Born November 3, 1928, in Toyonaka City, Osaka, Japan; died of stomach cancer, February 9, 1989, in Tokyo, Japan; son of Yutaka and Fumiko Tezuka; married Etsuko Okada, 1959; children: Makoto, Rumiko, Chiiko. Education: Graduated from Osaka University College of Medicine, 1951; Nara Medical University, M.D., 1961.
Comic artist, 1946-89; licensed medical doctor; director and owner, Tezuka Productions and Mushi Productions. Artwork displayed in touring exhibit in Japan to mark Tezuka's fortieth anniversary as an artist, 1985.
Japan Cartoonists Association (director), Japan Animation Association (director), Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan.
Received numerous awards, including: Shogakukan Comics Award, 1958 and 1984; Noburuou Oofuji Award, 1963 and 1970; Silver Lion Award for animation work, Venice International Film Festival, 1967; Special Division Award for animation work, Asia Film Festival, 1967; Kodansha Publishing Cultural Award, 1970; Tezuka Osamu Award established, 1971; Bungei Shunju Comic Award, 1975; Kodansha Comics Award, 1977; Grand Prix, Zagreb Animation Festival, 1984; Asashi Award, 1988; a Japanese postage stamp honoring Osamu Tezuka was released in 1997.
Shin Takarajima (title means New Treasure Island,), Ikuei, 1947.
Lost World (Ancient Times), Fuji Shobo, 1948.
Metropolis, Ikuei, 1949.
Jungle Taitei (title means "Jungle Emperor," released in the United States as Kimba the White Lion), Manga Shonen, Gakudosha, 1950.
Next World, Fuji Shobo, 1951.
Tetsuwan Atomu (title means "Mighty Atom," released in the United States as Astro Boy), Shonen, Kobunsha, 1952.
Princess Knight, Shojo Club, Kodansha, 1953-56.
Hinotori (title means "The Phoenix"), Manga Shonen, 1954-55.
Amazing Three, Weekly Shonen Sunday, Shogakukan, 1965-66.
Ambassador Magma Shonen Gahosha, 1965-67.
The Vampires, Weekly Shonen Sunday, Shogakukan, 1966-67.
Dororo, Weekly Shonen Sunday, Shogakukan, 1967.
Triton of the Sea (Blue Triton), Sankai Shinbun, 1969-71.
Eulogy to Kirihito, Shogakukan, 1970-71.
Birdman Anthology, Hayakawa, 1971-75.
Marvelous Melmo, Shogakukan, 1971-72.
Ayako, Shogakukan, 1972-73.
Buddha, Ushio Shuppansha, 1972-83.
Black Jack, Akita Shoten, 1973-78.
The Three-eyed One, Kodansha, 1974-78 .
MW, Shogakukan, 1976-78.
Unico, Sanrio, 1976-79.
A Tree in the Sun, 1981.
Hidamari no Ki, Shogakukan, 1981-86.
Adolf (also known as Tell to Adolf), Bungei Shunju, 1983-85.
Ludwig B., Ushio Shuppansha, 1987-89.
Neo Faust, Asahi Shinbun, 1988.
Author of more than 700 comic titles. The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka, Japan, houses exhibits of Tezuka's artwork.
Tetsuwan Atomu (television series; title means "Mighty Atom;" broadcast in the United States as Astro Boy), 1961.
Jungle Taitei (television series; title means "Jungle Emperor;" broadcast in the United States as Kimba the White Lion), 1965.
Amazing Three (television series), Mushi Productions, broadcast on Japanese television, 1965-66.
The New Jungle Emperor, Go Ahead Leo! (television series; broadcast in the United States as Leo the Lion, 1984), 1966.
Jungle Emperor (movie), Mushi Productions, 1966.
Tenrankai no E (title means "Pictures at an Exhibition"), 1966.
Princess Knight (television series), Mushi Productions, 1967-68.
Kindly Lion, 1970.
Hinotori 2772 (title means "Phoenix 2772: Space Firebird"), 1981.
Unico: To the Magic Island, 1983.
Broken Down Film, 1985.
Legend of the Forest, 1987.
Self Portrait, 1988.
Boku wa Mangaka (title means "I'm a Comic Artist"), Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1969.
Tezuka Osamu Rando (title means "Osamu Tezukaland"), 1977.
The following films are based on Tezuka's work: Unico: Cloud and White Feather, 1979; Adachi-Ga-Hara, 1991; Akuemon, 1993; Metropolis, 2001.
Osamu Tezuka, sometimes referred to as Tezuka Osamu in traditional Japanese style, is often called "the father of Japanese manga," or comic books. Tezuka was instrumental in fostering manga's boom in popularity following World War II, transforming the medium from simple cartoon stories into full-length novels with a highly cinematic look. In addition to writing and drawing comic books, Tezuka also created several popular animated cartoon characters, such as Astro Boy (originally named Tetsuwan Atomu) and Kimba the White Lion, who are known throughout the world.
Encouraged as a Boy
Tezuka came from a prominent family, many of them doctors and lawyers, who were interested in the arts. When he was a little boy, his parents would normally leave a fresh sketchbook at his bedside each night so that he could draw all the next day. In the third grade he would make cartoons to pass out among his classmates, and by fifth grade, when a friend showed him an illustrated book about insects, Tezuka became fascinated with the creatures. In junior high school he was routinely organizing class trips to look for insects in the forest. His artwork also reflected his interest in insects. Viewed today, his childhood illustrations of butterflies and beetles rival those of the best professional in their realism and attention to detail. Tezuka grew up under the influence of such Japanese artists as Suiho Tagawa, Ryuichi Yokoyama, and Noboru Oshiro, but his real love was animation, especially that of Max Fleischer and Walt Disney. His father had bought a film projector so that the family could watch examples of films from around the world. His father, moreover, was an avid amateur photographer, well known at the time under the name Hokufu.
At the end of World War II, Tezuka entered Osaka University to pursue a career in medicine. He had flirted with the idea of becoming an entomologist because of his interest in insects, but decided instead on medicine. As a child, he had suffered from a serious infection that nearly caused him to have both arms amputated. A specialist doctor, however, treated him correctly and saved his limbs. Although he did have a great interest in drawing cartoons, being a cartoonist was not a practical occupation, either economically or socially. One result, however, was that he devoted much of his time to doodling and drawing rather than to his studies. While a medical student, and later as a resident, Tezuka began publishing some of his work. The struggle between comics and medicine was not fully resolved until he got a license of medical doctor in 1952. At that point Tezuka was already a nationally famous cartoonist with considerable income.
Begins Career as Cartoonist
Tezuka's professional debut as a cartoonist came in 1946, when he published a four-panel strip titled Ma-chan no Nikkicho (title means "Diary of Machan") in a newspaper. The character's popularity with readers was such that Tezuka was soon contributing a regular comic strip to the newspaper, and there were even little Ma-chan dolls available for sale. In 1947, Tezuka's comic book New Treasure Island sold some 400,000 copies. In the article "A History of Manga," posted at the NMP International Web Site, the impact of this book was explained by Go Tchiei: "The first surprise in store for readers of New Treasure Island was the scene in which the young protagonist arrives by car at a wharf, hurrying to catch his ship before it sailed. In manga prior to this one or two frames would have sufficed to convey the whole scene. But Tezuka spent eight of the 180 pages of this work to render this scene of a car arriving at a wharf. And the depiction is different from anything manga readers had seen before. From the close-up of the boy's face the perspective pans to the driver's seat of the car and the gradual zoom-in of the car racing along the seaside road is almost as if the artist had simply pasted successive frames from a film onto the page."
Tezuka eventually revolutionized the comics medium in Japan by incorporating a fast-paced, cinematic style of drawing to tell complex, humanistic stories. Where other artists used ten or twenty pages to tell a story, Tezuka began using hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages, in the process turning children's comics into long, saga-like visual novels. This was accomplished through superhuman productivity and an above average intellect that allowed him to synthesize a broad variety of influences. Over the next forty years Tezuka drew over one hundred and fifty thousand pages, and nearly one hundred million copies of his stories in paperback were sold. At his peak, using assistants, he created over six hundred pages a month. His stories range from a Japanese-language adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, to romance stories for girls, to an account of his own family history. The target readership for these numerous stories ranges from the very young to those in middle age, reflecting both the diversity of their themes and the sheer popularity of the comics culture in Japan.
Tezuka never lost his scientific interest in the world. In such comic stories as Black Jack, Hinotori, and Hidamari no Ki, he consistently wove in medical and philosophical themes. In science fiction, moreover, he found a forum for his interest in the sciences and the future. All of Tezuka's stories, however, are characterized by their humanism and rejection of war.
Turns to Animation
Success with comics eventually made it possible for Tezuka to pursue his original dream of creating animation. As he himself often confessed, the former is his "wife," while the latter is his "mistress." Unfortunately, the money amassed in the comics industry was often squandered on animation. Unlike Walt Disney, Tezuka was more artist than businessman, and his productions often lost money. The animated cartoons, however, are what earned Tezuka an international reputation because they were broadcast worldwide. The success of Tetsuwan Atomu, broadcast in the United States as Astro Boy, and Jungle Taitei, shown as Kimba the White Lion, made Tezuka's distinctive graphic style familiar to millions.
Astro Boy, the first Japanese comic book character to ever be made into an animated series, is based on a Tezuka comic book series first published in 1952. The Astro Boy animated series is set in the "distant year" of 2003, (the series was made in 1963), in a society where robot workers are commonplace. Dr. Boyton is trying to create a new kind of robot worker, one with a soul and human emotions. Inspired by his son Toby's suggestion that the robot be a young boy, the doctor works hard on his project, so hard that he neglects his family life. Because of this neglect, Toby runs away from home, is struck by a car, and dies. Grief stricken, Dr. Boyton vows to create his boy robot in Toby's image and with Toby's characteristics. In addition, he gives the robot enormous powers, including the ability to fly, to see in the dark, and to shoot laser beams from his fingers. The result, of course, is Astro Boy, who is called upon, when not living with Dr. Boyton's family as their "son," to help fight criminals and avert catastrophes of various kinds. One recurring problem is Astro Boy's evil robot brother Atlas, who seeks to avenge the shameful way humans treat their robot workers. The enormously popular Astro Boy series lasted 193 episodes and was seen throughout the world.
Kimba is an orphan white lion living in Africa. His father has been killed by hunters, while his mother was drowned in a shipwreck. As the series progresses, Kimba grows from a cub into a full-grown lion. His adventures involve saving other animals from such dangers as hunters and forest fires, and attempting to turn them into vegetarians so that they do not hunt one another. Originally conceived by Tezuka as being named Leo, the American television distributors decided to change the lion's name to Kimba, based on the Swahili word for lion, simba. In later adventures featuring Kimba as an adult, the name Leo was restored. With the 1994 release of The Lion King by Disney Studios, a controversy arose about how much of the story had been taken from Tezuka's Kimba series. Fans claim that similarities abound between the two stories and their characters. Japanese animators who had worked with Tezuka even petitioned Disney to add some sort of credit line to The Lion King acknowledging Tezuka's "inspiration" for their story. But Disney, explaining that their story is actually based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, refused.
Over the years, Tezuka was not without his critics. As fashions in clothes change, so do those in art; when the trend in Japan moved towards a more realistic drawing style, much different from Tezuka's rounded, Disneyesque cartoons, he responded by adding in more detail and realism. Another problem was that over the years Tezuka had developed a huge audience familiar with his work, so that he could create jokes and gags in a new story that referred back to earlier stories. While his fans appreciated them, new readers were sometimes puzzled by the humor.
The degree to which Tezuka influenced the comics and animation world in Japan is apparent not only from his continuing popularity, but also from the many artists working today who credit him as either a mentor or former employer. Most of the popular artists in Japan today grew up reading Tezuka comics and watching Tezuka animation; many of them worked as his assistants, either filling in details in his comics or as animators on the films.
If you enjoy the works of Osamu Tezuka
If you enjoy the works of Osamu Tezuka, you might want to check out the following books:
Hayao Miyazaki, Nausicä of the Valley of the Wind, 2004.
Eiji Yoshikawa, Musashi, 1995.
Matoko Yukimura, Planetes, Book I, 2003.
Tezuka's famous characters are still popular worldwide. In the fall of 1989, just months after Tezuka's death, Remake of Kimba the White Lion was broadcast on Japanese television. In 1997, the film Jungle Emperor Leo, featuring Kimba and other of Tezuka's characters, was released in Japan. All of the original Astro Boy and Kimba television episodes are now available on DVD as well. In addition, the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum has been established in Takarazuka, Japan. Tezuka's artwork is on display here, as are exhibits tracing his impact on the growth of Japanese manga.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Schodt, Frederik, Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics, Kodansha (New York, NY), 1983.
World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1980.
World Encyclopedia of Comics, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1976.
Economist, December 16, 1995, "Eclectic: Japanese Manga."
Hollywood Reporter, January 29, 2002, David Hunter, "Metropolis Goes Back to a Grim Future."
National Post, May 25, 2002, James Cowan, "Honouring the God of Comics."
Time International, May 1, 2000, Tim Larimer, "Detour."
Astro Boy Online Web Site,http://www.astroboyonline.com/ (September 21, 2003).
Kimba the White Lion Preservation Society Web Site,http://kimba.tvheaven.com/ (September 21, 2003).
Kimba W. Lion's Corner of the Web Site,http://www.kimbawlion.com/index.htm/ (September 21, 2003).
NMP International Web Site,http://www.dnp.co.jp/museum/nmp/nmp_i/eindex.html/ (September 21, 2003), Go Tchiei, "A History of Manga."
Osamu Tezuka: The Father of Manga Web Site,http://tezukasite.tripod.com/ (September 21, 2003).
Tezuka Productions Web Site,http://en.tezuka.co.jp/ (September 21, 2003).
Tribute to Osamu Tezuka, Pioneer Extraordinaire Web Site,http://www.nwlink.com/~jade/anime/osamu.htm/ (September 21, 2003).