Posted by marc April 18, 2016
The Osamu Tezuka Story Review

When you ask a Japanophile to think of a few artists off the top of his head, you might hear the names of Katsushio Otomo, Masamune Shirow, and Akira Toriyama, but you'll definitely hear Osamu Tezuka's name. More of less the Japanese Walt Disney, Tezuka's obsession with comics as a child, combined with support from his family and teachers, lead to worldwide success. From his Astro Boy / Mighty Atom, Phoenix, and Unico manga series in Japan, to their cartoon adaptations aired in the US, to modern day movies like the CGI Astro Boy and Disney's unabashed rip-off of Kimba the White Lion, his legacy will far outlast his 1989 death. A manga biography written and drawn by Tezuka's own company and his former assistant, The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime was originally published in Japan back in 1992. For decades it remained in Japan, untranslated. Stone Bridge Press of Berkeley, CA are changing that on July 12, 2016 with a translation by Frederik L. Schodt, who worked with Tezuka personally.

Review copies of the manga feature select passages from the 900+ page book. In the final edition, Osamu's story will begin even earlier, but my copy begins with Tezuka being caught drawing manga in school as a young boy. Apparently his work was impressive, because after scolding him, his teachers encouraged him to continue drawing in hopes of making a career out of his art. The book also deals with parts of Tezuka's life that aren't related to manga but surely had an influence on his work. For example, during World War II, he witnessed hoards of civilians taking shelter under a large bridge during a bombing, only to have the bridge itself bombed, collapsing and killing them. The passages go on to highlight how much the artist loved animation and how he would ditch work to go to the movies. Given that the book was written by those close to him, I can only assume that the remaining chapters are a rather exhaustive retelling of Tezuka's life. In fact, the dialog is sprinkled with actual quotes by Osamu Tezuka himself. And for the sake of thoroughness, there are plenty of citations and footnotes. That's how serious the producers took this project.

The art itself looks like it was drawn by Tezuka himself. Toshio Ban, who illustrated the book, worked as one of Tezuka's assistants and later produced manga for magazines as part of Tezuka Productions Co. The art - to my eyes - has not been altered from the original 1992 edition (short of replacing the speech and though bubble text of course). While it might look basic by today's standards, glancing back at early '90s hand drawn manga is a breath of fresh air. Similar to Tezuka's quotes in the dialog, some images are lifted from real life examples rather than redrawn, which is a nice effect. In short, any fan of Tezuka will appreciate this art style, especially given the provenance of Toshio Ban.

At only $30 for over 900 pages of animation history, The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime is a steal and is a must for any fan of vintage manga and Japanese pop culture. You can pre-order a copy autographed by Fredrick L. Schodt for $22.46 diretly from Stone Bridge or you can pre-order it at full price from Amazon.


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