“Manga” comic artist Osamu Tezuka has been dead 19 years, but the creator of Astro Boy remains the focus of attention of young people and versions of his works reissued this year line the shelves of bookstores.
Astro Boy, or Mighty Atom, Tezuka’s most famous creation, emerged in 1952 as a sequel to science-fiction manga Captain Atom and lasted until 1968. Astro Boy also appeared on TV in 1963 as Japan’s first animated program.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of Tezuka’s birth. He was born in November 1928, graduated from Osaka University with a medical degree and left behind a legacy as a manga master, animator and producer before his death in 1989.
As young people’s interest in things Tezuka has grown, Shogakukan Inc. reissued three of his works, including “Kirihito Sanka” (“Ode to Kirihito”) in March along with commentary.
Publisher Goma-Books followed with a reprint of “Ribon no Kishi” (“Princess Knight”). It also published “Tezuka Osamu World,” a collection of the last installments of his representative pieces.
Commenting on the popularity of Tezuka’s reissued manga, an editor at a publishing house said the best-selling writers of today can’t keep up with the pace of his works hitting bookstores.
Events celebrating Tezuka’s birth and works were held in November and more take place this month.
A symposium was held at the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, on Nov. 3, the date he was born. Manga artist Reiji Matsumoto was among those who attended.
A new “kyogen” noh comedy featuring Tezuka’s “Black Jack” science-fiction manga as its motif is slated for Dec. 19 and 20.
Tezuka displayed his medical knowledge in portraying Black Jack as a talented surgeon who practiced illegally, and used radical and supernatural skills to fight mystery diseases.
Tezuka’s die-hard fans in their 40s and 50s who read his manga in serial form in magazines are making way for younger fans, including teenagers who learned about him through “anime” and at libraries.
Some tapped Tezuka Productions to learn more about him and his works.
A motion picture based on his work “MW” will be released next year. The main character in “MW,” which ran in serialized form from 1976 to 1978, is a diligent, efficient banker on the one hand and a brutal killer on the other.
Shinzo Matsuhashi, who produced the film, said it will appeal to viewers during this time of global tension.
Speaking on the universality of Tezuka’s creations, associate professor Yukari Fujimoto of Meiji University said the artist had a firm view of the world “at the bottom.”
“The dualism of his characters torn between good and evil has the power to draw the young people of today,” Fujimoto said.
Active research into and discussions on Tezuka’s works are under way. Some people take exception to views that his “Shin Takarajima” (“New Treasure Island”), regarded as his beginning in effect as a manga creator, was the starting point of all manga in postwar Japan.
In a critical biography titled “Tezuka Osamu” published in September by Minerva Publishing Co., Doshisha University professor Osamu Takeuchi cast a spotlight on Tezuka when he was in a slump in the late 1950s in the face of the emergence of “gekiga” narrative comic strips.
“He never neglected (making) superhuman efforts behind the scenes,” Takeuchi said.
Fujimoto said Tezuka “was inducted into the hall of fame as the god of manga, but has since become the subject of more down-to-earth discussion. However, he’s undoubtedly the most important postwar manga artist.”