In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Metamorphic and Microscopic in Tezuka Osamu's Graphic Novels
  • Christine L. Marran (bio)

Insects

Tezuka Osamu's youthful interest in insects is legendary. Fellow bug lover and animator Kobayashi Junji has documented the various butterflies, moths, beetles, and even cockroaches that appear in Tezuka's long history of comic artistry. According to Kobayashi, Tezuka has drawn in his manga at least twenty-seven different types of butterflies, thirteen species of orthoptera such as locusts and grasshoppers, eight different flies and fleas, twenty kinds of beetles of the coleoptera order, four species of mayflies, seven instances of hemiptera and dragonflies, eleven hymenoptera including bees and ants, four kinds of cockroaches and termites, and a few spiders and centipedes who were made to play villainous roles. Tezuka drew many of these insects in anthropomorphic form. His fairytale "Biiko-chan" (Little Bee) is a predictable fable of a small bee saved by her hive mates from a spider whose black body and long nose have a striking similarity to Disney's witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937, dir. William Cottrell et al).

But in so many cases Tezuka retained for his insects, especially butterflies, a more naturalist form. His depictions in manga of butterflies like the [End Page 73] grayling, the great purple emperor, or heliconius erato, are reminiscent of his teenage technical sketches of beetles, winged ants, ladybugs, and stink bugs.1 Hardly an anthropomorphic butterfly can be found in his works. One manga from his series on the insect collector Insector, for example, juxtaposes cartoonish human figures with detailed drawings of heliconius butterflies. Insects themselves were, according to Kobayashi Junji, the source for Tezuka's philosophy of animation.2 Tezuka once claimed that "the appeal of animation is that metamorphosis is such an important element of it." Kobayashi, who animated with Tezuka for twenty years, suggests that Tezuka sensed the affinity between insects, who transform to achieve maturation, and animation, which he characterized as based in metamorphosis.3

Insect collecting has long been a passion in Japan, despite the increasing loss of habitat, and the boys who practice it are called "insect boys" (konchū shōnen). Tezuka considered himself such a youth. The Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum in his hometown of Takarazuka features a photograph of Tezuka


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Figure 1 Left.

Butterfly sketches Tezuka made as a teen on the back of photographic paper, in Tezuka Osamu and Kobayashi Junji, Tezuka Osamu konchū zukan (Field guide to Osamu Tezuka's insects) (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1998). Used by permission of Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.


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Figure 2 Right.

Insect sketches by Tezuka as a youth, in Tezuka Osamu and Kobayashi Junji, Tezuka Osamu konchu zukan (Field guide to Osamu Tezuka's insects) (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1998). Used by permission of Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

[End Page 74]


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Figure 3 Left.

From "Insector: Scent of Death on the Butterfly Path," a short story from Suspicion, a manga by Osamu Tezuka and also the name of one of his books in Kodansha's line of Osamu Tezuka Manga Complete Works. Used by permission of Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.


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Figure 4 Right.

From "Insector: Scent of Death on the Butterfly Path," a short story from Suspicion, a manga by Osamu Tezuka and also the name of one of his books in Kodansha's line of Osamu Tezuka Manga Complete Works. Used by permission of Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

dressed in the uniform of the insect hunter: khakis, a white button-up shirt, and a beige hat. He holds the requisite butterfly net and has an insect cage handle slung over his belt. Above the photo is a quote attributed to Tezuka, a textbook example of the causative verb that carries dual translational possibilities: Shizen ga boku ni manga o kakaseta ("Nature made me draw manga" or "Nature allowed me to draw manga"). Indeed Tezuka describes the eyes of his human characters as inspired by bug eyes. But Tezuka might have just as easily claimed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2152-6648
Print ISSN
1934-2489
Pages
pp. 73-85
Launched on MUSE
2013-12-29
Open Access
No
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