Osamu Tezuka, Legendary Creator

2006

Osamu Tezuka, Legendary Creator

Osamu Tezuka created a revolution in manga and anime. Born in 1928 in Toyonaka, in Osaka, Japan, he was raised in the nearby city of Takarazuka. From a very early age he loved to draw. When he was eighteen, and enrolled in university as a medical student, he made his debut as a cartoonist with a four panel cartoon strip titled Ma-chan's Diary. Not too long thereafter, paperback compilations of his longer stories, with titles such as New Treasure Island, Lost World, and Next World, became smash hits, selling what was then unthinkable for comics – over 400,000 copies each – and making him nationally famous.

Although Osamu Tezuka eventually received his physician's license, he chose to devote his life to comics and animation rather than practice medicine. In doing so he brought an unusually creative and educated mind to both fields. Particularly in comics, he pioneered long narratives of hundreds, even thousands of pages, bringing "cinematic" art styles and novelistic plots to the medium. By 1950, he had firmly established his position as the leading comics artist of his day when he serialised his now classic work, Jungle Emperor (also known as "Kimba the White Lion") in the monthly magazine, Manga Shonen. Then, in 1952, he began serialising Mighty Atom, in the young boys' monthly Shonen. Mighty Atom, which later became known to the world as "Astro Boy," continued until 1968, becoming one of Tezuka's most popular and famous works.

Osamu TezukaTezuka did not stop with Atom however. He began turning out one hit after another, with Princess Knight in 1953, Ambassador Magma and W3 ("Amazing 3") in 1965, Vampire in 1966, and Dororo in 1967. In 1967 he also began drawing what he called his "life work", The Phoenix, and creating comics targeted at a more adult audience.

Tezuka continued creating comics with powerful, original themes throughout his long career. Some of his best known later works include Ode to Kirihito, 1970; A History of Birdmen, 1971; A Hundred Tales, 1971; Ayako, 1972; Black Jack and Buddha, 1973; MW, 1976; A Tree in the Sun, 1981; Tell Adolph, 1983; Ludwig B., 1987 and Neo Faust, 1988. In his lifetime, Osamu Tezuka drew nearly 150,000 pages of comics, and he created over 1,000 highly individualistic characters to populate his stories. Altogether he created over 500 different titles of works.

Osamu Tezuka was not just a comic artist, he was also an animator. In 1961, he formed his own animation studio – Mushi Productions – and began animating one after another of his own creations. He was involved in the productions as director, scenario writer, key drawing creator, and art director. Animated works created by Osamu Tezuka include not only Japan's first television series' such as Mighty Atom ("Astro Boy"), Jungle Emperor ("Kimba the White Lion"), Princess Knight, and W3 ("Amazing 3"), but more adult-oriented theatrical features such as A Thousand and One Nights, Cleopatra, and others. In 1968, Tezuka formed a new studio to replace the old Mushi Productions, and called it "Tezuka Productions." Among the many works produced at Tezuka Productions were Japan's first two-hour TV animated special, Bander Book, in 1978; a new colour version of the Mighty Atom, or "Astro Boy," TV series, in 1980; and Phoenix 2772, a theatrical feature, also produced in 1980.

Osamu Tezuka passed away on February 9, 1989, but the works he left behind will live forever. Today Osamu Tezuka's spirit and his creative works are being preserved and popularised around the world by his company, Tezuka Productions. Tezuka Productions is actively involved in creating foreign language editions of his comics, and thus far, publications of them have already begun in such nations as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. Tezuka Productions is also actively planning to produce films based on original Tezuka stories. As an example of this, recent Tezuka Productions has recently produced several highly successful Japanese series: Astro Boy 2003 TV series; Hi no Tori 2004 TV series; and the new the Black Jack 2004 TV series and 2005 Movie.

On February 10, 1989, the day after Tezuka passed away, Japan's Asahi newpaper explained the contribution of this great artist as follows:

"Foreign visitors to Japan often find it difficult to understand why Japanese people like comics so much. For example, they often reportedly find it odd to see grown men and women engrossed in weekly comics magazines on the trains during commute hours. One explanation for the popularity of comics in Japan, however, is that Japan had Osamu Tezuka, whereas other nations did not. Without Dr. Tezuka, the postwar explosion in comics in Japan would have been inconceivable."