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Tezuka Osamu

Entry updated 10 November 2021. Tagged: Artist, Comics.

(1928-1989) The premier artist in the world of Japanese Manga (Comics) and animation, in both of which he established a standard. He began contributing serial comic strips to a regional newspaper in 1946 while in junior college. He became a leader in Japanese comics with Shin Takarajima ["The New Treasure Island"] (1947). An early manga trilogy of note comprises Lost World (1948), Metropolis (1949), and Nextworld (1951). The first concerns the exploration of a Dinosaur-inhabited planet formed from a chunk of the Earth that detached millions of years ago; the last has Mutants created by nuclear testing, who attempt to leave Earth on learning of the approach of a Poison gas cloud from space – this was later made into the Anime film Fumoon (1980); these two works seem to have been partially influenced by Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (April-November 1912 Strand; 1912) and The Poison Belt (March-July 1913 Strand; 1913) respectively. Metropolis was inspired by Tezuka reading an illustrated article on Metropolis (1926) directed by Fritz Lang – he had not seen the film when he wrote the manga – and was adapted as the anime film Metropolis (2001; vt Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis)

Most of today's Japanese comics illustrators grew up strongly influenced by Tezuka. His most famous creation was the Tetsuwan Atom series (1952 on; in trans as Astro Boy), which began as a series in the children's magazine Shonen. It was eagerly welcomed not only by comics lovers but also by sf fans all over Japan, because his stories showed a real sense of the feeling of modern sf which at that time had been grasped by few Japanese writers. Most of his work was for children, but he published in general magazines also, and two pure-sf serials appeared in SF Magajin ["SF Magazine"], SF Fancy Free (1963) and Chojin Taikei ["Rise and Fall of the Bird-Human Race"] (1971-1975). These were highly esteemed by sf fans, who are normally severe towards comics.

In 1952 Tezuka established an animation studio, Mushi Production, produced several full-length animated films, and then began work on the first animated series for Japanese television, Tetsuwan Atom (1963 onwards), famous in the West as Astro Boy. This was the dawn of "Japanimation". He is often looked upon as a Japanese Walt Disney, but failed to elevate his company to a major enterprise, being a better artist than businessman. His main other comics series were Jungle Taitei (1950 on; trans as Kimba, The White Lion), later a television series, the Black Jack series (1973 on), and the Hi No Tori ["The Phoenix"] series (1966 onward), selected sections of which were made into feature films, some live and some animated: one which appeared in the West was the animated Hi No Tori: 2772 (1979; vt Space Firebird 2772; vt Phoenix 2772), directed by Tezuka with Suguru Sugiyama, which tells of the attempted capture of a cosmic space firebird whose life-blood is a Power Source that may rejuvenate Earth. Also of sf interest is the animated film Daishizen no Majū Bagi (1984; vt Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature), whose titular cat-girl is a product of Genetic Engineering. [TSh/SP]

Osamu Tezuka

born Toyonaka City, Japan: 3 November 1928

died Tokyo: 9 February 1989

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