Monday, December 20, 2010


THE ART OF OSAMU TEZUKA: GOD OF MANGA is a 272 hardcover book covering the prolific career of Japan's most influential and prolific comic (manga) creator. The book was published last year but I finally got around to getting my own copy last month.

First of all, this is a very resourceful book. Only a small percentage of Tezuka's work is available in English, so this book really provides a lot of valuable insight into his many creations that otherwise I may never be able to read in the original Japanese comics.

Tezuka passed away in 1989, leaving behind a legacy of innovation in manga and animation. Among his best known works are JUNGLE EMPORER LEO, released in animated form here in the States as KIMBA THE WHITE LION (which Disney pirated from liberally for their LION KING), MIGHTY ATOM (known as ASTROBOY to millions of oversees audiences), BUDDHA and BLACK JACK.

BLACK JACK is my favorite work of Tezuka's, featuring a brilliant unlicensed surgeon who performs his miraculous feats of medical miracles for anyone who can afford him. Black Jack himself is a survivor of surgery, having had his body put back together after an explosion in his young childhood left him near death, and his mother dead. The medical dramas Black Jack confronts are usually bizarre cases, like one where a young woman has a giant growth on her body, which turns out to be the living organs of a twin sister which never fully developed. Black Jack actually removes the organs and transplants them into a doll body, giving life to the unborn sister! These stories are truly imaginative, and Tezuka uses the series to explores all matters of life and death,  philosophies of existence, in this career spanning series.

(Word balloons are read from left to right:)

Tezuka himself actually had a medical degree, but decided to continue his early foray into manga as a full-time profession. Not only did he create a lot of innovations in manga, but he was also an early and prolific pioneer in the Japanese animation industry. He even dabbled with acting from time to time. How many cartoonists can you name that are often referred to as 'Doctor' by their assistants?

ART OF TEZUKA covers Osamu's life, his early childhood years and family life, as well as chronicling his earliest influences and artistic outputs. What I found invaluable was the decade by decade overview of many of his works, featuring images and a brief synopsis of the stories.

Rainbow Parakeet, an actor skilled at mimicry and disguises, who doubles as a master thief.

Interestingly, the thing that probably struck me the most was the DVD that comes included with the book. It's a late 1980s television program covering several days in the life of Tezuka. We're given an unprecedented look into his private room in his studio, where no one but his wife is allowed into. His assistants will stand in the doorway to deliver messages or meals, but no one is allowed to enter into his creative space. We also see a moment where Tezuka is rushing to the airport to attend a conference in France, and on the car ride to the airport he's still drawing a page, trying frantically to finish a deadline! 

The DVD is subtitled in English, and like I mentioned, it's very compelling viewing. To see such a talented artist, and one driven to create such a vast number of works, is an inspiring experience. I can see why he's the only Japanese artist to be called 'god of manga'. 

If you're interested in any of Tezuka's work, or even if you've never read any of his work but are interested in comics and art, I would wholeheartedly recommend the book. Overall, it's an amazing experience into a fascinating life and career.

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