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  • Introduction
  • Thomas Lamarre (bio)

Manga Life: Tezuka . . .

In 2004, the art quarterly ARTiT published the results of its survey on manga artists. Among the one hundred and nineteen Japanese artists who replied to a question about which manga artist they preferred or felt had influenced them greatly, Tezuka Osamu received the greatest number of mentions, topping the list. It is difficult not to share the sense of surprise, disappointment, and even outrage expressed by art historian Yamashita Yūji: "Really? Tezuka Osamu? . . . I was rather surprised that all these artists were such ordinary children."1 Yamashita had expected Otomo Katsuhiro, Matsumoto Taiyō, or Okazaki Kyōko to win top honors, not to mention his personal favorite, Tsuge Yoshihara. His sense of disappointment in the continued ascendency of Tezuka serves as a reminder that the value of Tezuka's works is determined not only by their inherent qualities but also by the mode of measurement: if Tezuka winds up on top today, even among young artists, it is in Yamashita's opinion because the mode of measurement selects for a particular quality—the ordinary.

This interpretation suggests that Tezuka's success is due to the very ubiquity of his work, which is related to its sheer volume and its industrial positioning: Tezuka wrote several hundred manga titles, initially serialized in a variety of magazines, while also working on animated films and television series, both adaptations of his manga and original animations. Such production was made possible by the rise of the editorial system in the context of manga [End Page ix] weeklies as well as the emergence of multimedia franchising and television. In this volume, Fujiki Hideaki discusses the formation of a manga industry centered on weekly magazines differentiated into distinct readerships (children, boys, girls, youth, adults), exploring how Tezuka's seinen manga developed a new mode of address that responded to the new socioeconomic realities of youth. Marc Steinberg and Jonathan Clements provide new insights into the business model emerging around Tezuka's adaptation of his Astro Boy manga for the small screen in the early 1960s, exploring both the dynamics of multimedia franchising (Steinberg) and evaluating the implications of new strategies of financing (franchises and overseas sales) that appeared in that context (Clements). Renato Rivera adds to this discussion with an account of the aesthetic and financial considerations arising in the context of Tezuka's move toward big-screen animated films in 1980.

It may not be surprising then that Tezuka's name appears even today at the top of the list of manga creators. Such a "Tezuka effect" is, to a considerable extent, an effect of transformations in production, distribution, and reception that gradually integrated and differentiated an overlapping series of specific "mass" markets and readerships in the postwar era. If Tezuka may today be described as ordinary, it is in no small part due to the ubiquity achieved by his works in the context of such socioeconomic transformations.

A similar Tezuka effect appears in manga scholarship. Challenges to the centrality of Tezuka—to the idea of Tezuka as the god of manga—appeared with the formation of serious manga studies. In the early 1990s, for instance, in his seminal work Tezuka Osamu wa doko ni iru (Where is Tezuka Osamu?), two chapters of which appear here in translation, Natsume Fusanosuke issued a challenge to Tezuka-centered manga histories, using semiotic and formal analysis to situate Tezuka's work not as the origin of manga but as part of an ongoing dialogue. Although works singing the praises of Tezuka's creativity and situating him at the center of manga development continue to be published on a regular basis, manga scholars have persuasively demonstrated that Tezuka drew a great deal of inspiration from the work of prewar and contemporary mangaka. In this volume, for instance, Ryan Holmberg resituates the impact of the manga magazine Manga Shōnen (inaugurated in 1948) in historical terms, showing its continuity with prewar manga and its relation to contemporary, competing publications.

Nonetheless, for a number of historical reasons, the Tezuka effect persists. In addition to the industrial effects mentioned above, Tezuka himself contributed to the myth: when discussing influences on his work, he usually...


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