|"Walt Disney of Japan", "God of Comics", "A Legend in his Own Time". Many of these phrases will forever be used to describe Dr. Tezuka, but mere words cannot even begin to describe his work, or how it changed an industry, or even the incredible wealth of material produced by this one man. While there isn't enough room here to tell his entire life story, suffice to say that Tezuka literally INVENTED anime. Tetsuwan Atomu (Mighty Atom, known here in the USA as Astroboy) was the first popular animation program, and Astro continues to this day to be the most recognizable animation character, second only to Mickey Mouse. The theme song continues to play at school sporting events in Japan. Tezuka was a manga artist with no equal, his body of work surpasses the combined output of almost everyone who came after.
Furthermore, Tezuka directed the first X-rated animated film, and dabbled extensively in experimental and independent animation efforts being a member of ASIFA and being the first animation artist recognized outside of Japan. (to this day, only Tezuka and Miyazaki are internationally known names). Although he never actively practiced medicine, he received a doctorate in human anatomy in 1958, (as if his achievements in the fields of manga and anime were not enough!).
Dr. Tezuka is known in Japan as manganokamisama which literally translates as "god of comics". His work continues to influence and inspire every artist in Japan, as every anime or manga that EVER uses "large eyes" to make the characters more appealing pays homage to Tezuka, as he was the one who started that trend (alternately, he was influenced by the works of Max and Dave Fleischer, who created Betty Boop). Tezuka created the film-language of anime, and every convention and standard that sets anime apart from non-anime animation holds true to his ideals.
During the 1950's, Princess Knight was first serialized in magazine. Subsequently in the following decades had a couple of re-writes, reprints, sequel, and even an anime series/movie in the 1960's. The definitive for this story became cemented with a later edition that Vertical's current English edition translates. Why such a treatment for a title as this?
For one Princess Knight was written by Osama Tezuka, the godfather of manga, and another the time it was written. Back in the 1950's, there weren't much titles available for female reader to enjoy. However, with the release of this title, it became a seed that would inspire a generation of the early shoujo creators. Later shoujo creators would cite this title as being their inspiration.
Gender identity is a label that is given to any living being, based on their physical gender. Biologically it is known as either the XX or the XY chromosome. But what happens if a baby were to have two genders or two hearts? Sapphire is a baby princess who was mistakenly proclaimed a prince, so she lives as a boy by day and a girl by night. Storytelling never describes how physical detail of whether he is a she or she is a he.
Tezuka's artwork is easily distinguishable, and readers are drawn into a story of adventure, comedy, and fantasy. There are many similarities that would have readers react to seeing snippets of Cinderella, Snow White, Swan Lake, and Peter Pan. It still makes Princess Knight a lively read. Since it finishes in only two volumes, reading this definitely is not going to be a challenge for those readers who want to see what is considered to be a character in a time when females were on the cusp of being recognized as their own individual, and genre.
Reviewed by Linda Yau, July 2012
Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature
Ever wondered where the anime-cat-girl thing, so popular in cosplay, got its start? Right here. For furry fanboys, this is their wet-dream come true, as Bagi is a genetically engineered half-girl, half mountain lion and ... wait for it.... Pink! And spends half the movie naked, but then again, so do a lot of furries.
The flick is an early 80's anime, and it shows -- time has not treated the film well stylistically. It's Tezuka after all, so you can expect cartoony. And you can also expect a heavy-handed morality play, like Star Trek TOS always throws at you. And like Frank Gorshin being black on one side and white on the other, Bagi is a morality tale about messing with DNA, and what happens when your creations don't fit in with society's norms.
In other words, not long after Bagi has been raised to adulthood, she escapes, and then everyone is out to kill her unless she can kill them first. And you're rooting for Bagi the whole way because just about everyone who's human is about as unlikable as they get.
And again. It's Tezuka. So while the film visually looks like a klutzy cartoon, the storyline is so dark and depressing you might have to hold yourself back from slashing your own wrists by the end of it. But, love him or hate him, you cannot deny that he pretty much invented everything that is anime. And Bagi is why cat-ear headbands sell like hotcakes.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, November 2010
A diligent and efficient bank employee, Yuuki Michio has another side: that of a cold-blooded kidnapper/torturer/killer who commits crimes one after the other. Yuuki often visits Father Garai at church; repenting for his sins each time he commits a crime.
The two had witnessed a terrible event on Okinomabune Island in the neighboring of Okinawa Island 15 years ago. During the incident, all the island residents were killed by a poisonous gas (called "MW," (Pronounced "Mu") a secret chemical weapon), which leaks from the storage area of American military forces on the island.
Yuuki also goes mad under the affect of the gas, turning him into a brutal sociopath. While taking his revenge on the people who covered up the event (Japanese politicians who were in collusion with American forces), Yuuki finally locates the whereabouts of MW. Knowing that he has little time left, as his brain and heart are increasingly affected by MW, he plans to release MW all over the world when he dies, to bring the whole human race to extinction.
Graphically more adult than any of its predecessors, MW is an allegory about the atomic bomb. The shock and horror of the war have been replaced by the shock and horror of nerve gas/terrorism. The topics it approaches and raises are true adult storytelling. Furthermore, the hero of this story is a gay Catholic priest who used to be Yuuki's lover. And instead of stopping him from committing his crimes, Father Garai actually supports him. In this exceptional work, the author shrewdly reveals through these characters the vulnerability of human beings and the concept of latent "original sin" that lurks inside us.
Yep, this is not your ordinary comic and can only come from the mind of none other than Manganokamisama — Osamu Tezuka himself.
Created during the period of 1976-1978 MW is a shocker, especially for it's time, both in terms of the potential for terrorism and the phsychological effects on the reader, who, in some cultures, might not easily adapt to this nature of storytelling (for example, what would Hollywood do with this plot?)
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2007
Kimba Boxed Set
Anime DVD Review
Who's the king of deepest darkest Africa? Well, it sure ain't Simba — it's KIMBA! Watch the series that Disney shamelessly ripped off to make one of their hottest movies of all time. This classic (from 1965!) Osamu Tezuka anime series was a trend-setting show that gave Japanese animation a strong foothold in America, backed by the voice acting of Astro Boy's Billie Lou Watt.
So crank out this retro-tv-series and re-live your childhood with your kids! Kimba (tv) is 40 years old and still going strong. You may also want to check out the updated Jungle Emperor Leo if your kimba memories are still intact.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, March 2005
Black Jack – Seizure
Anime DVD Review
Straight out of the brilliantly influential and most-loved manga from the universe of Manganokamisama - the legendary Dr. Osamu Tezuka! A brilliant renegade surgeon known only as Black Jack operates outside the law, performing medical miracles and often setting things right in a world where the divide between the "haves" and "have-nots" is too great.
This celebrated anti-hero, who made facial scars cool, has a series of DVDs out by Central Park Media - SEIZURE, INFECTION, and .... Watch them in any order as many of the episodes are self-contained stories and very little background info is needed to figure out what's going on.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, June 2004
Anime DVD Review
Director Rin Taro takes Osamu Tezuka's epic manga METROPOLIS (giving more than a nod to the Fritz Lang film of the same name), and attempts to condense it down to a movie format of under 2 hours, which is a daunting task alone. Additionally the movie breaks new ground in melding computer and cel animation in spectacularly innovative ways. Borrowing heavily from Blade Runner as well as Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo wrote the screenplay), Rin Taro tries to bring all of the Tezuka subplot, intrigue and idea-laden brilliance, but somehow it all gets lost in the opulent visuals. Only on the third or fourth viewing will you begin to understand it all.
It's wonderful to see the classic Tezuka characters animated with this much money behind them, but we must admit that they clash somewhat with all that high-tech 3-D. Nevertheless the film overall is a spectacle, and needs to be seen just for all the work involved - the art direction and design of the film are breathtaking. However, if you really want to delve deeply into the poignant issues presented within the story, read Tezuka's manga instead. This DVD also includes a second "Pocket DVD" which includes some really cool extras.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, November 2002
When I went to film school, we had to study the film pioneers like Chaplin and D.W. Griffith because they essentially created the language of film, that is, they created concepts like closeups, dramatic lighting, pans, zooms, etc., to help move the story along and increase the drama.
So too is Osamu Tezuka, a man who created literally everything we know about manga and anime, who pioneered a language of manga. The way he would lay out a page or even a panel is paramount to moving the story and highlighting the action. And the language he created is never more evident than in Dororo.
Dororo is a thrilling and chilling manga which starts off with the tale of Hyakkimaru, a teenage hero who was robbed of 48 body parts before he was even born. Daigo Kagemitsu, during feudal period Japan's history, sacrificed body parts of his unborn baby to 48 demons in exchange for unstoppable military power.
Born without arms, legs, eyes, ears a nose or mouth, a barely human creature, his father has him thrown in the river, expecting him to perish. What remained of the child is found by a doctor who fashions for him artificial limbs, and when Hyakkimaru comes of age, he embarks on a mission to kill the demons. Every time he eliminates a demon, he retrieves a piece of himself.
Hyakkimaru rescues a boy thief named Dororo from a band of men whom the young boy tried to rob. Together they travel the war-torn countryside in search of the demons who possess Hyakkimaru's parts. But the pair is driven away by the very people they've saved, villagers who are either outraged by Dororo's unashamed thievery or terrified by Hyakkimaru's perceived strangeness.
Marking Tezuka's move into edgier work, this series is riveting and utterly creepy, with Tezuka's signature cute style offering a welcome counterpoint to the visceral horrors depicted. Study this series well, as it is truly the work of the master.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2009
I could probably list a thousand reasons to own this manga. However, editorial guidelines and internet bandwidth prevent me from writing a review that long. Suffice to say that Blackjack is one of *the* iconic manga, a defining, shining example of everything that is awesome about the medium, and certainly one of the greatest creations of Osumu Tezuka, a man who can humble *any* manga author, and the progenitor of all we hold holy from Japan.
Published by Vertical — this is a company that knows what they've got and treats it with appropriate respect — the cover designs are masterful and they clearly understand their audience. It's hard to describe the joy you feel when you hold these books in your hands. They aren't just tossing the material onto paper, they are building treasured tomes, volumes to be savored, they understand that this isn't "comics", this is LITERATURE.
And what literature it is! Tezuka isn't about fluff. Tezuka is about philosophy. Tezuka is about what the human condition is. Tezuka is about life and death, and what happens in-between. The mysterious rouge surgeon operates on patients from workmen to presidents, all the while every panel is infused with Tezuka's signature blend of drama, irony, and extreme broad humor, which combines into a non-stop page-turner that will leave you laughing and crying, but most importantly, thinking.
I could list a thousand reasons, but ultimately, only need one reason which encompasses them all: Osamu Tezuka isn't "The God of Comics" for nothing. His works are revered for a reason. And Blackjack is one of his most popular and beloved characters for a reason. Own these books and know why that is.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, December 2008
Tezuka School of Animation Vol 1
Anime Book Review
If you are going to buy a book on how to do animation, why not get one from the man who practically invented anime, Osamu Tezuka! Dr. T's series of books use familiar characters such as Astroboy to guide you, step-by-step through the process of how things move and how to accurately represent that in animation drawings.
Much like the old large-format Preston Blair books of the heyday, these are books you'll referr to again and again as the basic techniques shown here apply to all types of animation, not just "anime". Make these a part of your bookshelf.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, June 2004
Astro Boy - The Complete Series (2003)
Anime DVD Review
No expense was spared to create this lavish 2003 'remake' of the classic series, the animation is breathtakingly lush and vivid — easily topping most big-budget features in terms of production value. Some episodes aired on cartoon Network, but this boxed-set contains the complete series of 50 episodes, including 29 never before seen in the US, as well as a featurette "The Making of Astro Boy".
Astro Boy is the classic anime story of a permanently youthful robot boy modeled after the son of a research scientist, Dr. Tenma. Originally intended to be kept a secret, the atomic-powered robot becomes a renowned superhero who fights for justice and peace for humans and robots alike.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2005
Astro Boy, Vol. 1
Anime DVD Review
Here's where it all began. The anime "rosetta stone", the starting point for everything we know as anime and manga today is contained in this single seminal work. Created by "Manga-no-kamisama", Dr. Osamu Tezuka, this comic book lead to the animated series which became the worldwide phenomenon we all know and adore.
Of interest to Tezuka fans is that the book is peppered with commentary by Tezuka (obviously, before his untimely death), as well as translation into English by Fred Schodt (author of Manga Manga! & Dreamland Japan). Young and old alike will enjoy this manga, with art and stories as only the God of Comics himself could tell them. Every anime collection should begin here, because this is where anime was born.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, March 2004
Osamu Tezuka Collection
(Anime Score Compilation)
Anime Soundtrack Review
Having a good clean copy of the Tetsuwan Atomu (Astroboy) theme makes this album worth the price alone, but hey, we love all these classics! "Dr. T" made so many kick-ass shows that almost all of these will ring a bell with you, particularly if you are over 30 and remember Kimba the White Lion or Princess Knight.
Anybody who knows anything about anime at all knows that manganokamisama didn't just inspire the legions who followed him, he quite literally invented the entire genre as we understand it today. This album brushes the tip of the iceberg with 33 tracks of some of the more well known theme songs to his vast expanse of works.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, September 2003