Osamu Tezuka (Japanese: 手塚 治虫,) was a Japanese manga artist, cartoonist, animator, film producer, medical doctor and activist. Born in Osaka Prefecture, his prolific output, pioneering techniques, and innovative redefinitions of genres earned him such titles as “the father of manga”, “the godfather of manga” and “the god of manga”. Additionally, he is often considered the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney, who served as a major inspiration during Tezuka’s formative years.
Tezuka Osamu was born the eldest son of three children on November 3rd, 1928, in Toyonaka City, Osaka. An extremely witty and imaginative boy, he grew up in a liberal family exposed to manga and animation.
As a boy he also had a love for insects reminiscent of Fabre, and, reflecting the level of his interest in the insect world, later incorporated the ideogram for “insect” into his pen name.
Having developed an intense understanding of the preciousness of life from his wartime experience, Tezuka Osamu aimed to become a physician and later earned his license, but ultimately chose the profession he loved best: manga artist and animated film writer.
Tezuka Osamu’s manga and animated films had a tremendous impact on the shaping of the psychology of Japan’s postwar youth. His work changed the concept of the Japanese cartoon, transforming it into an irresistible art form and incorporating a variety of new styles in creating the “story cartoon.” Changing the face of literature and movies, his work also influenced a range of other genres.
During the 1960s Tezuka entered the animation industry in Japan by founding the production company Mushi Productions he would help innovate with industry with the broadcast of the animated version of Astro Boy in 1963. This series would create the first successful model for animation production in Japan and would also be the first Japanese animation dubbed into English for an American audience. Other series were also translated to animation including Jungle Emperor Leo, the first Japanese animated series produced in full color. In the 1970s Mushi Productions would collapse financially and the fallout would produce several influential animation production studios including Sunrise. After Mushi Production’s failure Tezuka would found Tezuka Productions and continue experimenting with animation late into his life.
His impact on animated film was equal to that which he had on the manga world. The lovable characters appearing in works such as Japan’s first animated TV series “ASTRO BOY,” the color animated TV series “Jungle Emperor Leo”, and the two-hour animated special “Bander Book,” captured the hearts of the Japanese through the medium of television, propelling the animated film to tremendous popularity in Japanese general society.
Tezuka Osamu’s work was exported to the U.S., Europe, and other Asian countries, becoming the stuff of dreams for children around the world. He also ventured into the world of full-length adult animation, exploring all possibilities of the field of animation.
In addition to his record of achievement in TV and commercial animation, he also received international acclaim for his work in experimental animation in his later years.
His enduring theme that of the preciousness of life, formed the crux of all of Tezuka Osamu’s works. Tezuka Osamu, creator of a great cultural asset and gifted with an unbeatable pioneering spirit combined with an enduring passion for his work and a consistent view to the future, lived out his entire life tirelessly pursuing his efforts, passing away at the age of 60 on February 8th, 1989.
Tezuka died of stomach cancer in 1989. His death had an immediate impact on the Japanese public. A museum was constructed in Takarazuka dedicated to his memory and life works and Tezuka received many posthumous awards. Several animations were in production at the time of his death along with the final chapters of Phoenix which were never released.