Tezuka: God of Comics

Introduction: Manga Madness

Osamu Tezuka

Manga is everywhere in Japan. Volume upon volume of these Japanese comic books fills books stores, kiosks and can be found in 24-hour convenience stores everywhere. Unlike in the US, comic books in Japan are not just children's fare. In fact, there is no demographic in Japan that does not read manga. Some stories are animated to reach a wider audience on television and movie theaters. Often visually lush, manga lends itself well to such adaptations and the world of the visual in Japan continues to expand and develop. The development of manga into the art form that it is can be laid at the feet of one man in particular: Osamu Tezuka.

Tezuka changed Japan's visual world forever. His art and artistry became the base for manga and anime (Japanese animation) and the power of his works continue to influence around the world. How did this man become the focal point for such powerful changes in Japanese pop-culture? His genius was in his storytelling and in his art. He brought the world something they had never seen before. Within the pages of his work, he brought alive stories that made you think and feel beyond what was ever thought possible through that medium and characters that were unforgettable. Osamu Tezuka redrew the boundaries of art and literature, helping to create a visually rich Japanese pop-culture.

Osamu Tezuka: The Man

It was a combination of curiosity and circumstance that carved Osamu Tezuka's place in history. He was raised in Takurazuka, which lies in the Hyogo Prefecture city. [i] It is an area mainly known for Takurazuka, a popular women's troupe that puts on revues in lavishly tacky, spectacular, romantic and oddly fascinating productions in which women play both male and female roles. It was a creative outlet for young women who otherwise would not have had a chance to display their acting and entertainment skills.

Tezuka was born in 1926. As a child, he was fascinated with nature, especially bugs. An amateur entomologist, he began illustrating his own reference books and gained a nickname: Osamushi. [ii] His intellectual curiosity was eclectic, encompassing science, history and religion. [iii]

He studied and learned throughout his life and often brought his curiosity into his work, exploring philosophical questions about such issues as mortality, morality and life. These themes would appear again and again in his work. Oddly enought, Tezuka did not study art in college, but graduated from Osaka University with a medical degree. [iv] That degree was not put to practical use, however. Instead, while still in medical school, Tezuka found a different path. The public devoured his art style and stories from the beginning, effectively carving his path to be come the god of Manga.

Tezuka and Manga

Example of Osamu Tezuka's Cinematic artistic effects [v]

As well as being curious intellectually, Tezuka was obsessed with movies. He watched as many as 365 a year. [vi] He was greatly influence by Disney and Max Fletcher animation. He saw Snow White 50 times and Bambi 80 times! [vii] He approached his stories with this visual perspective. His stories unfolded like a movie. Manga, which used to be static before Tezuka, became something that thrilled the eye. In 1947, while still in medical school, he created the comic Shintakarajima (New Treasure Island), loosely based on a script by Shichima Sakai. Sales are estimated at between 400,000 and 800,000. This staggering amount was reached without publicity. [viii] It was a testament to the power of the visual world. Maybe it was the fact that Japan and other kanji/character reading countries were already drawn to the visually attractive, but something about this way of telling a story pulled the country in and has never let go.

 

Tezuka knew what he was trying to do with his work. Life was not simple in Japan. When he first appeared on the manga scene, Japan was just getting over World War II. Life was not as simple as before and he wanted to reflect that in his work.

I felt [after the war] that existing comics were limiting·. Most were drawn·as if seated in an audience viewing from a stage, where the actors emerge from the wings and interact. This made it impossible to create dramatic or psychological effects, so I began to use cinematic techniques·. French and German movies that I had seen as a schoolboy became my model. I experimented with close-ups and different angles, and instead of using only one frame for an action scene or the climax (as was customary), I made a point of depicting a movement or facial expression with many frames, even many pages·. The result was a super-long comic that ran to 500, 600, even 1,000 pages·. I also believed that comics were capable of more than just making people laugh. So in my themes I incorporated tears, grief, anger, and hate, and I created stories where the ending was not always happy. [ix]

-- Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka's Wonder 3

This utterly changed the way stories were told. Limitations on subject matter were removed. Manga became appealing to both adults and children as his stories became more and more popular. He revolutionized the process even more in the 1950's when he began hiring assistants to handle the more mechanical, mundane tasks of manga drawing. [x] He could concentrate on the more creative aspects of his work while mass-producing manga. Other manga artists later adopted this process.

 

 

 

Shoujo and Shonen Manga

Today there are many genres of manga. The two main branches are Shonen and Shoujo manga, which both stemmed from Osamu Tezuka. Shonen manga focuses more on action, adventure, and comradery. Focused mainly on the action, shonen manga often explores a coming of age for boys.

Osamu Tezuka's Shoujo-esque

Ribon no Kishi

Today there are gag manga and less serious overtones to stories, but there is usually character development. Tezuka's Wonder 3 (or Amazing 3) is an example of early shonen manga.

Shinichi, the main character, is a delinquent who fights and skips school. In fact, we learn that the boy has no friends at all until aliens sent to observe the earth befriend him. The readers are drawn in, growing to realize how vulnerable the boy is. He does not fight because he is bad, but because he cannot stand to see the unfairness in the adult world. He hates corruption and greed and tries to combat it the only way he can: by being belligerent. In the end, Shinichi saves the world through his bravery and loyalty.

Modern Shoujo Manga:

Fuyumi Souryo's Mars

Shoujo manga is more romantic, though it, too, has different side genres including science fiction and action. Today it often consists of love stories with circumstances young girls and women would be familiar with (or wish they were familiar with). Influenced by the cutesy Disney look [xi] , Tezuka drew large eyes, and when he began drawing them for girls' romance comics, he further exaggerated this tendency, as in Ribon no Kishi (Ribbon Knight). Ribon no Kishi follows the adventures of a young girl who was raised as a boy because of family circumstance. Tezuka, and the other men and women artists who followed him, found that a Caucasian look, with dewy, saucer shaped eyes, was extremely popular among young readers and that the bigger the eyes, the easier it was to depict emotions. [xii] The stories he wrote contained hints of love and adventure. These aspects are continued today in modern Shoujo manga.

Whether geared towards girls or towards boys, the manga Tezuka created were character driven stories. These were not perfect superheroes, but people to be identified with. They were vulnerable and flawed, yet trying to do their best. He proved that he could handle weighty themes and create complex characters as well as any novelist within the pages of manga. [xiii]

 

 

 

Modern Shonen Manga:

Nobuhiro Watsuki's

Rurouni Kenshin

There was a darker side to the "god of Manga." For all his genius, Tezuka was insecure about his position. He was forever worried about losing his fans to younger, hungrier competitors. He was not above taking ideas from newcomers. They had to just regard this as a compliment. [xiv] He was a fierce competitor. The success of other manga artists, even when they had been his trusted assistances, was not acceptable to him. He went even as far as to denounce one of his assistants' works. [xv] Yet, he remained open and friendly with his fans. He often went to conventions and walked freely among them. Tezuka is known as the Walt Disney of Japan. This is ironic because of the Lion King scandal. Disney is accused of lifting Tezuka's work Jungle Taitei (Jungle Emperor) for the Lion King. The similarities are quite noticeable, but Tezuka Productions thought of it as a compliment. [xvi]

 

Tezuka and Animation

Not only did he change the face of manga, he changed the face of animation as well. He wanted to create affordable animation. The Disney way of animation was very costly. Each animation cel was hand painted for the full effect of movement. In 1962, Tezuka devised a system of limited animation. He started a bank of cels with typical expressions and poses that could be used again and again. This furthered cut down the amount of cels they used. [xvii] This was an incredible innovation. It totally changed the world of animation. These innovations became standard practice in the Japanese Animation industry. Animated entertainment could be made cheaply and quickly by these methods.

Tezuka headed up his animation studio, Mushi Productions, to churn out an animated version of his popular Tetsuwan Atom. But, even after cutting costs, Mushi Puro could not turn a profit on Tetsuwan Atom and other Tezuka manga alone. They began to animate other artists' works. [xviii] Tezuka was an ardent workaholic and continued to write his manga and work as president of his animation company. But the workload became too much for him. He resigned as president in 1971. [xix] Although they tried to keep costs down, Mushi Productions could not stay solvent without money from Tezuka. Eventually, the costs of animation became too much. Mushi Puro filed for bankruptcy in 1973. [xx] Still, his innovations in animation are still used in Japanese Animation today.

Conclusion

Osamu Tezuka was the driving force that revolutionized manga and anime in Japan. Without his influence, his genius, the world of art in both the East and West would not be the same. It was not just his stories, but how he told the story. The imagery in his art broke through preconceptions of how comic book art should be. The decompression of manga gave storytellers and artist in Japan freedom to express them in a totally different way. The power of his works changed Japan. The way manga is thought of would definitely not be the same without him. Manga and animation have developed far beyond the restrictive sensibilities of West. He continues to inspire both manga artists and animators alike. Without his breakthroughs, the Japanese visual world would not be the same.

Bibliography

Cirulnick, Brian. "Dr. Osamu Tezuka: Legend." 1992. Anime Hyperguide's

History of Anime. March 18, 2000.<http://www.hyperguide.com/tezuka/>

Souryo, Fuyumi. Mars. Volume 12. (Japan: Kodansha.

2000).

Schodt, Fredrik L. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern

Manga. (Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press. 1996).

Schodt, Fredrik L. Manga! Manga!: The World of

Japanese Comics (New York: Kodansha International.

1983).

Shilling, Mark. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop

Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997).

Watsuki, Nobuhiro. Rurouni Kenshin. Volume 28.

(Japan: Shueisha. 1999).



[i] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 264

[ii] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 263.

[iii] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 263.

[iv] Frederik L. Schodt. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics! (New York: Kodansha International. 1983), p.160.

[v] Frederik L. Schodt. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. (Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press. 1996), pp.24-25.

[vi] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 264.

[vii] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 264.

[viii] Frederik L. Schodt. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics! (New York: Kodansha International. 1983), p.62.

[ix] Frederik L. Schodt. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics! (New York: Kodansha International. 1983), p.63.

[x] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 265.

[xi] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 264.

[xii] Frederik L. Schodt. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. (Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press. 1996), p.41.

[xiii] Frederik L. Schodt. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics! (New York: Kodansha International. 1983), p.263.

[xiv] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), pp. 266-7.

[xv] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), pp. 266-7.

[xvi] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 268.

[xvii] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 266.

[xviii] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 266.

[xix] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 266.

[xx] Mark Shilling. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. (New York: Weatherhill, Inc. 1997), p. 266.