The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, by Frederik L. Schodt. Stone Bridge Press, 2007, 248 pp., $16.95 (paper)

When legendary manga and anime artist Osamu Tezuka visited the 1964 New York World's Fair, he met a man he had long idolized, Walt Disney. Tezuka later enjoyed describing the encounter, and how Disney had praised his Astro Boy animated hit TV series. He would sometimes embellish the tale, too, adding that Disney said he wished he himself had created Astro Boy.

Though Disney's company would later be accused of plagiarizing Tezuka's "Kimba the White Lion" as "The Lion King," Japan's "god of manga" has never been as well known as he deserves among mainstream audiences overseas. Tezuka was a tireless, vastly influential artist without whom the industries now propelling "cool Japan" into the hearts of young people around the world would not exist as we know them. Yet there have been no books written in English that focus on Tezuka himself. Veteran manga chronicler Frederik Schodt's "Astro Boy Essays" is a welcome correction, coming just before the 80th anniversary of Tezuka's birth in 1928.

Using one of Tezuka's most famous characters as a prism to view the man, this is a unique, engaging work that no one else could have written, peppered with anecdotes like the Disney conversation. Schodt was Tezuka's translator, interpreter and friend. In the 1970s, he became hooked on manga and asked Tezuka for permission to translate his work. Their relationship continued for more than a decade until Tezuka's death, giving Schodt numerous insights into the mind of a man he calls a "true genius."