, and Tetsujin, depicted as a relic of the war, comes close to falling into the hands of evildoers, but in the end the robot is retrieved and delivered to Japanese police. The young Shotaro Kaneda controls the robot, and it is used for peace.
It may be that the molding of Tetjsujin 28-go was influenced by the bizarre atmosphere conveyed in the movie "Frankenstein." In fact, Astro Boy also possesses an atmosphere similar to that of Mary Shelley's novel. In the novel the monster is depicted as a pure child, and one of the monster's favorite books is "The Sorrows of Young Werther" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It is only the monster's outer appearance that is ugly, resulting in it being hated. Eventually the monster's heart becomes twisted.
Tetsujin 28-go and Astro Boy carry on the image of monsters in human form that are depicted in the film and novel, but that influence is clearly divided in the two manga works.
In "Astro Boy," there is psychological conflict between the father (correlating to the professor in "Frankenstein") and the son (correlating to the monster). But in "Tetsujin 28-go," elements of the strange nature of Frankenstein's monster emerge, and at first a strong impression is created that the robot is an embodiment of evil. In this respect, the robot contrasts strongly with the adorable Astro Boy. A feeling of fear from the war is added to this.
In 2009, a huge, life-size statue of the Gundam robot was erected in Tokyo's Odaiba district, and gained popularity. Not to be outdone, Yokoyama's home town of Kobe, a city damaged extensively in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, erected a huge Tetsujin monument. It is delightful that what was once a symbol of evil has now resurfaced as a monument of peace. (By Osamu Takeuchi, professor of Doshisha University)