A book reviews the life and work of Osamu Tezuka, the “god of manga”

Astroboy, Adolf, The Princess Knight, Buddha, Phoenix… the legacy of osamu tezuka (1928-1989) is incomprehensible, since created more than 150,000 pages of manga and participated in more than 60 animated productions. In addition to being one of those responsible for the current success of manga around the world and having influenced (in one way or another) most of the current cartoonists. Now a book reviews that immense work: osamu tezuka. the gift of imagination (Diabolo editions)of David Herrera Pitarch (Anime! Anime! 100 years of Japanese animation, Gainax and Hideaki Anno: The story of the creators of Evangelion, top 100 anime movies)

And we begin by asking David if he believes that the title of ‘manga god’, which is affectionately given to Tezuka, is deserved: “Osamu Tezuka was the man who defined modern manga and started the comic book boom in Japan after World War II. Manga was already published before him, but his way of drawing, inspired by the cinematographic techniques of the films he watched as a child, made the medium evolve in a way that perhaps would not have occurred naturally for many years to come. afternoon “.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that to him we owe the current phenomenon that is manga today -Add-. There are many authors who were influenced by him when creating his own works, and even modern cartoonists who did not get to know him feel a deep respect for his work and have him as a great reference. The West never paid any real attention to him during the time he was active, but it is undeniable that his figure is important enough for artists today to know his work and, indirectly, have been influenced by it through the current manga“.

Page from the book ‘Osamu tezuka. The gift of imagination’ cropper

Tezuka grew up in Walt Disney shorts and sleeves

The book is a detailed review of Tezuka’s biography and we will discover that his fondness for cartoons was very early. “From a very young age, Tezuka had access to a multitude of manga thanks to his father’s library, who also bought a projector to watch movies at home – David tells us -. This first contact with Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Popeye and Felix the cat shortswas the germ of his passion for drawing, and that is why he used these characters to create his first comics”.

“Some manga,” he continues, “such as the popular Norakuro strips in the war period, served to spur his ambition to create better comics, although it was always Disney and its cinema that held a greater place in his heart. Even as an adult, he never missed a premiere, and it was a great honor for him to get to know Walt himself during one of his trips to the United States. Outside of animation, maybe his greatest influence was the novelist Juza Unnowhich instilled in him a love of science fiction, his fetish genre and the one for which he was best known”.

Page from ‘Adolf’, by Osamu Tezuka Planet Deagostini

Pioneer of feminism and the representation of homosexuality

We asked David what Osamu Tezuka’s favorite subjects were: “In general, andThere was a person who was fascinated by nature and science in general.him, which is why many of his works investigate these issues from different perspectives. However, you may the common element of all his sleeves is human relations and our role as a speciessomething that is appreciated much better in his philosophical works such as Buddha Y Phoenix”.

“In this way -continues David-, he reflected on issues as important as the class struggle, feminism, the value of life or the exploration of sexuality. Regarding the latter, it is notable that outside of the first authors to depict homosexual relationships in generalist publications (MW is very notable in this sense), although women’s demography magazines had already been showing stories outside the norm for years”.

Osamu tezkua was also a pioneer in bringing animation to television with astroboy. “His work was fundamental when it came to transferring animation to the television format after decades confined to the space of cinemas – David tells us -. FIt was he who started that tradition based on the limited animation of North American serials and who established many of the work dynamics that continue to be maintained today, such as the image bank: a method in which some of the most common movements are saved to be able to reuse them in later episodes without having to draw them again, saving time and money in production. Many blame him for the low wages that animators receive due to the conditions that he negotiated with the television networks at the time, but, as I explain in the book, that is not the case at all.

“Astroboy” by Osamu Tezuka

“Astroboy” by Osamu Tezuka

The book

David tells us how he has structured the book: “Osamu Tezuka, the gift of imagination It is divided into 12 chapters narrated chronologically., each of which is dedicated to one of the phases the author goes through in his development process as an artist. However, there are two small exceptions, which are the chapters dedicated to his work with animation at Mushi Production and at Tezuka Productions, respectively. I thought this would be the easiest way to convey how that evolution in his style was without the public getting lost in the middle of that ocean of publications that the author came to produce throughout his prolific career.”

“The last chapter is dedicated to his legacy upon his sad passing in 1989 -he adds-, a review of derivative works or new adaptations at the hands of other artists. Finally, I have also included a list of all his manga, animations and adaptations in real image, to offer a more solid vision of the volume of production that he came to do in life “.

Cover of the book ‘Osamu tezuka. The gift of imagination’

Osamu Tezuka in Spain

Currently, in Spain Planeta Cómic is making careful editions of his works. “In general, Tezuka’s work has been very well received in our country thanks to the good reputation of its name and the success of the publishers at the time of introducing their first titles to the market -says David-. Works like Black Jack, Adolf either Phoenix They conquered the Spanish readers who were encouraged to give it a try, and even today they continue to be some of the great favorites in Spain”.

“Of course -continues the author-, it is impossible to compare Tezuka’s reception with that of manga super-hits such as one piece either Tokyo Revengersbut is an author with a loyal audience that continues to receive with great joy all the news that Planeta Cómic is launching in his new Tezuka Library; like next Prime Rose which will arrive at the end of the year, one of the most atypical and curious works in the author’s catalogsince he was not very given to the fantastic genre”.

“I would also like to remind you that our dear Kenny Ruiz is drawing team phoenix in direct collaboration with Tezuka Productions, so the link with our country is getting closer” -adds David-.

Cover of ‘Prime Rose’

150,000 pages in 40 years of career

Tezuka signed more than 150,000 pages in almost 40 years of career, in addition to more than 60 animated titles. “Tezuka’s production level was completely superhuman. -says David-, not only because of the speed at which he drew but also because of the number of ideas he was able to handle at the same time. It is true that he had a great team of assistants who assisted him with the most routine tasks such as inking, placing the screens or creating generic backgrounds (all following a very precise system that he standardized within the industry itself). . Even so, being able to develop up to a dozen different stories simultaneously is something that no other author has ever been able to do, and it is precisely that overflowing imagination that credits him as the god of manga“.

This does not mean that he also had bad works, that nobody thinks that he was perfect David adds. Sometimes, excessive work or lack of motivation for having to fulfill an assignment made that quality suffer and make stories that left a lot to be desired. But they are only a small percentage compared to the vast legacy of such funny stories that he has left us for posterity.”

osamu tezuka

His best works and those that remain unpublished in Spain

We asked David Herrera Pitchard what are, in his opinion, the best works of tezuka: “astroboyfor his development of Japanese science fiction and his role as a cultural icon. the princess knight, for revolutionizing the role of women in manga and being the spark of a new feminine movement in the medium. Adolf, for its crude representation of a decisive moment in human history, with rigor but also with the emotion of a good thriller. Buddhafor its spirituality and its ability to perfectly combine its facet as an entertainment product with that of a work of reflection. and the best for me, Phoenix, for his ambition and his incredible vision of human nature. It’s on another level one of the best that has ever been done with cartoons“.

As to Tezuka’s works that remain unpublished in Spain and that should be publishedDavid tells us: “I think one of the most interesting that still has to be published is vampires, which is the beginning of its darkest period. Also the emperor of the jungle Y the triclopes (Mitsume ga toru), which are two of the most important and fun, with quite unusual protagonists. wonder 3 Y sea ​​newt are two of the best known that deserve to arrive soon in our bookstores. And to quote some of his lesser works, paper fortress (Kami no toride) would also be very interesting because of its biographical nature. If Planeta Cómic keeps its commitment to publish all his work, they will reach us sooner or later, so we just have to wait a little longer while we enjoy the manga that are already available.”

We asked David about his projects: “At the moment, I am not working on any new publication, although I do not doubt that I will end up writing something sooner or later because I am one of those who do not know how to sit still. Meanwhile, I continue to spread the word through magazines What otaku bunka Y Kaibun, which allow me to prepare small articles on a recurring basis. Apart from this, since last year I have participated with 1564 Studio in the creation of mystery video games and we have already released our first title, the visual novel Murder on the Marine Expressthe sequel to which we are working on right now.”

Page from the book ‘Osamu tezuka. The gift of imagination’