Jenny Hasae

Tezuka Osamu (1928-1989), The God of Manga

But… first of all, what is manga? 

Manga is Japanese comic strips, usually drawn in black white to save the printing cost. We read from right to left. Manga consists in an immersive storytelling through pictures, where images rule supreme. We rely more on the images than on the text. Narrative is created through expressive line drawing with the visual development of individual characters*.

Sound effects are often drawn into the composition of manga, making them part of the image, and onomatopoeia is also used to suggest sounds*.

* From the blog ‘An Introduction to Manga’, British Museum.

It’s a big market, now international.

Manga represents more than 40 % of the Japanese book market, with more than 370 million manga books sold in 2021 (676 billion yen in 2021, 4,7 millions euros). In comparison, in the Netherlands, 43 million books all categories were sold in 2021.

Manga is divided to genres

There is a manga for everyone: for kids, shônen (teenagers boys), shôjo (teenagers girls), josei (women), boys love, gekiga, adventure, sports, comedy, history, SF…! Don’t think manga is for kids! More than 50% are manga for university students or adults.

And now… who is Tezuka Osamu?

He always wear a beret hat, is called in Japan as the “God of manga”. There is no mangaka after WW2 who was not influenced by him. He is the father of the modern Japanese manga, because he introduced after WW2 many innovative drawing techniques and new subjects such as ethics or sexuality, which interest older people than kids.

He was born in a liberal and educated family and grew up in Takarazuka, a new town next to Osaka, futuristic for this period. He was given, when he was 7 years old, a Mickey Mouse comic book. That’s how he got the fire for comic books and how he learned to draw. His father was an amateur photograph and bought a projector in the 1930’s, when Osamu was 9 years old. Osamu grew up watching Disney’s animations. He watched 50 times “Snow White”, 80 times “Bambi”! After high school, he studied medecine at the university, he graduated in 1951.

In 1947, when he was still a student in medecine, he published his second manga called Shin-Takarajima (New Treasure Island). It was a big success, the title rapidly sold 400 000 copies! Lauching the akahon (red books, cheap storybooks) and the manga market. After this success, he decided to be a mangaka, not a doctor. He realized it is possible to have impact with manga, so it’s possible to help humanity, to make a better humanity, with manga. He is super prolific: he made no less than 700 manga during his short life (he died when he was 61 years old) and drew 150 000 pages of manga. He had also an animation studio and made many animation movies. He invented all the genres, for kids, teenagers, girls, adventure, SF, medical thriller, horror, history …

He used to work in an apartment where nobody could enter in, except his wife. He is known to work very hard, without rest, without eating good when he is busy. He is also known to run late to meet the deadline. He always says that what is important in manga is not the drawings, but the stories. If you have a good story, you can make a good manga. He had so many stories in his head that, according to him, he could « bargain » them. And actually, he could draw very well. For example, when he was a child, he was a fan of insects and drew many insects in a very realistic style. For the anecdote, he loved so much the insects that he added the kanji « mushi » (= insects) to his name.