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Tezuka exhibit in San Fran


In the photo above, the guy on the left is yours truly, Jerry Beck, blathering on about the fine points of American animation to the guy on the right: the father of anime, the Disney of Japan, Osamu Tezuka.

This fateful meeting took place in 1978, at a screening of Bander’s Book at the Japan Society in New York City. And obviously, it was one of the greatest days of my life.

Tezuka San had somehow obtained a copy of Mindrot, the fanzine, in which I wrote about my love of his comics and Astro Boy, and was as delighted to meet me as I was to meet him. He even invited me out to have sushi after the screening. I’ll never forget it. He was a great artist and a great human being.

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco will be presenting an exhibit, Tezuka: The Marvel of Manga, June 2nd through September 9th, which is shaping up to be an absolute must-see event. The official website is loaded with essays, information, podcasts and even a blog worth reading.

And in case you don’t know who Tezuka is, here’s a 30 second refresher course:

  • Charles Brubaker

    Ah yes. I remember that, as a child, one station would air reruns of Osamu’s animes, including the original “Astroboy.”

    This was kind of a special treatment for them, since Japanese stations are relunctant to air black and white animes.

  • GhaleonQ

    *applauds wildly*

  • Michael Arnold

    I bet Tezuka would have been flattered to be called the “Disney of Japan” (incidentally Toei repeatedly used that phrase for themselves in the ’50s when they were planning their international strategy, before Tezuka came to work for them…) but I don’t think he qualifies as the father of anime.

  • droosan

    Tezuka doesn’t qualify as the father of anime ..?

    Gosh, he only created (and produced!) the first anime TV series EVER (Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy), as well as the first anime TV series in color (Jungle Taitei/Kimba the White Lion), AS WELL as over a dozen other anime TV series in the 1960’s, which were scrupulously based on his cinematically-styled comic-book stories.

  • Daniel

    Him the artist, you the human?!
    Got me grinning there!

  • Bill Field

    You know, if I could’ve met ANYONE in animation history, it would be the “T”-Man. Growing up in Hawaii in the early Seventies, I received a daily dose of Princess Knight, Astroboy, and a lot of his other shows that never saw the mainland. He is everything that Walt “seemed” to be- a master artist, writer, animator, storyteller.
    Don’t get me wrong– Disney was able to do more than any other cartoonist– but he was far more a primal force of nature director for the artform– Master Tezuka was a Segar and McKay and Disney rolled up in one- I’m preachin’ to the choir–huh, Jerry?

  • Michael Arnold

    Tezuka certainly had a lot of influence over the years, but that influence gets exaggerated at times (especially among non-Japanese audiences). Sometimes I still find English language articles calling Astro Boy the first Japanese animation (!) or crediting Tezuka with the invention of limited animation . . .

    Astro Boy was not the first Japanese animated TV series EVER, and the first animated TV series in Japan were made half a century after the first animated films. Whoever the “fathers” were, they came decades before Tezuka.

  • Michael Arnold is absolutely right. It’s a common misconception that ASTRO BOY was the first-ever TV anime. It *was*, however, the first sci-fi anime (so placated because of people thinking of anime strictly as a sci-fi genre. Brad Bird would have a field day!).

    As us Brew-readers probably already know, anime as a medium goes as far back as the 1930s, and the late 1950s had the first color (and then widescreen) animated films. But the honor of the first TV anime was actually a TV movie, THE THREE TALES, in 1960, and the first anime TV *series* was OTOGI MANGA CALENDAR.

    But I recognize Tezuka for more than just ASTRO BOY (which is a great show). Among his scores of works, he created a couple of cool live-action shows that I still enjoy (both shows are based on manga of his): AMBASSADOR MAGMA, the first color superhero show in Japan (known here as THE SPACE GIANTS, with the eponymous gold giant’s name changed to Goldar), and VAMPIRE, which features a teenage boy turning into a cute anime werewolf! (The transformation scene is so freaky that it has to be seen to be believed, so much that I included a YouTube link below!)

  • I’m terribly sorry… but Jerry, you totally rock the 70’s outfit. :)

  • Yeah, it’s quite interesting to see Jerry through the years. ;)

  • Michael Arnold

    Thanks to John for his comments.

    Cartoon animation in Japan is generally understood to start in the late 1910s (or perhaps earlier in light of recent historical discoveries, depending on how one defines animation), although it didn’t become an ‘industry’ until Toei bought Nichido in the mid-1950s and geared up to make cartoon features for export. Tezuka’s popularity as an animator came a little later.

    Another series that predated Astro Boy is NHK’s “Minna no uta,” which started in 1961. Not all of the series’ 2+ minute musical shorts were animated, but the episodes were shown regularly and they often featured the talents of animators like Kuri Yoji and Nakahara Shuichi. I think most of the animation being broadcast on TV (and a lot of live-action programming too) or shown on theater screens in Japan in those days was American.

    Tezuka’s work wasn’t the first Japanese-made animation to play publicly in the U.S. either, but it might be the first TV series, or at least the first animated cartoon series–I’d have to check.

  • Mike, you should see the people I’ve met and heard from (usually the poser-anime fans) who think that ASTRO-BOY was the first anime, period! Meanwhile, it’s really sad that great movies like PANDA AND THE MAGIC SERPENT and MAGIC BOY (the first widescreen anime film, and the first one to make it to the US) are all but forgotten (incidentally, THE LITTLE PRINCE AND THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON is my all-time favorite anime film, partly because of Akira Ifukube’s music score). It burns me up, and it was left up to me to set these people straight.

    But anyway, Tezuka should be flattered to be called the Japanese Walt Disney, as he explored all sorts of mediums, and similarly wielded a lot of power that time.

  • Jo Maidment

    John Paul, Do you know where I can get hold of an English copy of THE LITTLE PRINCE AND THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON, in any format?

    My boyfriend goes misty-eyed when he talks about seeing the film as a child. I can’t find it anywhere. Thanks.