Manga Through the Eyes of Osamu Tezuka

Sofiy InckSeptember 3, 2018Finding Your Spirit in ArtFeatures
Manga Through the Eyes of Osamu Tezuka

Artwork by Rebecca Brudner

We say that our eyes are windows to our souls.

Many Japanese people have almond-shaped eyes that are much different from the drawn eyes in Japanese comic books, called Manga. The eyes of Manga characters, called “anime eyes,” are very round, and very big. Do Manga artists want their eyes to look like baby’s eyes? Do Manga artists want the eyes of their characters to look like non-Asian eyes? Are round eyes just easier to draw?

Art: Osama TesukaOsamu Tezuka is believed to be the first person to use large, round anime eyes in his Manga drawings. I think that he drew those big eyes to represent his characters’ big souls. I think people with big souls don’t take life for granted. They are curious and are always exploring the big questions in life.

Manga is a Japanese term that means “whimsical sketches.” Some Manga is read right to left, as opposed to left to right, because it was originally written in Japanese. After World War II, Japan went through a period of great uncertainty and was rebuilding its political and economic infrastructure. Americans were occupying Japan, and with them they brought American films and cartoons, including the work of Walt Disney. This inspired modern Manga. The Japanese made it their own by turning it into something more spiritual. From this time period came two series that would shape the future of Manga. These are Osamu Tezuka’s Mighty Atom and Machiko Hasegawa’s Sazae-san.

Boys and young men were the earliest readers of Manga. Between 1950 and 1969 Manga audiences increased and Art: Osama TesukaShonen (for boys) and Shojo (for girls) were created. From 1950 on, Shonen Manga focused on things like space travel, robots, and action adventure.

Two very popular male authors wrote the first Shojo. They were Osamu Tezuka’s Ribon no Kishi (Princesses Knight) and Matsuteru Yokoyama’s Mahotsukai Sari (Little Witch Sally). Mahotsukai Sari was inspired by the popular American sitcom Bewitched. The first women to write Manga were known as “Year 24 Group,” and included Moto Hagio, Riyoko Ikeda, Yumiko Oshima, Keiko Takemiya, and Ryoko Yamagishi. From then on Shojo Manga was drawn by women.

One of the most influential Manga artists is Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka was born on November 3, 1928 in Toyonaka City, Japan. He is often referred to as the Godfather of Manga. He started drawing comics in elementary school. He soon realized that he could use the art form to convince people to take better care of the world. After World War II he completed his first work at the age of 17. It was called Diary of Ma-chan. He then went on to get a medical degree, though he never practiced medicine. Osamu Tezuka died of stomach cancer on February 9, 1989, at the age of 60. He is best known as the creator of Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Black Jack. He is often considered the Japanese Walt Disney.

Art: Osama TesukaManga has more variety than you might realize. I have chosen three well known stories created by Tesuka to illustrate this. Astro Boy takes place in the future. The main conflict revolves around tension between the robots and the humans and explores issues such as these: Could robots eventually replace humans? Is it unnatural for humans to try and create artificial life? Should humans try to cheat death? Astro Boy is the story of a boy robot that was created by a scientist to replace his son who died in a car crash. The scientist then realizes that a robot cannot replace his son and throws Astro Boy onto the street. Astro Boy is then found by a friendly scientist who adopts him. Astro Boy realizes that he has super powers and starts saving the world from evil humans and robots.

Phoenix is completely different from Astro Boy. It is a 12-volume series that was never completed. Before Osamu Tezuka died, he told his friend that he had an ending hidden away, but it was never found. Each volume revolves around a phoenix that interacts with humans. And while every story about this immortal bird takes place in a different time period, they all explore similar themes such as the cycles of the universe and whether human destruction of the planet is inevitable.

Yet another famous Manga character is Tezuka’s work on the Buddha. He tells the story of how Siddhartha became Buddha, called the “Enlightened One.” He writes the back story of all the people who influenced him to leave his wife, son and the chance at being the king of Kapilvastu. He became a monk, became enlightened, and eventually created a religion.

When I read this book it raised many spiritual questions for me: What does it mean to be enlightened? Is enlightenment different for everybody? Is any single person responsible for their greatness or are the people who make them great also responsible for their greatness?

Manga continues to become more and more popular in the United States. Its growing popularity means that it can be found at most local bookstores. The graphic format makes it easily accessible, but it still can address soulful topics and raise spiritual questions. And beyond being a serious art form, it has also created a quirky community of people interested in similar things. Recently I was at the premier of the new Astro Boy movie. Sitting next to me was a guy wearing a t-shirt with an image of Totoro, a famous Manga character. I complimented his shirt and he understood that my furry hat was not a rabbit, but Mokona, a character from xxxHolic, one of my personal favorites.

I highly recommend you check out Manga. It’s surprisingly addictive and a lot of fun to read.

Sofiy Inck is a 15 year old student who lives in Brooklyn, NY with her mother, father, and sister. She has been on the KidSpirit editorial board for five years. She has numerous interests, including nerdy TV shows, documentaries about cults, dead languages, John Green and dying her hair to match her mood. She finds writing bios awkward.