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Osamu Tezuka: The Walt Disney of Japan

BY Dipanjana Mukherjee September 13, 2019
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Osamu Tezuka.

Osamu Tezuka. (Unknown)

Osamu Tezuka, also known as the ‘Walt Disney of Japan’ was a renowned manga craftsman, sketch artist, artist, and filmmaker. He was born on 3rd November 1928, in Toyonaka, Osaka (Japan). His productive yield, spearheading strategies, and creative redefinitions of classifications earned him high accolades and he came to be regarded as the ‘The Father of Manga’.

He is frequently viewed as the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney, who filled in as a noteworthy inspiration during Tezuka’s developmental years. Tezuka didn’t just change the fate of manga, he practically transformed anime into the global phenomenon that it is today. Tezuka started what was known as the manga insurgency in Japan with his “New Treasure Island” which was distributed in 1947. 

Early Life: From being bullied to finding solace in Disney

Tezuka was the oldest child of Yutaka and Fumiko Tezuka. The Tezuka family was prosperous and knowledgeable. While his father Yutaka worked in the executives at Sumitomo Metals, his mother’s family had long served the military. At the age of five, Tezuka’s family moved to the town of Kohama, in Hyogo prefecture (present-day city of Takarazuka). When he was seven, he got admitted to Osaka city Ikeda primary school. Because of his diminutive stature, he was tormented a great deal in school.

Tezuka’s father was a massive fan of comics and enlivened motion pictures, and he would do a private screening of films he purchased at his home. When his father first introduced him to Disney films, he ended up fixated on the movies and started to imitate them. He became huge Disney motion pictures fan himself, seeing the movies on numerous occasions in succession. His favourite Disney film was Bambi, which he watched countless times. His mother was a decent storyteller, and would recount stories to a young Tezuka. This initiation to storytelling at a formative age, later enabled Tezuka to compose story-length funnies, which were as energizing as viewing a motion picture. Tezuka was also fascinated by the works of Suiho Tagawa and Unno Juza. 

Becoming the Godfather of Manga

Throughout his illustrious career, Tezuka was involved in numerous projects which were integral in the Manga revolution in Japan. His amazing yield would bring forth perhaps the most compelling, fruitful, and generally welcomed manga arrangements, including most notably “Jungle Emperor”, “Astro Boy”, “Tetsuwan Atom”, “Black Jack”, “Magma Taishi”, “Mitsume ga tooru” “Message to Adolf”, “Pheonix” and “Buddha“- all of which won several accolades with “Pheonix” being his masterpiece. Throughout his profession, Tezuka made and composed more than 700 manga arrangements- involving 170,000 pages of drawings, and another 200,000 pages of anime storyboards and contents.

Production career: Creating a living picture

Tezuka entered the animation industry in 1961 and founded Mushi Productions. With his initial innovations and experiments, “Astro Boy” was broadcasted in 1963 as the first locally delivered energized program on Japanese TV. The 30-minute program lasted for endless weeks on TV (of which 193 scenes were created) served as a catalyst for the anime wave in Japan. “Astro Boy” wound up one of the best manga and anime establishments and sold more than 100 million copies around the world, making it the tenth-top rated manga arrangement ever. It has been highlighted on various ‘Most Noteworthy Anime Ever’ records and has inspired a slew of creators in their own work. It also became the first Japanese anime series to be broadcast overseas

“Jungle Emperor” is also a notable mention for becoming the first Japanese animated series to be produced in full colour. In 1968, Osamu Tezuka founded a Japanese animation studio named Tezuka Productions Co. Ltd. The studio is extremely popular for having animated the likes of the “Astro Boy” series, “Marvelous Melmo”, and “Dear Brother”, to name a few.

The Walt Disney of Japan: Influences of Disney in Tezuka’s works

Osamu Tezuka is not just viewed as a manga artist with one of the most extensive bodies of work, but also as one of the most lauded in the field. His signature style borrowed from Walt Disney, the method of drawing characters with the enormous rounded expressive eyes which tell a story of their own. The Vitalist idea of life left a profound impression on Tezuka as well. The impact of Walt Disney upon Tezuka’s style and creative vision is enormous. Since early on, Tezuka had a resolute dedication to Disney, and even as a grown-up, he continued to watch Bambi on different occasions. The impact of Disney goes further into the topical level by taking references from Bambi into his own work, for instance, in “Jungle Emperor”.

Personal life and interests

In 1959, Tezuka wedded Etsuko Okada at a Takarazuka Hotel. Their child Makoto Tezuka went on to become a movie and anime director. Tezuka also guided some notable personalities such as Shotaro Ishinomori and Go Nagai. 

The Japanese artist also had a keen interest in Baseball and authorized the “grown-up” variant of his character Kimba the White Lion as the logo for the Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. As mentioned previously, he was an avid follower of Walt Disney and in 1964, he got the opportunity to finally meet his idol at the New York World’s Fair. In 1986, Tezuka expressed that Disney needed to enlist him for a potential sci-fi venture. Tezuka was an enthusiast of the Superman franchise and was made a privileged executive of the Superman Fan Club in Japan.

Death and legacy of the “Father of Manga”

Osamu Tezuka passed away on February 9, 1989, at the age of 60 in Osaka Honshu, leaving behind a legacy that would inspire future artists, filmmakers, and manga-enthusiasts to follow his footsteps. Artists, for example, Akira Toriyama (“Dr. Droop”, “Lady Red”, “Dragon Ball”) have been indebted to Tezuka for stylistic inspiration and motivation for their work. 

In 1990, The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo organized an open display of Dr. Tezuka’s works in 1990. It was the first-ever for a commercial manga artist. The Japanese government released stamps to commemorate him in 1997. From 2003, the Japanese toy organization Kaiyodo started producing a progression of figurines delineating Tezuka’s art. The impact that Tezuka has left on manga artists is unquestionable, and his contributions in the industry that led to anime and manga becoming the global phenomenon that it is today, is incomparable.


Fact Analysis:
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