Osamu Tezuka is often considered the father, grandfather, or even God of manga comics (especially on the book covers of his work). With his most popular work Astro Boy to his lesser known, but possibly better series’ like Dororo, Tezuka has pushed the importance of comics in culture to get us to the point we are at now. I’ve been a fan of his work since I was young, drawn to Astro Boy for his close resemblance of the Capcom video game character Mega Man. But, lately I’ve delved into his other work.
Some of you, however, may not even know of Astro Boy at all. Astro Boy, the manga which later became a cartoon, first debuted as a manga in Japan in 1952 (cartoons later in 1963). It was recently adapted into a computer animated feature length film which came out at theaters in the States. The story follows Astro Boy who was built as a replacement of sorts by a scientists, Doctor Tenma, whose son died in a automobile accident. Basically, Astro Boy fights all sorts of evil humans and robots and otherwise. He has plenty of fun gadgets, and can do almost anything. The story deals with the cross over of humans and robots as they co-exists in the world of the future.
Astro Boy is a wonderfully fun story, with obvious cultural representations of the Japanese (who were about as influenced by Astro Boy as we were by Mickey Mouse, possibly more so). But, lately I’ve been discovering Tezuka’s other stories like Buddha (his interpretation of the story of Buddha), Black Jack and Dororo.
Buddha is an amazing telling of the story of Siddhartha (Buddha) from before his birth, through his story, including the stories of those around him who influenced the religion and the man. Each book in the series is a collection of stories that play out chronologically to the actual events that have been recorded, but with a bit of a cartoon twist, while remaining true to the values and morals. I love it. I am fascinated by Buddhism, and while this is NOT a replacement for some of, possibly, the Dalai Lama’s teachings, it is certainly informative.
Another great series by Osamu Tezuka is his episodic Black Jack, which is now collected into books with 15 or so stories a piece. Black Jack, the title character, is a renegade doctor with a scar across his face, who is more or less a super hero who travels around the world saving whomever needs it…for a price. Each story has an obvious moral that comes out after the twists and turns have been navigated by Black Jack. I love this series because you don’t have to get into it to enjoy it. Each story is short and has a heavy moral to pass.
My favorite Tezuka so far however, is his story Dororo. It begins with a man visiting a temple in ancient Japan and asking the demons who dwell there to grant him power. In return for this power he gives his to-be-born son to the demons. They grant this man power, and instead of taking the son, they only take one body part of the son for each of the 48 demons, thus the baby is born with no eyes, no ears, no mouth, no arms, no legs and so on. BUT, after the mother send the child floating down the river (against her will) the baby is found by a doctor who helps him to hone his uncanny ability to function regardless of his missing pieces, and eventually the doctor builds him replacement parts. That baby grows up to become Hyakkimaru.
I love this story because it has a lot of the morals and values one might think to find in samurai teachings. The character described in the previous paragraph, Hyakkimaru, meets up with the young Dororo, a reckless, wild boy whose Samurai-esq parents are now dead. The two of them set off across the land to recover all the body parts that were taken from Hyakkimaru by destroy each of the 48 demons (and many more creatures).
Osamu’s artwork can be so simple, yet so elegant and vast. His story telling is fast paced, which he often jokes about within the story as a sort of wink to the reader saying: “each page costs money to produce, so we can’t show every scene, we’ll just describe it to you.” His heavy emphasis on morals and great, strong, flawed characters is what draws me to his work most. Please go and check out some of his stuff. I recommend Buddha, Black Jack or Dororo for someone who has never read any of Osamu Tezuka‘s work, or even for someone who has!
Until next time!
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