Review
The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution
Aaron H. Bynum · September 16, 2007 | As profound an impact as Osamu Tezuka has had on the artistic and commercial cultures of manga publishing and the production of Japanese animation, it nevertheless remains true that in no place other than Japan is the late Tezuka acknowledged in scholarly media with constant fervour each passing year. A man whose ambition knew no bounds, Osamu Tezuka is one of Japan's most recognizable icons, while at the same time the nation's best-kept secret. He was a veritable "one-man dream factory," as author and translator Frederik L. Schodt wrote in his new book, The Astro Boy Essays. Known to the Western world mostly through his manga creation of a little rosy-cheeked robot boy named Atom, Osamu Tezuka was an individual of colossal imagination.

Stone Bridge Press has recently published The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution by Frederik L. Schodt. A wonderful assemblage of knowledge and research regarding the influence of artist and animator Osamu Tezuka, the book uses the Mighty Atom creative property (known to Westerners as Astro Boy) to perceive, interpret and understand both Tezuka's ingenuity and the evolution of Japan's circulated-comic and moving picture markets.

The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution
Written by Frederik L. Schodt
Published by Stone Bridge Press, 2007
215 pages

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The Astro Boy Essays lends perspective; it traces the personal and professional ambitions of Osamu Tezuka through his creation of Astro Boy, and as a result, traces the evolution and rise of manga and anime. Using Astro Boy, Tezuka's most widely recognized creation, Schodt accurately documents the knowledge, experiences and inspirations of a Japanese artist whose personal meditations have largely been out of the reach of Western readers.

It is often difficult to place an artist of noted talent into perspective. But with engaging examples, meaningful analysis and excellent research, Fred Schodt offers readers a 360-degree perspective of the man whose nation calls him the God of Manga, from Tezuka's being raised in an upper middle-class household devoted to the arts, to his witnessing of the 1945 Tokyo fire-bombings. From the nurturing of his unvarying love for cartooning as a child, to his expansive knack for storytelling as an adult that covered any variety of genres, mostly for the first time, Osamu Tezuka was both an artist and an intellectual.

Developing a worldview that was both cynical and poetic, Osamu Tezuka's storytelling intricately breathed life into his many manga and anime creations. One of those creations was the story of Astro Boy, a futuristic tale of human imperfection that is equally as fun and exciting as it is violent and tragic. It is an adventure comic so imbued by the passion of its creator that Japanese writers have fielded the manga's anecdotes on progressivism, social discrimination and objectivity many times over.

Tezuka drew influence and innovation from an unfathomable number of sources (Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Takarazuka theatre, Walt Disney, the Second World War), and through these influences Tezuka invented stories, characters and environments as a way to connect with the greater world. As Schodt writes in The Astro Boy Essays, Osamu Tezuka loved to "unleash his imagination," exploring novelistic stories with complex character personalities. "He developed a lifelong interest in the complexity of human nature, a deep belief in the need to communicate with other cultures, and a belief in the power of manga and animation to help do so."

An individual of immense drive who in his late fifties was still cranking out some one hundred pages of manga art each month, Osamu Tezuka was an artist whose talent is highly visible yet whose personal story rarely finds its way into English-language publications. There is a vast pool of untapped wisdom in the experiences of Tezuka, as an artist and as a man; all of which may be lost if you don't have the right lens through which to understand them. Fortunately, with Astro Boy as a guide, model and narrator of Tezuka's experiences in manga and anime production, The Astro Boy Essays solves this problem.
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