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Creator / Osamu Tezuka

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It's no ordinary mangaka who gets his face and his characters on stamps!

"Manga is virtual. Manga is sentiment. Manga is resistance. Manga is bizarre. Manga is pathos. Manga is destruction. Manga is arrogance. Manga is love. Manga is kitsch. Manga is sense of wonder. Manga is... there is no conclusion yet."

Osamu Tezuka (November 3, 1928 - February 8, 1989), a.k.a. The Father of Manga, is widely credited for laying the foundations for much, if not most, of modern Japanese comics and animation. His prolific output and activity throughout the years has been legendary in the industry, with only a fraction having even been translated for foreign consumption. He created over 700 comics with more than 150,000 pages total, the second TV anime ever made, the first one with an episode length of 25 minutes, and the very first Shoujo. His production spans more or less every conceivable genre, and is sometimes so complex it does it in the same manga.

The Elvis of Japanese manga and anime, just that instead of being inspired by blues, he was inspired by various different influences, both Japanese (traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e art, and the wide-eyed art styles appearing around the 1920's-1930's from Shoujo manga artists like Junichi Nakahara and Kamishibai paper theater shows like Jungle Boy) and American (the 1930's-1940's Golden Age Animations from Disney, Fleischer, and Terrytoons). He would go on to form his animation studio Mushi Productions in 1961. Mushi would be the first company to employ many of the techniques found in most anime productions today, including the adoption of several Limited Animation tricks.

Tezuka re-uses quite a few of his own characters, as well as making expies of them via his "Star System", inspired by the Hollywood Star System. If you want an overview of his work that you can carry on hand, check out the book The Art of Osamu Tezuka.

The official Japanese website for Osamu Tezuka and his works can be viewed here (available in both English and Japanese) known as "Tezuka Osamu Official". Alongside an English fansite called "Tezuka in English" (which Tezuka Productions would occasionally acknowledge on social media). Tezuka Productions also has an official Youtube channel available in English and Japanese which posts videos and news focusing on his works.

His works include:

Tropes associated with the work of Osamu Tezuka:

  • Anyone Can Die: Even in his child-oriented works, he doesn't hesitate to confront the audience with the death of beloved characters. He even killed off Astro Boy and only brought him back after massive backlash from fans.
  • All-Loving Hero: Astro Boy and especially Unico are two of Tezuka's most idealistic and hopeful works. Both protagonists of their respective mangas are very compassionate and open to helping out others, which even extends to a few villains. Both characters aren't fond of using violence towards others and prefer taking a non-violent approach (such as talking them down), Unico's unlimited compassion and empathy are put to the test in Unico in the Island of Magic where he tries his hardest to avoid attacking Kuruku after learning his backstory.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: Some of his mature and dramatic works still feature cartoonish cutesy art. Like for example, his manga adaptation of Crime and Punishment.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In Octagon Manor, republished within The Crater, a disenchanted young manga artist travels to said manor, a place where it's said you can change your life by placing your mind into another timeline. However, he is warned, you can only do this once, and must never regret your actions for a moment or you'll be ripped apart. Entering the manor, he is placed into the timeline of a champion boxer and hero to children...but finds himself manipulated into throwing a match and wrecking his career by his crooked fiancee. In despair, he wishes he'd become a manga artist, as he wanted to when he was a boy, can guess the rest.
  • Badass Adorable: Tezuka is notable for creating very heroic protagonists (such as Astro Boy, Bokko/Captain Bunny, Unico, and Kimba) who are not only extremely cute, but are capable of taking dangerous tasks.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Frequently. He even has a character based on himself in different roles, for example, a cameo as a taxi driver in Adolf or as a nameless mangaka who gets involved in a story in Black Jack. In reprints of Astro Boy, he is seen discussing the stories with Astro as a sort of introduction.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: His entire body of work shifts back and forth from seriousness to silliness. A specific work of his that would qualify on his own is The Crater, with many gags, bizarre supernatural plots and Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: His author avatar is one, often played as a Small Name, Big Ego Large Ham. His Real Life obsession with art, working, and insects might indicate a case of Truth in Television.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Tezuka admits in the introductions on one of his early Astro Boy stories (which can be found in the Astro Boy Omnibus) that his stories tended to be of uneven quality, and that he isn't proud of some of them.
    • According to a commentary on one of the '60s Astro Boy DVD boxsets, Osamu Tezuka hated one particular episode, "Midoro Swamp" aka "The Beast from 20 Fathoms". He farmed out the episode to a group of young anime/manga students, and the results dissatisfied him so much, that he personally destroyed every possible copy he could find. Unfortunately for him, a copy of that episode had already been shipped to the U.S. and dubbed (and would later resurface as a "Lost Episode" of the series on VHS), and the Japanese soundtrack (but not the footage) still exists and was included as an extra in the episodes release on the Astro Boy DVD sets.
    • Also, there are a handful of stories he wrote that he permanently pulled from circulation (i.e. not available, even in compilation form) due to said stories not being up to his usual standards.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Medical knowledge (Tezuka was a trained surgeon), animals and nature.
  • Crossdresser: Pick a Tezuka character, any female Tezuka character. Yeah, there's a 70% chance that they have crossdressed at some point.
  • Darker and Edgier: He went with the general taste shift of the public towards more mature themes (gekiga) during the end of the 60s with works such as MW and Ayako.
    • This is now considered an important decision in the history of manga: Tezuka, who was and still is the most influential and popular mangaka in Japan virtually made the Gekigaka's themes suitable for the mainstream market. On the long term this prevented anime and manga from falling into the Animation Age Ghetto in Japan.
  • Disneyesque: Part of his art style is this, his female characters in particular. The rest is much more reminiscent to the zany, extravagant Mind Screw Fleischer Studios cartoons.
  • Fan Art: He loved the Disney Duck family stories by Carl Barks and frequently sent greeting cards to him with his own drawings of them interacting with his own characters.
  • Fan Disservice: If (female) nudity is involved in one of his works, then you can be sure there is some kind of cruel rape or disturbing torture or death scene somewhere near the next page.
    • Sometimes it's just plain bizarre: In Ode to Kirihito, a woman mastered a risky stunt in which she is fried when stark naked.
  • Furry Fandom: If the recent discovery is any indication.
    • Not that surprising anymore if you already saw the shapeshifting snake girls in "1001 Night".
    • Another good clue would be the sheer amount of animal characters he used in his stories.
  • Green Aesop: Lots and lots, especially Unico, Astro Boy, and Kimba.
  • Kid Hero: Astro Boy (A robot-boy), Unico (a baby unicorn) and Kimba (A lion cub, at least for most of the story), who are often considered three of his most iconic characters. There is also Kenichi (a recurring character from many of his stories), and Sapphire from Princess Knight (Who is only 15 years old), among many others.
  • Improvised Lightning Rod: Used in the Tear Jerker ending of Movement 1 in the unfinished Legend of the Forest.
  • Innocent Aliens: The alien trio from W3 (The Amazing 3) are a group of aliens disguised as a duck, horse, and rabbit. The trio befriend a human and go on adventures on Earth and learn about humanity and human life during their travels.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: As part of Tezuka's fondness of creating idealistic and friendly protagonists. He would really empathize their innocence and pureness towards others.:
    • Despite being a robot, Astro Boy is a strong believer of being non-violent and manages to see some goodness inside some of his enemies and antagonists. The finale for the 2003 incarnation even featured Astro forgiving Dr. Tenma by giving him a hug.
    • As a cub Kimba/Leo is pure and innocent... until he reaches adulthood. While he retains most of his innocence in the manga, there is no trace of it to be found in the Onward Leo series. The 1989 anime, shows traces of Kimba's pureness and innocence, though he struggles with incredibly violent instincts.
    • Unico the Unicorn is considered to be the most innocent and purest of Tezuka's characters. His level of compassion and kindness is even higher than Astro Boy. Unico doesn't like seeing anyone in pain and/or suffering (either physical and mental) whether they're good or evil, which causes him to show visible concern for them. He even forgives Lord Kuruku in the 1983 feature film for turning everybody into puppets and successfully befriending a giant demon monster in the 2000 short film.
  • Living Legend: Gekiga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi covered this in his autobiography A Drifting Life: Tezuka was considered a god-like genius by his peers even before he hit age 30 or became a national icon.
    • His eventual death almost overshadowed the death of Emperor Hirohito, who died the month before him. Nowadays Tezuka is strongly associated with the Showa period and as the 90s were coined by recession, his death is coincident with the End of an Era.
  • Martial Pacifist: While Astro Boy and Unico's levels of compassion are unlimited, both characters aren't afraid of using violence as a final resort when their peaceful non-violent approach toward villains and antagonists doesn't work out. In Unico's case, he's horrified after noticing how badly he wounded The Baron in "The Cat on The Broomstick" chapter and 1981 movie, and apologizes to Kuruku after hurting him during the 1983 film's climax.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: While he would occasionally make manga and animated content for older audiences (such as Dororo, Black Jack, A Thousand & One Nights, Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature, and Cleopatra: Queen Of Sex). He's well-known for creating unique stories for children that can be enjoyed by both children and adults (such as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Unico) while not shying away from darker subject matter and complex situations. A majority of Tezuka's works are aimed at general audiences which mainly focuses on idealistic aspects (such as love, caring for others, forgiveness, and hope) with the darker and sadder elements popping up depending on the story. His ability to create works that could either be geared towards children, adults, and sometimes both is a major factor for why he's very respected in Japan and the anime and manga community.
  • Pun-Based Title: Monster of the 38th Parallel. You have to be very old to get the reference (selfsame parallel refers to The Korean War) and fluent in Japanese (度 could also mean "degree" instead of "parallel", referring to human fever temperature — the manga has a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot).
  • Public Service Announcement: Between the 1970s and 1980s, Tezuka created a series of posters featuring Astro Boy, Black Jack, Kimba the White Lion, and Unico to raise awareness of fire safety in Japan.
  • Raygun Gothic: Most of his works are known for this aesthetic.
  • Reused Character Design: Tezuka never made up a new character design if he could recycle an old one. Essentially, his characters were "actors" playing different roles in his various manga.
  • Red Baron: Manga no Kami-Sama, meaning "God of comics". Often narrowly translated as "God of manga".
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Out of all his characters, Unico (alongside Katy the Cat, Corn/Kon (Unico's sister), and Marusu the Sphinx Cub) from the Unico series is one of Tezuka's cutest characters. Helped that Unico was created in 1976, when cuteness was starting to become popular in Japan.
    • The same goes for Bokko from The Amazing 3 (W3/Wonder 3) who is a female alien disguised as a rabbit to learn about life on earth.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Varies depending on the work. Astro Boy and Unico generally has an optimistic tone, while the infamous Alabaster is downright nihilistic. Black Jack is well-regarded for sliding the scale up and down.
  • Strictly Formula: Somehow he managed to avert this, but there his full-length stories are usually consisting of multiple sub-plots — with sometimes each one having a distinctive protagonist — that later resolve in a Grand Finale.
    • He somewhat lampshaded his signature style in Apollo's Song, which is essentially the same story with the same characters in completely different settings.
  • Trope Codifier: Of nothing less than the entire Anime industry. He also made Ur Examples of "Graphic Novels" years before the term was coined and is the Trope Maker of many narrative and illustration techniques in manga and anime. His single most important technical innovation was his signature "cinematographic" style, which basically means that a single action is drawn over the course of multiple panels, which was nothing but revolutionary in the world of comics. This technique was ridiculed by established mangaka of the 50s as a waste of space but he was Vindicated by History. And how.
  • War Is Hell: Almost every single work of his deals with this at one point, it's possibly the most important and universal theme of his oeuvre.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • When he met Walt Disney while promoting Astro Boy, they talked about making a movie together. It never got past that and Disney's death sealed its fate, but the thought of such collaboration should make any animation fan's brains explode.
    • Stanley Kubrick wanted him to do art direction for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Tezuka declined because he didn't want to spend a year overseas away from drawing manga.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Obviously Astro Boy, but also Metropolis and others.
  • World of Ham: Subtle delivery wasn't something his characters were too interested in.