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Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, Father of Anime

November 13–December 13, 2009

Tezuka Family Weekend, December 4-6

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The creator of hundreds of manga comic books and dozens of animated films and television episodes, Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) is perhaps the most influential artist in these mediums. The Freer is proud to present a retrospective of his remarkable works.

This retrospective is generously supported by The Toshiba International Foundation. Special thanks go to Tezuka Productions. Descriptions adapted from notes by H. McCarthy for Osamu Tezuka: Movies into Manga, the Barbican Centre (2008).

Film Schedule

Introducing Astro Boy

Friday, November 13, 7 pm
In Person: Frederik Schodt
, author of The Astro Boy Essays
Astro Boy (known as Mighty Atom in Japan) is one of Tezuka's most iconic and enduring creations. Starting life as a character in manga comics, he later took the world by storm as the hero of three animated television series that were nearly as popular in the US as they were in Japan. To kick off the retrospective, author and Tezuka expert Frederik Schodt presents and discusses four Astro Boy episodes.

The Film is Alive: Osamu Tezuka Filmography

Saturday, November 14, 2 pm
In Person: Frederik Schodt, author of The Astro Boy Essays; Helen McCarthy, author of The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga; and Natsu Onoda Power, author of God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-WWII Manga.

This documentary, made for the Tezuka Osamu exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum the year after Tezuka's death, boasts probably the most over specified title card in the world. Each of the ten letters has been handwritten by one of his friends, all superstars of the manga and anime community. It provides a thumbnail introduction to his work and records its diversity and energy, as well as featuring live footage of Tezuka himself. Japan / 1990 / 42 min. / video / Japanese with English subtitles. A panel discussion follows the film.

Frederik L. Schodt has written widely on Japanese history, popular culture, and technology. Among his better known works are Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics and Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. His writings on and translations of manga helped trigger the current popularity of Japanese comics in the English-speaking world and resulted in his being awarded the Special Category of the Asahi Shimbun's prestigious Osamu Tezuka Culture Award. His latest book, The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, was published by Stone Bridge Press in 2007.

Helen McCarthy was introduced to Japanese animation in 1981 by a boyfriend who saw Mazinger Z on Spanish TV. Finding almost no English-language information on anime, she decided to write a book about it. Nine books and almost thirty years later, she still hasn't found out everything she wanted to know. She lives in London, reading history and making needle art in her spare time. Her latest book, The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga (Abrams ComicArts) recounts the life and astonishingly varied career of a twentieth-century genius whose work still influences contemporary Japanese culture.

Natsu Onoda Power is the author of God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga. Primarily a theater artist, Natsu is the author/director/ designer of numerous original performances, and she is the artistic director of Live Action Cartoonists theater company, which combines cartooning/drawing and live performance. She holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Georgetown University.

Ada Palmer is best known in the manga world as the founder of TezukaInEnglish.com, now the primary English language web resource for information about Tezuka's life, works and publication history. She developed the site as a supplement to the official Japanese page, and has worked with Tezuka Productions and numerous American and international publishers to develop Tezuka-related web resources. Her own research on Tezuka focuses on the "Star System" and Tezuka's treatments of Buddhism and gender. Her publications include an essay on Tezuka's philosophical pessimism in the upcoming volume Manga and Philosophy, and an essay on the "Star System" and publication history of Black Jack in the hardcover version of vol. 3 of the Vertical Inc. English edition of Black Jack. She was a guest lecturer for the History of Manga course at Harvard University, and assisted the development of Harvard's new Manga Library.

Marine Express

Sunday, November 15, 2 pm
In Person: Frederik Schodt, Helen McCarthy

Set in the near future of 2002, this tale of skullduggery and smuggling on an undersea train is set against a backdrop of environmental degradation and destruction of indigenous cultures and is interwoven with a time-travel fantasy. Directed by Dezaki Tetsu, it features appearances by nearly all of Tezuka's most famous characters, including Astro Boy, Black Jack, and Don Dracula.
Japan / 1979 / 91 min. / video / Japanese with English subtitles

Prime Rose

Friday, November 20, 7 pm

A Japanese city and an American city are thrown into conflict by demonic intervention. Prime Rose is one of the warriors, but she has a personal motive. Time Patrol member Gai is trying to reverse the timeslip and defeat the demon. Aired before the manga of the same title was completed, this film by Tetsu Dezaki is allegedly closer to Tezuka's original idea. Japan / 1983 / 90 min. / video / Japanese with English subtitles

Tezuka's Short Films

Sunday, November 22, 2 pm

This remarkable showcase of shorts made between 1962 and 1987 reveals Tezuka's energy, originality, and clarity of vision as he employs music and imagery to render dialogue unnecessary. These films show Tezuka the art house animator at his inventive best.

Tales of the Street Corner
Drawing apparently unrelated elements towards a single tragic climax, Tales of the Street Corner is profoundly anti-war and is the first film from Tezuka's Mushi Productions. Japan / 1962 / 38 min.

Troubled by increasing conformity imposed by Japanese society, Tezuka examines the power of dreams and the consequences of betraying them. Japan / 1964 / 9 min. / video

In this highly personal film, even the simple backgrounds are drawn by Tezuka. A thirsty man on a raft tries desperately (and fruitlessly) to get a precious drop of water. Japan / 1965 / 4 min. / video

Pictures at an Exhibition
Opening with a literal, live-action walk into a gallery, Mussorgsky's music becomes a jumping-off point for a series of ten visually distinct and stylish segments. Japan / 1966 / 39 min. / video

One of the most technically dazzling achievements of its day, Jumping was shot in a single cut with 4,000 images showing a skipping boy gradually striding higher and higher until he leaps across war-torn countries, looking down on human activity like a god. Japan / 1984 / 6 min.

Broken Down Film
A heroic cowboy fights not only a conventional villain but also a film so old that it breaks down. Tezuka's affection for the conventions of silent film fills every frame. Japan / 1985 / 6 min.

In a world where every necessity can be had from vending machines, a man goes to see his creator and demands to be shown where to buy a brand new Earth. Japan / 1987 / 4 min. / video

A magic sword is found stuck into a straw figure. The samurai who finds it keeps cutting at more straw figures to test its sharpness; but every time he slashes one apart, it turns into a human being. Japan / 1987 / 9 min. / video

Legend of the Forest
Tezuka planned to review the history of animation in four episodes, though only two segments were completed. Set to Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, animals and fantasy creatures warn humans about the danger of destroying natural habitats, while Tezuka warns of cheap, limited TV animation decimating the art's rich heritage (co-directed by Kouji Ui). Japan / 1987 / 29 min.

The Fantastic Adventures of Unico

Saturday, December 5, 3:45 pm

Based on a manga Tezuka created for Sanrio's Ririka magazine, this is the story of a little unicorn who is born with the power to make anyone he meets happy. Jealous gods condemn him to wander endlessly, with no home and no memories, but Unico's cheerfulness and kindness provide lessons in living in the moment in this heartrending but uplifting fable. (Adapted from notes by H. McCarthy for Osamu Tezuka: Movies into Manga, Barbican Centre, 2008.) Directed by Toshio Hirata / 1981 / 90 min. / video / Japanese dubbed in English

Tezuka on Television

Sunday, December 6, 1 pm

Enjoy episodes from three of Tezuka's eclectic television series. Each episode is in Japanese with English subtitles.

Princess Knight
Possessing the courage and daring of a boy in a gentle female heart, Sapphire was a hugely popular character and the first in a long line of anime heroines who can easily beat the boys—but still want to join them. Directed by Osamu Tezuka and Sadao Tsukioka / 1967 / 23 min. / video

Marvelous Melmo
Melmo and her two little brothers lose their mother in a road accident. The mother's spirit returns, determined to help her children grow up in a harsh world. Directed by Osamu Tezuka / 1971 / 23 min. / video

The Three-Eyed One
This charming romance was the first work based on Tezuka's manga to be planned and produced after his death in 1989. Directed by Hideki Hiroshima / 1990 / 25 min. / video

1001 Nights

Friday, December 11, 7 pm
In person: Yoshihiro Shimizu, General Manager, Tezuka Productions

Animal transformations, confused relationships, and sheer rapacious sexuality merge with a heady eroticism in this cartoon for grown-ups. Tezuka's story keeps faith with the mood of the original liteary legends, while director Eiichi Yamamoto mixes styles like a DJ. Intended for mature audiences. Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto / 1969 / 128 min. / video / Japanese with English subtitles

Tezuka and the History of Anime

Sunday, December 13, 2 pm

In person: Yoshihiro Shimizu, General Manager, Tezuka Productions Join Yoshihiro Shimizu in a journey through the history of Japanese anime, with a special emphasis on Tezuka's influence. Shimizu speaks from experience: a creative consultant for the new Astro Boy movie, he has been working for Tezuka Productions since the 1960s.

Related Events

Tezuka Family Weekend, December 4-6

Kamishibai Performances and Workshops by Yassan

Kamishibai ("paper dramas") are a form of performance popularized in Japan in the early twentieth century by traveling performers who bicycled from town to town, dazzling children and adults alike with exciting tales illustrated with colorful pictures. Today Yassan, one of its foremost practitioners, travels the world bringing this distinctive folk art to new audiences. He comes to the Freer to celebrate the work and legacy of Osamu Tezuka with a series of performances and workshops.

All performances and workshops are in Japanese with simultaneous English translation.


Friday, December 4, 12 & 2 pm
Saturday, December 5, 11 am & 1 pm
Sunday, December 6, 11 am & 3 pm
Sackler sublevel 2

See Yassan perform "The Golden Bat," an Astro Boy story, and a tale inspired by an incident from Osamu Tezuka's childhood. Performances last approximately 40 minutes. Space is limited. Admission is first-come, first-served.


Friday, December 4, 1 pm
Saturday, December 5, 2 pm
Sunday, December 6, 4 pm
Sackler sublevel 2

Learn from the master by creating and performing your own kamishibai stories with Yassan's guidance. Open to all ages. Workshops last approximately one hour, and reservations (limit two per person) are required. To make a reservation, email fsgasiaeducation@si.edu.


(See descriptions above)

The Fantastic Adventures of Unico

Saturday, December 5, 3:45 pm

Tezuka on Television

Sunday, December 6, 1 pm

Family Tours

Friday, December 4, 12:30, 2:30 and 3:30 pm
Saturday, December 5, 11:30 am, 1:30 and 2:30 pm
Sunday, December 6, 11:30 am, 3:30 and 4:30 pm
Meet at the Freer information desk.
Picture this!
Can you tell a story without using any words? In this fun and active family-friendly tour, kids and adults will “step into” a scene painted on a Japanese screen to explore its stories. Family members of all ages are welcome. These free, walk-in tours will last approximately 30 minutes.


Designing a World

By Frederik Schodt

Excerpted from The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, Stone Bridge Press 2007. Reprinted with permission.
Although most Japanese know the core story of the Mighty Atom series, they often have very different mental images of it and of Atom's character. The impressions depend largely on what point in history they were exposed to the work, how old they were at the time, and whether they saw it in magazines, newspapers, paperback compilations, or later, in television animation.
Download essay (PDF)

Stars and Jokes

By Natsu Onoda Power

Excerpted from God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga, published by the University Press of Mississippi, 2009. Reprinted with permission.
There is a unique sense, which a reader starts to experience as he or she gets to know more than a few of Tezuka's works, that all Tezuka's works, regardless of genre, topic, or style, are somehow connected. While each work is independent and coherent, there emerges another layer of meaning—a kind of metanarrative—when one reads it in context of other works.
Download essay (PDF)

Rocket Man

By Helen McCarthy

Excerpted from The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, published by Abrams ComicArts, 2009. Reprinted with permission.
A Japanese professor leads a party of researchers into unexplored territory on a treasure hunt. It sounds like the opening of a Tezuka comic, but it wasn't quite the swashbuckling, action-packed adventure that springs to mind. It involved five years of digging through the vast archives of an American university library to produce a database of magazines. The result is a real find for comics fans around the world.
Download essay (PDF)

Film is Alive: The Manga Roots of Osamu Tezuka's Animation Obsession

By Ada Palmer

The "God of Manga" did not have to be an animator. During the war, the young medical student Osamu Tezuka had no other outlet for his pent-up creativity than four-panel gag strips drawn in secret on toilet paper and posted in the munitions factory lavatory. When 1946 saw the end of the wartime ban on "frivolous" publications, the floodgate opened and the characters he had sketched since childhood became dozens, later hundreds of stories which he poured out with a speed and diversity no other comics artist has ever matched.
Download essay (PDF)


Tezuka in English
Astro Boy Online
Tezuka Productions official site (in Japanese)
Tezuka Anime Shrine
Episodes of the series "Black Jack"