Tezuka, Osamu 1928-1989

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TEZUKA, Osamu 1928-1989

PERSONAL: Born November 3, 1928, in Toyonaka, 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: Osaka University College of Medicine, graduated 1951.

CAREER: Graphic artist, 1946-89; physician, licensed in 1960; Tezuka Productions and Mushi Studios, owner.

AWARDS, HONORS: For comics: Kodansha Publishing cultural awards, 1969, 1977; Shogakkan Comics awards, 1957, 1983; Bungei Shunju Comic award, 1975. For animation: Silver (Ragazzi) Lion award, Venice International Film Festival, 1967; special division award, Asia Film Festival, 1967; Grand Prix, Zagreb Animation Festival, 1984. Osamu Tezuka Museum of Comic Art was named in Tezuka's honor in 1994; Japanese postage stamps honoring him were designed and sold in 1997.


Boku wa Mangaka (title means "I Am a Cartoonist"), 1978.

Tezuka Osamu Rando (title means "Osamu Tezukaland"), 1979.

Adolf ni Tsugu, translated by Yuji Oniki, published as Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century, five volumes, Cadence Books (San Francisco, CA), 1995.

Comics include: "Jungle Taitei," 1950; "Tetsuwan Atomu," 1952; "Hi No Tori" (title means "The Phoenix"), 1954; "Ode to Kirihito," 1970; "A History of Birdmen," 1971; "A Hundred Tales," 1971; "Ayako," 1972; "Buddha," 1972; "Black Jack," 1973; "MW" 1976; "A Tree in the Sun," 1981; "Ludwig B.," 1987, and "Neo Faust," 1988. Contributor of foreword to Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics, by Frederik L. Schodt, Kodansha, 1983. Collections of Tezuka's art have been published in Japan.

television series

Tetsuwan Atomu (title means "Atom with Iron Arms"), beginning 1963, broadcast in the United States as Astroboy.

Jungle Taitei (title means "Jungle Emperor"), beginning 1965, broadcast in the United States as Kimba the White Lion.

Amazing Three, beginning 1965.


Memory, 1964.

Mermaid, 1964.

Tenrankai no E (title means "Pictures at an Exhibition"), 1966.

Jumping, 1984.

Broken down Film, 1985.

Legend of the Forest, 1987.

Self Portrait, 1988.

Adachi-Ga-Hara, 1991.

Akuemon, 1993.

"phoenix" film series

Dawn, 1978.

Hi No Tori, (also known as Space Firebird 2772 and Phoenix 2772), 1981.

Karma, 1986.

Yamata, 1986.

Space, 1986.

"unico" film series

Unico, 1981.

Unico: To the Magic Island, 1983.

Unico: Cloud and White Feather, 1989.

ADAPTATIONS: Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis (animated film; Japanese language with English subtitles; adapted from 1949 comic book), written by Katsuhiro Otomo, directed by Rintaro (Hayashi Shigeyuki), animation by Yasuhiro Nakura, TriStar Pictures, 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Osamu Tezuka changed the Japanese comics—or manga—industry forever, and he entertained children in the United States with his popular animated television shows, exported as Astroboy and Kimba the White Lion. During his lifetime, Tezuka drew approximately 150,000 pages of comics, and more than one hundred animated films have been made from his works. In Japan Tezuka is known as the "manga no kamisama," or "God of Comics."

Tezuka began drawing comics while he attending Osaka University, and although he fulfilled the requirements for becoming a physician, he never pursued a medical career, turning instead to the graphic art that would make him and his creations household names on both sides of the Pacific. Frederik Schodt wrote in Contemporary Graphic Artists that Tezuka "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."

Tezuka was inspired, to a great extent, by the animation of Walt Disney, and he reportedly watched Bambi thirty times. He was only eighteen when his first four-panel strip was published in a newspaper. Soon thereafter, several of Tezuka's stories, and his adaptations of stories by others, were published as comics, including titles that translate to New Treasure Island, Lost World, Next World, and Crime and Punishment, and he achieved instant fame when nearly half a million copies of each were sold. He also created a comic for girls called Ribon no Kishi ("Princess Knight").

Tezuka's first two major successes began as strips. Jungle Tatei was adapted for television and became Japan's first color television series of any genre, and Tetsuwan Atomu, which first appeared as a strip in the children's magazine Shonen, became Japan's first animated television series. Entertainment Weekly's Glenn Kenny reviewed episodes of the American version, Astroboy, and wrote, "the designs and storytelling angles are often a lot more imaginative than typical Saturday-morning fare."

Controversy erupted after Walt Disney's The Lion King was released because of the obvious similarities between this film and Tezuka's Kimba the White Lion. Tezuka was already deceased at the time, and his wife chose not to take action because, as she noted, years ago her husband had borrowed from Disney—most notably the movements of the young deer in Bambi.

Tezuka also created the "Phoenix" series, considered by many to be his most notable comic, which he began in 1954 and continued until his death. An Economist reviewer called it "perhaps his most ambitious plot. Charting man's pursuit of the mythical phoenix, the story spans 4,000 pages and flits from past to future and back to the present. Quarrels between Japanese medieval warlords and religious factions form the backdrop for part of the series." In this series, characters die and come back to life, often as animals.

In 1961 Tezuka started his own independent film company in order to produce the Tetsuwan Atomu series, and it is said that with his intense production schedule, he sometimes slept as little as two hours each night. Because of budget restrictions imposed by the network the company was bankrupted, but Tezuka's fortunes were reversed with the success of his animated film, Hi no Tori. Tezuka, though an outstanding artist, never excelled as a businessman.

Beverly Bixler reviewed the videocassette version of Legend of the Forest in School Library Journal, saying that it "will appeal greatly to radical leftist environmentalists and be extremely offensive to families involved in the lumber industry." The film is not narrated; it begins by providing a history of animation. Then, with Tchaikovsky playing in the background, a tree is felled as woodland creatures run for their lives. A flying squirrel sabotages the lumberjack's chainsaw, and the lumberjack retaliates by shooting the squirrel's partner. This feuding goes back and forth until the lumber camp, headed by a foreman who resembles Adolph Hitler, is destroyed by huge vines. Bixler noted that all of the lumberjacks are portrayed as evil, while all of the forest creatures are good, and said that "while the animation and music are topnotch, the philosophy behind it is hopelessly lopsided."

Beginning in 1995, Adolf ni Tsugu was translated and published in five volumes as Adolph: A Tale of the Twentieth Century. This epic takes place prior to World War II, and its characters include three Adolphs: the obvious one, and two boys who live in Kobe, Japan. Adolph Kaufmann is half Japanese and the son of a German consul, and Adolph Kamil is the son of a Jewish baker. In the first volume, Kamil discovers that Hitler is a Jew, a secret that leads not only to death but also to Kaufmann being sent to Germany to attend a Hitler youth camp.

Film director Rintaro—whose real name is Hayashi Shigeyuki—began his career working on the animated Astroboy, and four decades later, he directed Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis, a film tribute to Tezuka, who based his comic Metropolis on Fritz Lang's futuristic silent film of the same name. Tezuka used many of Lang's themes in creating the comic book, including man-against-machine and the search for identity in the modern world. "But Tezuka gave them a Japanese twist," said Jonathan Clements on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Clements noted that during the period when Tezuka was writing Metropolis, he was unsure as to which side of the cold war he should favor. For this reason, his strip features both American and Russian elements. Clements said that if you look examine it, "you'll see it seems to be half American—every now and again you see American architecture, especially art-deco architecture—and half of it seems to be brutalist Soviet artwork going on in the background."

Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis "hinges on the creation of a beautiful robotic woman that is seen as the pinnacle of evolution," wrote David Hunter in Hollywood Reporter. "But this version is much more elaborate in its future historical details. In between the action scenes, there are some fairly thick dialogue exchanges that explain the future society."

Most Japanese artists have been influenced by Tezuka's art, and many worked for him, creating graphic details and animating films. Schodt, in Contemporary Graphic Artists, noted that "Comic artists affiliated with Tezuka at some point during their career include Fujio Akatsuka, Shotaro Ishimori, Fujiko Fujio, Hideko Mizuno, Keiko Takemiya, and Reiji Matsumoto. In animation the list includes Shinnichi Suzuki, Renzo Kinoshita, Yoshiyuki Tomino, and on and on. Recently, he is also being credited as an influence by a younger generation of American artists, including the artist for the Elfquest series, Wendy Pini, and Scott McCloud, creator of the ZOT series."

Tezuka died of cancer at the age of sixty. A museum of comic art was named for him, and postage stamps featuring his images were issued. His work earned him dozens of awards, and he had become the most esteemed graphic artist in Japan, finally achieving both critical and financial success.



Clements, Jonathan, and Helen McCarthy, The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation since 1917, Stone Bridge Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.

Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Contemporary Graphic Artists, Volume 1, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Schodt, Frederik L., Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics, Kodansha (Tokyo, Japan), 1983.


Art in America, January, 1991, Leza Lowitz, "Osamu Tezuka," p. 147.

Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 1994, Cameron W. Barr, "Cartoon Controversy over Lion King Percolates in Tokyo," p. 13.

Economist, December 16, 1995, "Eclectic: Japanese Manga," p. 82.

Entertainment Weekly, December 4, 1992, Glenn Kenny, reviews of Astro Boy (videocassette), Volumes Eleven and Twelve, p. 78.

Hollywood Reporter, January 29, 2002, David Hunter, "Metropolis Goes Back to a Grim Future: Striking Film from Anime Vets Is Undermined by Choppy, Familiar Story," p. 20.

Japan Computer Industry Scan, July 2, 2001, "Animation Works by Tezuka to Be Shown on Internet."

Library Journal, February 1, 2002, review of Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century.

School Library Journal, December, 1994, Beverly Bixler, review of Legend of the Forest (videocassette), p. 52.

Time International, May 1, 2000, Tim Larimer, "Detour (Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum)," p. 8.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1997, Katharine Kan, review of Adolf, p. 323.


NPR Morning Edition Web site,http://www.npr.org/ (January 24, 2002), review of Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis.



Japan Economic Newswire, February 9, 1989, "Comic Artist Tezuka Dies of Cancer," p. K890209029.*