Founding father

Referring to an artist as ‘the Walt Disney of Japan’ and ‘the God of manga’ conjures high expectations. The late Osamu Tezuka wore the appellations well. An illustrator, writer, animator, trained doctor, designer and entrepreneur, he created two companies, dozens of animated films and series, and more than 150 000 pages of comic art in his lifetime, including Astro Boy and TV series Kimba the White Lion. Despite his obvious success, the extent of Tezuka’s talent is not fully appreciated outside of Japan. Helen McCarthy, author of The Art of Osamu Tezuka/ God of Manga, believes this is partly due to the lack of translated material, but also because Tezuka preceded the ‘cool Japan’ and manga boom of the late 1990s. When researching Tezuka, McCarthy realised that ‘he was much bigger than I had given him credit for’. ‘It’s difficult to find a single influential figure in animation and comics in Japan who does not trace their experience back to Tezuka,’ she explains. His influence also spread beyond comics and animation. He was respected by the Tokyo literati, and for his film criticism and other written work he had an international reputation – Stanley Kubrik asked him to work on 2001: The Space Odyssey, for example – and many of Japan’s top scientists today attribute their careers to Tezuka’s comics. From an early age, Tezuka had an understanding for pacing a story and placing things on the page, says McCarthy, who also greatly admired his illustration and design work on logos, book covers and posters. ‘As a designer he’s very witty and varied, and I adore his illustration,’ adds McCarthy. ‘We could well be looking at a wider appreciation of one of the 20th century’s great pop culture figures – I really do hope so.’

The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga by Helen McCarthy, priced £25, is published on 16 November by The Ilex Press

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