on July 6, 2010
Let's just suppose, for the sake of argument, that you wanted to persuade the skeptical of the artistic merit of either manga or anime. There are plenty of accomplished series in both media you could introduce them to, perhaps pointing out the compelling themes and striking imagery in a helpful, over-the-shoulder kind of way. But here's another option: You could simply have them flip through the pages of Helen McCarthy's The Art of Osamu Tezuka for 10 or 15 seconds. If they still don't get it, chances are they're operating under a different conception of what constitutes art in the first place.
Those of a certain age might recall the splash that Christopher Finch's The Art of Walt Disney made back when it first appeared in the 1970s. Here was a comprehensive volume bursting not only with rich colors and impeccable design, but that gathered a wealth of material that otherwise was difficult to access. Moreover, Finch's book hit readers like a cultural ton of bricks: You could really see, firsthand, the impact that Disney had on imagination itself. Well, The Art of Osamu Tezuka does the same thing--times 10. And the nice thing is that it's lacking the hagiographical elements of The Art of Walt Disney--McCarthy's measured prose clearly reflects an admiration for its subject, but it never strays into fannish idolatry.
At risk of wearing out this analogy's welcome, I should point out that this book, unlike Finch's, actually showcases the art of, well, you know, the subject himself, not his production teams or staff animators. Indeed, the argument might be advanced that while Disney and Tezuka's status as pop-culture titans are frequently equated, Disney was a businessman with an artistic sensibility--and Tezuka was the opposite. Certainly this handsome coffee table book proves the point repeatedly. In terms of his manga work, it reaffirms Tezuka's status as a visual genius on par with someone like Will Eisner on at least three levels--as pioneer, draftsman, and storyteller. But in its additional tracing of Tezuka's work in animation, you have to add comparisons to the Fleischer brothers, Chuck Jones, and a host of others as well. In short, every library and school art department should own a copy of this book if for no other reason than to inspire young artists.
Of course one of the most enduring aspects of Tezuka's achievements, and one that's clearly evident here, is the way that they could shift between adult and child audiences without missing a beat, producing classic characters and narratives for both. When Tezuka tried to change horses midstream is when he could run into trouble, as McCarthy is quick to note in terms of how the attempt to make Astro Boy darker or more conflicted turned off many fans. But when one observes the full tonal spectrum of the individual works on display in this book, a spectrum that encompasses the cuteness of Kimba the White Lion and the homicidal madness of M/W, Tezuka's emotional range can't help but astound. In fact, even if you peruse McCarthy's book without prior knowledge of the God of Manga's work, you'd still be left with the sense that his was an authentic and holistic humanism because he was never afraid to embrace the polar opposites that are contained in each of us. As a result, Tezuka's artistic sensibility remains a forceful argument for why there can't be light without darkness, and vice versa.
Aside from its thematic and generic diversity, Tezuka's output was also extraordinary in terms of its sheer volume. Surely it's a daunting task whenever an author must distill decades of accomplishments into a single overview, but McCarthy's achievement in compilation is nothing short of mind-blowing. As she points out, over his lifetime Tezuka produced some "170,000 pages of comic art in around 700 different titles." And remember, that's just manga. The fact that McCarthy also culled the best of his animation cels, posters, illustration, juvenilia, and other forms of artwork is just one more reason that it's hard to imagine a more visually comprehensive and well-researched volume ever appearing in English again.
How did Tezuka manage to be so singularly prolific? That question is tackled in the eye-opening DVD that is included with The Art of Osamu Tezuka. A large part of it is dedicated to footage shot by a Japanese documentary crew that was able to gain access to his carefully guarded, isolation chamber-like personal studio. Or maybe "gain access" is not the right way to put it: Tezuka only allowed living and breathing people to enter the space insofar as they were installing cameras and mirrors (to capture him from different angles). The result is a staggering portrait of personal discipline, as Tezuka is captured working on multiple projects with barely a moment's interruption. You almost want to laugh out loud when his wife finally appears--her role at their home more like than of a proprietor at a favorite inn that he occasionally visits.
Finally, where most critical biographies end at the subject's death followed by a brief, inevitably upbeat wrap-up, The Art of Osamu Tezuka continues at length, gauging the artist's influence not just in imaginative literature, but in fields such as robotics and medicine. In addition, it even features a section on criticisms of Tezuka and his legacy. Somehow, though, that seems just like how he would have wanted this book to conclude--by adding the requisite darkness to go along with all the blindingly bright light that precedes it.
-- Peter Gutiérrez
on December 13, 2012
Amazon had this book on sale for $2.66! An amazing steal! A friend told me about the sale and while I have never been into Manga and don't really know much at all about Osamu Tezuka, I figured for two dollars and sixty six cents, I could afford to learn. It's a lovely book with a heavy duty clear plastic protective cover. The book's contents are also interesting. Focusing on Tezuka's childhood and then moving on to his early work with things like Kimba and then to his more contemporary work with plenty of art and photos befitting a coffe table art book of this sort. I was surprised to find that the book comes with a DVD documentary on Tezuka. It's a fascinating look at his artistic process, how he holds up in a small apartment tenemant in a room with an old record player(on which he plays different records depending on what style of manga he's drawing) and a small television set. No one is allowed to come into his workspace but he allowed remote cameras to be set up to watch him in action. Even though I'm only two thirds of the way finished with the book, I have to say that I am really enjoying it. I can't say I would have been motivated to buy this book had it not been on sale at such a crazy low price. Not knowing anything about Tezuka, I also can't speak to whether or not the author gets is right although it seems like a well written and researched book. However, I can say that this is a quality book and definitely worth the regular asking price of 20 to 30 dollars.
on January 10, 2010
I bought this book after seeing the excellent Astro Boy movie, and I have to say that it's worth every dollar. It's exhaustively researched and richly illustrated, and gives a reader curious about the life and work of Japan's "God of Manga", Osamu Tezuka, plenty to chew on. My only caveat is that the comics included in the book are often untranslated, even the ones pertaining to Astro Boy, and that was bit disappointing. But that's a small quibble; overall I really enjoyed this book.
on June 11, 2011
This is a meaty, beautiful, comprehensive book of the life of one of the greatest comic artists of all time, Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka is known in Japan as the "God of Manga" due to his outsized influence on the massive Japanese comics industry. He was a pioneer in the artform during the post-war occupation. Sadly he only lived some 60 years, but his output was prolific, over 170,000 pages. He is unjustly unknown in the U.S.
This mighty tome covers his life in great detail, but more important, has hundreds of pages of his best characters and art. Calling him a "Japanese Walt Disney" is praise too faint. He created scores of characters, his own "studio system" of regulars that he wove throughout his stories. This book discusses all of them and the themes that he was exploring with his work.
The author includes a DVD which is dated, but in a way that is perfect for setting the stage and giving us an appreciation for what a mighty artist he was. The book pays homage to Tezuka's greatness, but at the same time spends a few pages discussing his critics.
If you've never read his works, I'd recommend the "Buddha" series, "Apollo's Song" and "Ayako" for adults. These are his most serious works. He is also famous for Astro Boy, although his character is nothing like the one in the recent US animated feature.
This is a great book about a great man- whose last recorded words on his deathbed were "I'm begging you, let me work."
on July 10, 2010
My boyfriend is a huge fan of Osamu Tezuka's Buddha comics series, so I wanted to get him a cool coffee table book that features that comic as well as Astroboy, which he is also a fan of. The book is very comprehensive, detailing Osamu's childhood, his primary sketches, and all the details about the influences on creating his comics. There is also a dvd that accompanies the book. I don't know much about manga, but after flipping through the book, and seeing all the detail, it makes me more appreciative of the art of creating comics. The artist is very skilled and the book is well put together for anyone who is a fan of manga and Tezuka's work.