Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka (Japanese: 手塚 治虫, born 手塚 治, Hepburn: Tezuka Osamu, (1928-11-03)3 November 1928 – 9 February 1989) was a Japanese manga artist, cartoonist, animator, and film producer. Born in Osaka Prefecture, his prolific output, pioneering techniques, and innovative redefinitions of genres earned him such titles as "the father of manga", "the godfather of manga" and "the god of manga". Additionally, he is often considered the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney, who served as a major inspiration during Tezuka's formative years.[1] Though this phrase praises the quality of his early manga works for children and animations, it also blurs the significant influence of his later, more literary, gekiga works.

Osamu Tezuka
Tezuka in 1951
Tezuka Osamu (手塚 治)

( 1928 -11-03)3 November 1928
Died9 February 1989(1989-02-09) (aged 60)
Tokyo, Japan
Years active1946–1989
Notable work
Etsuko Okada (m. 19591989)
Japanese name
Kanji手塚 治虫
Hiraganaてづか おさむ
Katakanaテヅカ オサム

Tezuka began what was known as the manga revolution in Japan with his New Treasure Island published in 1947. His legendary output would spawn some of the most influential, successful, and well received manga series including the children mangas Astro Boy, Princess Knight and Kimba the White Lion, and the adult oriented series Black Jack, Phoenix, and Buddha, all of which won several awards.

Tezuka died of stomach cancer in 1989. His death had an immediate impact on the Japanese public and other cartoonists. A museum was constructed in Takarazuka dedicated to his memory and life works, and Tezuka received many posthumous awards. Several animations were in production at the time of his death along with the final chapters of Phoenix, which were never released.


Early life (1928–1945)

Tezuka was the eldest of three children in Toyonaka, Osaka.[2][3] The Tezuka family were prosperous and well-educated; his father Yutaka worked in management at Sumitomo Metals, his grandfather Taro was a lawyer, and his great-grandfather Ryoan and great-great-grandfather Ryosen were doctors. His mother's family had a long military history.[4]

Later in life, he gave his mother credit for inspiring confidence and creativity through her stories. She frequently took him to the Takarazuka Grand Theater, which often headlined the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female musical theater troupe. Their romantic musicals aimed at a female audience, had a large influence of Tezuka's later works, including his costume designs. Not only that, but the performers' large, sparkling eyes also had an influence on Tezuka's art style.[5] He has said that he has a profound "spirit of nostalgia" for Takarazuka.[6]

When Tezuka was young, his father showed him Disney films and he became a Disney movie buff, seeing the films multiple times in a row, most famously seeing Bambi more than 80 times.[7] Tezuka started to draw comics around his second year of elementary school, in large part inspired by Disney animation;[7] he drew so much that his mother would have to erase pages in his notebook in order to keep up with his output. Tezuka was also inspired by the works by Suihō Tagawa and Unno Juza.[8]

Around his fifth year he found a ground beetle, known as "Osamushi" in Japanese. It so resembled his own name that he adopted "Osamushi" as his pen name.[8] Tezuka continued to develop his manga skills throughout his school career. During this period he created his first adept amateur works.[8]

During high school in 1944, Tezuka was drafted to work for a factory, supporting the Japanese war effort during World War II; he simultaneously continued writing manga. In 1945, Tezuka was accepted into Osaka University and began studying medicine. During this time, he also began publishing his first professional works.[9]

Early success (1946–1952)

Tezuka came to the realization that he could use manga as a means of helping to convince people to care for the world. After World War II, at age 17, he published his first professional work, Diary of Ma-chan, which was serialized in the elementary school children's newspaper Shokokumin Shinbun in early 1946.

Tezuka began talks with fellow manga creator Shichima Sakai, who pitched Tezuka a story based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure novel, Treasure Island. Sakai promised Tezuka a publishing spot from Ikuei Shuppan if he would work on the manga. Tezuka finished the manga, only loosely basing it on the original work.[10] Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island) was published and became an overnight success, which began the golden age of manga, a craze comparable to American comic book Golden Age at the same time.[11]

With the success of New Treasure Island, Tezuka traveled to Tokyo in search of a publisher for more of his work. Kobunsha turned Tezuka down, but Shinseikaku agreed to publish The Strange Voyage of Dr. Tiger and Domei Shuppansha agreed to publish The Mysterious Dr. Koronko.

While still in medical school Tezuka published his first masterpieces: a trilogy of science fiction epics called Lost World, Metropolis, and Nextworld.

Soon afterward, Tezuka published his first major success, Kimba the White Lion, which was serialized in Manga Shonen from 1950 to 1954.[12]

In 1951 Tezuka graduated from the Osaka School of Medicine[13] and published Ambassador Atom, the first appearance of the Astro Boy character. That same year Tezuka joined a group known as the Tokyo Children Manga Association, consisting of other manga artists such as Baba Noboru, Ota Jiro, Furusawa Hideo, Eiichi Fukui, Irie Shigeru, and Negishi Komichi.[13]

Astro Boy, national fame and early animation (1952–1960)

By 1952, Ambassador Atom had proven to be only a mild success in Japan; however, one particular character became extremely popular with young boys: a humanoid robot named Atom.[14] Tezuka received several letters from many young boys.[15] Expecting success with a series based around Atom, Tezuka's producer suggested that he be given human emotions.[16] One day, while working at a hospital, Tezuka was punched in the face by a frustrated American G.I. This encounter gave Tezuka the idea to create Atom.[17] On February 4, 1952, Tetsuwan Atom began serialization in Weekly Shonen Magazine. The character Atom and his adventures became an instant phenomenon in Japan.

Due to the success of Tetsuwan Atom, in 1953 Tezuka published the shōjo manga Ribon no Kishi (Princess Knight), serialized in Shojo Club from 1953 to 1956.[18]

In 1954 Tezuka first published what he would consider his life's work, Phoenix, which originally appeared in Mushi Production Commercial Firm.[19]

In 1958 Tezuka was asked by Toei Animation if his manga Son-Goku the Monkey could be adapted into animation. It was widely reported that Tezuka worked as a director on the film, though Tezuka himself denied working on it. He was only involved in its promotion, which later sparked his interest in the animation industry.[20] The film was released as Alakazam the Great in 1960.

Production career (1961–1989)

In 1961, Tezuka entered the animation industry in Japan by founding the production company Mushi Productions as a rival of Toei Animation. He first began innovating the industry with the broadcast of the animated version of Astro Boy in 1963; this series would create the first successful model for animation production in Japan and would also be the first Japanese animation dubbed into English for an American audience. Other series were subsequently translated to animation, including Jungle Emperor, the first Japanese animated series produced in full color.[21][22] Tezuka stepped down as acting director in 1968 to found a new animation studio, Tezuka Productions, and continued experimenting with animation late into his life. In 1973, Mushi Productions collapsed financially; the fallout would produce several influential animation production studios, including Sunrise.

Gekiga graphic novels (1967–1989)

In 1967, in response to the magazine Garo and the gekiga movement, Tezuka created the magazine COM.[22] By doing so, he radically changed his art from a cartoony, Disney-esque slapstick style towards a more realistic drawing style; at the time the themes of his books became focused on an adult audience. A common element in all these books and short stories is the very dark and immoral nature of the main characters. The stories are also filled with explicit violence, erotic scenes, and crime.

The change of his manga from aimed at children to more 'literary' gekiga manga started with the yōkai manga Dororo in 1967. This yōkai manga was influenced by the success of and a response to Shigeru Mizuki's GeGeGe no Kitarō. Simultaneously, he also produced vampires that, like Dororo, also introduced a stronger, more coherent storyline and a shift in the drawing style. After these two he began his true first gekiga attempt with Swallowing the Earth.[23] Dissatisfied with the result, he soon after produced I.L.. His work Phoenix began in 1967.

Besides the well-known series Phoenix, Black Jack and Buddha, which are drawn in this style, he also produced a vast amount of one-shots or shorter series, such as Ayako, Ode to Kirihito, Alabaster, Apollo's Song, Barbara, Ayako, MW, The Book of Human Insects, and a large number of short stories that were later collectively published in books such as Under the Air, Clockwork Apple, The Crater, Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories, and Record of the Glass Castle.

Tezuka would become a bit milder in narrative tone in the 1980s with his follow-up works such as Message to Adolf, Midnight, Ludwig B (unfinished), and Neo Faust.


Tezuka died of stomach cancer on 9 February 1989 in Tokyo.[24] His last words were: "I'm begging you, let me work!", spoken to a nurse who had tried to take away his drawing equipment.[25]

Although Tezuka was agnostic, he was buried in a Buddhist cemetery in Tokyo.[26]


Tezuka is known for his imaginative stories and stylized Japanese adaptations of Western literature. Tezuka's "cinematic" page layouts were influenced by Milt Gross' early graphic novel He Done Her Wrong. He read this book as a child, and its style characterized many manga artists who followed in Tezuka's footsteps.[27] His work, like that of other manga creators, was sometimes gritty and violent.

He invented the distinctive "large eyes" style of Japanese animation,[28] drawing inspiration from Western cartoons and animated films of the time such as Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, and other Disney movies.


Tezuka's complete oeuvre includes over 700 volumes, with more than 150,000 pages.[29][30] Tezuka's creations include Astro Boy (Mighty Atom in Japan), Black Jack, Princess Knight, Phoenix (Hi no Tori in Japan), Kimba the White Lion (Jungle Emperor in Japan), Unico, Message to Adolf, The Amazing 3, Buddha, and Dororo. His "life's work" was Phoenix—a story of life and death that he began in the 1950s and continued until his death.[31]

In addition, Tezuka headed the animation production studio Mushi Production ("Bug Production"), which pioneered TV animation in Japan.[32]

Bibliography (manga)

A complete list of his works can be found on the Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum website.[33]

  • Astro Boy, 1952–68. A sequel to Captain ATOM (1951), with Atom renamed Astro Boy in the US.[34] as its main character. Eventually, Astro Boy would become Tezuka's most famous creation. He created the nuclear-powered, yet peace-loving, boy robot first after being punched in the face by a drunken GI.[34] In 1963, Astro Boy made its debut as the first domestically produced animated program on Japanese television. The 30-minute weekly program (of which 193 episodes were produced) led to the first craze for anime in Japan.[35] In America, the TV series (which consisted of 104 episodes licensed from the Japanese run) was also a hit,[36][37] becoming the first Japanese animation to be shown on US television, although the U.S. producers downplayed and disguised the show's Japanese origins.[38][39] Several other Astro Boy series have been made since, as well as a 2009 CGI-animated feature film Astro Boy.
  • Kimba the White Lion, 1950–54. A shōnen manga series created by Tezuka which was serialized in the Manga Shōnen magazine. An anime based on the manga was created, broadcast in Japan from 1965 and in North America from 1966. It was the first color animated television series created in Japan.[40] Disney's The Lion King is believed to have been inspired by Kimba the White Lion.[41][42][43][44][45][46][47]
  • Phoenix, 1956–89. Tezuka's most profound and ambitious work, dealing with man's quest for immortality, ranging from the distant past to the far future. The central character is the Phoenix, the physical manifestation of the cosmos, who carries within itself the power of immortality; either granted by the Phoenix or taken from the Phoenix by drinking a small amount of its blood. Other characters appear and reappear throughout the series; usually due to their reincarnation. The work remained unfinished at the time of Tezuka's death in 1989. Phoenix has been filmed several times, most notably as Phoenix 2772 (1980). Baku Yumemakura was influenced by Phoenix; Yumemakura would go on to write the script for Boku no Son Goku.
  • Black Jack, 1973–83. The story of Black Jack, a talented surgeon who operates illegally, using radical and supernatural techniques to combat rare afflictions. Black Jack received the Japan Cartoonists' Association Special Award in 1975 and the Koudansha Manga Award in 1977. Three Black Jack TV movies were released between 2000-01. In fall 2004, an anime television series was aired in Japan with 61 episodes, releasing another movie afterward. A new series, titled Black Jack 21, started broadcasting on April 10, 2006. In September 2008, the first volume of the manga had been published in English by Vertical Publishing and more volumes are being published to this day.
  • Buddha, 1972–83, is Tezuka's unique interpretation of the life of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The critically acclaimed series is often referred to as a gritty portrayal of the Buddha's life. The series began in September 1972 and ended in December 1983, as one of Tezuka's last epic manga works. Nearly three decades after the manga was completed, two anime film adaptations were released in 2011 and 2014.

Personal life

Tezuka was a descendant of Hattori Hanzō,[48] a famous ninja and samurai who faithfully served Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Sengoku period in Japan.

Tezuka's childhood nickname was gashagasha-atama: "messy head" (gashagasha is slang for messy, atama means head). As a child, Tezuka's arms swelled up and he became ill. He was treated and cured by a doctor, which made also him want to be a doctor. At a crossing point, he asked his mother whether he should look into doing manga full-time or whether he should become a doctor. At the time, being a manga author was not a particularly rewarding job. The answer his mother gave was: "You should work doing the thing you like most of all." Tezuka decided to devote himself to manga creation on a full-time basis. He graduated from Osaka University and obtained his medical degree, but he would later use his medical and scientific knowledge to enrich his sci-fi manga, such as Black Jack.[30][49]

Tezuka enjoyed insect collecting and entomology, Disney, and baseball — in fact, he licensed the "grown up" version of his character Kimba the White Lion as the logo for the Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.[50][51] A fan of Superman, Tezuka was honorary chairman of Japan's Superman Fan Club.[52]

In 1959 Osamu Tezuka married Etsuko Okada at a Takarazuka hotel.

Tezuka met Walt Disney in person at the 1964 New York World's Fair. In a 1986 entry in his personal diary, Tezuka stated that Disney wanted to hire him for a potential science fiction project.

In January 1965, Tezuka received a letter from American film director Stanley Kubrick, who had watched Astro Boy and wanted to invite Tezuka to be the art director of his next movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey (which was eventually released in 1968). Although flattered by Kubrick's invitation, Tezuka could not afford to leave his studio for a year to live in England, so he had to turn down the offer. Although he was not able to work on 2001, he loved the film, and would play its soundtrack at maximum volume in his studio to keep him awake during long nights of work.[53][54]

Tezuka's son Makoto Tezuka became a film and anime director.[50]


Stamps were issued in his honor in 1997. Also, beginning in 2003, the Japanese toy company Kaiyodo began manufacturing a series of figurines of Tezuka's creations, including Princess Knight, Unico, the Phoenix, Dororo, Marvelous Melmo, Ambassador Magma, and many others. To date, three series of the figurines have been released.

His legacy has continued to be honored among manga artists and animators. Tezuka guided many well-known manga artists, such as Shotaro Ishinomori and Go Nagai. Artists such as Akira Toriyama (Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball)[55] have also cited Tezuka as inspiration for their works.

From 2003 to 2009, Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki adapted an arc of Astro Boy into the murder mystery series Pluto.[56]

Tezuka was a personal friend (and apparent artistic influence) of Brazilian comic book artist Mauricio de Sousa. In 2012, Maurício published a two-issue story arc in the Monica Teen comic book featuring some of Tezuka's main characters, including Astro Boy, Black Jack, Sapphire, and Kimba, joining Monica and her friends in an adventure in the Amazon rainforest against a smuggling organization chopping down hundreds of trees. This was the first time that Tezuka Productions allowed overseas artists to use Tezuka's characters.[57]

Awards and recognition

Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum

The city of Takarazuka, Hyōgo, where Tezuka grew up, opened a museum in his memory.[3] The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum (宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館, lit. "Takarazuka City Tezuka Osamu Memorial Hall") was inaugurated on April 25, 1994, and has three floors (15069.47 ft²). In the basement there is an "Animation Workshop" in which visitors can make their own animation, and a mockup of the city of Takarazuka and a replica of the table where Osamu Tezuka worked.

Outside of the building's entrance, there are imitations of the hands and feet of several characters from Tezuka (as in a true walk of fame) and on the inside, the entry hall, a replica of Princess Knight's furniture. On the same floor is a permanent exhibition of manga and a room for the display of anime. The exhibition is divided into two parts: Osamu Tezuka and the city of Takarazuka and Osamu Tezuka, the author.

The second floor contains, along with several exhibitions, a manga library with five hundred works of Tezuka (some foreign editions are also present), a video library, and a lounge with decor inspired by Kimba the White Lion.

There is also a glass sculpture that represents the planet Earth and is based on a book written by Tezuka in his childhood called Our Earth of Glass.

See also



  1. Tezuka Osamu Monogatari, Tezuka Productions, 1992.
  2. Patten 2004, p. 145.
  3. Galbraith, Patrick W. (2009). The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider's Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan. Kodansha International. pp. 220–21. ISBN 978-4-7700-3101-3.
  4. The Art of Osamu Tezuka, God of Manga, Helen McCarthy, Abrams ComicsArts, 2009, p. 15
  5. "Osamu Tezuka, God of Manga". 2010-11-03. Archived from the original on 2017-11-11. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  6. Gravett, Paul (2004). Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics. Harper Design. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-85669-391-2.
  7. "Osamu Tezuka: Fighting for peace with the Mighty Atom". August 19, 2007.
  8. "1930s:History:ABOUT TEZUKA OSAMU:TezukaOsamu.net(EN)". Tezukaosamu.net. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  9. "1940s:History:ABOUT TEZUKA OSAMU:TezukaOsamu.net(EN)". Tezukaosamu.net. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  10. "Tezuka Osamu Outwits the Phantom Blot: The Case of New Treasure Island cont'd - The Comics Journal - Page 2". Tcj.com. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  11. Wells, Dominic (2008-09-13). "Osamu Tezuka the master of mighty manga". The Times. London. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  12. "Jungle Emperor Leo : Manga : TezukaOsamu.net(EN)". Tezukaosamu.net. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  13. "1950s:History:ABOUT TEZUKA OSAMU:TezukaOsamu.net(EN)". Tezukaosamu.net. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  14. Schodt 2007, p. 4.
  15. Schodt 2007, p. 20.
  16. Schodt 2007, p. 21.
  17. "War and Peace in the Art of Tezuka Osamu: The humanism of his epic manga−− - The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus". Apjjf.org. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  18. "Princess Knight [Shojo Club <Girl's Comic>] : Manga : TezukaOsamu.net(EN)". Tezukaosamu.net. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  19. "The Phoenix (Chapter of Dawn)[COM Magazine] : Manga : TezukaOsamu.net(EN)". Tezukaosamu.net. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  20. "A Capsule History of Anime". Awn.com. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
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  22. Béatrice Maréchal (April 2004). "Garo, magazine rebelle". Neuvieme art (in French). Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  23. Green, Scott (17 July 2009). "Dissecting Astro Boy Creator Osamu Tezuka's Flawed Marvel - Swallowing the Earth". Ain't It Cool News.
  24. Patten 2004, p. 198
  25. Takayuki Matsutani (date unknown). Viz Media's English language release of the Hi no Tori manga. In an afterword written by Takayuki Matsutani, president of Mushi Productions.
  26. Schodt 2007, p. 141: "His family was associated with a Zen Buddhist sect, and Tezuka is buried in a Tokyo Buddhist cemetery, but his views on religion were actually quite agnostic and as flexible as his views on politics."
  27. "A Yiddishe Manga: The Creative Roots of Japan's God of Comics" (PDF). Innovative Research in Japanese Studies. Wix. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
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  29. Katayama, Lisa (2007-05-31). "Museum Show Spotlights Artistry of Manga God Osamu Tezuka". Wired. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
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  50. Biography for Osamu Tezuka on IMDb
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  56. "Pluto". Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga. Anime News Network. 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
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  • Ladd, Fred (2009). Astro Boy and anime come to the Americas: an insider's view of the birth of a pop culture phenomenon. McFarland & Co. ISBN 978-0-7864-3866-2.
  • Patten, Fred (2004). Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 978-1-880656-92-1.
  • Schodt, Frederik L. (2007). The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 978-1-93333054-9.

Further reading

  • G. Clinton Godart, “Tezuka Osamu’s Circle of Life: Vitalism, Evolution, and Buddhism,” Mechademia (University of Minnesota Press) November 2013, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp. 34 – 47.
  • Helen McCarthy. The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga. (New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2009). ISBN 978-0-81098249-9. Biography and presentation of Tezuka's works.
  • Frederik L. Schodt. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. (Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 1996/2011). ISBN 978-1-93333095-2
  • Natsu Onoda Power. God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi). ISBN 978-1-60473221-4.
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