This past week, my teenage son and I had the chance to visit the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum located in Takarazuka city. Osamu Tezuka is often referred to as the ‘father of manga’ and is highly revered by manga artists in Japan. His most famous works include Astro Boy, Black Jack and Jungle Emperor Leo.
The museum was opened in 1994 and contains items from Tezuka’s life like his numerous sketchbooks and writings, as well as an animation studio in the basement, and a screening room for films. There is also a library, shop and cafe on the upper floor. On our visit, the exhibition hall was filled with panels from Tezuka’s manga series Buddha, which is about to debut as a full-length animated film this May.
My son and I enjoyed touring the museum. In the animation studio, we drew our own little two panel animations where we could see our drawings in action on backdrops of our own design. I think my son’s favorite part of the museum was the library where there were multilingual editions of Tezuka’s most famous manga.
While he read, I watched an interactive media program about Tezuka’s life. Born in 1928, the oldest of three sons, he took to drawing at an early age. As a youngster, he was often bullied and took much solace in his imagination. In particular, he was inspired by the world of nature, especially insect life. In fact, Tezuka took his pen-name from an insect called the osamushi. He continued with his obsession of drawing cartoons, even during the war years, when such activity was considered frivolous and unpatriotic. While young, Tezuka had a serious swelling in his arm which was cured by a doctor; Tezuka then wanted to become a doctor himself and pursued medical studies in university. However, he continued with his drawing of manga, and eventually, on the advice of his mother, pursued his one true passion as his sole profession even though, at the time, such a career was considered precariously unstable. And the rest, they say, is history!
700 manga later, with Tezuka immortalized by the Japanese as the god of manga, it is unfortunate that so few of Tezuka’s work are available in English. Hopefully that will change in the years to come.