Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Imagi's Financial Future?

Variety Asia has an article about the financial status of Imagi. Apparently, things aren't looking too rosy. While the animated Astro Boy movie is apparently on course for release in October, there is some concern over the company's future after that. Let's hope that these concerns are dealt with over the coming year, because I know that Imagi has a lot of creative gas in the tank, and it would be a total shame for the company to undergo any problems.

You can read the article on Variety Asia Online or read an archived version right here by clicking the link below.

Financial concerns continue to dog Imagi
Written by Patrick Frater
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

HONG KONG – Auditors delivered a 'going concern' qualification to the half year results of Hong Kong- and LA-based animation firm Imagi Int'l which last year delivered "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" for Warner Bros and Weinstein Co.

Company statement said that Imagi is on course to deliver CG-animated fantasy "Astro Boy," with a starry voice cast headed by Freddy Highmore, Nicolas Cage and Bill Nighy, for release in October 2009. And it revealed progress on the three upcoming projects, "Gatchaman," "Tusker" and "Cat Tale."

But audit firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu said "it is uncertain whether the Group will have the necessary financial resources to complete these animated pictures."

"At 30 September 2008, the group had bank and cash balances of approximately HK$88.9 million ($11.5 million,) while it is expected to incur approximately HK$512 million ($66 million) cash outlay to complete its animation pictures and to meet its daily operating expenses in coming years up to June 2010 (of which approximately HK$353 million [$45.6 million] is required within the next 12 months) before revenue from the animation pictures is generated," Deloitte said.

"The directors are actively pursuing various funding sources to meet the group's cash flow requirements…. However, it is uncertain whether these fund raising exercises will be successful," Deloitte said. "Consequently, in the absence of evidence that the group will be successful in raising the necessary funding as and when it is required, we consider that there is a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt on the group’s ability to operate as a going concern."

Deloitte did not qualify the company's 2007-08 annual report which it audited in July.

For the half year to September, company reported losses of HK$21.8 million ($2.81 million) compared with HK$27.1 million ($3.50 million,) on revenues down from HK$12.5 million ($1.61 million) to HK$1.56 million ($0.2 million).

Imagi said that in line with expanded use of 3-D by competitors Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney, Imagi said that the most exciting sequences of "Astro Boy" will be delivered in Stereo 3-D and said that "Gatchaman and "Tusker" will be entirely in stereo 3-D. "Tusker," an India-set elephant tale which was once set up at DreamWorks, is to be directed by Lorna Cook from a script by Ted Talley and produced by Brooke Breton.

Continue reading "Imagi's Financial Future?"...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa Moderno

Happy Holidays from AstroBoy World!

These 3" Astro and Kimba figures are part of the Tezuka Moderno line created by Organic Hobby. They are special holiday limited editions which were released November 2007. You might still be able to find one if you look hard enough, but quantities were limited so these are very collectible.

Such a cool simple style on these guys! I want to collect them all. Hope it's not too late to start!

Continue reading "Santa Moderno"...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fred Ladd has the Right Stuf(f)

The Anime Today Podcast from has an incredible interview with the Grandfather of Astro Boy, Mr. Fred Ladd. In it he talks about his upcoming book, the Kimba/Lion King controversy, the live action Speed Racer movie, the upcoming CG animated Astro Boy movie, and much more. It's one of those interviews where you wish it would just go on and on, because everything in it is solid gold.

Make sure you listen to it right here. I totally recommend that all fans check this out.

Some interesting news may have come out of this interview. Fred has been in contact with people at Imagi, and one of the things he talks about is that they asked him about the theme song. That would imply, at least possibly, that the 60's version of the English Astro Boy theme song might just be in the film!

Continue reading "Fred Ladd has the Right Stuf(f)"...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ain't it Cool's Black Jack Contest Winners

Ain't it Cool News recently held a comic art contest where the winners got copies of Vertical's Black Jack manga. I had no idea this was going on, and if I did I probably would have entered something. Even so, I doubt I would have won, because some of these comics are absolutely hilarious!

You've got to see these! Check out the winning entries and see some Tezuka tributes the likes of which you've never seen before!

Continue reading "Ain't it Cool's Black Jack Contest Winners"...

Korean Toys in Kansas

And another toy post!

The Spencer Museum of Art on the University of Kansas campus has got a very cool exhibit going on right now all about Korean toys from the 70's and 80's. Of course, Japanese anime culture has had a big effect on Korea, and so famous anime characters like Astro Boy are a part of that. Clearly, toys like this often interpret characters in unique and often bizarre ways! Take a look at how Astro is just as tall as Superman!

You can see more information about the exhibit on The Pitch Kansas City and on It on until January 24. If you're in the area, check it out for me and tell me what it's like!

Continue reading "Korean Toys in Kansas"...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tin Toys

My friend Rin recently went on a trip to Disney World, and while at the Epcot Center she took a few pictures of an awesome display of classic Japanese tin toys found in the Japan pavilion. Click the images for a larger look at them.

This sign introduces the collection.

Here's Astro Boy in all his tin plated glory! Ha ha, he's kinda chubby here. Behind him you can see the super hero Mirrorman.

What Japanese toy collection would be complete without Ultraman? The skull-headed guy is an interesting character called "Ogon Bat", also known as Phantoman. Ogon Bat was created in Japan in 1930, making him the very first superhero ever. There was a manga version created by Osamu Tezuka, as well as an anime version that was translated into several languages.

Astro rides a motorcycle! What purpose does that serve when he has rockets in his feet? The purpose of being a cool toy, I guess. Looks like there's some kind of vehicle behind it based on Big X, another Tezuka character.

And of course, we have Godzilla. Being made primarily out of metal and paint rather than plastic gives this toy of The Big G an interesting look here.

Such awesome pieces of Japanese toy history. I love looking at this stuff. There's a certain unique charm about how these famous characters were rendered into stylized toys in Japan back in the day. Big time thanks to Rin for taking these pictures for me!

Continue reading "Tin Toys"...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

As if He Couldn't Get Any Cooler

Wow, I had no idea that Osamu Tezuka played the accordion, but there it is! Apparently, he liked to surprise people by showing off his musical skills. I guess you could say he's still surprising people, despite the obvious handicap of being deceased!

This picture comes from Harvey Deneroff's Blog, who says that "Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas", the book he wrote with Fred Ladd, is now available for sale from publisher MacFarland, as well as other online retail outlets like Amazon. It is set for official publication in March of 2009, so this is a chance to get a hold of this anticipated book a little early. Several more images will be in the book, so it'll be quite interesting to see what other surprises it may hold for us.

And if anyone disagrees with me over whether playing the accordion is cool or not, need I remind you about that other accordion playing God.

Continue reading "As if He Couldn't Get Any Cooler"...

More on the MW movie

Here we have the trailer for the live action adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's manga "MW", set for release in Japan next year.

SciFi Japan has an excellent and detailed article about the film with plot details and several clear images.

More about this movie can be found, in Japanese, on the official MW movie website.

Looks creepy and interesting. This film, as with the manga, will certainly be a change of pace for those who only think Tezuka could make cute kids' stuff.

Continue reading "More on the MW movie"...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Still the King

The Japan Times has an excellent new article about the enduring popularity of Osamu Tezuka's manga work. It talks about recent reprinted editions of Tezuka classics in Japan, and some of the events surrounding the 80th anniversary of his birth last month. Also mentioned is the upcoming MW live action movie, and the Black Jack kyogen performance.

You can read the article on the Japan Times Online website, or click the link below for an archived version right here.

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008

Late 'manga' pioneer Tezuka still the king
Dead now 19 years, Astro Boy creator's works still in high demand, reissued to the delight of ever-younger fan base
Kyodo News

"Manga" comic artist Osamu Tezuka has been dead 19 years, but the creator of Astro Boy remains the focus of attention of young people and versions of his works reissued this year line the shelves of bookstores.

Astro Boy, or Mighty Atom, Tezuka's most famous creation, emerged in 1952 as a sequel to science-fiction manga Captain Atom and lasted until 1968. Astro Boy also appeared on TV in 1963 as Japan's first animated program.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Tezuka's birth. He was born in November 1928, graduated from Osaka University with a medical degree and left behind a legacy as a manga master, animator and producer before his death in 1989.

As young people's interest in things Tezuka has grown, Shogakukan Inc. reissued three of his works, including "Kirihito Sanka" ("Ode to Kirihito") in March along with commentary.

Publisher Goma-Books followed with a reprint of "Ribon no Kishi" ("Princess Knight"). It also published "Tezuka Osamu World," a collection of the last installments of his representative pieces.

Commenting on the popularity of Tezuka's reissued manga, an editor at a publishing house said the best-selling writers of today can't keep up with the pace of his works hitting bookstores.

Events celebrating Tezuka's birth and works were held in November and more take place this month.

A symposium was held at the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, on Nov. 3, the date he was born. Manga artist Reiji Matsumoto was among those who attended.

A new "kyogen" noh comedy featuring Tezuka's "Black Jack" science-fiction manga as its motif is slated for Dec. 19 and 20.

Tezuka displayed his medical knowledge in portraying Black Jack as a talented surgeon who practiced illegally, and used radical and supernatural skills to fight mystery diseases.

Tezuka's die-hard fans in their 40s and 50s who read his manga in serial form in magazines are making way for younger fans, including teenagers who learned about him through "anime" and at libraries.

Some tapped Tezuka Productions to learn more about him and his works.

A motion picture based on his work "MW" will be released next year. The main character in "MW," which ran in serialized form from 1976 to 1978, is a diligent, efficient banker on the one hand and a brutal killer on the other.

Shinzo Matsuhashi, who produced the film, said it will appeal to viewers during this time of global tension.

Speaking on the universality of Tezuka's creations, associate professor Yukari Fujimoto of Meiji University said the artist had a firm view of the world "at the bottom."

"The dualism of his characters torn between good and evil has the power to draw the young people of today," Fujimoto said.

Active research into and discussions on Tezuka's works are under way. Some people take exception to views that his "Shin Takarajima" ("New Treasure Island"), regarded as his beginning in effect as a manga creator, was the starting point of all manga in postwar Japan.

In a critical biography titled "Tezuka Osamu" published in September by Minerva Publishing Co., Doshisha University professor Osamu Takeuchi cast a spotlight on Tezuka when he was in a slump in the late 1950s in the face of the emergence of "gekiga" narrative comic strips.

"He never neglected (making) superhuman efforts behind the scenes," Takeuchi said.

Fujimoto said Tezuka "was inducted into the hall of fame as the god of manga, but has since become the subject of more down-to-earth discussion. However, he's undoubtedly the most important postwar manga artist."

Continue reading "Still the King"...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tezuka Marathon in Washington DC

Attention anime fans in the US Capital!

The DC Anime Club will be holding a marathon of Osamu Tezuka anime films on December 6th, 2008. It'll take place at the Martin Luthur King Jr Memorial Library in 901 G St NW Washington, DC 20001 in Room A10 and will last from 2pm to 5pm.

Astro Boy, Phoenix, Kimba, and Black Jack will be some of the famous works exhibited, so check it out if you're in the area.

Anime News Network has all the details.

Continue reading "Tezuka Marathon in Washington DC"...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Official Movie Website

The official Astro Boy movie website is now online! It's got the trailer, plus a brief story synopsis.

Check it out at!

Continue reading "Official Movie Website"...

Thursday, November 20, 2008


The 1st trailer for the upcoming animated AstroBoy movie by Imagi is now online! And it's a sight to behold! These next 48 seconds might just change your life!

See it in multiple flavors of screen resolution HERE thanks to Moviefone.

WOW! Not only does it look cool, but did you catch the callback to the 60's intro sequence? Awesome!

Continue reading "BEHOLD! THE TRAILER!"...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Challengers!

We know that the animated Astro Boy movie from Imagi is coming to theaters on October 23, 2009. But of course, other movies will be released that weekend as well. There's no harm in scoping out the competition. So, as of now, our boy Astro will be doing box-office battle with these opponents next year!

Saw VI - The sixth (!) entry in the horror franchise.
Cabin in the Woods - A thriller by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard.
Amelia - Hillary Swank stars as Amelia Earhart.

Come on, Astro! You can defeat them!

Hmmm, even though Astro Boy is an animated movie, with the cast it has on board, it looks like it might be the most star-studded film to be released that weekend!


Continue reading "The Challengers!"...

New Tresure Island

If one was to look back through time and find the very origin of what we know today as modern manga, you would probably stop at Osamu Tezuka's Shin Takarajima (New Tresure Island). Released in 1947, it was a breakthrough in comic book storytelling that influenced an entire generation.

However, Tezuka himself was never completely satisfied with Shin Takarajima, as differences of opinion between him and his editor compromised Tezuka's original vision. Therefore, subsequent reprintings of Shin Takarajima were actually completely redrawn by Tezuka. For decades, the only way to read the original version of the story was to spend big bucks on a first edition. However, in February, the original version of Tezuka's first big hit will finally be reprinted in Japan.

The Japan Times Online has an interesting article about this new printing of Shin Takarazuka and the controversy surrounding the original. You can read "Tezuka — keeper of 'manga' flame" on their website or by clicking the link below to read an archived copy right here.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008

Tezuka — keeper of 'manga' flame
Classic '47 work's reprint fuels debate over originator of modern cartoon craze

Staff writer

"Manga" comics are ubiquitous in Japan and have become one of the country's most powerful cultural exports worldwide.

But when and why did this country, known for its long-standing and extremely high literacy rate, become the kingdom of cartoons?

One can possibly start by pointing to 1947, when a work that revolutionized manga was published and became a huge best-seller.

The masterpiece, copies of which now fetch more than ¥1 million among collectors, is being reprinted in February in a version true to the original, prompted by numerous manga enthusiasts who have kept debating the secret of the birth of the genre.

The work is the 192-page "Shin-Takarajima" ("New Treasure Island") by the late Osamu Tezuka, which is said to mark the start of story-manga — cartoons that cover hundreds of pages with dramatic drawings and a long, complex and often serious story. In the West these have come to be known as graphic novels.

"I think you can say Japanese story-manga started with 'Shin-Takarajima,' " said Minoru Kotoku, publishing department chief at Tezuka Production, which manages the copyright of Tezuka's works.

"Shin-Takarajima" is believed to have sold 400,000 to 800,000 copies, even though it came out only two years after the end of World War II, which had left the country poverty-stricken.

The work shocked, fascinated and inspired hundreds of thousands of children, sparking a manga boom in the '40s and '50s.

The readers included children who later became key cartoonists and created the golden age of manga in the '70s and '80s, including Fujio Fujiko, the pseudonym of a pair of authors who created Doraemon, the cat-type robot that has become a cartoon superstar in Asia and farther afield.

" 'Shin-Takarajima' was a breathtaking eye-opener. I immediately became a fan, crazily seeking out only Tezuka's works," manga giant Shotaro Ishinomori wrote in a 1965 book. He was 9 when "Shin-Takarajima" was published.

What was particularly new about the manga, in addition to the sheer length of the adventure of a boy fighting pirates, were drawings that depicted sequences of dramatic action as if they were stills from a movie.

Before "Shin-Takarajima," most Japanese cartoons were simple drawings covering only a few pages, with a fixed, flat viewpoint right in front of the cartoon characters.

But as the story in "Shin-Takarajima" plays out, the viewpoint varies and often zooms in and out. "This is a still cartoon printed on paper, but this car seems to be moving at great speed. It's like watching a movie!" wrote Fujio Fujiko in 1977.

However, Hiroshi Kawamura, who is in charge of the reprinting project at publisher Shogakukan Creative Inc., cautions that the method used in "Shin-Takarajima" probably does not look particularly new or exciting to contemporary readers because the style has been much refined over the past 60 years and is now conventional.

"The value of 'Shin-Takarajima' is historic," Kawamura said.

But the legendary book still holds great attraction for manga lovers, one of the reasons that prompted Kawamura's firm to publish the reprint.

An original first edition fetches around ¥1 million, and those in mint condition go for ¥3 million to ¥5 million, said Shinya Yamamoto, from the public relations department of Mandarake Inc., a major secondhand manga chain.

A major reason they garner such high prices is that Tezuka, who died in 1989, refused to allow publishers to reprint the original version.

Tezuka, who was only 19 when "Shin-Takarajima" was published, drew it based on an original proposal by Shichima Sakai, a popular cartoonist at the time.

Sakai forced Tezuka to omit dozens of pages from his draft and to change the faces of some characters, according to Tezuka's account.

Tezuka was therefore not entirely happy with the original version.

When Kodansha Ltd. published a complete collection of Tezuka's works, he refused to reprint the original version and even redrew the entire work solely for the sake of the collection.

Respecting Tezuka's intentions, Tezuka Production had not previously allowed any reprint of the original, even after Tezuka's death.

The company, however, decided to grant the rights to reprint the work to Shogakukan Creative partly because of recent heated debate by manga critics over Sakai's role and influence over the legendary manga, Kotoku said.

"When you study works of an author, you will usually examine from their maiden work to the latest work," said Kawamura of Shogakukan Creative.

But until now, that has been impossible for Tezuka's works — except for a handful of collectors who could afford to shell out millions of yen for a copy of "Shin-Takarajima" — even though Tezuka is considered the most important cartoonist in the history of manga, Kawamura said.

Continue reading "New Tresure Island"...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Anime VS Hollywood

Found this interesting article from the Daily Yomiuri, written by Japanamerica author Roland Kelts, about the positive changes happening in cross pollination between Hollywood and the world of anime and manga. In it is an interesting quote from an Imagi employee working on the upcoming animated Astro Boy movie about how feedback from Japan changed their vision of the movie for the better.

"We showed a preview to some focus groups in Tokyo," said the Imagi producer of Astro Boy, "and the results were disastrous. Our Astro Boy was too snarky, too mature. They wanted to reclaim the original character's innocence."
You can read "Hollywood's new respect for anime sources" on the Daily Yomiuri Online website or read an archived copy right here by clicking the link below.

SOFT POWER HARD TRUTHS / Hollywood's new respect for anime sources

Roland Kelts / Special to The Daily Yomiuri

This March, I had dinner in Los Angeles with two producers from U.S. animation studios making American versions of anime originals. One, a Chinese-American, was from Imagi, the company working on next year's computer-graphic Astro Boy, a film based on Osamu Tezuka's 1960s classic. The other, a Filipino-American, was with Gonzo Digimation Holdings, the company that produces Afro Samurai, an original manga turned international anime series featuring the voice of Samuel L. Jackson.

Both producers were jovial, if anxious about the ongoing decline in U.S. anime DVD sales. But they were also quite keen to share their experiences of working with their counterparts in Japan.

"We showed a preview to some focus groups in Tokyo," said the Imagi producer of Astro Boy, "and the results were disastrous. Our Astro Boy was too snarky, too mature. They wanted to reclaim the original character's innocence."

The staffer on Afro Samurai said this: "We originally thought the collaboration would be, you know, 50-50, between Japan and the U.S. But, to be honest, the final product is more 80-20, with the Japanese input at 80. They knew what they were doing, and we didn't want to screw it up."

In both cases, smart young Asian-Americans were conceding that they needed the Japanese input to make their projects succeed.

This was news to me. In my book Japanamerica, I cite several cases of Japanese artists or producers mishandling (or failing to handle) their intellectual properties once they left the archipelago. Even the original Pokemon franchise first funneled its millions of profit dollars into the bank accounts of its U.S. distributor, a company called 4Kids.

The story was painfully simple: Japanese producers would receive a phonebook-sized contract from the United States, couldn't read all the legalese in English, but recognized a minimal up-front payment in the millions--and would sign away all of their subsidiary rights. I wrote about the absurdity of Japan's losses, wincing as I did so.

A week before the U.S. elections this month, NHK aired a program about recent encounters between anime companies and Hollywood studios called, fittingly, Anime vs. Hollywood.

Included in the show were scenes from the forthcoming Astro Boy movie and Afro Samurai, promoting both projects in the relatively somber tones of a documentary.

And guess what? There was David Bowers, director of the Hollywood Astro Boy film, traveling to Tokyo to seek the approval of Yoshihiro Shimizu, executive producer of Tezuka Productions, for Imagi's latest version of Tezuka's creation.

There, too, was Gonzo's Shinichiro Ishikawa, palling around in Los Angeles with Samuel L. Jackson, laughing and working hard on the newest version of Afro Samurai, which will also include the voice of newly signed Lucy Liu, the Asian-American Charlie's Angel.

In other words: Japanese producers were shown flying to the United States to control their products, and Americans were seen in Tokyo, seeking the approval of the original artists.

The scenes of mutual engagement and respect between anime and Hollywood felt groundbreaking, especially given the history of willful ignorance on both sides. Combined with the comments made by the two Asian-American producers in Los Angeles last spring, they produce a portrait of soft power finally working its mojo--motivating people to work together across national borders largely because they want to.

When Barack Hussein Obama, another hybrid American, was elected president of the United States last week, I and a lot of my friends were deeply moved, regardless of party affiliation, political slant or even passport designation. Obama has a lot to live up to, and an awful lot of hard work to do. But we were stirred by the mere suggestion of a 21st-century America that might reach out to others in a spirit of collaboration, as he has promised to do, seeking advice and counsel and offering strength and support rather than unilateral force and coercion--especially since the threat of declining fortunes long facing the anime industry is now being shared by the rest of us.

Kelts is a Tokyo University lecturer who divides his time between Tokyo and New York. He is the author of "Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S." (, now available in an updated paperback edition. His column appears twice a month.
(Nov. 14, 2008)

Continue reading "Anime VS Hollywood"...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wheeling and Dealing

Wow, there has been so much news about the animated Astro Boy movie over the past few days, it has been difficult to keep up with it all. I'll try to consolidate the most important recent news-bites in this post.

At the American Film Market last week, Imagi had a screening of the trailer for the upcoming film for potential buyers and distributors in the industry. Imagi's own Felix Ip writes that the teaser trailer is attached to DreamWorks' "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" and Disney's "Bolt", so it will be seen this month! The picture above is a huge promotional standee.

The Hollywood Reporter has an article about Imagi and Astro Boy at AFM. Check out "Imagi hopes to animate 'Astro' buyers". They also have a more general article about animated films at AFM. Check out "No shortage of animated product at AFM".

Next, we know that Summit Entertainment is releasing the Astro Boy film around the world except for in China, Hong Kong, and Japan. It has just been announced that the movie has been licensed to Golden Harvest in Hong Kong, Enlight Pictures in China, and Kadokawa in Japan. It is here that we learn that the budget for this movie has moved up from its previously announced $40 million range and is now pegged at $65 million! This news comes from Variety articles "Imagi sells 'Astro Boy' rights" and "Kadokawa nabs rights to 'Astro Boy'".

And finally for this post, several licensing and marketing deals have been announced. In addition to the previously disclosed toy deal with Jazwares and video game deal with D3Publisher, there will be stationary coming from American Greetings, books from Penguin, and comics and graphic novels from IDW! Woah!

As far as bringing all this stuff to us, Imagi has announced marketing partnerships with Striker Ent. and Rogers & Cowan. Looks like everyone worldwide can look forward to a wide array of Astro Boy products, with a focus on marketing to the 6 to 14 year old age group. Check out Imagi's press release (pdf) as well as this article from Animaton Magazine.

Long story short: There is a big-time marketing machine behind this movie,it's rolling right at us full steam ahead, and we're going to be getting a whole lot of cool stuff as a result!

Continue reading "Wheeling and Dealing"...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Astro Gets Game

Yes, as if there was any doubt, there will be Astro Boy video games to coincide with the upcoming animated film by Imagi.

The game will be published by D3Publisher, who may already be known to anime fans for releasing several Naruto games outside Japan. No word yet on what company (or companies, as the case may be) will actually be developing the games. The games are set for release in the forth quarter of 2009, around the same time as the movie, and will be available on consoles and handheld gaming platforms. What I find interesting is that the "First games" are set for release at this time, which could mean that more Astro Boy games may come out afterward. Perhaps some systems version of the game will appear later?

I fully intend to follow the development of the game every step of the way as best as I can, so keep an eye right here on AstroBoy World for all the latest.

This news has spread pretty quickly all over the video game media, with places like Gamespotpicking up the story. But, I might as well take you straight to the source and point you directly to the press release. Or, click the link below to read an archived version right here.


First Games Based on the Spectacular CG-Animated Movie
Scheduled for Q4 2009

LOS ANGELES – November 5, 2008 – D3Publisher (D3P), a publisher and developer of interactive entertainment software, together with its parent D3, Inc., today announced a worldwide publishing agreement with Imagi Studios for videogames based on the new animated adventure film, Astro Boy. The games are scheduled to be released for console and handheld systems in Q4 2009 to coincide the worldwide release of the movie in October 2009.

“The rich history and endearing story of Astro Boy appeals to fans around the globe and translates exceptionally well to the interactive space,” said Yoji Takenaka, president and chief executive officer, North America and Europe, D3P. “We look forward to working with Imagi to bring the film’s unique cast of characters to life in a compelling videogame that fans and gamers of all ages will enjoy.”

Erin Corbett, president of Imagi Studios U.S., said: “We are delighted to have D3Publisher as our exclusive worldwide interactive partner, and we look forward to seeing Astro Boy raised to new superhero heights in the videogame universe.”

About Astro Boy (The Movie)

Set in the future, Imagi Studio’s Astro Boy is a classic superhero origin story about a young robot with incredible powers and his adventure-filled journey in search of his identity and destiny, taking him into a netherworld of robot gladiators before he returns to save Metro City.

David Bowers (Flushed Away) is directing Astro Boy from a screenplay written by Timothy Harris (Kindergarten Cop, Trading Places), with Maryann Garger producing. The all-star cast is headed by Academy Award®-winning actor Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy and Donald Sutherland, with Freddie Highmore in the title role.

The iconic character Astro Boy has found global popularity since his creation in the early 1950s by Japan’s Osamu Tezuka, known as the “god of manga” and “father of anime”, and has been the hero of three acclaimed animated television series aired around the world.

Astro Boy, slated for domestic release on October 23, 2009, is being distributed worldwide by Summit Entertainment except for Imagi’s reserved territories of Japan, Hong Kong and China.

About Summit Entertainment, LLC

Summit Entertainment, LLC is a worldwide theatrical motion picture development, financing, production and distribution studio. The studio handles all aspects of marketing and distribution for both its own internally developed motion pictures as well as acquired pictures. Summit Entertainment also represents international sales for both its own slate and third-party product. Summit Entertainment plans to release 10 to 12 films annually.

About Imagi Studios

Imagi International Holdings Limited (“Imagi”) is a listed company [Stock Code 585] on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Imagi’s principal business is the development and production of CG-animated theatrical feature films. Imagi’s first theatrical movie TMNT was released in March 2007, opening #1 in U.S. box office revenue, only the third time in history that an Asian-made film has achieved that honor. Imagi has development operations in Los Angeles, California, and CG production studios at its Chai Wan (Hong Kong) headquarters.

About D3Publisher

D3Publisher, a subsidiary of D3, Inc., is a leading interactive entertainment publisher and distributor for licensed and original titles for personal computers, major console platforms and handheld systems. D3Publisher has operations in the U.S., U.K., and Japan. The company also owns development studio Vicious Cycle Software, Inc., and its technology platform, Vicious Engine. Recent releases have included Dark Sector®, Dead Head Fred®, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords®, and Ben 10™: Protector of Earth. For more information about D3Publisher, please visit:
# # #

Dark Sector® is a registered trademark of Digital Extremes. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners and used with permission. All rights reserved.

Continue reading "Astro Gets Game"...

Black Jack hits the Stage

As yet another part of the celebration of the 80th anniversary of Osamu Tezuka's birth, a special stage presentation based on Black Jack will be making its debut.

The story of "The Disowned Son" will be adapted into a form of traditonal Japanese theater called "kyogen", and will open on December 19th and 20th in Tezuka's home town of Takarazuka, which is famous for its theatrical performances. This is the first time ever that a comic is being used as the basis for a kyogen performance. Kyogen is meant to be a funnier, more exaggerated style of performance, so it will be interesting to find out how the stories of a darker character like Black Jack will translate to the stage.

However, this is not the first time that Black Jack has been depicted in live action. You can read about the Takarazuka Grand Theater's all female cast's rendition of Black Jack in 1994 thanks to Tezuka in English.

You can read more details on about this new kyogen version of Black Jack The Mainichi Daily News website, or click the link below to read an archived copy right here.

Comic character 'Black Jack' to come to life on stage

TAKARAZUKA, Hyogo -- He may not have his trademark black coat, nor his surgical equipment, but one of acclaimed comic artist Osamu Tezuka's most famous characters, surgical genius Kuroo "Black Jack" Hazama, will be stepping off the page and onto the stage as part of celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of the manga legend's birth.

The comic is being adapted for a comic variety of traditional Japanese theater called kyogen, a style related to the more famous forms of noh and kabuki, by the Takarazuka Foundation for Culture Promotion in Hyogo Prefecture.

"This is the first-ever adaptation of a comic for kyogen theater, and we're looking forward to sharing this 'modern classic' with our audiences," said the foundation.

The stage version of Black Jack will be directed by and star Okura school actor Takashi Zenchiku in the title role. The script was written by Tokiko Kawaratani -- a protege of Yataro Okura XXV, the head of the Okura school -- and is based on volume 164 of the manga, "The Disowned Son," the story of an outcast son who studies medicine in order to cure his mother.

"I feel that we're living in a world where family relations are behind many of our social ills, and I want to portray Tezuka's story of filial love as a kyogen of human drama," said Zenchiku.

The stage version of Black Jack will open on Dec. 19 and 20 at the Sorio Hall in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. Enquiries (in Japanese) can be made to the Takarazuka Foundation for Culture Promotion at (0797) 85-8844.

Continue reading "Black Jack hits the Stage"...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Osamu Tezuka's works to be available online... FOR FREE!

Not too long ago I got a comment from a reader named Paul, who found a website called "", but it was not accessible at the time. He asked if I knew anything about it. Well, now we know the answer, and it's one of the biggest, most epic pieces of news in the history of anime and manga fandom on the internet.

Throughout the course of the next 3 years, over 100 anime titles and 700 manga titles created by Osamu Tezuka and produced before the year 2000 will be made available online, for free.

Holy smokes! That's going to be a lot of stuff! Check out this screen shot!

Right now, the full site is available only in Japanese, with just some basic info about Tezuka's published works available in countries outside Japan. But, apparently, there will eventually be an English site, as well a a Korean one.

If this pans out like it's supposed to, then it'll pretty much be a godsend. Tezuka is the greatest, most influential, and most important figure in the entire history of anime and manga, yet most of the new generation of anime fans hardly know anything about him. To an extent, one can't blame them for that, because so little of his material has been made available in English over the past several years. But soon there will be no excuse, because everyone will have access to it!

Check out Anime News Network for the full story and stay tuned to AstroBoy World for more on this story as it develops.

Continue reading "Osamu Tezuka's works to be available online... FOR FREE!"...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tezuka Gene: Light in the Darkness

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of Osamu Tezuka's birth, a special art exhibition of inspired by Tezuka's work is taking place at Parco Part One in Shibuya. It's on until November 10th, and features the works of 35 artists.

There is some very cool artwork here, featuring many of Tezuka's famous characters, including Astro Boy and Black Jack. And, of course, plenty of merchandise to buy from the looks of things as well. Take a look at some pictures on the Mainichi Daily News website.

UPDATE: The Daily Yomiuri Online has posted an article about the exhibition. There are no pictures, but it is a more detailed written account. Read "Diverse tribute to 'God of Manga'" on their website or click the link below to read an archived copy right here.

UPDATE 2: Pink Tentacle also has coverage, with some high quality pictures of the artwork. Check out "Tezuka manga mutations".

Diverse tribute to 'God of Manga'

Tom Baker / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

A crudely stitched scar slashing diagonally across his face makes Black Jack instantly recognizable. It's easy to spot this Osamu Tezuka manga character at the "Tezuka Gene: Light in the Darkness" show at the Parco department store in Shibuya, Tokyo, even though he has been reimagined by several artists in different styles.

Tezuka (1928-1989) had his own distinctive style, but the early influence of Walt Disney animation remained clearly visible in it. Even when his material was dark and sinister, his characters were cute.

Present-day artist Kyotaro Aoki has taken Black Jack and characters from Tezuka's Dororo, MW, Ode to Kirihito and other manga and changed their cartoon faces into lifelike pencil portraits, showing what they might look like in the real world.

While Aoki adds detail, Akihiro Soma (Concorde), strips it away, presenting Black Jack in a minimalist torn-paper collage resembling the work of American illustrator Eric Carle (known for his kids picture books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar).

An art collective known as Enlightenment takes the liberty of making Black Jack a woman, in a large painting in which the outlaw surgeon is partly hidden by drugs, money and other symbolic objects flying out of her billowing cape.

The group also painted an image inspired by MW in which two nude men embrace behind an ornate crucifix. In that convoluted manga story, a young terrorist genius uses his sexual magnetism to torment a Catholic priest (who earlier in life had been a gang member who kidnapped him), turning the older man into a pawn in an apocalyptic plot.

Enlightenment also contributed a trippy light show in which viewers stand in a dark room facing a projector that beams swirling images at them through four layers of transparent screens. Some of the images are silhouettes of Tezuka characters; the rest are abstract patterns.

Other artists have contributed Lego models of Tezuka character Astro Boy, a kaleidoscopic flower video meant to evoke themes from Tezuka's manga biography of Buddha and even a large mobile of thick-framed glasses and jaunty berets of the type the "God of Manga" used to wear.

Despite the variety, the exhibit is small enough to absorb in about a 15-minute visit--but longer if you stay to watch the videos that include interview footage with Tezuka and a trailer for next year's live-action movie version of MW.

"Tezuka Gene: Light in the Darkness" runs until Nov. 10 at the Parco Factory art gallery in the Parco department Store in Shibuya, Tokyo, a seven-minute walk from Shibuya Station. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (to 6 p.m. on Nov. 10) with last admission 30 minutes before closing time. Admission is 300 yen, or 200 yen for students, with children primary school age or younger admitted free. For details, visit
(Nov. 7, 2008)

Continue reading "Tezuka Gene: Light in the Darkness"...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Birthday to the God of Manga

If Osamu Tezuka was still alive today, he would now be 80 years old. And while it is such a shame that he can not be with us to celebrate his 80th birthday, his life's work remains and will continue to entertain people of all ages well into the future.

So, to everyone who has ever read a manga, watched any episode of any anime, played with a Transformers toy, built a Gundam model kit, or done just about anything else that anime and robot fans tend to do, let's all take a moment to remember the life of the man who started it all. Without Osamu Tezuka, none of those things would exist, and even if they did, they certainly wouldn't be the same.

Finding Dulcia has posted an excellent piece about Osamu Tezuka's birthday, and I highly recommend reading it.

But that's not the only thing worth celebrating today. In a totally mind-blowing coincidence that I have only just now caught on to, someone else has a birthday today as well! Someone who, like Astro, is a child of the atomic age. Only this certain someone is someone big. Very, very big!

Happy 54th birthday to the King of The Monsters, Godzilla!

The original Godzilla film was released in Japanese theaters on this day in 1954. That means the two most prominent figures in the exportation of Japanese popular culture around the world were born on the same day. Is that incredible or what?

Continue reading "Happy Birthday to the God of Manga"...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Teratoid Cystoma

To celebrate the English language release of the first volume of Osamu Tezuka's famous medical thriller Black Jack from Vertical, a classic Black Jack story is now available to read for free online thanks to Publishers Weekly's "THE BEAT" blog.

Check out "Teratoid Cystoma", the weird story detailing the mysterious origins of Dr. Black Jack's assistant, the ever popular Pinoko!

Continue reading "Teratoid Cystoma"...

Astroy Boy toys coming from Jazwares

With the animated movie from Imagi on the way next year, it's inevitable that lots of cool merchandise will come out to go with it. For those of us expecting new toys, it looks like we'll be covered!

Jazwares Inc., the company behind toy lines such as Mortal Kombat, Viewtiful Joe, and Mega Man (pictured) has been awarded the master toy license for the new Astro Boy movie.

Best of all, they are reaching out to the Astro Boy fan community. A post on the Astroboy Online Forums from a Jazwares employee confirms the news, and states that that the fans will be involved. Expect more news from what is sure to be an exciting toy line in the near future.

Continue reading "Astroy Boy toys coming from Jazwares"...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

How's this for a scary costume? It comes from the 60's, naturally.

Yes, all kids want to dress up as Astro Boy wearing a shirt with his own picture on it, and have the figure in the picture wearing a blue jumpsuit like Superman for some reason, and have the jumpsuit have his name written on it to further the point home. Marketing genius.

Picture found on John K.'s blog. Yes, THE John K. of Ren & Stimpy Fame.

Continue reading "Happy Halloween"...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Imagi Interview with David Bowers

Imagi has updated their website with a great interview with Astro Boy animated movie director David Bowers. It's got some great info about David's history in the animation business how he is handling the task of bringing this anime-icon to the big screen in CG. You can find it by clicking on the "What's New" section. I can't copy the whole text since it's displayed in Flash, but here's a short quote:

"I want Astro Boy to be a really special movie, a mix of action-adventure with lots of comedy and a really emotional story at its core. It's an iconic property and deserves respect, so I don't want to give it the glib, pop-referential treatment that so many animated movies have today. Instead I want it to stand as a classic superhero origin story, something befitting the icon of Astro Boy, kind of along the lines of Richard Donner's Superman. I want it to serve as an introduction to Astro Boy for western audiences whilst remaining faithful to the lore of Asian audiences. Astro Boy is a treasured icon in Japan and so I'm working closely with the Tezuka estate to ensure I get everything right."
Sounds like they got the right guy for the job. Plus his sideburns are almost as cool as mine, so he's got that going for him too.

Best of all, at the very bottom of the interview is this incredible Astro Boy image!

WOW. If that's what the movie is going to look like, it's going to be absolutely fantastic. That looks amazing and I can't wait to see more.

Thanks to Al for the tip!

Continue reading "New Imagi Interview with David Bowers"...

Friday, October 24, 2008

One Year From Now!

As of yesterday, We are one year away from the current release date for the upcoming animated Astro Boy movie from Imagi. Are you excited yet?

To celebrate, I made a special custom countdown clock, ticking away every last second until October 23rd, 2009 finally arrives. You can add this widget to your own blog or website thanks to Spring Widgets by clicking this link.

Once the movie has been out for awhile I'll probably replace this with a counter to the home video release, whenever that is.

Imagi's own Felix Ip posts on his blog that a party was recently held to celebrate 50% completion of the Astro Boy movie's total pre-production. Here's a photo:

Looks like fun! What sort of secrets can be found in there? Check out Felix's post here. Hey, how about inviting me next time?

Continue reading "One Year From Now!"...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Astro Statue loves the Earth.

Here is a very cool story coming out of the Ikeda Elementary School in Ikeda City, Osaka, Japan. This is the school that Osamu Tezuka attended as a child. To honor him, the school has unveiled a new statue of Astro Boy embracing the world. Perfectly exhibiting Tezuka's philosophies toward life, the statue has an English inscription that says "I love the earth and all creatures on it". A plaque on the base of the statue reads "I love all living things that inhabit this earth. I want to take care of life. I want to bequeath this love to the next generation." This statue commemorates both the 100th anniversary of the school on November 1st, as well as the 80th anniversary of Tezuka's birthday on November 3rd.

Click the image below for a huge picture of the statue.

And here is a picture of what looks like a library table, featuring the Phoenix.

Source: Anime News Network - Sankei Sports

Continue reading "Astro Statue loves the Earth."...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mecha's Master

The folks at have conducted an excellent interview with the legendary Go Nagai, creator of notable manga and anime franchises such as Mazinger Z, Devilman, and Cutie Honey. He talks about his influences and mentions the importance that the work of Osamu Teuzka has had on his career. It was originally written in French, but an English translation is also available.

It's a great read so check out Go Nagai : Mecha's Master on

Continue reading "Mecha's Master"...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Matt Lucas joins Astro Boy movie Cast.

There has been a bit of a news drought here after that big burst of activity last month, but now we've got another confirmed cast member for the upcoming CG animated Astro Boy movie.

Imagi Studios U.S President Erin Corbett has announced that British comedian Matt Lucas is on board. He is well known for his role in the BBC comedy Little Britain and has won numorous BAFTA awards. The part he will be playing is not yet disclosed.

Thanks to Coming Soon for the scoop! Also check out Imagi's own press release (PDF), which confirms the casting of Kristen Bell as well.

Stay tuned for more!

Continue reading "Matt Lucas joins Astro Boy movie Cast."...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

OCTOBER 23, 2009

Mark it down in your calenders, kids. We have got a date!

The CG animated Astro Boy movie from Imagi is currently set for release on October 23, 2009.

I'll be there. Will you?

(Yes. You will.)

Check out the Press Release thanks to Anime News Network.

Continue reading "OCTOBER 23, 2009"...

Monday, September 22, 2008

So Long, Toonami.

When the English version of the 2003 Astro Boy anime aired on Cartoon Network's Toonami block in the US, this was the special intro sequence.

This past weekend was the very final broadcast of Toonami. Although I live in Canada, where Cartoon Network has never been made available, I think it's a very unfortunate thing for Toonami to end, just as I think it was a mistake to scale the Toonami sub-brand down from every weekday afternoon to Saturday nights only. Toonami introduced a new generation of fans to classic animation and anime, and aired great shows like Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Voltron, Ronin Warriors, Thundercats, Robotech, and more. Visiting the US and being able to watch Toonami, even if only for a brief moment, was a very special thing. It created it's own culture based around awesome animation wrapped with a slick presentation.

But now it seems like networks would rather focus on trying to sell their own sanitized cartoons as the hippest and greatest thing instead of taking chances with edgy, action-based shows. That's a rant for another day.

For more looking back at some of the cool video content that was produced for Toonami, check out Toonami Digital Arsenal.

Continue reading "So Long, Toonami."...

Panel Borders with Helen McCarthy

Manga expert Helen McCarthy, the prolific writer responsible for the Osamu Tezuka film fest going on right now in London, England, recently spoke with the SW2 Graphic Novels Reading Group and delivered a public talk about Tezuka's anime and manga works at the Streatham Public Library.

The talk was hosted by Alex Fitch, and thanks to him, recordings are now available to listen to online. I haven't been able to listen to them as the recording quality isn't very good, but you can take a listen for yourself right here:

Part 1
Part 2

Sources: Electric Sheep - Panel Boarders - Kruku

Continue reading "Panel Borders with Helen McCarthy"...

When Animators get....

Here's another one of the many UK based articles about Osamu Tezuka released to coincide with the film festival at the Barbican. This one focuses on the, shall we say, more risque animated works of Tezuka. I shall say no more on the matter, but (if you are old enough) you can read "Andrew Osmond on X-rated manga" thanks to The Guardian, or read an archived version right here by clicking the link below.

When animators get horny
Andrew Osmond on X-rated manga

* Andrew Osmond
* The Guardian,
* Friday September 19 2008

The American science-fiction author Harlan Ellison tells a cautionary tale about how not to sex up a Hollywood movie. Hired as a writer by the Disney studio, Ellison was in the studio cafeteria on his first day, regaling amused co-workers with ideas for an X-rated Disney cartoon. He was even acting out the parts of Disney characters in pornographic situations. Unluckily for Ellison, several studio executives were sitting nearby, watching his routine. Returning to work, Ellison found a pink slip on his desk: he was fired.

Moral: don't mess with the Mouse. And yet in Japan, an artist and animator as nationally beloved as Uncle Walt took time out from creating adorable family characters to make X-rated cartoons. His name was Osamu Tezuka, and his work is now having a rare English-language screening at the Barbican. And it's not just kids' stuff.

In Japan, Tezuka is a household name. Historians of the country's often garish and cartoony pop culture see him as the prime mover behind Japan's vast comic and animation industries after 1945. Tezuka reportedly churned out 150,000 comic pages in his lifetime (10 a day, without fail). He also created dozens of TV cartoons and cinema films. His iconic characters include Astro Boy (a little-boy robot superhero), Princess Knight (a swashbuckling girl disguised as a boy) and Jungle Emperor Leo (the first cartoon lion king).

But even Tezuka's "adult" cartoons can look disconcertingly Disneyesque. In 1,001 Nights, a fairy turns herself into a seductive lioness, displaying her disturbingly human breasts to lusty lions threatening the hero. In Cleopatra, the title heroine consummates her relationship with Mark Anthony, and the filmstrip breaks down during the act. (A quarter century later, the live-action grindhouse tribute Planet Terror would have a similar meta-film gag, in which celluloid catches fire during a sex scene.)

Frederik L Schodt, author of the book The Astro Boy Essays, knew Tezuka before the director's death in 1989. "Tezuka was very much an experimenter," Schodt says. "Even though he may be best known for his children's work, he didn't think of the audience for manga and animation as being necessarily limited to children. His goal was to expand the audience, and to be able to depict anything he wanted."

Cleopatra, in particular, seems to share the tripped-out counterculture vibe of Yellow Submarine (released a few years earlier) and Fritz the Cat (just after). Tezuka's cartoon animals engage in acts of bestiality that Tex Avery's throbbing wolf in Red Hot Riding Hood could only dream of. Cleopatra also throws in cheesy sci-fi elements, as if Tezuka was commenting on the fact that Stanley Kubrick personally offered him the post of art director on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even the murder of Julius Caesar is improvised in the manner of a kabuki play. For Tezuka, cartoon sex was just part of the fun.

Such invention feels positively childlike compared to the nastier sex cartoons that later rolled out of Japan, most notoriously in the late 1980s with Legend of the Overfiend. But perhaps Tezuka was letting off steam between his family-oriented bread and butter. Ralph Bakshi, who directed Fritz the Cat, once said, "What bothers me about animation and the heat I took for my X-rated films is why anybody would spend their whole lives doing the same thing over and again ... If you're a cartoonist, you have to continue to grow, to evolve."

Osamu Tezuka: Movies into Manga runs at the Barbican, London, until September 24

Continue reading "When Animators get...."...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Master of Mighty Manga

There has been a torrent of Tezuka related news and articles coming out of the UK to coincide with the film festival taking place in London at The Barbican, which started yesterday and will conclude September 24th.

In a recent article found in newspaper The Times, writer Dominic Wells talks about Tezuka and makes a case that he ought to be much better known considering the depth and importance of his work. It's a great article that also briefly details the controversial comparisons between Tezuka's Jungle Emperor Leo/Kimba the White Lion and Walk Disney Pictures' The Lion King.

You can read the entire article for yourself on the Times Online website or read the archived copy right here by clicking the link below.

Osamu Tezuka, the master of mighty manga
The ‘Japanese Walt Disney’ deserves wider acclaim

Dominic Wells

“One explanation for the popularity of comics in Japan,” ran the Japanese newspaper Asahi’s obituary for the man known as “the god of manga”, “is that Japan had Osamu Tezuka, whereas other nations did not.”

Walt Disney was an admirer of Tezuka. Stanley Kubrick tried to recruit him as an art director on 2001: A Space Odyssey.Devoted as a child to American movies and cartoons, Tezuka introduced a remarkably cinematic style to his comics, and every Japanese animator since lies in his debt, or shadow. And yet, even as racks of Japanese animation proliferate in our DVD stores, even as Western parents gratefully add another enchanting Miyazaki anime such as Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away to their collection of family classics, the name of Tezuka, who died aged 60 in 1989, has been all but forgotten over here.

This week, a festival of Tezuka’s films, coupled with an exhibition of his artwork, will set the record straight. The week-long season at the Barbican in London cannot hope to be comprehensive – throughout his all-too-short life, Tezuka slept only four hours a night, the better to create more than 700 stories, 170,000 pages of manga, dozens of TV series and 17 feature films. But it includes his best-known works, as well as many never before seen in this country.

Here, for instance, are the three cartoon series that in the Sixties introduced a generation of Americans to Japanese animation. Astro Boy, inspired by Pinocchio, stars a super-strong robot child, built by a scientist to replace his own dead son. Princess Knight features a warrior princess who disguises herself as a boy, thus inventing the now massive shojo genre of adventure comics for girls. By contrast, in America, when the Fantastic Four was dreamt up, what superpower did the one woman get? Invisibility.

And of course there is Kimba the White Lion, which acquired notoriety in 1994 when Disney did not, repeat not, rip it off for The Lion King. How could Disney have, when their lawyers swore that not one of the animators on The Lion King had even heard of Kimba? Though as the Tezuka festival’s curator Helen McCarthy wryly remarks: “If you were a car manufacturer and not one your designers had heard of Honda, wouldn’t you be worried?”

Seeing Kimba again, the parallels are head-smackingly blatant; the bird that announces the birth of an heir to the lion king; the animals paying their respects at the foot of Pride Rock; the wise old monkey with a dodgy Jamaican accent; even the deceased paterfamilias appearing in a cloud. Tezuka’s estate, recalls McCarthy, reacted with commendable dignity. There was no court case, merely a statement to the effect that as Tezuka had himself been influenced by Disney – he watched Bambi 80 times, and it helped him to pioneer the bigeyed style with which Japanese animation has now become synonymous – he would have been delighted to repay the favour.

And yet his output is not just kids’ stuff. Tezuka, who studied medicine and became a licensed physician before turning all his energy to art, had an extraordinary breadth of interest. His comics include an adaptation of Crime and Punishment and a Life of Buddha in eight large volumes. McCarthy’s own favourite is Mw, “about a homosexual raving psychotic shagging a priest and trying to end the world” (a live-action adaptation is in the works). And at the Barbican season, must-sees include Lion Books, a series of experimental shorts, and 1,001 Nights (1969), the world’s first feature-length erotic animation.

McCarthy describes Tezuka as a “story machine” – his output was obsessive, relentless, even while dying from stomach cancer. A victim of bullies at school, who discovered that his drawings had the power to melt even their hard hearts, he wanted to do more than entertain. He hoped to spread a message of tolerance between peoples, and respect for the planet born of his studies of insect life.

“Comics,” Tezuka once said, “are an international language that can cross boundaries and generations.” As Japanese graphic art continues to convert the rest of the world, this season is a welcome chance to rediscover the man who made it possible.

Osamu Tezuka: Movies into Manga, Barbican, London EC2 ( 020-7638 8891), Sept 18-24 2008

Continue reading "Master of Mighty Manga"...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Takadanobaba Train Station

Vong Yonghow of the blog Halcyon Realms brings us these incredible photographs of the train station in the Japanese town of Takadanobaba, the place of Osamu Tezuka's birth. The station features an absolutely amazing mural covered with tons of Tezuka characters.

Take a look at the rest of the images right here. Big time thanks to Vong for these shots!

Continue reading "Takadanobaba Train Station"...