Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution
by Frederik L. Schodt
The pioneering genius of Japan’s “God of Comics,” Osamu Tezuka (1928–89), is examined through his life’s masterwork: Tetsuwan Atomu, also known as Mighty Atom or Astro Boy, a comic series featuring a cute little android who yearns to be more human. The history of Tetsuwan Atomu and Tezuka’s role in it is a road map to understanding the development of new media in Japan and the United States. Topics include Tezuka’s life, the art of animation, the connection between fantasy robots and technology, spin-offs, and Astro Boy’s cultural impact.
Fred Schodt is the author of Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga and Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics as well as the translator of the US editions of Phoenix and Astro Boy. He was also a personal friend of Tezuka’s, and served as his translator when Tezuka visited America.
In his long-awaited Astro Boy Essays, Schodt gives a concise and detailed introduction to the life, influence and significance of Tezuka in the history of Japan and the international comics world. Focusing on Tezuka’s best known work, the anti-racist children’s classic Astro Boy, it gives efficient, approachable portraits of Osamu Tezuka’s life and personality, the atmosphere in Japan during and after WWII and their effect on the manga industry, the nightmarish behind-the-scenes production schedule that birthed Japan’s first animated TV series, and the spread of Astro Boy as a Japanese, and later an international symbol of peace, technology, hope for the future, and above all of Japan itself. The rocky history of Astro Boy‘s American distribution gives a fascinating look at the beginnings of American anime fandom, and how many barriers had to be broken to achieve the comparatively-smooth licensing and distribution system in place today.
All the material is presented in a format beginners can understand, but with enough details that even experts will find themselves learning more with every page. Astro Boy Essays is an invaluable contribution to manga scholarship, and provides a window for American otaku to finally learn about the “God” who made anime what it is today.
Schodt, Frederik L. 2007. The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press.