If you know anything about the history of manga and anime, then you should know who Osamu Tezuka was. He may not have been the first Japanese person to draw comics, but no other individual has had such a massive influence on the manga industry. Not only did he produce 170,000 pages in around 700 different manga titles, but he was also responsible for the first modern anime and was hugely influential in making Japan’s animation industry what it is today. Despite such claims to fame, Tezuka is somewhat underappreciated in the West, where he is known chiefly as the creator of Astro Boy. He died before the birth of anime fandom in the English speaking world, so in a community obsessed with the latest, newest, shiniest thing, it’s perhaps not that surprising. This book serves as a great introduction to Tezuka’s work for the complete beginner, and as a celebration of his life and career. Only a handful of individual anime or manga creators have been the subject of books published in English. It seems only right that Tezuka should be one of the first to receive this honour, in a book by the UK’s original anime expert Helen McCarthy.
McCarthy herself is something of a legendary figure in anime criticism. Founding the influential Anime UK magazine, she also penned the first books on anime in Britain. If Tezuka is ‘The God of Manga’, McCarthy deserves a title such as ‘The Auntie of Anime Fandom’. Having already written a book on Miyazaki, she was the ideal candidate to pen this one.
This hefty hardback book is a cross between a biography and a coffee table art book; an interesting approach that really pays off. Author Helen McCarthy gets the balance just right, with the ‘bio’ part of the book feeling truly informative and not at all shallow or insubstantial. The chapters take you on a journey through Tezuka’s life and career, dealing first with his pre-fame early life, following him through to his eventual place as one of his nation’s most beloved figures.
The art aspect of the book means that it is beautifully illustrated throughout, with well-chosen photographs as well as hundreds of pages showing Tezuka’s artwork, actual pages from his comics, and stills from his animated works. It features everything from sketches from his childhood to his professional work, allowing you to see the evolution of his talents. The book features entries on the key works of every decade of his career – from the fields of both animation and comics – all beautifully illustrated. This book is itself a work of art, gorgeously designed and written in an informative and friendly style. Any collector of art books would be happy to have this on their shelves.
The only reason you could have to not enjoy this book, is if you do not like Tezuka’s style. I realise that to some people his art style may be old fashioned and too cartoony for their taste, but this is entirely a matter of personal preference. I do feel that these people may still find something to enjoy in the history of the book, but it seems unlikely that anyone would stump up for an art book for which they do not like the artist.
This book comes with an excellent addition; a DVD featuring an old documentary made for Japanese TV that allows you to actually see the master at work. It makes for fascinating viewing.
No one book could possibly do justice to Tezukas’ career, seeing as he was perhaps the most prolific artist working in any field that you can possibly imagine. However, this book certainly comes close, providing a good overview of his work, as well as being a damn fine art book to boot. Having read it, you will more than likely feel motivated to go out and read as much of his output as you can. This is a must-have for any fan of Tezuka, or indeed anyone interested in the history of anime and manga itself.