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  • Where Is Tezuka?A Theory of Manga Expression
  • Natsume Fusanosuke (bio)
    Translated by Matthew Young (bio)

Introduction to the English Translation

I am pleased and honored that some of my essays on Tezuka Osamu are appearing in translation in Mechademia and will reach readers in the English-speaking world. My thanks to Thomas Lamarre, who requested my participation in this volume.

Because these essays were written some time ago, some prefatory remarks are in order, largely for two reasons. First, these two essays are but two chapters of fifteen from my book Tezuka Osamu wa doko ni iru (Where Is Tezuka Osamu?), where they took on meaning as a function of the whole. Second, Chikuma shobō published the book in June of 1992; in the intervening twenty years manga research in Japan has advanced, and my own understanding has changed. As a consequence, it is necessary to situate this work in light of contemporary developments. I would like briefly to elaborate on these two points to avoid misunderstandings of the work appearing here in translation.

Primarily, this book-my fourth book on manga-was written after Tezuka Osamu's death in 1989. I had previously made efforts to widen the readership for manga criticism by writing pieces intended primarily for [End Page 89] recreational reading. When it came to writing on Tezuka Osamu, whom I highly respected, however, I resolved to write a serious work, and this book was the result.

The book began with a discussion of central motifs of Tezuka's work in the light of his background as a writer—his middle-class upbringing before the war and his wartime experiences at the time of Japan's defeat. I then examined the changes he brought to postwar manga.

A mythologizing discourse characterizing Tezuka as a sort of postwar "god" had already began to take shape in the early 1960s, and this book was in part an attempt to assess the truth of such claims at the level of concrete manga expression. Tezuka's 1946 book Shin takarajima (New Treasure Island), based on a story by Sakai Shichima, is often characterized as the work that introduced "cinematic techniques" to manga, reforming postwar manga. Was this actually true? If so, how was it possible? These questions were taken up in chapter 3 of the book, which appears here in translation as "A Revolution in Panels?"

In addition, I considered how Tezuka's manga inherited a modernism characteristic of the prewar middle class, which for me raised basic questions of modernity. Chapter 7, appearing here as "Tezuka's Eyes," takes up such questions. This chapter continued in the vein of my writings on manga from the 1980s, in which I attempted to produce criticism that was visually interesting for readers by producing my own manga drawings. The argument thus developed in an intuitive and figurative manner to some extent. Its logic may appear rather discontinuous in comparison to certain standards for objective scholarly argumentation.

As I have a background as a manga artist, I often focus on concrete aspects of manga expression such as panel composition, qualities of lines in drawings, and semiotic conventions. I call theory that approaches manga from such an angle "theory of manga expression." Such an approach has had a greater impact on manga commentary in Japan than I would have imagined, encouraging a number of subsequent writers to publish "theories of manga expression." Naturally, a great deal of criticism has arisen in response, particularly from a new generation of researchers, and I have endeavored to participate in these debates that have thoroughly transformed manga theory in Japan.

Let me turn now to the second point. In the context of debates as to whether Shin takarajima constitutes the basis for innovation in Tezuka's manga, some scholars later argued that we should instead pay attention to his 1947 work, Chiteikoku no kaijin (The mysterious underground man). Today I find this idea persuasive. Ending as it does with the death of one of its main [End Page 90] characters, this work reminds us that Tezuka considered it his achievement to have introduced "tragedy" into manga.

In the chapter on Shin takarajima, I sketched the history of manga...


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